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" The Gravel Pit "
Vader Shoot Interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on May 5, 2003, 19:00
Let's start off with a big happy birthday to The Smart Marks! To celebrate, read Dames' reflections over the first year of the site, located here
This weekend, I went to go see X2 and was pleasantly surprised. Outside of a few minor complaints I'd say it was great overall, which is FAR superior to most superhero movies out there. The opening fight sequence at the White House was the kind of strong character introduction that the WWE should consider giving to one of its new stars... and I DON'T mean a hoss like Nathan Jones. Read what Dr. Tom had to say about the film here
This was also a sad weekend as the famed Ms. Elizabeth died in less than ideal circumstances. If the toxicology reports come out like most people suspect, it will just be another of a long line of drug-related deaths in the wrestling business. As for her significant other, Lex Luger, he's looking like he'll be spending a few years in Oz soon. Between Elizabeth's death and what the police found around his house, I'd say that Lex better hire WWE counsel Jerry McDevitt, who got Vince off of steroid distribution charges in 1994, or at least hire Afa the Wild Samoan as a "jury consultant" for the eventual trial. Hell, Missy Hyatt might just take the case as she's discussed using her law degree to defend wrestlers who run afoul of the law.
As always, you can feel free to Drop me an e-mail, read the archives, buy me stuff, or buy yourself stuff at Highspots.com.
Vader Shoot Interview (11-1-1998)
We start out with a Vader match from Japan. This does not include footage of Vader wearing his smoking ram/elephant helmet, although he carries it to the ring.
The interview starts here with questions about his football career. He was All-City, All-High School, and All-American when he was in high school in Los Angeles. He was recruited to many prestigious football programs but went with Colorado because the mountains and wide-open spaces were a far cry from living in a second story apartment in Los Angeles. He started and lettered all four years he was at Colorado and was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round. He ruptured a tendon in his knee shortly after arriving in training camp so he spent his first year on the Injury Reserve list. When the Rams made the playoffs that year, he got to play because the starting center and guard got injured, which meant he got to take quite a few snaps in the playoffs and Super Bowl that year.
Professional wrestling- He had gotten a degree in business while at Colorado and, when football ended for him, he moved back to Colorado and got a real estate license. He sold, built, and inspected homes for a while there. He then built a carwash and a ton of townhouses. He got bored with it and was getting out of shape while doing it, so he went back to the gym.
Was he a fan growing up? Not really, although he remembers watching some guys like Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan growing up.
How he got involved- He went to the AWA matches while he was trying to get back into shape and he ended up running into Greg Gagne at the bar afterwards. Greg approached him and knew about his football background. He asked him to talk to them their next trip through the town, which was about three weeks later, and Brad Rheingans ended up training him. He says that Verne Gagne tries to take credit for all the guys that Brad trained because a lot of famous wrestlers came out of Brad’s camp, including himself, the Nasty Boys, Barbarian, and others.
His stiff nature in the ring- Because of his size (6’4½” and in the 300-400 pound range), he was semi-pushed immediately. His first match ever was against Bruiser Brody, who wanted to “break me in right.” He wrestled Brody for about 6 weeks, moved on to Jerry “The Crusher” Blackwell for a few weeks, then had a run against AWA champion Stan Hansen. He says that his first three opponents were some of the biggest badasses in wrestling so he got into a stiff style early and, when he started wrestling regular opponents, he’d nearly knock them out with one punch. The Gagnes sat him down to ask why he was trying to beat the shit out of his opponents and he told them that his opponents for months (Brody et. all) had been doing the same to him so he didn’t realize that they were the exception and not the rule.
His matches against Brody- Contrary to popular belief, the bit where Brody broke his leg with a chair was an angle and not a shoot. It hurt like hell afterwards, though, and certainly looked real. The whole deal was a way for him to leave the territory to go work for Otto Wanz in his European promotion, the CWA.
King Kong Brody (Bruiser Brody) with Sheik Adnon El-Kassey vs. Leon “Baby Bull” White (Vader)- The video looks like creamed crap here. Brody is using the chair on the leg of Leon White (Vader), hurting his ankle and knee. Brody and White then proceed to have a decent power match while White sells the leg. Brody stomps the leg so much that referee stops the match and awards it to Brody, saying that White can no longer continue. White had been asked if he wanted to continue and said yes but the ref stopped it anyway.
