Wrestler of the Day – May 9: Vader

It’s time. IT’S TIME! IT’S VADER TIME!

Vader would get his start in 1985 and head to the AWA soon after. Here’s a match from May 13, 1986.

King Kong Brody vs. Leon White

For those of you lacking an education of stuff pre 1990, this is Bruiser Brody, the king of brawlers, vs. Leon White, more commonly known as Vader. Brody had been suspended in Nevada which doesn’t shock me at all so this is in Minnesota. Vader is a fat man in shorts and a hat. Holy goodness this is weird looking as he’s in essence a nobody here other than a glorified jobber and Brody has a chair 9 seconds in.

Yep there goes Vader’s leg. It’s so weird hearing him called Leon. Vader sells that knee for all it’s worth and this is nothing but a brawl. I think that’s Greg Gagne on commentary. And so much for the selling thing. Never mind he’s back to it. Vader is jumping. Holy goodness. This is intense stuff if nothing else. Sheik Adnan-Al Kassey (General Adnan in 1991 WWF) grabs the knee and works it over to take control back for Brody. And the referee calls it because of the injury. Well ok then.

Rating: B. This was a VERY good brawl. It wasn’t anything close to coherent or anything like that but it was freaking entertaining. These two would more or less have a bunch of wars that were really good just like this one in Japan over the years with Vader not coming out all that well.

Vader would get a lot more seasoning in Japan before coming to WCW for a one off match at the 1990 Great American Bash.

Z-Man vs. Big Van Vader

This is Vader’s WCW debut and Z-Man is the kind of guy Vader sprinkles on his pizza (ten points for whoever gets that reference). He’s in a more traditional mask here and has the helmet. There’s the bell and Z-Man’s chances are done in about 4 seconds. Vader knocks him around for about two minutes and a splash ends it. Z-Man had absolutely zero offense.

Another Japan match from some point in the early 90s.

Big Van Vader vs. Tony Halme

Vader is the big crowd favorite here. They stall to start with neither guy interested in doing much. Vader taunts Halme with some strange noises so Halme fires off punches to the ample midsection. That’s fine with Vader as he pounds away in the corner to take us to a stalemate. More punches have Vader in trouble as the announcers talk about Sting and WCW, putting this at some point in 1992 or later.

Vader comes back with a splash in the corner and a suplex to send Halme to the floor. A few shots have Halme in trouble on the outside but he milks the referee’s count for all it’s worth before coming back inside. Vader misses a splash and Halme gets his first advantage with some hard elbows and stomps. A back elbow and running clothesline get two for Tony and a top rope clothesline sends Vader to the apron.

More shots to the ribs have Vader in trouble but he just blasts Halme in the face and sits on him. Simple yet effective. The standing splash puts Halme down again and some hard clotheslines have him rocked. He starts no selling and says bring it on, so Vader runs him over again. A pair of splashes get two but Vader misses a cannonball down onto Halme’s chest, letting Tony grab a quick cover for the upset pin.

Rating: C. Surprising ending aside, this was one heck of a slugout with both guys beating the tar out of each other. Early 90s Vader is as good of a monster as you’ll ever find and it’s a treat to see him just punch people in the face. The ending was really surprising and sucked the air out of the crowd which isn’t a good thing most of the time.

Now back to America for this war from WrestleWar 1991.

Stan Hansen vs. Big Van Vader

This is a rematch of a match from Tokyo that was thrown out. They immediately start on the ramp and it’s a big brawl. Vader takes him down but Hansen hits a short range lariat. Back into the ring and Vader hits one of his own to take over. Vader hits a corner splash and it’s off to a quick chinlock. Out to the floor and Vader takes him down again with more punches.

In the ring Vader misses a splash in the corner, allowing Hansen to hit a belly to back suplex for two. They go back to the floor and let the weapons loose! Each guy takes a chair shot to the head and Hansen takes over back inside. That lasts about 4 seconds so we head back outside with Vader draping him over the barricade. Hansen drives a knee into Vader and they head back inside for more brawling. Randy Anderson tries to separate them and gets launched to the floor for the double DQ, getting booed out of the building in the process.

Rating: C+. This was nothing like a wrestling match but with stuff like this, having it be a total war with both guys beating the tar out of each other is the right move. The match was fun because Hansen was big enough and psycho enough to hang with Vader in a fight, which is what this was. Good stuff.

To Japan again, on June 26, 1992 with Vader as part of Big Bad and Dangerous with Bam Bam Bigelow. They’re defending the IWGP Tag Team Titles.

IWGP Tag Team Titles/WCW World Tag Team Titles: Steiner Brothers vs. Big Bad and Dangerous

Bigelow starts with Scott as the fans are already way into this. A leg trip takes Bigelow down but he’s quickly in the ropes to stop Scott’s momentum. Another takedown goes just as well and some running clotheslines drop Bigelow to the mat. He avoids a dropkick though and drops a headbutt to a fallen Scott before taking him into the evil corner. Everything breaks down and the Steiners are sent to the floor, only to come back in with their double top rope shoulder block to send the monsters outside.

Things settle back down with Rick coming in to face Bam Bam, who is quickly dropped by a Steiner Line. Bigelow takes him into the corner though and Vader comes in for the first time, drawing a nice pop from the crowd. Vader just mauls Rick in the corner with right hands but Rick comes back with rights of his own followed by a HUGE Steiner Line to put Vader down. That’s fine with Vader as he throws Rick down with a belly to back and crushes him in the corner.

