Top 5 Bad-Ass Vader Moments
By Anton Ware
It was revealed this past Monday that wrestling legend Vader has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and only has two years left to live. This is a result of the physical toll he put his body through during his career in professional wrestling and football. The former IWGP and WCW Heavyweight Champion took to Twitter to break the news and was then showered with condolences from fans and colleagues alike, including famous rival and current WWE RAW General Manager Mick Foley.
While the news of Big Van Vader’s condition is shocking to hear, we hear at Geektified would like to send our support and energy to Vader and his family during this troubling time.
With that, we’d also like to celebrate his legacy as one of the biggest, baddest, and most dominating figures in pro wrestling history with five moments that showcased how much of a monster the 6’5, 450lb mastodon was. His brute strength, unforgiven strikes, and uncanny agility made him a unique and awe-inspiring attraction for every company he performed in and now we shall give you the moments that truly showcased VADER TIME!
5. Getting His Eye Popped-Out During A Match
On February 10th 1990, Vader took on mentor Stan Hansen in a New Japan Pro Wrestling (Vader) vs. All Japan Pro Wrestling (Hansen) super card show at the Tokyo Dome. It was the semi-main event of a show that was unprecedented at the time due to both companies working together for the first time. Before the contest started, Hansen would break Vader’s nose with his bull rope. Minutes into the contest, Hansen poked Vader's right eye with his thumb, which caused the eye to pop out of its socket. After removing his mask (which he had NEVER done up until that point), he pushed his eye back into its socket and held it in place with his eyelid (the swelling held the eye in place). He continued the match until it ended in a double-countout. Vader would go on to have a metal plate placed under his eye from the injury, but due to the physicality of the match with Hansen, Vader managed to garner the attention of World Championship Wrestling, which leads us to…
Fun fact: A mere 24 hours later, the infamous Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas Heavyweight Title Match would take place in the same building where Douglas would upset the undefeated Tyson to become the new champion.
4. Breaking The Back of Joe Thurman
Although Vader first appeared in WCW in 1990, it wasn’t until 1992 he became a full-time member of the roster. From there, he engaged in rivalries with the likes of Nikita Koloff (whom he retired) and Sting (whom he beaten to capture his 1st WCW Heavyweight Title). Unfortunately, Vader’s momentum came to a halt when he suffered a knee injury and lost the title to Ron Simmons which caused him to sit on the sidelines for several months. When he made his return, he came back with a vengeance. So much so, that during a 2-on-1 handicap match, Vader would take his anger and frustrations out on TA McCoy and Joe Thurman. Vader unleashed his wrath on McCoy first before focusing his attention on Thurman. When Thurman got in the ring, Vader gave Thurman a chokeslam that folded Thurman up like an accordion followed by a devastating power bomb. As a result of that one-two punch, Thurman sustained a serious back injury which left him temporarily paralyzed. Vader apologized for the incident and Thurman has since made a full recovery.
3. Ripping off Cactus Jack’s Ear
After the power bomb incident, Vader would trade the WCW Heavyweight Title with Sting back and forth in a series of overseas matches. Vader would go on to win the rivalry which led to a series of title defenses against Sting, Davey Boy Smith, and Dustin Rhodes. Vader would go on to have a series of matches with Cactus Jack. These matches were some of the most violent, disturbing brawls during that time, including one match being heavily edited due to Jack’s bleeding. Vader and Jack’s final encounter took place on March 16th, 1994 in Munich, Germany where Jack would get his head hung up in the ropes during the match. The German ring crew had made the ropes tighter than usual and Jack couldn’t break free. The referee and Vader had to step in before something tragic happened. When they freed him, the ropes cut both of Jack’s ears but he continued the match. Vader attacked Jack and with one shot to the ear, it flew off with the referee giving the ear to the ring announcer.
Fun Fact: In his book, Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) actually blames 2 Cold Scorpio for this incident as Scorpio wrestled the previous match, but forgot to tell the other wrestlers about the ropes being so stiff.
2. Threatening A Reporter During In An Interview
Vader would spend another year in WCW, only to get fired for a backstage fight with Paul Orndorff. After a brief return to NJPW, he would debut in the World Wrestling Federation at the Royal Rumble in 1996. He would later assault then WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon and get suspended for his actions. This wouldn’t be the last time he’d get in trouble for assaulting someone who wasn’t a WWF Superstar. In April 1997, Vader and then WWF Champion The Undertaker were in Kuwait promoting a match for an overseas tour. An interviewer named Bassam Al Othman asked The Undertaker if pro wrestling was an act. The Undertaker was annoyed by the question, but calmly gave a response as he defended the profession he loves. Vader also responded when Othman tried to ask a different question. Vader then got louder and more furious at Othman’s nonchalant attitude and kicked over the desk, grabbed Othman by his tie, and threatened to assault him. Vader was detained for 10 days in Kuwait and fined $164 for the incident.
No question that Vader’s Moonsault was and still is one of the most visually impressive finishers in wrestling history. A man that size had no business on the top rope, let alone performing a move a cruiserweight should execute. It showcased how agile he was for his size and that he was a risk taker in every sense of the word. He’d do anything to win even if it meant going to the top rope and risking injury in order to defeat his opponent. Vader noted during interviews that the move came “second nature” to him and would probably perform the spot this day if his health wasn’t an issue (before Monday’s news, Vader was still having occasional matches). This just goes to show how much of a one-of-a-kind performer he was.
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