Verne Gagne- He promised him that he’d work about 25 days a month and saw a lot of potential in him because of his background and athleticism. The problem was that Verne never booked him as much as he’d been promised, although he can’t really say anything else bad about his run in the AWA. He’s heard a lot of stories about Verne but Verne pretty much kept his word to him.
Leaving the AWA- Otto Wanz and Verne Gagne had done business before and it’s rumored that Otto had paid Verne a lot of money for a reign as AWA champion. He doesn’t know if it’s true but wonders why ELSE the AWA had Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Big John Studd, and other huge stars and yet the champion is some short, fat Austrian guy. Otto saw it as an investment, as the AWA title was very prestigious at that time, and having that status as a former AWA champion helped him draw money in Europe when his promotion toured. Getting back to the point, Otto had asked Verne for a big heel and Verne came up with the idea of sending him out there because he’d get a ton of work and wouldn’t have to travel much. He started in Lenz, Austria, soon afterwards wrestling in a tent holding 5,000 people by the Danube river. He says Otto probably made more money by hiring people to sell bratwurst and beer for the shows than he did on the gate.
What lead to him going to New Japan- After he’d spent 2 seasons with the CWA (the first season runs about 8 months and the second runs about 3 or 4 months), he got an offer from Masao Hattoro, a referee from New Japan. Apparently, Masa Saito had met Vader in the AWA after being released from prison and had become friends with him. In one of the matches they were in, Vader pressed Saito in the air, caught him on his way down, and powerslammed him. At the time, it was something that nobody did and, combined with some of the other spots he did in the match, it was enough for them to keep him in mind when they wanted someone to put into the Vader gimmick which they had designed a helmet and bodysuit for. Their other choices for the role were Sid Vicious and the Ultimate Warrior. He doesn’t know if he was their first choice for the role.
Sidenote- For those who don’t know the Masa Saito prison story, Saito and Ken Patera had attempted to go to McDonald’s one night after an AWA show. After finding it closed, they threw a rock through the window and got into a HUGE brawl with the cops at their hotel. (According to Vader, Saito was at the hotel that night and was the wrong place at the wrong time when Patera started brawling with the cops) Both spent several years in prison as a result and only Saito’s career survived. Ken Patera went to the WWF after being released but looked like complete and utter crap, was booked as a Jobber To The Stars for potential top heels like Bad News Brown, and was subjected to a lot of “jailbird” jokes from Jesse Ventura and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
All Japan and New Japan- New Japan offered him a spot on their January tour when they offered him the gimmick but he respectfully declined, as he already had an invitation from All Japan owner Giant Baba to tour with All Japan. Baba was offering more than New Japan anyway. New Japan kept offering more money and more weeks in Japan than Baba because New Japan owner Antonio Inoki had instructed his negotiator to get Vader at all costs, so Vader went home and discussed the discussion with his wife. They decided they had to honor Baba’s offer and respectfully declined Inoki again. They were stunned at his decision. Vader then wrote a letter to Baba detailing him what had happened and that he looked forward to seeing him. In the meantime between the letter and Vader’s tour, Inoki called him up and made an offer to Baba in order to get Baba to drop his booking of Vader. Vader doesn’t know the amount Inoki paid Baba but hears it was sizable.
Vader’s success around that time- He was Otto’s champion for most of the time that he was on tour with them. He was then brought into Japan and given a HUGE push which saw him beat top wrestlers including Inoki himself.
Greg Gagne, Scott Hall, and Leon White (Vader) vs. Larry Zbyzko, Super Ninja, and Mr. Saito- This is the match that impressed Saito enough to get Vader hired in New Japan. This was when Scott Hall was in his Magnum TA period, with a moustache and a perm. I have no damned clue who Super Ninja is, although it appears to be a jobber under a generic black mask and bodysuit. The referee here is Jerry Sagonovich (Jerry Sags of the Nasty Boys). This doesn’t look particularly great, either in video quality or match quality, so I’ll just cut to a finish here, which is a no-contest after Super Ninja threw powder in Scott Hall’s face and Saito went for the pin.
