BANK STATEMENT #6 - The Van Terminator
Remember when moves in pro wrestling meant something?
I know that this is a really hot take right off the bat, but as an old school wrestling fan, I love it when not every performer has an incredibly similar move set. In this era of “work rate”, so many performers, in my opinion, look identical to one another now. As solid as the matches are, they really, at times, feel interchangeable from performer to performer.
My philosophy changed incredibly after watching “Secrets of the Ring” with Raven, released by Ring of Honor in 2005. Raven’s description, and incredible intellect, of how a performer should only have a few select moves in his arsenal that distinctly are THEIR OWN is something that I, as a fan, never forgot and always wished the current wrestlers today would utilize this as how to make yourself an individual instead of one of the crowd.
But what about when you invent your own finisher? How would you debut it? How would you hype it up? How would you distinctively make it your own?
ECW, in the Summer of 2000, demonstrated that perfectly. Rob Van Dam mastered a move never before tried. In turn, it began the next generation of wrestling to try and make it their own. Even the son of the #1 pro wrestling company tried, but as awesome as it is, it still fails in comparison to the original.
THE VAN TERMINATOR became the move of moves. Here is its story.
After Hardcore Heaven 2000 on May 14, 2000, Rob Van Dam was heated beyond belief.
Prior to January 2000, RVD was the greatest champion in professional wrestling. He held the Extreme Championship Wrestling World Television Championship for 23 months. If he had not broken his ankle on the 23rd during an ECW live event, he most likely would have held the belt for 2 years. He was also UNDEFEATED on ECW Pay Per Views. There was no doubt that ECW was building to a Title for Title match eventually with him and World Champion Mike Awesome.
BUT, due to RVD’s broken ankle, plans changed dramatically. The Network stripped RVD of his TV title and he was out of action for 3 months. Thankfully, his best friend, Scotty Anton, helped support RVD and consistently accompanied him to ECW events while he healed.
By the time Cyberslam 2000 rolled around, which you can read about in the archives HERE, RVD had a specific goal in mind. However, it was thwarted by the evil Network.
To follow that up, Rob Van Dam, still not medically cleared to compete, hit the ring, wanting to fight Rhino at Hardcore Heaven 2000. Cyrus, extending his power, stated that it would not happen. Instead, RVD would face Jerry Lynn, who was also returning from injury. This started a new creative direction for “The New F’N Show”, as Lynn felt 100% slighted by ECW’s love of Van Dam. Lynn refused a handshake, gave “The Whole F’N Show” a middle finger, and the stage was set. One year removed from the greatest ECW Television Title match ever, the two combatants would return to the ring together at the event where they made history: Hardcore Heaven.
At Hardcore Heaven, Jerry Lynn shocked the world. He pinned RVD for the first time. Thanks to shenanigans from the Network, RVD was off his game. After clearing the Network from ringside and nailing Lynn with a Van Daminator, RVD went up top for his patented Five Star Frog Splash. SCOTTY ANTON sold out to the Network and pushed RVD off, onto the guard rails on the arena floor! Two Cradle Piledrivers later, and “the New F’N Show” got the monkey off his back, subsequently ending RVD’s undefeated streak on PPV.
Van Dam was FURIOUS. The next ECW on TNN, he cut the most angry promo of his career. When RVD ended his promo with “I DON’T F***ING LOSE!” you knew that something was going to happen to Scotty Anton. That was his closest friend not only costing him a match, but selling out, betraying his trust, and joining the Network. For the moment, the normal, jovial, laid-back, permanently stoned RVD was gone. The angry, vengeful RVD was here.
Over the next few weeks, a buzz was circulating around ECW programming. RVD was plotting his revenge on Anton, and a rumor was that he had developed a new move to destroy “the US Male”. The more and more people questioned, the more people wondered.
And then...he said it.
The Van Terminator.
