Kayfabe Commentaries has introduced a new series entitled "Ringside" and their first subject, Vader, does not disappoint.
The basis for this new type of shoot interview is to have said wrestler sit down and watch some of their old matches and comment on the match, the time, the storyline, what have you. The only drawback to this series is that the viewer doesn’t actually get to see or even hear the matches in question, but then again, with Vince McMahon owning anything wrestling-related these days, this is definitely not a surprise.
Ringside With Vader begins with Vader and Kayfabe Commentaries co-owner Sean Oliver at a desk with a 12-inch TV facing them. The matches discussed are some I have seen and some I have merely read about. I assume YouTube can feed my interests with the latter.
The first match is from May 1986 when Vader was a young lad going by his real name, Leon White, with the old "Baby Bull" moniker from his AWA days. His opponent? The legendary Bruiser Brody. Vader thinks this was his last match in the AWA and the result? We never hear.
What you notice right away is how soft-spoken Vader is -- a far cry from his in-ring gimmicks later in his career. Hearing about the AWA is a refreshing change from all the WWE mumbo-jumbo these days and Vader mentions matches with Brody, Stan Hansen and Jerry Blackwell.
The next match is the debut of the Big Van Vader character in a match in Japan at the end of 1987 against Antonio Inoki. We learn here that Vader was an ancient Japanese samurai and Inoki filled that legend with Leon White. It was the start of a legendary run and after this match, which apparently Vader won, the fans rioted. Ah, the good ol’ days.
Vader beating Shinya Hashimoto in a tournament final for the IWGP title in April 1989 is up next and you know, this time truly was a golden era of wrestling, an era that sadly, will never be duplicated. Vader says he didn’t respect Hashimoto at this time as he hadn’t lived up to the money he was making and smoked and drank too much.
A match in Tokyo in 1990 with Hansen has Vader recounting that he made money in the match, but spent more than what he made in hospital bills. Not sure if this is the match where Vader’s eye popped out, though.
Oliver asks Vader about the smoking head piece that Vader wore during this time and Vader reveals that the smoke and lights were all done by remote control. There was even a microphone inside the mask. Interesting. Seriously.
Vader’s time in WCW gets play next and winning the WCW championship at the 1992 Great American Bash from Sting gets bandied about. Vader talks about how he declined a long-term deal from Inoki to go to WCW. Sting gets praised by Vader immensely and Vader calls Sting the best wrestler he ever worked with. We also hear about Harley Race’s taser. Great stories here, folks.
We also get the background on Vader’s use of the moonsault and how Davey Boy Smith initially didn’t want to take the move, but ended up changing his tune once he saw Vader perform the maneuver. Again, you won’t see this stuff on anything made by Vince. On that note, Vader does not say anything derogatory about McMahon, which may be a surprise, but in learning about Vader as a real person in this DVD, not really.
Being in Atlanta, Vader said that as a heel, he literally had to pick and choose when he left an arena because the fans really took the wrestling seriously. No kidding.
The infamous squash match where Vader breaks Joe Thurman’s back with a power bomb at a TV taping is also discussed. Vader says that if he could take back one thing in his life, it would be this match. Vader seems rattled watching this match, too. It’s understandable why. The aftermath is that Thurman is alive and well and a police officer in Georgia. Vader didn’t know that and seems grateful at this point that the jobber he nearly paralyzed is living a normal life.
Of course, no Vader collection would be complete without the 1994 match with Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) where Cactus loses his ear. This tour was the one where Arn Anderson stabbed Sid Vicious and Vader remembers that he heard the commotion and when he saw Sid, blood was squirting out of his stomach and Vader plugged the hole with his thumb. Life on the road ... gotta love it.
Vader talks about how Cactus’ mindset for wrestling was to work stiff and to take bumps and bleed for legitimacy. Cactus losing his ear was something Vader took heat for over many years, but in talking about the incident, it’s clear that Vader was not at fault. In watching the match, though, Vader gets a chuckle when the ear actually falls off. Eyes falling out, ears falling off -- God bless Vader, eh?
Vader’s departure from WCW was surrounded with politics. Eric Bischoff arranged a photo shoot for Vader, so he would be late to a TV taping. Once he arrived at the arena, there was a confrontation with Paul Orndorff. It’s a long story, so Google it.
Once he hooked up with the then-WWF shortly thereafter, Vader faced Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam 1996. Vader talks about the different locker rooms in WCW and WWF and needless to say, this is a fascinating part of the interview.
Michaels gets compared to Sting by Vader and said it was hard to have a bad match with HBK. The SummerSlam match was originally slated to have Vader win the championship. It was not long after this match that Sid took over as the top heel against Michaels and Vader was told by Vince to break in a hot new rookie -- Rocky Maivia.
Vader talks about the heavy work schedule with the WWF and hated being away from his family. He said in retrospect, he shouldn’t have negotiated money with Vince, but rather his schedule.
The final match on this DVD is a 1994 match/shoot fight in Tokyo against Nobuhiko Takada when Vader was known as Super Vader. This was when Vader won the UWFi "Best of World" tournament.
Vader thinks MMA in Japan started with shoot-style wrestling and with his eight matches with Takada.
In reflecting on this DVD, it winds up that no sound or vision of each match is not an issue. It’s really a normal shoot interview and with a guy like Vader, this was a great interview, even when it's noted at the end that Vader is suffering from immense back pain. I wish the shoot went longer, but the 100 minutes flew by and was well worth a late night with the wife and kids in bed and me in front of the tube.
In short, pick up this DVD, as well as the next one in this series with Demolition. That volume will be reviewed by SLAM! Wrestling in the coming days.
Match listing for Ringside With Vader
Leon “Baby Bull” White vs. Bruiser Brody – May 13, 1986 – St. Cloud, Minn.
Big Van Vader vs. Antonio Inoki – Dec. 27, 1987 – Tokyo
Big Van Vader vs. Shinya Hashimoto – Apr. 24, 1989 – Tokyo
Big Van Vader vs. Stan Hansen – Feb. 19, 1990 – Tokyo
Big Van Vader vs. Sting – July 12, 1992 – Albany, Ga.
Big Van Vader vs. T.A. McCoy & Joe Thurman – Nov. 1992
Big Van Vader vs. Cactus Jack – Mar. 16, 1994 – Munich, Germany
Vader vs. Shawn Michaels – Aug. 18, 1996 – Cleveland, Oh.
Super Vader vs. Nobuhiko Takada – Aug. 18, 1994 – Tokyo
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Matt Mackinder wishes he had access to more Japanese wrestling. Email Matt at email@example.com.