Vader vs. Antonio Inoki- This match has horrible video quality, is joined in progress, and is from Japan, so I’m only guessing it’s Inoki on the receiving end of the ass-whuppin’ because of that Leno-like chin of his. Vader wins after hitting Inoki with a powerslam.
New Japan style vs. the AWA or CWA styles- He was a definitive face in the AWA and, as a result, had to sell to build heat. In Europe, the babyface wouldn’t sell as much as in the US. In Japan, they no-sold EVERYTHING. “There was no psychology. There was no selling. It was all about who was in the best shape and who was the most entertaining.” Now, it’s all about psychology in Japan while top guys in the US like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, and Ken Shamrock are in great shape and no-sell everything. These days (late 1998), Kobashi sells like Sting did during the mid-90s and won’t get up off the mat until you pick him up. It’s a complete 180 over the course of 10 years.
Antonio Inoki vs. Vader- Vader comes down to the ring wearing the elephant/ram smoking helmet and carrying a staff with a skull on the top. That thing looks like the shoulder pads that the Road Warriors probably just dreamed about. Instead of the red leather Vader mask that is familiar to US fans, he’s wearing a generic black wrestling mask instead. This one gets thrown out when Vader’s corner men beat the crap out of Inoki at ringside.
The IWGP title- He’s one of only three Americans to ever hold it, with the others being Hulk Hogan and Scott Norton, who held the belt at the time of the interview. He puts Norton over for working long and hard to get the title and keeping it for a long time. Vader himself held the IWGP belt three times, the tag titles once with Bam Bam Bigelow, and won the tag team tournament once with Fujinami. It’s rare for a foreigner to win titles in New Japan.
Sidenote- Hogan won the IWGP title in the tournament to crown the first champion through an angle in which owner Antonio Inoki was “knocked out” in mid-match and Hulk had “no choice but to pin him” and win the belt. This was a bit of a swerve as I’m sure every Japanese fan figured that Inoki would win the title easily, if only for the fact that Inoki rarely jobbed.
Vader vs. ???- I have no clue who he’s facing but it’s apparently for the IWGP title. I’ll say this much… it’s not Choshu since he has no mullet and it’s not Inoki because he doesn’t have a 5-foot chin, so I guess I’ll go with Fujinami. I’ll have to look it up later. The opponent school-boys Vader for two and, after he gets up, Vader slams the ref for the DQ. For some strange reason, the Japanese wrestler’s theme music is “Who’s Crying Now” by Journey, which isn’t a bad song but the lyrics don’t lend themselves well to a wrestler who’s just finished a match.
The hot three Japanese- They were Antonio Inoki, Riki Choshu, and Fujinami and they all kept their problems to themselves as compared to Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels “where everyone in America knew they had problems.” He says that his training, since he did it in Colorado where the air is much thinner than at sea level, allowed him to go toe to toe with all of these guys for thirty minutes and actually blow them up. He feels that he had Fujinami and Choshu’s best matches each year when he faced them. That was a result of him avoiding things they did badly and calling spots that made them look good and, conversely, finding bumps that they took well and feeding them moves that played to their bumping strengths instead of exploiting their weaknesses.
Vader vs. Riki Choshu- This is for the IWGP title. Long match but, since this is a long interview, I’m not going too far in depth Choshu wins after clotheslining Vader about 10 times.
His match with Great Muta- It was the first pro wrestling match where the fans had such appreciation for the match that the threw flower petals into the ring.
Did he travel with the other foreign talent and did he bond with anyone? In WCW, he traveled with Harley Race, who was his manager. Other than Harley, he pretty much traveled by himself. He had traveled with Tony St. Clair in Japan, as he’d worked in CWA with him.
The current crop of New Japan stars on their way up back then- He was impressed with Masa Chono and Kenji Mutoh (Great Muta) but not really anyone else. Hashimoto in particular didn’t impress him because he smoked and would get blown up in the ring because he was out of shape. He hasn’t kept track of the company since leaving so he hasn’t paid attention to the stars that have been built since he left.
