Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Big Van Vader Shoot Interview (Part 4)

Vader covers getting fired by Bischoff, his battles with the Kliq, Japan resurrecting his career and more!

Presented by RF Video

The other 3 parts to this shoot can be found on the front page of this site.

We see clips of Vader mauling Tatsumi Fujinami.

Mean Gene bashed Vader as a “locker room bully” on the WCW hotline after Leon was fired. Vader says he and Gene never got along, so he’s not surprised Okerlund buried him.

Prior to being fired, WCW allowed Vader to do a run in on a USWA show to create a buzz around Vader killing guys in outside promotions. Kayfabe wise it was a success as the Undertaker was working for the USWA that night and PWI and other magazines made a huge deal about WWF and WCW superstars being so close to one another. (Honestly, it was AWESOME at the time to read that the Undertaker and Vader almost collided. Of course the WWF made it happen for real a bit later.)

We see the clips of Vader mauling some USWA geeks. Lance Russell and Dave Brown play it off strangely as they review the clip of Vader running in on their show a few days earlier. Both laugh and root on Vader killing their talent instead of expressing total shock about the monster crippling their jabronis.

After the Paul Orndorff brawl, Eric Bischoff offered Vader a six-month suspension with the chance to spend the six months in Japan, still making money. The WCW money loss would be upwards of $300,000, so White was not willing to jump at that deal. Vader was also hurt at the time, so the suspension could have been spent having the surgery and recovery done on his shoulder. Vader admits he was foolish for balking at this offer as Bischoff just fired him, which cost him all the cash in his contract anyway.

The Clash of the Champions bout where Vader beat Arn Anderson and Ric Flair in a handi-cap match was “bullshit”. Vader was hurt enough that he could have sat out and got paid like other prima donnas, but he worked through it. White also thought the match was stupid since a two on one match had never headlined a major show. (Since Vader won, his displeasure is kind of odd.)

Vader had lots of cash from smart investments, so he was not hurting after being canned.

The power players backstage like Hogan and Shawn Michaels have pretty much soured Vader on North American wrestling, so he kind of wishes in hindsight that he had skipped his WWF run and just worked for Baba and Inoki.

New Japan signed Vader up for a big match with Antonio Inoki prior to his WWF contract being signed. Vader lost to Inoki in perhaps Inoki’s last great match on January 4th. 1996, only weeks before Vader debuted for Vince.

Antonio Inoki vs. Big Van Vader

The crowd goes wild for the legendary Inoki making a rare appearance in the ring. Vader confronts him in the aisle, but then opens the ropes for him. (Vader fell on his ass trying this, before getting up and doing it proper.) The respect is short lived as Vader just plows over Inoki with a hard strike that sends Inoki crumpling to the mat and into retreat. Vader follows up with more vicious attacks which bring Inoki to the fetal position.

Inoki has FIGHTING SPIRIT and comes at the big man with strikes of his own. Vader shrugs those off and casually kills Inoki on the cement floor by slamming him on a table, then slamming the table on top of him. Inoki tries to get back in the ring but is struck with one of Vader’s tree trunk arms and he is sent to the cement yet again.

Inoki lures Vader in and manages to grab a rear naked choke, but Vader fights his way out. The angry beast makes his prey pay by delivering a VICIOUS German suplex, dumping Inoki right on his head and neck. RIP Inoki!!! That got the crowd really buzzing as Inoki lays on the mat unmoving. Vader scrapes him off the mat for more painful shots to Inoki’s giant chin.

Inoki is still dead as Vader sends him to the ramp. Vader slaps Inoki, wanting him to FIGHT. Vader charges at him and is backdropped into the ring. The nearly 53-year-old Inoki springs to the top rope to drive down a knee, then focuses kicks to Vader’s legs in order to wobble him long enough to hit an enziguri. That sends Vader to the floor. Another kick sends Vader flipping over the railing. Inoki drives a chair across the Mastodon’s skull. Vader is now bloody and angry. Inoki welcomes him back in the ring.

Inoki attacks his head wound and tries to break Vader’s arm by bending it in the wrong direction. A pissed Vader fights off his back with strikes and traps Inoki in a rear naked choke. Inoki is then driven into the mat with a stiff slam. Inoki has the gall to kick out, so Vader breaks his neck again with a NASTY chokeslam. Vader smells blood and tries a powerbomb, but Inoki escapes. A desperation enziguri misses and Vader briefly sinks in a dragon sleeper. Inoki kicks his way out.