Vader charges into something like a backdrop before Rick muscles him over with a German suplex. A running clothesline sends Vader back to the floor but the fans are completely behind him. Scott comes in off the hot tag and he goes up…..only to fall down with no one touching him. Vader isn’t one to pass up a botch and gets two off a running splash. Back to Bigelow who hits some kind of jumping kick to the face. Off to the chinlock followed by a vertical suplex for two on Scott.

Back to Vader for that running clothesline as Scott is in big trouble. The powerbomb only gets two and Vader is STUNNED. He hooks a dragon sleeper of all things before shifting back to a regular chinlock. Another splash gets another two count and it’s Bam Bam coming in again for a series of headbutts. Scott tries a belly to belly but Bigelow falls on top of him for two instead. Vader comes in again but walks into the Frankensteiner out of nowhere to freak out the crowd.

Everything breaks down as Rich hammers away, only to dive into a hot shot from Bigelow. Vader has lost his mask but is able to take Rick’s head off with a pair of lariats. A powerbomb gets two on Rick and Bigelow’s running splash gets the same. The referee gets bumped as Bigelow hits another splash. Back up and Rick hits a great looking belly to belly out of nowhere for the pin and the titles.

Rating: B. Well that was awesome. This was exactly what it was supposed to be: the Steiners doing some insane throws and the monsters just destroying them all match until the end. The Steiners were basically untouchable at this point, which is why WCW screwed them up for the sake of the Miracle Violence Connection because clean wrestling and all that nonsense.

We’ll stay in America from now on. A bit earlier in 1992, Vader demolished Sting in Atlanta at a house show, injuring him badly and putting Sting on the shelf. Sting wanted revenge and put the World Title on the line at Great American Bash 1992.

WCW World Title: Sting vs. Vader

This is one of those pairings that you flat out cannot screw up. It’s David vs. Goliath, but that’s if David is 6’3 and insanely strong. Actually it’s reminiscent of Brock vs. Cena from earlier this year. Vader is a newcomer here other than a few spot appearances. He had a match with Sting a few weeks before this and DESTROYED him. Sting wanted revenge and Vader wanted the title. Sting talks a lot of trash and Vader says bring it.

Vader knocks him into the corner and gets pounded down in a hurry. Sting clotheslines him and Vader smiles. A cross body bounces off the monster and Vader pounds him into the corner. Sting avoids a charge and suplexes Vader down. Another clothesline puts Vader on the floor and the place ERUPTS. This was when Sting was the hottest thing in the world and probably the biggest star in the world (remember that Hogan was gone for about a year at this point) but he had never met anything like Vader before.

Vader gets back in and wants a test of strength. Now Sting has been called a lot of things, but smart has never been one of them. He takes it and I think I can hear him scream from here. Sting pokes him in the eye and pounds away. It helps that Vader is an absolute master of selling and he flies all over the place off a single punch. Sting knocks him to the apron and suplexes him back in. Remember that Vader is about the size of Mark Henry.

A small package gets two for Sting and Vader bails to the floor. Harley Race freaks out at
the cameraman which makes me laugh. Back in and Sting tries a sunset flip but Vader sits down on him to take over. Sting sells it like he’s dead so Vader drops an elbow and a splash for two. Vader puts him in the Scorpion Deathlock because he’s a jerk like that. Sting finally breaks it so Vader takes his head off with a clothesline for two.

You have to keep in mind that Vader hit harder than anyone else so this offense looks a lot more brutal. Sting hits a Liger Kick of all things followed by a DDT for no cover. They collide and Vader is knocked to the apron, but it knocked Sting silly. Vader tries to go up but Sting kicks him in the ribs to put him down. Sting picks him up off the ropes and drops him with a Samoan Drop for a delayed two. A bridging German suplex gets two.

Remember, this guy is 450lbs and Sting is throwing him around like Angle throws AJ around. Stinger Splash hits as does the second one, but Sting knocks himself out on the post. That only gets two for Vader as the fans are losing their minds over this. Sting swings wildly but falls down on a missed right. He’s totally spent so Vader powerbombs Sting’s corpse to win his first world title and SHOCK the crowd. This would be like Ryback destroying Punk for the title.

Rating: A. Keep in mind that the average rating for this pairing starts at a B instead of the usual C. The match is measured on how far above that they can get. This was one of their better one, as it was so over the top and fun that it was impossible not to get into it. Sting had no idea what he was doing against Vader yet and it would take him a few months to really get the hang of it. Their Starrcade 92 match is about as perfect as this kind of match can be. Vader would only hold the title for three weeks before Ron Simmons took it away from him and held it for five months. Vader’s real reign came in 93, holding it for most of the year.

Vader would quickly lose the title to Ron Simmons, but Sting would get a rematch at Starrcade 1992. This might be my all time favorite match.

King of Cable Finals: Sting vs. Vader

This is officially for a trophy but for these two it’s all about bragging rights and revenge. Sting has said that his battle plan coming in was to make Vader run out of gas. The problem with that is you have to survive Vader’s initial onslaught. Sting fires off some punches to start and Vader just shakes his head at him. Vader easily slams Sting down, much to his manager Harley Race’s approval. Sting gets up and walks int another slam, this time with just one arm.

