On a recent episode of the Something To Wrestle podcast, former WWE producer Bruce Prichard discussed WWE wanting to poach Rob Van Dam early.
RVD had become wildly popular with fans who attended the ECW shows, and he had remained a somewhat popular performer in WWE when he had made his way over there. A lot of people adored RVD's high-flying abilities.
"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."
WWE looked at RVD as the next big thing, and was trying their hardest to get him a lot earlier than they did.
"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. 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 had been talks before about Paul Heyman and Vince McMahon bringing ECW stars to WWE programming.
"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. 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.'"
They had stopped talking about this as it 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.