I did know that but I admit that I was so concentrated on how ridiculous his dancing gimmick was that I didn't take it into account when I was responding to your post.
Regardless, aside from a very brief run as a heel, his level of success is no where near the level of any of the other names that you mentioned.
Well I never said Rikishi was on their level, just that he was a guy who went from shitty gimmicks to be a top-player, which is exactly what he was in 2000. I think what you're doing, though, is misinterpreting your personal preferences for what was successful. Whether you thought his gimmick was ridiculous or not, it doesn't change that it was insanely successful during that time.
In the case of most of the wrestlers I named, unfortunately we will never know what could have been if they had been given proper pushes in the WWE. Lance Storm should have dominated the mid-card until he was rightfully raised to the main event but instead, his style was mocked and he was unfairly buried. Dean Malenko could have had the same type of success as Chris Benoit or Eddie Guerrero but he never even had a chance to succeed in the WWE because he was immediately stuck in the neglected Light Heavyweight division and then forced into feuds with Divas. One of the best technical wrestlers of all time and a former member of the Four Horsemen, reduced to fighting Divas.
Eddie Guerrero was neglected to feuding with Chyna and Essa Rios over the European title when he started. Eddie Guerrero thrived because he has a billions times the personality of Dean Malenko. And Benoit wasn't that successful. Business was very weak under him (Eddie too - part of the reason Eddie wanted to drop the belt at the time).
Between 2001 and the time he left the WWE in 2007, Rob Van Dam was consistently one of the most over superstars on the roster. He was definitely more over than Rikishi. Sure, his name wasn't Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, or Triple H but just go back and watch any of his matches and watch the crowd. They absolutely loved him. The problem was, Rob Van Dam was an established name before he came to the WWE and Vince McMahon couldn't add anything to the character. Because of that, he suffered in mid-card hell for years before they finally gave him the opportunity. Unfortunately, he screwed himself by violating the rules of the WWE's Wellness Program.
I don't think RVD was as big as you're making him out to have been. Certainly he was a star and certainly he had his supporters, but he was never majorly over. It's hard to compare him to Rikishi because Rikishi was incredibly over during a time when the business was on fire, while I feel RVD was moderately over during a time when the business was stagnant. RVD was never a major business-mover, I don't think. I won't say he wasn't a major merch-pusher like you did, but I don't ever think I've heard it being that way. I don't think anyone shows he's ever main evented, outside of of maybe One Night Stand 2, would be regarded as "big buyrate shows." So in that respect, I don't know. I think you're overrating him.
The mainstream controversy surrounding Swagger and Colter's characters is already dying out. There will be no long term benefit from outside the WWE Universe for it. Regardless, it shouldn't matter if he draws one ass to a seat or one million. Jacob Hager made a boneheaded mistake, I don't think that he should be fired for it but I definitely think that there should be some type of consistency shown on the WWE's part. If you are going to take championships away from a guy for violating the policy, the least you can do is take away another person's title shot. Otherwise, what's to stop the next guy from violating the policy? What happens then? Jack Swagger gets off scott free but what about the next guy? "What's that Vince, you're going to let me go because I smoked a joint? Jack Swagger was arrested for a DUI and drug possession and he got to wrestle for the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania!"
The controversy dying out and there being no benefit are both possibly true. That doesn't change that when Swagger got busted, you had right-wing news people going stir crazy over his character. When RVD got busted, it was a big story for wrestling - but that's it, as the rest of the world didn't even pay attention. If RVD had been the the centerpiece of a major controversial brouhaha that was getting all kinds of notice from the world at large, not only would RVD have not dropped the belt the following Monday - he wouldn't have dropped the belt like he was planned to (allegedly and according to Meltzer) at the following PPV. It's genuinely two different stories.
Now, as for your complaint about it not being fair. Look, I said it earlier. "You mean something in wrestling isn't on the up-and-up?!" If you expect everything to be fair and just in ALL OF PRO WRESTLING, let alone WWE, I suggest a different avenue of entertainment. It's never been that way and it never will be. This goes back to guys hooking and screwing people over for championships, breaking legs to show the business is real, right down to using carny terminology to insult fans (marks). This is not an honest business.