HomeWrestlingWrestling: It's Finally Vader Time | Celebrating The Career of Leon White

Wrestling: It’s Finally Vader Time | Celebrating The Career of Leon White

WWE righted a wrong this week when they announced that Vader would finally be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s Vader Time! For close to 20 years Vader was the best big man in the business. His physically imposing stature was only matched by his athleticism in the ring. For a man near 500 lbs, it was amazing the agility that he showed. His movements were incredibly fluid and allowed him to work incredible matches with just about anyone.

Vader was also one of the best attractions all over the world. He was popular in North America, but he was just as over in Japan. Some of the reactions he got in the Land of the Rising Sun were bigger than any other American wrestler.

The legacy that Vader leaves behind includes some of the best matches in  NJPW, WCW, and WWE history. Let’s take a look at some of those below.

Vader Time | Vader v Stan Hansen
(NJPW Super Fight 1990)

It made sense to put these two in the ring. Both were known to be stiff workers and we got to witness just how stiff. The match was around 15 minutes long and it involved both men beating the hell out of each other. It was slightly uncomfortable watching as both hosses didn’t hold anything back.

What is famous about this match was the incident that occur moments into the contest. As Hansen was throwing a right cross at Vader his thumb poked Vader’s eye out of its socket. It was a horrific sight to see Vader taking his mask off and popping his eye back into place.

It was even more impressive to see Vader work the rest of the match with an injury that would put anyone else in the hospital.

Vader Time | Vader v Sting
(Starrcade 1992)

It was hard to choose just one match between these two rivals. Every time they stepped into the ring they created special moments, but this one narrowly topped the list.

This match was one of the best of either man’s career. The pacing throughout was perfect and there was very little downtime. It was a testament to the conditioning of both men they were able to keep up this match for 15 plus minutes.

The match was yet another showcase of the ability of Big Van Vader. The man was a beast but he was able to sell amazingly for Sting. His ability to take bumps and fly around the ring was outstanding and went a long way to helping Sting look like a stud.

Vader Time | Vader v Sting
(Vader Wins WCW Championship; Great American Bash 1992)

O.K, so we are gonna cheat here a little bit. The match before was the best between the two, but a list of Vader matches cannot but completed without this encounter from months prior.

This was a slow match for the most part. It focussed on the mountain of Vader dominating Sting, and it made for slow going. The crowd was into the match for the most part but the snails’ pace did little to keep them engaged.

It is important to mention this match, however, because of the outcome. After an errant Stinger splash incapacitated the champion, Vader was able to pounce and pin Sting. This marked the first time that Vader won the WCW World Championship. It was a huge moment for the big man and one that solidified him as one of the biggest heels in the company.

Vader Time | Vader v Bret Hart v The Undertaker v Steve Austin
(WWE Championship Match; In Your House 1997)

HBK losing his smile, coupled with a screwy finish to the 1997 Royal Rumble set up this fantastic championship match at the February In Your House.

This match was one of the better four-way contests in WWE history. All four men went balls to the walls for the entirety of the match and it was great. It was not a crisp catch as catch can match, but that made it great. The brawling style throughout brought a realism to the match that made the fans love it.

Of course, the highlight of the match has to be the nasty bump taken by Vader. After getting a chair kicked back in his face a deep cut was opened up on Vader. The cut was deep and the blood-covered Vaders eye making it impossible for the big man to see. It was the lasting image of the match and one that cemented Vaders WWE legacy.

Vader Time | Vader v Shawn Michaels
(WWE Championship Match; Summerslam 1996)

Vader had debuted earlier in the year and WWE was establishing him as the next big challenger to HBK. After a slow summer program, the man from the Rocky Mountains was given his title shot at the Biggest Party of the Summer.

This match showed the potential Vader had in WWE, and how it was squandered. Michaels and Vaders’ styles meshed perfectly. HBK played the face in peril for most of the match while Vader used his stiff style to pummel the champion. Michaels had been treading water as champion but the threat Vader posed got the fans in the champ’s corner. It was the exact way that Vader should have been booked.

The sad part of this match was the backstage politicking by Micheals. Vader was set to walk away with the championship but HBK did his best to convince McMahon to let him retain the strap. It was a huge mistake by WWE and one buried Vader. He could have been one of the biggest heels in the company if not for this night.

Vader Time | Vader v Flair
(WCW Championship Match; Starrcade 1993)

Vader was amid his dominant WCW Championship run, ploughing through every opponent that was put in front of him. He was running out of credible challengers when Ric Flair made his return to WCW. As a face, it was an interesting match-up with most fans not used to seeing Flair in the good guy role. It is also interesting to note that Flair put his career on the line for this match, adding another level of importance.

This match could go down as the best of either mans’ career. The back and forth throughout was amazing and told one hell of a story. Flair tried everything he could to put Vader down, but the monster kept coming after him. It was a great way to sell the peril of Flair’s career while keeping the fans engaged. 

It was also the best way to book Vader in a loss. Losing the championship would bury a normal worker, but Vader still looked like a beast. The roll-up by Flair way a great way to get the title on him while preserving Vaders aura. This is the way that WWE should have booked the man.

Vader Time | Vader v Ken Shamrock
( In Your House: Cold Day In Hell)

After debuting at Wrestlemania, as a guest referee, it was decided that Ken Shamrock would become part of WWE. Many opponents were tossed around but it was decided that Vader would stand opposite Shamrock at In Your House. 

This was the closest match that WWE had to a UFC bout. Both men worked incredibly stiff throughout the match. This brought a sense of realism to the contest that was not present in others. It nearly appears that all strikes used during the bout were legit and it resembled a shoot fight more than a wrestling match.

A particularly stiff strike broke Vaders’ nose during the match, leading to the thought that it was a shoot all along. It was one of the best matches of Vaders career, and one that made him look like the badass he was.

Vader Time | Vader v Keiji Mutoh
(NJPW G1 Climax)

The G1 Climax tournament has become a staple of NJPW programming since 1991. For over 30 years the top heavyweights in the company have competed in the tournament to see who is the best.  The winner of the tournament would also, usually, receive a shot at the IWGP Championship, adding more incentive.

This tournament gave us some very entertaining matches, with this slugfest being one of them. The two bulls in the match went after each other from the opening bell. Any strike landed looked stiffer than anything happening in North America.

It was very impressive to see their technical skill of Vader in this match. His ring awareness was beautiful and he was able to chain wrestle very effectively. His ability to take suplexes from Mutoh showed the athleticism the man had.

This match showed the potential of Vader as a star in North America. A position he would blend into not long after this match.

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