That doesn’t work so Sting just charges at Vader, only to get his head knocked off by a clothesline. Sting is a lot of things, but intelligent never was one of them. Vader easily gorilla presses him up and drops Sting throat first on the top rope. Sting bails to the floor as he’s in BIG trouble early on. Back in and Vader pounds away, but Sting hits the ropes and then hits a running flipping body attack to take Vader down. A big boot puts Vader down again and Sting shows his own freakish strength by tossing Vader over his head in a German suplex.

A clothesline puts both guys on the floor and Vader is suddenly reeling. Sting gets back in and dives over the top onto Vader and Race to put both guys down again. The fans are losing their minds over this stuff. Vader is down on the floor as Sting calmly waits in the ring. Back in and Vader is all ticked off, so he pounds away on Sting with some HARD shots to the face and body. A splash misses in the corner though, allowing Sting to load up the Stinger Splash. Vader is ready though and gets his boot up, which collides with Sting’s face with a sick smacking sound.

Sting will have none of that though and kicks Vader in the face twice before DDTing Vader down. In an impressive strength display, Sting puts Vader on top and DDTs him off the top for two. There’s the Scorpion Deathlock but Vader quickly gets to the rope. Vader bails to the floor for a walk, so Sting follows with a Stinger Splash, only to hit the railing. For those of you keeping track of his career average on that move, Sting has probably tried it 1983 times and has hit maybe two of them. Like I said, he’s not that bright sometimes.

Back in and Vader is stalking Sting like a vulture, hitting a big splash in the corner to crush Sting. A clothesline gets two for Vader and he follows it up with some HARD right hands to the jaw. Vader drops Sting with a belly to back suplex and another splash which only gets two. The big man is getting very frustrated so he puts on a sloppy looking chinlock. He pulls back and DRILS Sting in the face with a crossface shot for two. Sting blocks a clothesline and gets a quick backslide for two but he can’t follow up.

Sting tries a sunset flip but has to roll away when Vader tries to drop down on his chest. Vader pops back up and starts blasting Sting in the face and ribs with JR wanting the match to be stopped. Sting counters a headlock with a belly to back suplex but he’s so spent that Vader covers him for two. Back up again and Vader just unloads on Sting in the corner, but most of the shots are hitting Sting’s forearms. Sting keeps his arms up for defense so Vader puts him on top for a superplex. Ever the hero, Sting pokes him in the eyes to drop Vader, but Sting is so spent that he just falls to the mat.

Vader puts him in the corner and goes off with even more rights and lefts, but Sting says bring it on. Vader’s shots are noticeably getting weaker and weaker and Sting is getting that adrenaline rush of his. A big right hand staggers Vader and three more drop the monster.

Sting lifts him up and drops Vader down with a Samoan drop, followed by a top rope splash for two. Now Sting isn’t sure what to do. He goes after Race on the apron, allowing Vader to get in a clothesline in the corner. Vader hits a chokeslam and goes up for a middle rope splash. He doesn’t cover though and goes up again, only to have Sting catch him in a powerslam and dive on top for the pin and the tournament.

Rating: A. This was an absolute war and it told a great story, as these two always did. It’s a great David vs. Goliath story….if David was 6’3 and had his face painted blue and white. Sting knew that he had to survive Vader long enough and challenge him to a fight, which he knew Vader would put everything he had into. The power displayed by Sting here was insane and words cannot accurately describe how hard Vader was hitting him. These two were seemingly incapable of having anything but a great match, so WCW just let them fight for about two and a half years straight. This is an excellent match and well worth seeing.

One more time, from SuperBrawl III.

Sting vs. Vader

Strap match here and non title even though Vader is world champion. Somehow that was ok though. We’re going non sanctioned here too. It’s four corners rules by the way. They have a tug of war which of course Sting gets destroyed in. Vader is just kicking Sting’s teeth in. Sting fights back to some MASSIVE pops. Sting busts out an enziguri of all things and not a bad one at all.

This was without a doubt the money match in the company at the time as Sting was the undisputed top face other than the returning Flair and Vader was a guy that no one could fight except for Sting. We go to the floor and Sting tries touching posts which apparently counts. Vader is bleeding from his back. That shows a lot right there. Vader hits a Samoan Drop from the top rope and Sting is more or less dead.

The whole without breaking momentum rule was always confusing to me. The Vader Bomb misses and the fans are right back into it. It’s amazing that they’re still alive after the two awful matches they just watched. Both guys start bleeding with Sting’s head being cut and Vader’s ear bleeding which I think is legit as his hand never went there. Sting gets a GREAT German suplex on Vader to put him down.

Sting just punches Vader down in the corner which is an awesome visual. In an INSANE display of strength, Sting throws Vader over his shoulders and just carries him to three corners. Sometimes you just have to say screw it and do your thing. He trips over the fallen referee though and can’t get the fourth. Vader gets three and Sting accidently kicks him into number four to get the ring. That was awesome.

Rating: A-. This was just a freaking battle. Sting vs. Vader is a great example of a match that’s just hard to get wrong. It was weird to see a top face just get beaten cleanly like Vader would do to Sting but the fans totally bought it so they ran with this for about two years.

The key though: the matches were almost always great. That’s the difference between this and HHH/Orton. Those matches just suck yet these are always good. That makes this feud work much better. Great match and I’m not shocked at all. Other than a 6 day reign in England by Sting, Vader would hold the title until Starrcade when Flair took him out.

