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Van Dam excited about everything
By TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun


As far as wrestlers go, Rob Szatkowski was destined to be something special. As a fuzzy-cheeked youngster, he learned the psychology and physicality of wrestling from the villainous Sheik, an in-ring wacko/genius who used an arsenal of pencils, kitchen utensils and fireballs to terrorize opponents. The kid would eat supper at The Sheik's house ... swim in the guy's pool. But all the while, Szatkowski was soaking everything up.

A name change later, reinvented as Rob Van Dam, he would push himself to be an innovator, a risk-taking free spirit ... and a superstar.

Van Dam, or RVD as his legion of fans call him, checks into Toronto on Tuesday for the WWE's Smackdown! show. And he's excited. Excited to be back in Canada ... thrilled to be back in Toronto. Make no mistake about it, the WWE knows the value of this wrestling hotbed --hence their news conference on Tuesday at which they will announce that Toronto will play host to Summer Slam on Aug. 15.

"We'll never forget Toronto as the site of WrestleMania XVIII," Van Dam, 33, said on the phone the other day. "That really elevated Toronto up the ladder of towns to hit. It's a great place. It'll be way cool to be there again. It's on the map. If we had to pick the Top 10 most loyal cities, you'd look at places like Los Angeles and New York City, but I'm sure Toronto would be near the top of the list."

Ah, the art of flattery.

Van Dam is starting to get comfortable on the Smackdown! roster, admitting he was caught off guard by his move from RAW in the roster draft in late March.

"I'd heard the rumours for months, but when I found out on the day of the draft, I felt at first that this was going to suck," Van Dam said. "But it really doesn't suck. I'm glad to be on Smackdown! There were a lot of obstacles in my way on RAW. And that wasn't going to change.

"It's safe to say I was comfortable on RAW. I liked live TV and I liked the tag team I had with Booker T. I thought we could last as champions for a long time. So it took some adjustment time. But there are a lot of younger wrestlers here who are trying to prove themselves --guys who work really hard. And that's good with me because I work harder than anyone in the company."

While Van Dam has held nearly every title in the WWE, top billing has eluded him. There is no WWE heavyweight title on his resume. He seems resigned to his fate.

"It would be tough if my personal goals lay in the push that I got and winning WWE titles," said Van Dam. "I've never taken one of the belts home, stood in front of a mirror and kissed it. Some guys do. I'm not like that.

"For me, it's about the feedback I get from the fans. I can't get a higher payoff than that. I'd prefer to be in the main event, but if I'm in the first match, I'll go out and work just as hard."

Van Dam has heard the rumours that WWE may bring back ECW in some form. It was in ECW that Van Dam made a name for himself.

"I don't think there's much to the rumour," he said. "As far as I know, they're releasing an ECW home video and that's as far as their plans go.

"But I hope I'm wrong. I think it would be a great idea to have at least an annual ECW event, use the guys who were on the ECW roster. Go with one of the names of the ECW pay-per-views. Guilty as Charged ... Hardcore Heaven, that would be a great name. I think that show would be smokin'!"

RELATED LINK

  • More on Rob Van Dam

    - A news conference Tuesday at noon at the Air Canada Centre will attract several WWE stars and boss Vince McMahon. Among those scheduled to appear are Kurt Angle, John Cena, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Trish Stratus, Triple H and Torrie Wilson. Anyone attending that night's Smackdown! will get a chance to buy Summer Slam tickets before they go on sale on June 5.

    - Among the matches Tuesday night in Toronto: The Undertaker vs. Booker T and a bikini contest between Sable, Torrie Wilson, Jackie and Dawn Marie.


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