During the height of ECW, Rob Van Dam was the promotion's most popular superstar. On a recent episode of the Something To Wrestle podcast, former WWE producer Bruce Prichard discussed the WWE wanting to poach Van Dam early on.
Van Dam was wildly popular with fans thanks to his exciting high-flying style. Prichard revealed that the WWE coveted Van Dam and wanted to bring him in, but ECW founder Paul Heyman didn't want to let him go.
"Rob Van Dam was probably the star that we wanted the most and thought he was somebody we can bring in and capitalize on, so Rob Van Dam was somebody we were interested in," Prichard said. "That is attractive and terrifying to Paul Heyman, because Paul at the same time and thinking, 'Oh s**t, WWE is interested in him, I don't want to lose him, and if they are interested in him I have something here with him.' Paul liked to have that control and he liked to manipulate the talent to staying and work for him."
There were talks between Heyman and WWE chairman Vince McMahon about bringing ECW superstars onto WWE television in 1997, but Heyman didn't want Van Dam to job to a WWE superstar. Heyman thought it would've been a detriment to ECW to have his superstars lose, but McMahon was doing him a favor by bringing them the exposure of the WWE audience.
"Paul Heyman was stirring everything up. It wasn't that the boys didn't want to do the job [to Rob], it was Paul who didn't want to do the job. It was Paul feeling that if they did a job on our television, that it would hurt ECW," Prichard said. "The fact that we are putting them on TV and doing something with them helps ECW with the exposure alone. As Vince said, 'I wouldn't have put you on my TV if I didn't have plans for you.'"
Talks eventually fell apart because of Heyman refusing to let any ECW wrestlers job to WWE wrestlers. Prichard said McMahon moved on from the idea because of Heyman's stubbornness.
"Paul Heyman got people so stirred up that they didn't want to do jobs, and that he believed that it was fine to tell stories just as long as I win, but when I lose I don't want to tell the story anymore. I want to be on your TV as long as I win, but that just doesn't work," Prichard said. "In order to tell a story you have to have winners and losers, and that is why it fell apart. If there was going to be a debate over that each time Vince McMahon wasn't going to want anything to do with it."
If any of these quotes are used, please use the h/t of Something To Wrestle with Bruce Prichard via Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.