Vader would move on to a war with Cactus Jack, injuring him on Saturday Night and setting up a showdown at Halloween Havoc 1993 in a Texas Deathmatch.

Vader vs. Cactus Jack

I’m not going through the whole angle again but in short they started fighting in April, Vader injured Jack, Jack is here for revenge. Vader is world champion but this is about revenge and not the title. Jack is just mad over here. He was second to probably only Flair and Sting (arguably only Sting) in popularity at this point.

They go straight to the floor and the fight is on. I remember last year in the WZ Tournament IC said that there was one person that could take Vader in a hardcore match and that was Cactus Jack. This is the proof. Vader misses a punch and hits the post so Jack goes right after it. Chair is brought in but Vader just punches Jack in the head. Cactus is like BRING IT ON and bites Vader.

HARD chair shot to the head of Vader and the champion is in trouble. They actually go into the ring but Vader gets a boot up and drills Cactus with a clothesline. Vader just mauls him in the corner and Cactus is reeling. Out to the ramp goes Jack but he avoids a suplex back into the ring. Somehow he manages to suplex Vader in a rather rare display of strength. Jack is busted open but hits another suplex on the ramp, this time a belly to back variety.

No attempts at covers yet as this has been a major brawl. Race tries to interfere with a chair and gets dropped with ease. Another chair shot to Vader and they go into the graveyard set. They go into a grave with a headstone marked RIP Vader. For some reason there are steps into it which Cactus comes out of. His eye looks AWFUL. Vader comes out of his own grave and is busted open too. There’s a Thriller joke in there somewhere.

A shot with something gets a pin on Vader. Now Vader has 30 seconds to rest and THEN he has to get up. That’s just stupid. Only WCW could take a brutal war and make it this idiotic. Cactus grabs a cactus and drills Vader with it as Vader was up at two. Why is there a cactus in a graveyard in Louisiana? Cactus drops the elbow off the ramp and gets a fall with that. After the resting (some DEATHmatch) Vader is up before two.

Vader wakes up and drills Cactus who fights right back. A table (an actual one and not the WWE style) is set up in the corner. Vader is thrown into it and bounces off which just gets two. Cactus drills him with the table (again doesn’t break. See what I mean?) to knock him to the floor. Cactus tries a sunset flip to the floor which misses so Vader tries to sit on him which fails.

Jack drapes him over the railing and just beats on him. Total war the entire time so far. Into the crowd now and Vader more or less backdrops Cactus into the ringside area again. Chair to the back of Cactus as Harley has a tazer. Vader slams Jack down and hits a pretty decent Vadersault for the pin and a count of like 3. This is why the rest period is stupid: the guy is up to a knee when the count starts.

They go to the ramp again and in perhaps the sickest bump I have ever seen, Cactus tries a sleeper out there but Vader drops backwards onto him. The THUD is absolutely sick and Cactus just stops dead. He ruptured his kidney on that and more or less couldn’t move but he kept going because it would have made him look weak. My jaw actually dropped on that shot.

Vader, nice guy that he is, drills him with a chair as Race wants a DDT on the chair. There it is and Cactus is more or less deceased. No cover as Patrick brings over the trainer for Jack. Wait was there a pin in there that I missed? Vader beats up the medics and there’s the pin. Ok I’m not crazy. During the rest period Cactus DDTs Vader on the chair but as he’s trying to get up Race uses the tazer on the leg (might be nice to turn it on to play it up) of Foley and it’s over.

Rating: A. The ending is the only thing keeping this from an A+. This is an absolute WAR. Other than the rest periods (stupid WCW) there isn’t a single break of action in the whole sixteen minutes of this. Great match and of course since Cactus was over with the fans and having better and better matches, he was thrown into a tag team and more or less forgotten about until he was fired when Hogan arrived next year. Typical WCW.

When Sid Vicious got fired for stabbing Arn Anderson in England, Vader needed another opponent for Starrcade 1993. Guess who was substituted in for the match in Charlotte.

WCW World Title: Ric Flair vs. Vader

Vader, with manager Harley Race, is defending and it’s title vs. career. Flair is the hometown boy and of course the crowd favorite. The fans cheer for Flair as they finally lock up. Vader shoves him down to the shock of no one. Flair bails to the floor and gets Vader to chase him a bit before heading back inside. The champion realizes what’s going on and stops with Flair back inside. Back in and Vader cranks on Flair’s hands to put Ric in big trouble.

Tony talks about all the major wins Flair has had at Starrcade as Vader stomps him down. A big gorilla press slam puts Flair down and he rolls to the floor, only to have Vader go out after him. Flair is dropped throat first on the barricade but Flair goes NUTS with chops and punches before ramming Vader into the post. Race nails Ric though and Vader takes over again with a suplex back inside. Another suplex puts Flair down again and Vader blasts him in the face.

A HARD clothesline puts Flair down again and there’s a splash for good measure. Flair’s chops have no effect as Vader is just stalking him. Vader misses a middle rope splash though, allowing Flair to hit a top rope chop to the head. Two more such chops put Vader down and there’s a knee drop to the head. Flair has some momentum going but Vader pops up and clotheslines him down. Vader loads up a superplex but the champion can’t follow up. Flair tries to fight back but gets knocked out to the floor for some shots from Race.