Vader vs. Masa Chono- The video quality on this match is shaky so I’ll just cut to the finish, which is Vader winning after blocking Chono’s attempt to sunset flip him from the top turnbuckle.
The inter-promotional match with Stan Hansen- You’d have to talk to Baba and Inoki to know why it happened, but it was a great success and produced one of the biggest gates ever drawn in Japan. It was risky for both groups because if either guy knocked the other out, it would get ugly for both sides. Luckily for everyone involved, Hansen and Vader got along great and had a good match. It was just the semi-main event, although they stole the show that night. It was a 30-minute countout and the had a Hell of a fight. That was when Hansen hit him in the face so hard that his eye popped out (no shit either). He pushed the eye back in and the swelling around the injury kept it in place for the rest of the match. He eventually took his own mask off in the match and the people popped for it BIG TIME. The cameras then focused in on his face and showed his eye, which looked horrible, and there was another big reaction. That was in the first few minutes of the match and they still went about 30 minutes.
Facing Stan Hansen as a rookie vs. facing Stan as an established star- Hansen didn’t have anything to prove because he’d been a success for a long time. He wanted to prove to Hansen that he was his equal and did it, although having a great match and representing New Japan well took precedence over that.
Vader vs. Stan Hansen- This is the inter-promotional match just discussed. There is no good camera angle on the shot that makes Vader’s eye pop out but there is a good one of that eye swollen shut. As Vader mentioned previously, this is a 30-minute double countout.
Bam Bam Bigelow- Bigelow claimed there was a rivalry between them because of their size and their position in the company. Vader feels there was a small rivalry over who would be the top Gaijin wrestler in the company but that it didn’t last long. When they faced the Steiner Brothers, they were lost on the style and nervous, so he and Bigelow called the spots for the night and the Steiners thanked them later for making it so easy for them. Bigelow was a great partner and he hopes to work with him if he goes into ECW soon. The interviewer brings up the rumor that Bigelow has signed with WCW and may not even be at ECW’s pay per view that night, which is half-true as Bigelow did sign with WCW but still went to November to Remember 1998 as expected. (Vader also went back to Japan rather than work in ECW, by the way.)
Interview- Masa Chono interviews Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow about their upcoming match against the Steiner Brothers, which we get next. For good measure, Bigelow also curses out Chono.
Vader and Bigelow vs. the Steiner Brothers- This goes about 16 minutes and the finish comes as Rick Steiner hits Bigelow with a belly-to-belly suplex.
Was there ever any attempt for WCW or the WWF to bring them in as a team? “Bam Bam probably had a little friction with Vince McMahon at that point” while WCW probably wouldn’t have picked them up if Ric Flair was booking at the time. Apparently, they were so good that it would take attention away from Flair, which wouldn’t have sat well with Naitch. They also didn’t see the need to leave Japan since they were drawing big in Japan and working 30 minutes every night. He also remembers teaming with Steve Austin back in WCW against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. He says they beat the Hell out of Flair and Arn for 30 minutes and outwrestled them in the process. That was at a time when Austin wasn’t being pushed by WCW management and, since they were so good at it, the team was broken up. He figures the same thing would have happened if he and Bigelow had come in as a team.
Some Japanese Guys vs. Vader and Bigelow- This goes about 21 minutes and Vader wins it by hitting one guy with a chokeslam while Bigelow holds onto the leg of the other guy and keeps him from breaking up the pin.
Ric Flair’s bad reputation- Apparently, Terry Funk, who doesn’t say a bad word about anyone, had a whole lot of bad things to say about Flair over their feud in 1989. When it comes to Flair getting his hot programs today overruled by Hulk Hogan, Vader says “You reap what you sow.”
Coming into WCW and leaving New Japan- He and Inoki are still friendly, which goes back as recently as 1996 when Inoki insisted on wrestling him despite WCW trying to stop it by using the working agreement between the two companies to block non-WCW American wrestlers from working in Japan. Inoki ended up telling WCW to shove it and worked with Vader anyway.
