At the age of 43, Rob Van Dam is in a particularly interesting part of his career with the WWE right now. There is a saying that a good young guy always beats a good older guy—and that is pretty applicable to the ECW legend in 2014.
He's been signing short-term deals to work stretches of roughly three months with the company, before taking a leave of absence to no doubt recover—before doing it all over again soon after.
Van Dam is such a popular guy that wrestling fans want him to be hugely successful with the company whenever he turns up for a short stint. And that is a pretty fair demand, given the amount of championships he has—or rather hasn't—won in his career.
But unfortunately, Rob Van Dam just isn't in that place right now. It would be unfair to put a part-time guy in command of a championship when there are permanent members of the roster who need it more.
That is a perfect link to bring in his opponent at the upcoming Payback show, Bad News Barrett. He has been on a real upward curve over the last month or two, and his latest reign as Intercontinental Champion is fully merited.
When the two lock horns at Payback, Rob Van Dam fans will be disappointed to hear that there can only be one realistic outcome for the match—Barrett must win, and must win clean.
It's clear to see why the company have gone with Rob Van Dam as Barrett's first meaningful challenger on pay-per-view. Instead of having two younger guys like Barrett and Big E go at it, the WWE want to cement Barrett's popularity—and his growing reputation.
The task at hand for Van Dam is one that many professional wrestlers don't enjoy doing, but simply have to do at one point or another throughout their career. Rather than concerning himself with having a run as champion, he has to ensure he puts Barrett over.
The potential for the Englishman's latest gimmick is absolutely huge, and you get the feeling that if the WWE handle him right, he could make it to the very top.
However, he has to be given a helping hand along the way, and nights like the one he will have at Payback are incredibly important for his character development.
When Raw was in London this past week, Barrett's standing rose even more due to his sneak attack on Van Dam. He then cut an incredibly patriotic promo—which had the fans in attendance eating out of his hands. Some may say that hasn't boosted his importance given how he was in front of his own crowd—but it's hard to remember Barrett ever being as over as that with English fans.
The acid test will now be when Barrett returns to the United States, and continues this feud with Van Dam. If the two continue to take each other down in the days and weeks prior to Payback, it will set their match up perfectly.
In truth, the Intercontinental Championship has been chronically underused over the last few months. Bad News Barrett looks like being a superb champion—but Rob Van Dam has to provide the spark for his reign to kick off in serious style. He must put Barrett over, and he must do it well.