Back in and Flair fires off some hard chops before avoiding a splash in the corner. A second attempt hits though and Flair collapses again. Flair thumbs him in the eye and pounds Vader down with pure rights and lefts. Vader is down on his back and Flair goes for the legs, wrapping it around the post. The fans are going NUTS over this. There’s a chair to the knee and Flair punches Vader down on the floor again. Back in and Vader is dazed as Flair punches him down again.

Flair cannonballs down onto the leg but Vader kicks him down to block the Figure Four. The Vader Bomb misses and there’s the Figure Four as the face are losing it. Race is panicking on the apron but Vader makes the rope. Flair is all fired up but charges into a boot in the corner. Vader gets him down on the mat and pounds away, only to go up and miss his moonsault. Race tries a top rope headbutt but hits Vader by mistake. Flair gets a running start but Vader runs him over. In one last gap, Flair pulls Vader’s leg out and takes him down into a rollup for the pin and the title out of nowhere.

Rating: A. This match still more than holds up with Flair hanging in there as long as he could until he found an opening and refusing to lose. The idea here is that Vader would probably beat Flair most of the times they fought, but Flair won here in his hometown against all odds. It’s still a great match and this still holds up very well.

Around this time there were two World Titles in WCW. Sting was scheduled to face Rick Rude for one of them, but Rude was injured and Sting was going to be awarded the belt. That wasn’t cool with Sting as he wanted to beat someone for the belt. Who better than his greatest rival? From Slamboree 1994.

WCW International Title: Vader vs. Sting

This falls under the category of matches that it’s really hard to mess up. The title is vacant actually here so Sting could leave with an extra title reign. At least the explanation made sense. Do you really need an explanation on this one? It’s Sting vs. Vader for typing out loud. They do their usual greatness with Sting starting fast but then Vader just beats the tar out of him.

This is a rare occasion where it was pure formula stuff but they made it work every time and to me that boiled down to one thing, and it’s what I’ve always said makes a match great: you didn’t know who was going to win. Think about Hogan vs. Flair or Hogan vs. DiBiase or any other big face or heel rivalry that isn’t considered great. The thing is, most of the time you know who is going to win. Now take a look at Rock vs. HHH or Rock vs. Austin.

The winner was much harder to predict, which made it much more fun and interesting. As for this, it’s your traditional good match with Sting doing a lot of stuff to hang with Vader, namely making Vader punch himself out, ala Rocky vs. Clubber Lang. Finally Sting gets out of the way when Vader goes for more offense than he should. A missed Race headbutt and a big splash, and keep in mind that Sting is the only guy of his size that could rival Van Dam for leaping ability, from the top ends it and that ends the show.

Rating: B. Dude, it’s Sting and Vader. This is by definition a good match. See what happens when you give talented guys time on the card and a chance to just go out there and have fun? YOU GET A GOOD MATCH!!! Learn this WCW. I think I’ve said all there is to say about this paring by this point.

Vader would get another title shot at Starrcade 1994, albeit for a different championship.

US Title: Vader vs. Jim Duggan

Duggan is another guy that was brought into WCW and then beat Austin in 45 seconds for the US Title back in September. If you’re not familiar with him, Duggan is an American patriot, who promises to give everything he’s got in all of his matches. It’s really basic but worked quite well for him over the years. It’s a brawl in the aisle to start with Duggan pounding Vader down. Duggan is kind of a clueless putz but he’s a good brawler who can hang with Vader in a fist fight.

They fight on the floor with Vader being sent ribs first into the barricade. I don’t think the bell has rung yet. Vader tries to get in and Duggan jumps him again with more right hands. A clothesline drops Vader again and a second puts him on the floor. Back in and Duggan this a cross body for two and a delayed body slam for the same. Duggan keeps pounding away as Vader has been on defense the entire way through. Another clothesline puts Vader down and a knee drop gets two.

Off to a chinlock as Race is panicking on the floor. Vader finally comes back with some punches, only to have Duggan fire off even more big right hands. The challenger smacks him in the head though and Duggan is staggered. Jim clotheslines him down for the third time but Vader is in the ropes to break up a pin. In something very out of character for Duggan, he goes up to the middle rope and completely misses an elbow drop. Vader goes after the ribs as Duggan is now in trouble.

A slam puts Duggan down and there’s the Vader Bomb (a middle rope pump splash if you’ve never seen it) for two as Jim gets his foot on the ropes. Vader loads up another Bomb but Duggan kicks him down, only to be run over by a standing splash. Race gets in some choking with the referee not paying attention like a good evil manager. Vader slaps his arms around Duggan’s ears to put him down but Duggan rolls away from the moonsault.

Back up and Duggan hits the fifth clothesline of the match to put both guys down again. Duggan’s Three Point Clothesline hits but Race breaks up the cover. Vader goes up top but dives into a powerslam like he did two years ago but there’s no referee due to Race again. Duggan loads up another clothesline but Vader shoves him into Harley, who was holding up Duggan’s 2×4. Vader picks up Duggan and drops him on his face for the pin and the title.

Rating: B-. This was shockingly good with Duggan working HARD out there to keep up with Vader. They had the fans believing that Duggan could survive the monster which is all you can ask for with guys like Vader. This was also a good way for Vader to bounce back as he hadn’t had the best year in 1994. He would get to feud with Hogan over the first two months of 1996.

