Robert Alex “Rob” Szatkowski (born December 18, 1970), better known by his ring name Rob Van Dam (frequently abbreviated to RVD), is an American professional wrestler and occasional actor. He is best known for his appearances with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in the late 1990s, with the World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment (WWF/E) in the early to mid-2000s, and then with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) in the early 2010s.
Between ECW, WWF/E and TNA Van Dam has won 21 total championships (including being a three-time world champion) and is the only wrestler in history to have held the WWE Championship, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship (including holding the WWE and ECW titles simultaneously within WWE). Van Dam is also the 2006 Money in the Bank winner, a WWE Triple Crown Champion, and a WWE Grand Slam Champion. Van Dam gained his mainstream popularity by 1998 when he won the ECW World Television Championship, which he held for a record 700 days. Between ECW, WWF/WWE, and TNA, Van Dam headlined major pay-per-view events in three decades between the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, closing the ECW’s premier annual event November to Remember 1998. Van Dam is also a five time world tag team champion (two ECW, two WWE World Tag Team, and one WWE Tag Team). He is a six-time WWE Intercontinental Champion and was the final holder of the WWE Hardcore Championship and the last WWE European Champion, unifying both titles with his Intercontinental Championship. He is also a former TNA X Division Champion.
In 2001, Van Dam was ranked the number one wrestler in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. He was voted “Most Popular Wrestler” by readers of the magazine in 2001 and again in 2002. WWE has named him the greatest star in ECW history.
Szatkowski grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan and graduated from Pennfield Senior High School. Szatkowski made his first appearance on WWF television in 1987 in a skit with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. At the time, DiBiase was selecting plants from the audience and offering to pay them to perform degrading acts and offered the 16-year-old Szatkowski $100 to enter the ring and kiss his foot, which he did. This early appearance was later included as a bonus feature on WWE’s Before They Were Superstars DVD and on WWE’s Rob Van Dam: One of a Kind DVD. He was also in attendance at WrestleMania III as stated on The Hulk Hogan: The Ultimate Anthology DVD.
The name Rob Van Dam was given to him in 1991 by Ron Slinker, a promoter in Florida, possibly because of his martial arts experience and his resemblance to actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. He wrestled in many independent promotions across Michigan, including the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) and South Atlantic Pro Wrestling (SAPW). In SAPW, he won his first wrestling championship, the SAPW Tag Team Championship, in July 1992 with Chaz Rocco. He signed with World Championship Wrestling in late 1992 and was dubbed Robbie V by Ron Slinker upon his arrival since Bill Watts didn’t like the name Rob Van Dam. His WCW run was uneventful and largely unnoticed. He also wrestled in several independent promotions across America, and in All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he challenged for the World Junior Heavyweight Championship on several occasions.
Szatkowski is of Polish ancestry. Szatkowski married his wife, Sonya Szatkowski in 1998. During his wrestling career, Sonya often traveled on the road with Szatkowski and appeared at ringside during events in which Szatkowski took part. On April 23, 2008, Szatkowski revealed that his wife was suffering from cancer. She has since made a full recovery. In 2011, he performed stand up at the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club.