The word terminator means “A sequence of nucleotides that signals the end of transcription or translation and the completion of the synthesis of a nucleic acid or protein molecule.” Terminate means “To bring to an end or halt.” The bottom line was simple: RVD was going to END Scotty Anton.
Which brings us to Heatwave 2000.
July 16, 2000 was an important day for ECW. It was the Los Angeles debut of the company, broadcasting live from the Grand Olympic Auditorium with a sold out crowd of 5700 wrestling fans. The continued build of the future of the company was on display. And although in the main event, the Stairway to Hell match with Tommy Dreamer and Justin Credible had drama before the match with the XPW issue and during the match, the semi-main event was what fans wanted to see. They wanted to see what the Van Terminator was all about.
RVD was home in California. Born in Battle Creek, MI, Van Dam migrated out west and made his residence in LA. Unlike the entire ECW roster, who had to travel out to get to LA, Van Dam was home, in his own bed, and fully prepared for the battle.
Anton and Van Dam had a fun back-and-forth battle. Being former best friends, both men knew what the other was going to do. Anton surprisingly kept RVD to the mat, working over his bad ankle and his back with submission holds and strikes. Finally, near the end of the match, the distraction from RVD’s right hand man Bill Alfonso helped Anton get smashed with a Van Daminator, the spinning back kick into the steel chair. Then, from ¾ away, he nailed a Five Star Frog Splash to “the US Male’s” midsection.
As RVD recovered from the impact of his Frog Splash, Anton slowly rolled over to the corner turnbuckle in a seated position. “The Man Who Calls It Right Down The Middle” placed a steel chair in front of his face. Van Dam walked over to the opposite side of the ring and stood on the apron. The fans were chanting “TER-MI-NAT-OR” over and over. Van Dam signaled to the crowd, and then he springboarded.
From 20 feet away, after the springboard, Van Dam leaped. His body was in a front seated dropkick position. He FLEW the entire distance across, and then drilled Anton in the face with the placed steel chair.
THE VAN TERMINATOR.
The fans exploded! The commentary team stayed silent for a beat as the crowd’s reaction, the lifeless body of Scotty Anton, and the viciousness of the move told the entire story. Finally, Joey Styles said the words that summed up how everyone felt.
A three count later, and RVD got his revenge on his former best friend. More importantly, in one fell swoop, Rob Van Dam just took the wrestling industry by storm with the most innovative, high risk, flawless looking, impactful maneuver ever seen.
RVD was only able to showcase the Van Terminator in ECW for a few months, before the company folded in early 2001. By the time WWF WrestleMania X-Seven rolled around on April 1, 2001, Shane McMahon, during his match with his father, debuted his version of the move into a garbage can. The Coast-To-Coast became a Shane McMahon staple. At Race to the Top Tournament, Night 2 in late July 2007 for Ring of Honor, El Generico, without the benefit of a weapon, upped the ante with a flipping dropkick across the ring against Claudio Castagnoli. By the time the mid-2010s rolled around, Leon St. Giovanni and Shaheem Ali, coincidentally known as Coast 2 Coast, implored a double team version of it, decapitating opponents with the viciousness of the double dropkicks. A plethora of performers were able to demonstrate their athleticism by doing the move, but in my opinion, it didn’t hold a candle to the originator.
Rob Van Dam’s Van Terminator was, like him, one-of-a-kind. No one else could develop quite a feat like he could. In ECW, it felt like the perfect setting for a perfect move like that. The environment encouraged that type of dominance. His pure striking ability and overall “Whole F’N Show” mindset made it possible. In my mind, in spite of everyone else, NO ONE could do that type of move quite perfect like he could.
When you hype a move up properly, demonstrate it masterfully, and have it add to the aura of invincibility that he had, there is nothing better. Moves are meant to be special in pro wrestling, and Rob Van Dam made it so. To me, that is pro wrestling done RIGHT.
The Van Terminator. The end all, be all. BANK ON IT.