Later in the year, Vader would want the World Title back. He had the chance to get a shot at Clas of the Champions XXXI.

Vader vs. Arn Anderson/Ric Flair

Vader comes out in his old elephant helmet. Arn starts for the team and takes Vader into the corner for some left hands but Vader just hammers him down with ease. A hard clothesline sends Anderson to the floor but Vader pulls him back in and lays Anderson out with another clothesline and right hand. Arn finally comes back with a BIG spinebuster and now Flair wants in.

Ric rakes his boot across Vader’s face but takes too long strutting, allowing Vader to get to his feet. A big old gorilla press puts Flair down and he screams to God for help. Vader hits another clothesline and puts Flair on the floor as well, drawing cheers from the fans. Flair goes for a chair but gets stopped by the referee, allowing Arn to take out Vader’s knee.

Back to Anderson for some double teaming and the DDT from Anderson. Flair puts on the Figure Four but Vader powers his way over to the ropes. Ric goes up and gets slammed down with ease, allowing Vader to drop some heavy elbows for two. Another attempt at double teaming fails as Vader clotheslines both guys down and powerbombs Anderson for the pin.

Rating: C+. This was as solid of a way to put someone over as I can remember in a long time. Vader just destroyed Anderson and Flair in less than nine minutes like they weren’t even there. They really did a good job of playing up Flair’s insecurities as he beat Vader twice clean on his own less than two years ago when Vader was even more unstoppable. This was much more entertaining than I was expecting.

Vader would bail on the company soon after this and turn up in the WWF in early 1996. He would wrestle in the opening match of Wrestlemania XII.

Camp Cornette vs. Yokozuna/Jake Roberts/Ahmed Johnson

Camp Cornette is Vader/Owen Hart/British Bulldog and if they lose, Yoko gets five minutes alone with Cornette. Of all the music for the faces to come out to, they pick Yoko’s? The monsters brawl to start and Yoko takes him down with a clothesline. Another one sends Vader to the floor and Ahmed hits a big dive over the top to take Vader down again. Back in and they slug it out some more before it’s off to Owen. Yoko is so fat here it’s amazing that he can move.

After Owen gets beaten up a bit it’s back to Vader for more hard shots to the head. Vader pounds him down to the mat but Yoko is able to get over to Ahmed for a not hot tag. Johnston starts cleaning house on everyone until Vader gets in a shot from behind to take him down. A jumping senton misses Ahmed though and a flying clothesline puts Vader down.

We settle down to Johnsn vs. Bulldog with Ahmed loading up the Pearl River Plunge (Tiger Bomb), only to have Hart hit a missile dropkick to break it up. Owen drags him back to the corner and here’s more Vader. A splash crushes Johnson but there’s still no cover. Back to Owen who is clotheslined down almost immediately and there’s the real hot tag to Jake. Oh and Mr. Fuji is in the face corner with an American flag.

Owen avoids the DDT and Jake charges into a knee in the corner. Bulldog puts on the front facelock so the fans chant USA. At least most of the face team is made in America this time. Back to Vader for the hard clothesline and a slam, followed by a top rope elbow from Owen. That gets two so Owen cranks back on both of Jake’s arms for a bit. Bulldog comes in but the powerslam only gets two as well. It was a clean kickout too which is pretty odd to see.

Vader comes in for a splash but THAT only gets two as well. The fans don’t seem all that interested in this though. Bulldog tries a splash of his own but Roberts rolls away to buy himself some time. The other hot tag brings in Yoko to face Vader with the latter being punched down in the corner. Yoko cleans house on all three villains and crushes Bulldog with a belly to belly. The DDT hits Owen but Jake has to take out an interfering Cornette. Jake loads up the DDT on Cornette but Vader runs him over and the Vader Bomb is finally enough to pin Roberts.

Rating: C. Nice tag match here but the crowd doesn’t seem interested in the show so far. Hopefully they’re just saving it up for the main event which is the only match that matters on the entire show. Johnson looked good and would get pushed to the Intercontinental Title soon after this. The other guys all looked like themselves.

Vader would dominate the company all year and eventually challenge Shawn Michaels for the WWF Title at Summerslam 1996.

WWF World Title: Vader vs. Shawn Michaels

Vader is challenging after pinning Shawn in a six man tag at In Your House #9. He pounds Shawn in the face to start before taking his head off with a clothesline. Shawn catches a big boot and leg sweeps Vader down before hitting a low dropkick to stun Vader. Michaels fires off rights and lefts from his knees and Vader bails to the floor. A HUGE dive takes him down again as the fans are finally waking up a bit.

Back in and a standing hurricanrana takes Vader down and a victory roll sends him back out to the floor. Shawn’s plancha into a hurricanrana is caught in a powerbomb and momentum changes in a hurry. Vader puts him on his shoulder and carries Shawn up the steps with one arm in a very impressive power display. A big suplex puts Shawn down again and Mr. Perfect gloats a lot. Shawn is sent into a Flair Flip in the corner and another whip sends him out to the floor.

Vader pounds away back inside but Shawn comes back with rights and lefts of his own. He can’t drop Vader though and a hard clothesline takes Shawn down again. Shawn tries to skin the cat but Vader pulls him back in and hits a kind of reverse jackknife for two. Off to a modified bearhug on the champion for a few moments until Shawn fights back with a running knee to the chest. Vader blocks a sunset flip but his jumping seated senton hits knees.

