The main event of Monday Night Raw on July 3rd, 2006, was an eventful one. Recently-crowned champion Rob Van Dam would defend his championship in a triple threat match. His opponents that night were John Cena, the man he dethroned, and Edge, who helped him do it. Fans of the red brand rejoiced as it was the first time in 5 years they had seen the championship defended on the show. But not everybody was pleased when Edge walked away the victor. This was the beginning of the end for RVD in WWE.
RVD’s championship victory was part of an unsuccessful plan to revive the ECW brand as a tertiary show. On Tuesday, June 11th, Paul Heyman awarded Van Dam the revived ECW Championship on the inaugural episode of ECW on SciFi. On the July 4th episode, he defended the ECW Championship against Big Show in the main event. Immediately following the episode’s airing, Paul Heyman announced on ECW.com that Rob Van Dam had been suspended for 30 days. He did not give an explanation.
Rob Van Dam would never see championship gold again in WWE.
How Did This Happen?
The night of July 1st, 2006, went much like any other in the life of Rob Szatkowski. Him and Terry Brunk (Sabu) were making their way from West Virginia to Philadelphia. During the brief Ohio leg of the journey, an Ohio State Police officer pulled them over for speeding. In the dashcam footage, things seemed jovial enough as the champion and his passenger make some banter with the officer. Things turned sour after the officer smelled marijuana in the car. The ensuing search of the car uncovered 18 grams of marijuana, 5 Vicodin, testolactone, and other drug paraphernalia. The officer then placed RVD and Sabu under arrest. They posted bail later in the evening.
Rob told Vince McMahon shortly after arriving at the arena in Philadelphia. WWE issued his suspension then and there. However, the press release stated he would work the next two shows while WWE conducted an investigation. In reality, they let him work RAW and ECW only so he could drop the titles.
The Beginning of The End for RVD in WWE
RVD Reflects On The Incident
In a 2008 interview with the Baltimore Sun, RVD explained his mindset when he told Vince McMahon about what happened. “I felt bad the day that Sabu and I pulled into the Philly arena and had to tell Vince,” He said.
“And I knew how much I had disappointed him and dropped the ball on his immediate plans. I was feeling like I let some people down. But that’s the way emotion is. Emotion takes the place of logic, and until you work things out you’re a victim of it. Eventually, I could see the big picture, and that’s how it goes down in history, and I’m OK with that.”
These days, RVD doesn’t seem too bothered by it. “There was no way that I was going to be the longest-reigning world champion in WWE,” he said in the same interview. “When people say that couldn’t have happened at a worse time, I always say it couldn’t have happened at a better time. You’re never going to hear me apologize for that. The fact is if I wasn’t the WWE and ECW world champion at the time, nobody would have cared. It wouldn’t have been all over the news.” He also seems to see it as a step towards the legalization of cannabis. “Whenever celebrities, especially pro athletes, get in the news for marijuana, it helps change the climate of marijuana,” he explained. “People say, ‘Wait, you can be a world champion graceful athlete who can walk the ropes and do back-flips – and smoke cannabis? How can that be?'”
The Beginning of The End for RVD in WWE
The only regret he seems to have is the money he lost in the process. “I paid a $100 fine for possession of marijuana,” he explained. “However, since the WWE suspended me, it ended up costing me like $30,000 or $40,000 easily. And you know what? I asked for more time off at the end of the 30 days. That was one of my favorite months of my contract. That’s how much I wanted out of there and how much I missed being home.”
Aftermath in WWE
RVD returned to TV on the August 8th episode of ECW, where he attacked Sabu and Kurt Angle after a match. The following week, he returned to the ring in a ladder match against Sabu for #1 contendership. He lost that match, and would spend the next few months working his way back into the ECW Championship picture. In October, he won his #1 contendership after pinning Big Show in a non-title match. He challenged Big Show to a match at December to Dismember, the first (and only) ECW-branded pay-per-view in WWE.
However, Paul Heyman had the option to pick the stipulation. He announced Big Show would defend the ECW Championship against RVD, CM Punk, Hardcore Holly, Test, and Bobby Lashley in an Extreme Elimination Chamber match. Bobby Lashley emerged the winner after a disastrous match. Later in December, RVD would become the #1 contender via fan poll. He had 3 matches against Lashley but lost each time.
In 2007, RVD formed the ECW Originals stable along with Sabu, Sandman, and Tommy Dreamer. They feuded with The New Blood, a stable consisting of Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von, Kevin Thorne, and Matt Striker in a rivalry that stretched through WrestleMania 23. At 2007’s Backlash, Mr. McMahon became ECW World Champion, angering many of the ECW Originals. The four ECW originals all competed in a fatal four-way for #1 contendership, with RVD pinning Sandman for the win. However as the stipulation for the match, he had to face Mr.McMahon along Shane McMahon and Umaga in a handicap match. Needless to say, he didn’t win. He then transitioned to a short feud with Randy Orton before requesting his release.