Back to leaving New Japan- Vader had a torn piece of cartilage and it had flipped, so he could barely put weight on that leg. He ended up getting surgery on the knee instead and Fujinami was left without a partner in the big tag team tournament, but Fujinami understood. That was around when his New Japan contract had expired and he heard from WCW booker Dusty Rhodes about how Jim Ross had seen the match with Hansen from the inter-promotional show and wanted to bring him into WCW. Within 2 or 3 days of talking to them, he was in WCW.
Bigelow vs. Vader- Vader wins with a clothesline.
WCW around that time- Dusty was booker but the Executive Vice Presidents were changing regularly. He had his three World Title reigns and his US title reign under Dusty but, when Flair regained power, he lost his position in the company. Dusty tried to convince Vader not to job to Flair at Starrcade 1993 and Vader didn’t really want to since he knew that Hulk Hogan was coming into the company and wanted the belt when he arrived, but he did the job anyway. Dusty told him that he’d get the belt back from Flair at a cage match called the Revenge Of Vader but, a few days before the match, Flair got Dusty’s job as head booker and booked himself to win. “Flair might have been his own worst enemy at that point because he booked himself to do four straight jobs in a row” while Vader, in all of his matches with Hogan, never jobbed cleanly. Had he been champion when Hogan came into the company, he’d have had a bigger say in the company and would have had more control over what happened.
Using the helmet in WCW- He was always able to use the helmet in WCW but, when he wrestled for UWFI in Japan, they had a BIG problem with it. They stopped using it in WCW because he and Dusty agreed that it took away from him in the US. They thought about using it on some big shows but it just ended up in the bottom of his closet.
Vader vs. Tenzan(?)- This is from UWFI. Vader wins by Technical Knockout.
His run with Sting- They were some of the best matches of his career. He wishes that he could go back in time, he wants to go back to before Starrcade 1993 and change things so that he could match wits with Flair and Hogan politically. He’s done most of his talking in the ring and not outside of it so that was a big problem for his last few years in WCW. They had a strong friendship and a strong respect for each other, so they took that and pushed each other to keep going and, as a result, they never had a bad match.
Vader with Harley Race vs. Sting for the WCW title- This is from Great American Bash 1992 and the commentary team are Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura. This is the first of their MANY matches with each other and Vader wins his first WCW title with a powerbomb.
Sidenote- This title reign was VERY short-lived, as Vader lost the belt to Ron Simmons at a house show shortly thereafter in an angle where Sting was injured and a “random draw” determined who would challenge Vader for the WCW title.
The British Bulldog and all the dumb vignettes they did- The stupid stuff like the vignette on the beach where the midget blew up Bulldog and Sting’s boat was a pain in the ass. Vader burns easily and it was very hot on that beach. He finally laid down the law to the production crew about how long he was going to stand around in the sun by telling them they weren’t going for an Academy Award and, if he stood out there much longer, he was going to start blistering. He thinks that doing stuff like that was misinterpreted as him being a prima donna but, in his opinion, it was just survival.
We then get parts of the Masters of the Powerbomb vignette, which is HORRIBLE. This is Wrestlecrap on the level of Katie Vick and David Arquette: WCW champion right here.
Harley Race as his manager- Harley wanted to still wrestle but he became Lex Luger’s manager shortly after Vader entered WCW. Lex then left WCW for the WWF and left Harley blowing in the wind, so the company put him together with Harley. He says he learned a lot from Harley and says if Harley hadn’t been injured in a car wreck around the time of Starrcade 93, Harley’s political experience could have helped his career survive Flair and Hogan coming into the company.
Interview- Vader and Harley Race cut a promo here on Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) challenging him to a rematch the next week. This is the series of matches at Center Stage in Atlanta that Foley detailed in Have a Nice Day where he let Vader nearly kill him on the cement in order to jumpstart a hot feud that would help his career.
His series of matches with Cactus Jack- Cactus’s ear came off because Cactus wanted to do a hangman spot on the ropes in Germany but no one had checked the tension of the ropes. It turned out that the ropes were so tight that Cactus started choking and when they got him out, his ear was torn from his head by the ropes. He says that Cactus’s other ear was half torn off but that no one remembers that because the other one DID fall off. Since Cactus was bleeding so bad, they agreed to do some spots to generate heat and then go home but, as soon as Vader touched one of Cactus’s ears, it fell off and they thought “Fuck this” and went to a finish.