Another stiff slam sets Inoki up for the Vader bomb. The corpse of Inoki somehow kicks out. Vader is dumbfounded that this man WON’T DIE. Vader hits a VADERSAULT. Inoki’s fire still burns as he kicks out! Vader smashes him with a corner splash. A second one misses and Inoki manages to slam Vader and locks on a kimura. Vader TAPS!!! Great match full of drama, blood and stiff ring work. INOKI BOM BA YE!!!!!!!!!. You owe it to yourself to watch this if you’ve never seen it before.

Back to the shoot..

Vader makes it clear that Vince McMahon and his family treated him with nothing but respect. The metal plate in White’s head came loose during a match with Kane (from a chokeslam) and the WWF gave him no grief for having to take time off to get fixed up.

Ken Shamrock busted up Vader’s nose during Shamrock’s WWF debut. Leon has no ill will for Ken trying his best to get over. Vader had to take time off to get his nose repaired. The WWF again gave him no heat for taking time off. He was paid during his time on injured reserve.

White ultimately quit the WWF. He told Jim Ross and Vince that he just couldn’t work his stiff style in the WWF. Vader calls out Shawn Michaels out (without naming names) about threatening to get him fired over his stiff blows. Vader just wanted to work hard and have great matches.

The Kliq politics, along with Vader’s injuries derailed his WWF run and Vader managed to never get a run with the WWF title. White questions the timing of his angle with Gorilla Monsoon. Had he mauled Monsoon and not gone away for two months, he may have gotten off to a hotter start. (I tend to disagree, as Vader getting suspended after his first TV appearance gave him a great mystique IMO.)

HBK and Vader went around the horn for two months straight before they met at Summerslam. The PPV did not draw as well as expected and Vader was blamed because Shawn was untouchable backstage. Vader blames giving the match away to all the hardcore fans before it could be seen on PPV.

Johnny Ace and Kenta Kobashi vs. Big Van Vader and Stan Hansen

HOLY COW. This has potential to be amazing! This is from the Tokyo Dome in May of 1998. Kobashi and Vader start off and the crowd is bonkers already. Vader growls before unleashing a series of strikes and headbutts. Kobashi goes down from the culmination of so many strikes connecting. He gets to his feet and delivers a number of his trademark chops to Vader’s barrel chest. Vader knocks him down and Kobashi takes a breather.

Kobashi takes more abuse before downing Vader with a surprise shoulder tackle. Vader tries to wrench Kenta’s fingers for that, and then traps him on the mat with an armlock. Hansen, long in the tooth but still big, mean and nasty comes in for some fun. Hansen is downed with a shoulder charge and Johnny Ace tags in. He and Hansen slow things down for a bit before Kobashi comes back in to chop away at Hansen. Stan no sells that and drives his skull into Kobashi’s as a matter of establishing MANLINESS.

Vader comes in and delivers a nasty belly-to-belly, but Kobashi is up quickly and throwing chops. Vader sends him to the floor and drives Kenta’s back into the corner post. Kobashi is up fast from that and he DDT’s Vader on the thinly covered cement. Hansen charges in to help his partner and Ace makes his way over too. Kobashi launches himself from the top rope down onto Vader and earns a nearfall back in the ring with a spinning chop to the head. Ace and Kobashi then deliver a back suplex/neckbreaker combo, but the monster strives through it.

Hansen and Ace brawl on the floor, where a table is thrown onto Ace’s prone body. Vader takes advantage of Johnny’s weathered state as he drives him into the mat with a stiff belly-to-back suplex. Ace goes to the floor for his own good but Hansen tosses him right back into the fire. Vader splashes the broken body of the Dynamic Dude but that fails to net a 3-count. A second rope splash is practically no sold as Ace wobbles to his feet. Vader pounces on him again, but fails to score a pin. Ace scores a kick that stuns Vader and Kobashi is tagged back into the fray. Hansen charges the ring, sensing Vader needs time to regain his bearings. Kenta downs him with chops. Vader absorbs a Russian leg sweep, a slam and a moonsault. Hansen is knocked over again as Kobashi is fired up.

Kenta gamely tries a suplex, but Vader is too big and he crushes Kobashi instead. Hansen and Vader kill Ace on the floor for sport, and then the MANLY men deliver a spike powerbomb to Kenta in the ring. Ace makes the save.

Hansen goes to the top rope where he appears to almost fall off but then somehow saves himself by delivering an elbow anyway. That was probably dead weight crashing down on Kenta. Ouch! Hansen preps his arm for the LARIAT. The crowd buzzes as Vader holds up the battered carcus of Kenta. Kobashi kicks Hansen, and the heels run into one another. Kobashi gets a cradle for a near fall that I totally bought. He then small packages Hansen right after for the victory. A pretty solid match, but coming right after viewing the Inoki/Vader classic made this feel like a lesser battle. I think the cradle should have been the finish as it felt organic. The final tease was not needed (again IMO.)

