If you've tuned into WWE---or "World Wrestling Entertainment"---at any point during the last ten years, chances are you're familiar with some of the promotion's most popular athletes: The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, to name a few. There have been plenty of other talented performers over the years including The Hardy Boyz, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and former US Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. Although the WWE output isn't nearly as strong as it was during the 1996-2000 era---which captured some of the best wrestling moments of any decade---the company has always employed a strong roster of unique athletes.
One of the most unique performers you'll see in any wrestling promotion is Rob Van Dam, or "RVD" for short. His martial arts background, natural charisma, creativity and high-flying moves have made him quite a popular performer since his proper WWE debut in July of 2001. Like many followers of RVD, though, I first saw him in ECW---or "Extreme Championship Wrestling"---starting in 1996, when the company's infamous reputation for cutting-edge wrestling was really beginning to pick up steam. Here's his five-year tenure with the company in a nutshell: the second that RVD's entrance theme (Pantera's "Walk") blasted through the arena sound system, ECW fans knew what to expect. Needless to say, his natural athletic talent made him one of ECW's biggest stars during his stay in the promotion.
There's more to his story, and that's where WWE comes in. They've released a terrific batch of biography-based DVDs over the last few years, from a detailed 3-disc Ric Flair Collection to a respectable 2-disc tribute to the "Hardcore Legend", Mick Foley. More recently, WWE also released an excellent 2-disc set, The Rise and Fall of ECW, chronicling the highs and lows of the influential wrestling promotion. Their most recent offering, Rob Van Dam: One of a Kind, lies somewhere squarely in the middle. In all, this 2-disc set offers a generous 16-match lineup and a few related bonus features thrown in for good measure. While it's not as well-organized as past offerings, One of a Kind is a highly entertaining mix of classic matches and rare moments that RVD fans will enjoy from top to bottom. Starting from the top:
Rob Van Dam: One of a Kind - Complete Match Listing
1 - vs. Scotty Flamingo (from WCW Worldwide, 2/8/93)
^ - Includes optional Audio Commentary with RVD and Paul Heyman
There's no argument that the included lineup is fairly concise, but I'd have loved to see some matches from RVD's time spent in Japan. Although a few segments are included more for history's sake than actual entertainment value, the main program---which runs for roughly four hours on both discs---proves to be a generally satisfying look at his career up to the present...with only one notable complaint.
For the most part, One of a Kind just isn't as polished as some of WWE's past offerings. Most of these offerings have included a 2 hour "road to stardom"-style biography as the main program, with a handful of selected matches rounding out the package on Disc 2. Here, the complete matches (presented in chronological order) are simply bookended by personal reflections from RVD, giving the finished presentation a slightly more disjointed feel. A sneaking suspicion tells me that this release may have been rushed after the WWE realized how well the ECW DVD was selling. This is a top-notch collection of matches and RVD's input is valuable, but it's obvious that the overall package could have been ironed out a little more.
Despite the drawback, it's great to see such a varied mix of footage from three different wrestling promotions over the past 10+ years, and I'm sure that hardcore RVD fans will enjoy it just as much as I did. With any luck, this loaded 2-disc compilation will help win RVD many more fans for years to come. The technical presentation of this release proves to be on par with most other WWE discs, and the inclusion of a few bonus features sweetens the pot a little more. Long story short: One of a Kind is a winner in almost every category. With that said, let's see how this disc stacks up, shall we?
Likewise, the sound quality is good, preserving the original experience quite well. The Dolby Surround presentation offers a lively atmosphere, with clear dialogue and strong music (and other sound effects) that offer slight improvements over their original broadcasts. Just for the record: this footage can't be rated on the same scale as your typical Hollywood blockbuster...for obvious reasons. In any case, it's an excellent audio presentation that gets the job done.
One of a Kind is fairly standard for WWE releases, with nicely animated fullscreen menus and smooth navigation. Each match (and other major segment) has been given its own chapter, and no layer change was detected during playback. This 2-disc release was housed in a slim double keepcase, and a two-sided chapter insert was also included (what, no merchandising?). Unfortunately, English subtitles weren't included with this release.
With four hours of content already accounted for in the main program, the inclusion of several key bonus features makes for quite a full package. In addition to the Bonus Matches and Audio Commentary noted in the Match Listing above, the bonus features start off with RVD's segment from Before They Were Superstars, an "anthology" of short biographies of WWE superstars (two volumes are already available on DVD). Seen below, this 9-minute clip includes plenty of home video footage and interviews with several important people in RVD's earlier years, making it a great watch for those who haven't seen it already. Next up is a short segment entitled Airbrush Artist, a 3-minute chat with Joe Holland (the man who's designed his ring attire since 1993). There's also a brief interview with RVD and fellow WWE superstar Eddie Guerrero called Frog Splash, in which the two athletes compare their similar finishing maneuvers. Another short segment, Jakks Pacific Tour (4 minutes), follows a bit of the process involved in creating and merchandising RVD's WWE action figure.
The next interview clip, Fantasy Matchup (5 minutes), features RVD chatting about a dream match with WWE legend Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, while Outside the Ropes features a general interview conducted by Jonathan Coachman. The bonus features keep rolling with a pair of Vignettes (call 'em "RVD trailers", more or less), as well as a Behind-the-Scenes look at the creation of his WWE entrance video (3 minutes). Last but not least, there's a Promotional Clip for WWE Invasion, the 2001 pay-per-view where RVD made his proper WWE debut. While it's a shame the bonus features rarely strayed from the promotional---not to mention that most of them have already been seen in other formats, like the WWE program Confidential---the whole package is still a well-rounded glimpse at RVD's road to success over the last 10+ years. For fans of "The Whole F'n Show", One of a Kind is as good as it gets.
An entertaining compilation of footage from one of the industry's most talented performers, One of a Kind is a must-have for fans of great wrestling. While I'd have preferred a more polished, personal presentation and a few meatier bonus features, there's more than enough content on here to keep any wrestling fan happy. All things considered, this is a solid package and well worth the price of admission. While it may not be WWE's best DVD release to date, One of a Kind is still a winner in my book. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is a high-flyin' art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.