This is the end of tape 1.
We start by repeating the entire last bit about Cactus Jack and expanding on it past finishing the match in Germany. The referee picked up Cactus’s ear and handed it to the ref, who handed it to the ring announcer, who brought it to the back and iced it down. He then starts talking about the powerbomb that Cactus took on the cement, where Cactus wanted him to lay it in and practically shoot on him in order to make the matches work. He says that between the stuff they did in WCW and the stuff Cactus did with Undertaker in the WWF, he’s definitely earned his space in history.
Vader vs. Cactus Jack- This is the second of their Center Stage matches that lead up to Halloween Havoc 1993. Vader powerbombs Cactus on the cement and wins the match via countout. We also get some footage of the paramedics examining Cactus before wheeling him off.
Terry Funk and the moonsault- Contrary to popular belief, Vader was NOT extremely pissed that Terry Funk did a moonsault on the undercard. He was a little disappointed that someone on the undercard was doing one of his big moves but Terry hadn’t told anybody beforehand and Vader just wanted people to know that, in the future, main eventers shouldn’t have their big spots stolen by people on the undercard. (I respect this to a degree. Undercard guys should not be doing the Rock Bottom, the People’s Elbow, the Pedigree, or the Stone Cold Stunner. This gets a little harder to defend when it comes to moves like the spear or the superkick that are commonly used by MANY wrestlers and that no special changes should be made to accommodate Goldberg or Shawn Michaels. In Goldberg’s case, I’d argue that the Jackhammer is a much more impressive move than the spear anyway.)
UWFI- One of the young boys from New Japan when he was a big star approached him about working several matches for the company. He worked for them eight times and then both sides agreed that they needed to go their separate ways.
He starts talking about all the titles he’s held at this point and mentions that, at one point, he held the CWA, New Japan, and WCW titles at the same time.
Vader vs. Some Guy - This is a UWFI match and I’m unfamiliar with most of their workers. Vader wins by TKO after a powerbomb his opponent.
His matches with Takada at the stadium shows- They went about 30 minutes a night and their conditioning wasn’t up to par. He took it home at about 22 minutes rather than the 39 that Takada wanted because he was so blown up. He apologized after the match and promised to get in better shape. His strategy in those matches was to feed them his left leg to get a feel of their timing and, when they went for the leg, he’d slug them upside their head and make them pay for whatever damage they did to his leg. “There was nothing worked about those kicks or those punches.” It was a worked shoot but it still hurt like Hell.
Vader vs. ?- This is from UWFI and Vader taps out to an armbar.
The mess of Starrcade 93- He was supposed to face Sid at Starrcade but, since he stabbed Arn in England, he got fired. If he was asked to assign blame, he’d blame the company for flying them to Europe and running them ragged. Instead of flying, driving two hours, wrestling, driving 10 hours, and wrestling, the company should have had them fly in, wrestling, sleep, take a day off, then go to the next place that they needed to wrestle at. Everyone was tired, drunk, and pissed off by the end of all that travelling. He, Sid, Arn, and a few other guys ended up sitting around at a bar drinking when he went up to bed. Sid and Arn had their first argument after he’d left. When he was in his room, he heard screaming and fighting and came out of his room in his underwear to see what the Hell was going on. The next thing he knew, he saw Sid with blood spurting from his stomach and stuck his thumb in Sid’s wound to slow the bleeding. He then treated the wound until the ambulance came to take him away. He never saw Arn when it happened because he was at the other end of the hotel. Sid looked like complete crap after it all, though.
What was the locker room sentiment on the situation? Everyone was in shock and tired. They met at the next show while hearing rumors that Turner Entertainment was about to shut down the tour and possibly shut down WCW, although he thinks that last bit was a scare tactic. He and Dusty had a conversation with him about the situation and asked for his help in speaking to the locker room and getting everyone to behave while they were having trouble from outside of the locker room. He isn’t sure who was right or wrong in the whole situation.
