Fight Forever is our series where we put classic feuds under review, examining what made these rivalries as great as they are and whether they stand the test of time to this day. In this edition: the underrated rivalry between Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn!
Previously on Fight Forever, I examined the storied brawls between The Rock and Mankind. The feud between RVD and Lynn is the complete polar opposite to the WWF main event scene. While the WWF was all about the story in the Attitude Era, ECW emphasized physical in-ring action.
ECW had many memorable feuds from Tommy Dreamer vs Raven, Sandman vs Raven, Taz vs Sabu, Taz vs Bam Bam Bigelow, Mike Awesome vs Masato Tanaka, and Tajiri vs Super Crazy. RVD vs Lynn managed to stand out from the rest. In the late 90s, ECW was the right place and right time.
ECW was synonymous with garbage brawls, fans giving wrestlers weapons, flaming tables, and edgy storylines. This company however was not given enough credit for wrestling quality. RVD and Lynn did utilize chairs and tables in their matches, but those hardcore staples didn’t define the feud.
This article will focus on the ECW days of the feud. RVD and Jerry had matches in WWF and Impact but both wrestlers admit their ECW matches properly showcase the essence of the rivalry.
What made this feud great?
The in-ring action. All these matches hold up to current standards. Modern-day wrestling fans might not be able to tell that this feud took place during the peak of the Attitude Era. If only RVD and Jerry had Twitter around during the late 90s. Spots from Living Dangerously 99 and Hardcore Heaven 99 would be all over the internet in gif form.
While RVD and Lynn produced insane individual spots that were spliced into the signature ECW intro, the evolving counter sequences are what elevated the feud to a different level. For example, the Tornado DDT attempt from Lynn:
- Living Dangerously 99: RVD tries to counter with the Northern Lights Suplex, mid-air Lynn drops for the DDT with RVD’s head bouncing off the ring.
- Hardcore Heaven 99: RVD properly counters with the Northern Lights Suplex
- Hardcore Heaven 2000: RVD tries to counter with the Northern Lights Suplex but Lynn slips through for a neutral reset.
- Guilty as Charged 2001: Northern Lights Suplex attempt, Lynn flips over into Scorpion Death Drop position, RVD counters with a Snapmare.
Every match builds off the previous one. The DDT/Northern Lights Suplex mini-game was just a simple example of how both guys were determined to give the fans something new. Numerous other sequences pay off if one watches these matches in chronological order. The ECW fans couldn’t help but take notice.
The ECW fans are wild cards. They were rabid, ruthless, but also accepting of being won over. In comparison, modern fans tend to be more pre-determined with their chants and stubborn with their perceptions of particular wrestlers. The ECW chants were organic and became a key element in elevating RVD and Lynn.
RVD was ‘The Whole F’ing Show’ in ECW. At Living Dangerously 1999, Lynn pulled off a jaw-dropping counter to the Van Daminator. The ECW fans chanted ‘New F’ing show!’ Lynn was once an afterthought by Paul Heyman and the fans when these two had their first match. Now he was an impact player in ECW.
The majority of legendary feuds tend to depend on the face vs heel dynamic. While RVD started off heel in 1998 and Lynn ended up heel in 2001, this was primarily a face vs face feud. That means there was rarely any cheap heat. Everything was earned and these two beat the hell out of each other (many shoot injuries) to win over the fans.
The managers or lack thereof played a great role throughout the feud. Bill Alfonso, RVD’s manager, was a detriment to Lynn in their early ECW arena matchup. Lynn would eventually learn how to overcome and counter Alfonso’s involvement.
Alfonso’s involvement wasn’t cheap heat compared to most managers. His role was to mainly aid RVD in big spots by supplying a chair or holding up a chair next to the opponent’s face for maximum damage. Alfonso wasn’t a big guy, so he was smart in avoiding physical contact when possible. So instead of heat going on Alfonso or RVD, the numbers game became a hurdle for Lynn to overcome.
Eventually, Lynn overcame the dominance of RVD by teaming with Cyrus (Don Callis) at Hardcore Heaven 2000. This would be Lynn’s only victory over RVD. RVD did not have Alfonso in his corner.
Any memorable promos? Doesn’t matter, none were needed. The matches and the story spoke for themselves. At the start, RVD had just defeated Bam Bam Bigelow to become the Television Champion which catapulted him as a singles star. Lynn would prove himself as the worthy opponent time after time.
Matches to check out:
Living Dangerously 1999
This was their first PPV match. RVD came in as the overwhelming crowd favorite while Lynn was just a random opponent at the start. Both guys were at top of their game physically here. The crowd went back and forth on who was ‘The Whole F’ing Show.’
Hardcore TV September 18th, 1999
This was a hidden gem of sorts since it’s a non-PPV match. While the spots aren’t as death-defying as the PPV counterparts, this match has the best drama and near falls of the feud. The ECW Arena fans were jumping out of their seats thinking Lynn was going to upset RVD.
Guilty as Charged 2001
Few remember RVD and Lynn headlining the final PPV for ECW. It was a fitting tribute for a company that had been struggling due to their top talent leaving to WWE/WCW throughout 1999-2001. This feud was the glue for years. Backstage, both guys didn’t want to wrestle this match unless Paul Heyman guaranteed they would be paid that night. Thankfully he did.
Joey Styles at one point even claimed in the middle of a match, “these guys are ECW.” In a way, this statement and the Guilty As Charged match was more vindicating for Lynn than wins and losses. While he had been an ECW champion in the recent past, being in the main event against RVD proved that he belonged. He proved that in the right environment that extenuated his positives, there was no denying that he was ‘The New F’ing Show.’