Contrary to rampant Internet rumours over the past few weeks and articles from reporters on other web sites, the WWF is NOT close to signing two of ECW’s franchise players, Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn.
That’s the word from Jim Ross, Senior Vice President of Talent Relations for the WWF, taking time out of his extremely busy schedule last night to speak with SLAM! Wrestling in an exclusive interview.
“We have not signed Van Dam,” Ross emphatically stated over the phone from his office in Stamford, CT. “I’ve had one conversation with his agent… one! And that was about two or three weeks ago. I told him at that time that we had mild interest and that if they had better offers…. I didn’t want them to think that a deal was here waiting on them and that it was going to prevent Van Dam from (signing) a deal with somebody else. He’s not a high priority for us right now.”
“We have not offered a contract, we have not talked money, we have not signed him, obviously, and we will not sign him until we have the opportunity to meet in person and that would be based on their schedule and my schedule.”
Ross says he wants to meet face to face with Van Dam to discuss some issues he has before he even entertains the notion of signing him.
“We haven’t had a chance to meet with him or his agent to address some concerns that we have. So as a result of not having the opportunity to meet with him and his representation as of yet, our interest is still where it was in the beginning of the dialogue, mild. I can tell you that we certainly know that he is an outstanding in-ring performer.”
The ‘concern’ Ross refers to is the reputation that Van Dam has allegedly earned, whether deserved or not, for being difficult to work with and having a big ego. Ross doesn’t know if that reputation is accurate or not and says he would want to talk about it with Van Dam in person before offering him a contract.
“No one can ever deny that he has outstanding in-ring skills,” said Ross. “It’s just the fact that because of the perception of his attitude, perception being the key word, we really need to address our concerns with him in-person and he needs to be given the opportunity to explain his point of view on this perception. The perception may be wrong but until we have the chance to sit down and talk with him face to face and give him the opportunity to express himself, we’re pretty much where we are.”
Due to the depth and quality of the current WWF roster, Ross also says there’s no rush in signing Van Dam.
“There’s no reason to try to get the square peg in the round hole. Our interest in Rob Van Dam as a talent is mild. We have a casual interest…. We have a lot of depth and we have a lot of outstanding young talent sort of waiting their turn. And we have some extremely good prospects in our talent development program so the cupboards aren’t bare. But even if they were ‘bearer’ it’s important that we keep a good, even keeled locker room as best we can. ”
Even though no further negotiations between the two sides are currently scheduled, Ross hasn’t ruled out the possibility of signing Van Dam.
“We don’t have any meetings set up with him but that doesn’t mean that we won’t meet with him, it’s just that we don’t have anything scheduled with his (agent). Would we be interested in hiring him? We might if we could get some of the issues we believe to be existing addressed. I explained that to them. His agent and him both know.”
He also wants to give Paul Heyman every chance to get ECW back on its feet before signing Van Dam away.
“If some knight in shining armour came in and helped ECW out of their jam, I’m sure Paul would probably want to make every attempt to get Rob Van Dam back on his roster.”
Jerry Lynn is in somewhat of a different boat than Van Dam. After his loss to Van Dam last Sunday on ECW’s Guilty As Charged pay-per-view, many wrestling reporters speculated that was a sure sign that Lynn was leaving ECW and had inked a deal with the WWF .
Ross laid those rumours to rest as well, saying he’s hesitant to make an official offer to Lynn until ECW’s future becomes more stable.
“We’ve been very reluctant to make any sort of offers until we get a better sense of what’s going to happen with ECW. Even though Paul has said ‘Jerry go negotiate with these guys’, or with whomever you want, we still have been a little bit reluctant in trying to make deals and then all of a sudden Paul gets some financing and he’s lost two or three top guys… We’re waiting for something to happen there so that if Paul has an 11th hour appeal and he’s going to stay in business… I’d hate for all his key guys to be gone.”
Still, Ross confirmed his interest in Lynn.
“We have a bonafide interest in Jerry Lynn… We do have a good interest in Jerry because we like what Jerry brings to the locker room and his strong work ethic and he’s a very good in-ring performer. Once there’s some sort of finality and closure to the ECW thing… than I’m sure we’d probably have more dialogue with Jerry. Jerry Lynn is another kid that we believe has great in-ring skills. In the eyes of a lot of people he doesn’t have the marketability of Rob Van Dam, but we think Jerry could make contributions. He’s a very good worker. He’s a better human being than he is a worker and he’s an outstanding worker… Jerry’s a good guy, he’d fit in our roster well. He has everything that any company would want in a talent.”
Ross admits to being in the dark about the future of ECW, reiterating that is the major stumbling block in offering Lynn a contract.
“I’ve had no conversations with Paul. That’s the whole frustrating part about it. I have no idea what’s going to happen there. But I respect him and what he’s done and what he’s tried to build there. I think we owe it to Paul to give him another few days or week or so to figure out what’s going to happen there. Then depending on what happens we can move accordingly.”
“I just want to out of respect for ECW to make sure we know what’s happening there,” continued Ross. “And the only person that can give anyone an answer is Paul Heyman and I have not talked to Paul so I don’t know what the status is.”
Ross also downplayed the chance of the WWF bankrolling ECW.
“I don’t see that happening. I’m not saying it won’t but I don’t see it personally. It wouldn’t even be my decision it would be Vince’s… We have always supported Paul’s efforts in a variety of ways and I think there’s nobody here that doesn’t want to see him succeed.”