A hard clothesline puts Vader down and we get a semi-famous spot as Shawn goes up but aborts the elbow in mid flight, instead hitting a flying stomp. He throws a fit and yells at Vader before a cross body puts both guys on the floor. Vader drops Shawn throat first across the barricade…..for a countout win? Seriously? Female fan: “NO! NO! NO!” Cornette agrees because he wants to win the title by pin instead of countout.

Shawn agrees to get back in but Vader punches him down on the floor. Cornette pops Shawn in the back with the tennis racket and a belly to belly gets two for Vader. Michaels punches his way out of the powerbomb and hits the forearm/nip-up combo. He tunes up the band but Cornette throws in the racket, only to have Shawn intercept it and blast Vader for the DQ.

The third part of the match begins (Cornette, WE DON’T WANT IT THAT WAY, ring the bell again) with Shawn avoiding another seated senton and now the top rope elbow connects. Sweet Chin Music only gets two and the referee is knocked to the floor. Vader hits the powerbomb and a second referee comes in to count two. Cornette is stunned as Vader goes up, only to miss the moonsault. Shawn goes up top and hits a moonsault press to retain the title.

Rating: B+. I’ve only seen this match once or twice and it really holds up. Shawn was in his element here against a monster and he capitalized on Vader’s greed for the title to finally beat him. The problem was the people didn’t care about Shawn until he got in the ring which made him a hard sell for the fans. Still though, excellent match here.

That didn’t go well, but maybe at the 1997 Royal Rumble in a non-title match?

Undertaker vs. Vader

This is a feud that went on for a few months because they were a good pairing for each other. Taker avoids a charge to start and pounds away on the big man. Scratch that, make it on the shorter and wider man. Vader comes back with his standing body attack and a second one to take Undertaker down. It doesn’t keep him down of course so Vader hits the floor. Taker jumps off the apron with an ax handle and they brawl slowly. Vader literally has his hands on his hips while Taker uppercuts him.

Vader hits a Stunner on the apron to snap Taker on the rope before heading back in. A Fameasser of all things puts Vader down as does a slam. The followup legdrop gets two (BROTHER!) but Vader crotches him to counter Old School. Vader hits Taker low so let’s go talk to a fan in the audience. Seriously. We hear about her saving up her money and following Shawn Michaels everywhere she goes. Your PPV dollars at work people!

Vader clotheslines Taker down twice, one of which being from the middle rope for two. We hit the nerve hold but Taker fights up with his rapid fire punches. A belly to back suplex puts Vader down but Taker’s elbow misses. The masked man goes up but dives into a powerslam ala Starrcade 92 vs. Sting, but it doesn’t even get a cover here. Vader powerbombs Taker down for two and the Dead Man sits up.

There’s the big jumping clothesline and this time Old School hits, but here comes Paul Bearer. Taker chokeslams Vader down but spots Bearer instead of following up. Paul is thrown into the ring and punched a lot before Taker clotheslines Vader to the floor. Taker tries a kind of Poetry in Motion dive against the railing but Bearer makes the save, pulling Vader away. Bearer blasts Taker with the Urn, allowing Vader to hit the Vader Bomb for the pin.

Rating: D+. Not terrible here but again it ran too long. This was about setting up Bearer as Vader’s new manager which didn’t last long unless I’m completely forgetting something. Taker looked ok here, but his power stuff looks a lot better on smaller guys as he can’t throw Vader around all that well. Still though, not horrible.

That went well, so Vader eventually got a title shot once Undertaker got the belt. From In Your House #16.

WWF World Title: Vader vs. Undertaker

The champion pounds him into the corner to start and takes Vader down with a clothesline for two. Old School connects for two more as Vince talks about Bearer’s claims of Undertaker’s brother still being alive. His name: Kane. Undertaker whips him into the corner but Vader comes back by just running Undertaker over. The champion pops back up and hits a jumping clothesline for two. Vader grabs a huge headlock to slow things down and Undertaker is in trouble.

Back up and Undertaker scores with a big boot to the jaw and clotheslines Vader out to the floor. The champion is sent knees first into the steps and has to endure being called a murderer by Bearer. Undertaker snaps Vader’s throat across the top rope and comes back in with a top rope clothesline for another near fall. An uppercut puts Vader back on the floor and Undertaker can go after Bearer, only to be clubbed down by Vader.

They head back inside with Vader pummeling Undertaker down in the corner again and getting two off a middle rope clothesline. A suplex and splash get the same and we hit the nerve hold on Undertaker. The Dead Man punches his way up but gets poked in the eye to put him back down. Vader pounds him in the corner again as the fans get behind the champion.

Undertaker comes back with rights and lefts of his own but Vader kicks him low to break up a chokeslam attempt. JR wants to know why that wasn’t a DQ, which is a very fair question. Vader powers out of a tombstone attempt and runs Undertaker over again. Undertaker sits up to avoid the Vader Bomb and hits Vader low as a little payback. A middle rope chokeslam gets two so another chokeslam and the tombstone retain the title.

Rating: B. More good stuff here as Undertaker is on a roll right now. Vader was just a filler but he was still big and strong enough to come off as a threat to the title. There’s something awesome about watching a huge man get thrown around like Undertaker was doing to Vader here and the match worked incredibly well.

