Impact Wrestling has showcased a documentary on ECW legend and current Impact performer Rob Van Dam. In Retrospective on RVD, Van Dam walks through his early days of ECW. Van Dam said he could feel the difference between the wild ECW atmosphere and other basic wrestling organizations.
"When I first walked into ECW, I knew it was different already," Van Dam said. "In fact, I was a little intimidated by the difference because it was such a vast opposite side of the spectrum. I could feel the energy just watching ECW on television. It wasn't like little kids screaming, 'USA! USA!'. It was adults chanting, 'Get the f*ck out!'. They all had black tee-shirt. It was like a rock concert. It felt more like a rock concert atmosphere than the Augusta fairgrounds in Georgia."
Van Dam retraced the emotional attachment to his fellow performers in ECW and their strong feelings toward the ECW art. Van Dam said that despite the roster being different from each other, everyone was unified by being proud of what ECW was producing at the time.
"Looking back we were all characters, but everyone was on their own and ready to do their own part," Van Dam said. "But what I learned was we all really were like a family. Especially when it came to being proud of what we were doing in comparison to what other [promotions] were doing. We were setting completely different standards to a point where sometimes watching the standard setters on TV was offensive to us.
"No one ever asked us if we were really hitting each other, they knew we were. We beat the sh*t out of each other. Not gimmicked chairs trying to make them soft. When you watched the other stuff on TV, that's what they'd expect. They'd expect everything to be staged and safe. We were just different styles but we were just so proud of the style we were doing. We were proud as artists and performers. Truth is, when solid offers started coming to leave ECW for more money and more television exposure, I really didn't want to go."
Van Dam eventually won ECW's secondary title, the ECW Television Championship, which he elevated to become almost as prestigious as ECW's primary Heavyweight Championship. Van Dam recalled a time after winning the Television Championship where ECW founder Paul Heyman told him that as a titleholder, he would be treated much differently and viewed as a megastar.
"Before fans came in [the arena], Paul Heyman came by and I said, 'Hey Paul, what do you think of this? I want to spring board from one guardrail to another... Do you think that would be cool?," Van Dam said to Heyman. "And Paul said, "I don't think it matters what you do tonight. The people are going to love you.' I said, 'Why?'. Heyman goes, 'Whatever you want. You can't lose'. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he was right. People treated me like a superstar. From that night forward, it was on a whole new level. It was a pivotal time in my career. It was easy to draw the point right there when I won the ECW TV Championship to see my whole career elevated."
Unfortunately, Rob Van Dam's title reign came to an end with an ankle injury. At that moment, Van Dam adopted a new viewpoint on wrestling which was focused on the understanding that plans can change and promises can be broken. Van Dam said no one is safe from changing plans within the wrestling industry however he focuses on what he can control which is in-ring work.
"My title reign ended with an injury," Van Dam said. "I couldn't have known that injury was going to happen and I couldn't have known that anything else that hadn't happened was going to happen. The business is such that plans are made all the time. Sometimes opposite plans are made with other people and it's inconsistent with you're told. I never believe anything is going to happen until it does. I'm skeptically optimistic. Everyone has to deal with promises being broke. No one is exempt from that because you have people trying to do their part in developing the show and then you have these agents that have different wrestlers that they're looking out for. Trying to get their wrestlers more TV time. Somethings are accepted earlier in the day and then change later in the day. It's part of it. You could let it bother the hell out of you every time or you can let it roll off your shoulder so you have more control over your reactions and your feelings. I know I can only do my part and that's in the ring when I'm showing off."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Impact Wrestling with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.