Back to the shoot…

HBK freaked out in the middle of he and Vader’s Summerslam World title match because Vader forgot the layout of a spot. Vader figured most wrestlers could adapt and just come back to the spot later, but Shawn had a melt down instead because he’s an unprofessional shit head.

The original plan was for Vader to beat HBK for the title after Summerslam, Vader would lose it to Bret Hart and then gain it back again (perhaps to set up Shawn to win it at Mania?).

The WWF pushed for White to lose weight, and he dropped 50 pounds. This earned him a renewed push. Vader was told by Vince he was the MVP of the “Final Four” match in February of 1997 between Undertaker, Steve Austin, Vader and Bret Hart.

Vader was supposed to move on to feud with IC champ Rocky Maivia and beat him for the title. Then Leon went on a Kuwait tour with the WWF and ended up grabbing a TV host by the necktie after being asked if wrestling was fake. The TV host was suppose to be briefed by his producers that Vader was going to freak out on him, but apparently he was not told. This was either a rib by the producers, or a major oversight. The TV host ended up having Vader arrested. The following day was the start of a holiday season, so Vader was detained for two weeks while awaiting the rituals to finish. He was not in a prison however, and instead was put up at a big time resort and given all the first class food he could handle, along with massages, pools etc.

Ken Shamrock and Vader rematched in Japan for FMW. Shamrock took a stiff powerbomb and started spewing blood. Ken was freaked out and they ended the match abruptly.

Ken Shamrock vs. Big Van Vader

This is joined in progress. The match is being held in a cage. Shamrock has Vader in a knee bar. Vader makes it to the ropes. Shamrock (who has taped ribs) delivers a series of knees and Vader goes down for an 8-count. Vader responds by delivering strikes that down Shamrock for a 7-count. Vader focuses his next attack on Ken’s ribs and then delivers a powerbomb. Shamrock gets up after an 8-count and Vader dumps Shamrock on his shoulder via a botched powerslam. Fucking OUCH! Shamrock stays down for the ten count. Vader looks confused, so perhaps Ken didn’t alert him that he was legit hurt. We don’t see any blood, but it may be the low resolution VHS dubbing I am watching?

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Vader had a series of matches in the WWF. They liked each other from WCW and had good chemistry. Austin was also a MAN and could take Vader’s stiff shots.

The interviewer asks if Vader was proposed to do a run with Austin once Stone Cold won the WWF title. Vader knew he was dead in the water in the WWF by that point and wasn’t in a position to get a run on top.

During his WWF run, Vader trained too much for power and not enough cardio, which led to him adding mass (fat).

They ask Leon to fantasy book his WWF run, and he admits that he’s not a booker so he can’t offer any ideas.

During his final months in the WWF, White got his weight all the way down to 320. It was too little too late for his career there by that point.

Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Stan Hansen and Big Van Vader

The American bulls dispatch Ogawa quickly and double up on Misawa. Misawa ends up one-on-one with Hansen and manages to stun him long enough to tag in Ogawa. Ogawa gets a brief moment to shine before Hansen starts no selling and he and Vader take turns beating on their undersized foe. Vader stomps Ogawa in the head and it looks like he really gave him a hell of a shot. That was either beautifully executed or Ogawa just got concussed.

Hansen and Vader continue to maul Ogawa at a leisurely pace. Misawa comes in to stop the execution and the Gaijin beasts double up on him. Hansen takes Misawa to the floor to kick his ass, meanwhile Vader continues giving Ogawa a lesson in pain. Misawa gets the tag and unloads on Vader for a fleeting moment before Hansen comes in to help cut off any momentum the home team might gain. Vader delivers a corner splash, a standard splash and he and Hansen spike powerbomb Misawa to win the match via murder-death-kill. No gallows humor intended. RIP Misawa. This was almost a squash, and I’m sure it led to Misawa finding a stronger partner and coming back for revenge.

Back to the shoot…

The WWF and Vader split on good terms, so Leon may get another run there.

Rocky Maivia has “It” and will be a big star. (Good call!)

Vince has a machine and it won’t be stopped anytime soon.

Final thoughts: This shoot encompasses eight hours, and all the classic matches make it well worth it. The shoot portion is nothing special, and RF Video did not mic Vader well, so often you’ll find yourself straining to hear him.

 

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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