July 8, 2006
Van Dam goes stone cold
Alleged pot possession puts a hold on ex-champ
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun

WWE often asks its wrestlers to stay in character, to some degree, even outside the ring.

But for Rob Van Dam, doing just that has resulted in a 30-day suspension and an abrupt end to his first WWE title reign.

Since his rise to stardom in ECW during the late '90s, Van Dam has generally been portrayed as a stoner character in wrestling storylines -- complete with a laid-back attitude, mellow disposition and 4:20 references a-plenty.

The gimmick was par for the course in the edgy world of ECW but for a publicly traded company such as WWE, a pot-loving superstar was a public-relations nightmare waiting to happen.

On Sunday night, the line between story and reality became blurred. Van Dam was driving from an ECW show in West Virginia to the Raw TV taping in Philadelphia with fellow ECW star Sabu in the passenger seat.

While passing through Ohio, the wrestling duo were pulled over by state troopers for speeding. According to the Ironton Tribune, the region's daily paper, the officers smelled marijuana and searched the vehicle.

Van Dam was found to be in possession of 18 grams of marijuana and five Vicodin painkillers. Sabu was also in possession of unidentified pills and drug paraphernalia.

Van Dam and Sabu were scheduled to appear in an Ohio court Thursday (although lawyers successfully lobbied to move the court date back a few weeks).

As news of the incident began to filter through various media outlets, WWE found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Since Eddie Guerrero's death last year, WWE has pushed its new drug and wellness policy.

With a spotlight on the situation, WWE bosses couldn't ignore a public scandal.

On the other hand, even though they clearly violated company policy, Van Dam and Sabu were charged with only a minor offence.

The pair were keystone stars of the upstart ECW brand, with Van Dam holding both the WWE and ECW championships. Firing them would likely decimate the ECW franchise, which had just suffered the short-term loss of Kurt Angle.

So both stars were allowed to continue wrestling while WWE conducted its own investigation.

On Monday night, WWE bosses made a snap decision to have Edge beat Van Dam for the WWE title on live TV, taking the biggest championship in the business out of the equation.

The following night, The Big Show pinned Van Dam to take the ECW title from him and write him out of storylines for the next month.

Van Dam was then sent home on a 30-day unpaid suspension -- a mild punishment considering WWE's policy specifically lists dismissal as a possible penalty.

He will miss his own homecoming show in his native Battle Creek, Mich., but is expected to be brought back in August, with a big push as a main event challenger leading into Summer Slam.

Sabu was given a $1,000 fine but won't miss any ring time. He will remain a key player in the ECW brand.

RELATED LINKS

  • July 5, 2006: RVD suspended 30 days
  • July 5, 2006: ECW: RVD goes 0 for 2
  • July 4, 2006: Raw: Edge wins WWE title
  • July 3, 2006: Sabu & Rob Van Dam busted
  • More on Rob Van Dam
  • More on Sabu
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