Vader would turn face soon after this and go after Bret Hart to stand up for AMERICA.

Bret Hart vs. Vader

No holds barred and this is non-title with Bret as world champion. Bret runs down Cincinnati for naming a street after Pete Rose. What did Rose ever do to the WWF to deserve all the stuff he gets from them? Bret nails Vader with the belt as he gets in and pounds away in the corner to start. The place erupts when Vader comes back and he gets the belt for a shot to Bret’s back.

Vader breaks the Canadian flag and Bret tries to run. They head to the floor and Vader gets sent into the steps which are then dropped on his back. Vader shrugs that off and here comes the Bulldog as we take a break. Back with Vader punching Bret in the face back inside. Bulldog is still on the ramp. Bret kicks Vader low and drops some forearms to the face. Some headbutts stagger Vader and there’s a snap suplex.

Bret undoes the pad on a buckle but doesn’t get it off. Vader splashes Bret in the corner and sends him chest first into the buckle. The powerbomb lays Bret out but Bulldog breaks up the Vader Bomb. The Foundation pounds Vader in the corner until the Patriot comes out for the save. Owen comes out and Bret gets a chair to knock out both Americans. The Harts load up a piledriver on a chair for Patriot but Austin runs in for the save. He chases the Harts off with the chair and the match is thrown out.

Rating: B-. There’s a reason 1997 is remembered so fondly: the wrestling was great in the main event scene and this was a good example. This was a very good brawl with both guys pounding away on each other and neither guy backing down at all. Austin coming in at the end was fine but the match being thrown out was a bit annoying. Fun opener though.

Vader’s stock would fall through the floor soon after this, as evidenced by his match at Royal Rumble 1998.

Vader vs. The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust

This is during Goldie’s midlife crisis/PAY ATTENTION TO ME phase. These two had a great match at Clash of the Champions so maybe this won’t suck. Goldust jumps him as Jerry is glad the gold one is in men’s clothing again. Vader shrugs off the shots to the back and chases Goldust to the floor. Vader rams him into Luna as we hear about Austin not being here yet. Goldust is sent into the steps as Vader keeps control.

Back in and Luna trips Vader up, finally allowing Goldie to get in a clothesline. Another clothesline puts him down and Goldust works on the leg a bit. Goldie drops a middle rope elbow to the ribs and we head back to the floor. Vader is sent into the steps so Luna can choke him a bit before we head back in. Goldust pounds away again but stops to kiss Vader. I may not be a pro wrestler, but I know better than to kiss a guy called the Rocky Mountain Monster.

Vader kills him with a clothesline and suplexes Goldust down before getting two off a splash. Vader loads up the Vader Bomb but a low blow stops him cold. Another clothesline puts Goldie down again and Vader sits on his chest. He loads up the Bomb again and despite Luna jumping in his back, Vader drops it anyway and crushes Goldust for the pin.

Rating: D. The place popped for the ending which did look cool, but other than that this was a messed up match. Goldust in this gimmick didn’t really work because at the end of the day, he’s still boring old Dustin Rhodes working the same standard style. It’s not horrible but it’s not a good choice to have on a PPV.

We’ll wrap up his WWF run from this match on September 13, 1998 on Saturday Night Raw.

Dustin Runnels vs. Vader

Dustin is wearing the “He Is Coming Back” shirt. Vader drills him and pounds him down but is too fat to be Vader anymore. The beating goes on for awhile but Dustin gets in a shot to break the momentum. He makes his comeback (get it?) but sees Val in the crowd with a sign saying “I Have Come.” Ok that’s kind of funny. Vader jumps the distracted Dustin and actually wins the match with a Vader Bomb. This was very short.

Vader would spend a few years in Japan before retiring for the most part. He would then be brought back for the Heath Slater legends challenge series on Raw, June 11, 2012.

Heath Slater vs. ???

The opponent is a former Raw main eventer that Ace has brought in. Slater wants to know why we’re talking about the past when he’s the current star. He says it’s Slater Time, so cue…..VADER TIME??? He looks WAY better than he did that time he was at Cyber Sunday. To be fair he looks like he ate half of the Rocky Mountains but it’s still an improvement. The fans go crazy for Vader and the pain begins. He destroys Slater but Heath gets in some shots. A slam attempt fails completely and the Vader Bomb ends this at 3:14. No point in rating it but it was fine all things considered.

Vader is one of the greatest big men of all time. One time he tried a moonsault but LANDED ON HIS FEET. Under no circumstances should a 400lb man be able to do that. None, period. His matches with Sting are as good of a David vs. Goliath series as you’ll ever see and established a formula that would never be topped. He really should have gone over Shawn in 1996 but politics held that back. Check him out if you ever want to see someone who really did look like a monster.

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4 comments

  1. M.R. says:

    Flair was putting his career on the line all the way back in ’93?

    [Reply]

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Not only that but there were people calling for him to retire because he was losing a step. Keep in mind he had been wrestling 21 years at that point.

    [Reply]

    Heyo Reply:

    Probably why he didn’t retire all those years ago, because he had been told he was too old to wrestle, for OVER A DECADE AND A HALF by the mid 2000s.

    [Reply]

  2. CommamderHaspburg says:

    Man, still sucks to know that he has less than two years to live. Man is an absolute legend in AJPW and America.

    [Reply]

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