Was he disappointed he faced Flair instead of Sid? A little, because Sid didn’t have the pull in the company to win the belt from him. (Not according to Sid or Internet lore… The widespread story was that Sid was supposed to win the belt before he got fired.) “The goddamn Pay Per View was called The Revenge of Vader. That’s a pretty big tipoff about who’s going to win.” He wonders why anyone would buy it if they knew he was going to regain the belt. Sid walking out on the company changed his career. (Actually, Sid was fired)
Reaction to Hogan coming in- When Flair doublecrossed him for the title and aced Dusty out of the booker position, Vader had a long talk with him about the upcoming cage match for the title and ended up agreeing to lose the match to Flair. He said that Flair had to know that, no matter what Hogan said, he wasn’t going to trade wins with him. In fact, Hogan pinned Flair 4 straight times. Hogan then chose his next opponent for Starrcade, which happened to be his best friend Ed Leslie (Brutus Beefcake) who, at the time, was The Butcher. Since the buyrate on that was a new low even for WCW, the plan Vader cooked up with Bischoff was for Vader, with Flair as his manager, to beat Hogan his first time out so that the could build a program off of it. He said he didn’t need to win clean. “Give Flair a bazooka and have him shoot Hogan in the back.” The fans were so sick of Hogan that everything Vader did to get heat failed and, instead, he got pops while Hogan got heat. “It was obvious that Hogan either needed to quit or go heel” and says that the success of the nWo angle proves that Hogan REALLY needed to turn heel. Around that time, he told Bischoff that the right thing for the company was for him to go over Hogan. That doesn’t even go into Hogan kicking out of his finish before they ever feuded. The story on that one is that he was told to give the powerbomb to Hogan and that he’d just lay there. He did it and, a minute later, Hogan’s standing up. He got pissed at all the backstabbing around this point but he was making seven figures a year, which was huge money for a wrestler at that time.
Was there any truth to the rumors that Hogan-Vader was going to be a shoot? No, because he’s always business.
What was the locker room reaction to Hogan coming in? People didn’t care too much because they had guaranteed money. He personally felt that the company was going to do better with him, though.
Vader vs. ?- This is the from UWFI and is the same opponent from the last match. Vader wins by knockout after a right to the head. Vader wins the UWFI title as a result.
Was he unmotivated to only get three minutes against Hogan on PPV? If it was that short, it’s because Hogan wanted it that way. Hogan had total control and when he says “Let’s go home”, the match is over.
Were there a lot of problems working with Hogan at the Bash At The Beach 95 cage match? “Terry was famous for agreeing to stuff and changing his mind an hour before the show.” Hogan getting up from the powerbomb and calling spots with him when he was supposed to be left laying, which has been previously discussed, was the most unprofessional thing Vader has ever seen. If he was going to get upset, he would have done it at the Baltimore show but didn’t because he’s a professional.
Monday Nitro and the locker room’s reaction- He didn’t think they could compete with Monday Night RAW. He doesn’t have a lot of positive things to say about Hogan but says he knew how to put on a professional-looking show.
Lex Luger hot-shotting an angle with Hogan for the first Nitro- That was supposed to be him in that spot. However, he’d gotten into his famous brawl with Paul Orndorff shortly before that. The company flew him to Minneapolis for the show and, when he got to the building, he was told “Eric doesn’t want you here.” If Luger hadn’t walked out on Vince McMahon, Vader thinks he would have been in that spot.
The brawl with Paul Orndorff- Bischoff called him at his hotel and told him that he’d no-showed several photo shoots, fined him a few thousand dollars, and told him he HAD to be at the next scheduled one. Orndorff had no clue about that, as no one from the WCW office had told him, so he was pissed when Vader didn’t show up to do some interviews he was scheduled to do at the exact same time. Vader did the photo shoot, took a shower, and then got dressed and talking to Meng (Haku). Orndorff then walked in and started screaming at him. He told Orndorff that he wasn’t his boss and that Bischoff had told him he HAD to be at that photo shoot. Orndorff then started being a prick about it instead of asking him politely to go do the interviews and it just escalated from there. Orndorff then walked away, Terry Taylor walked up and they started talking about the situation, and Terry then asked him to go do the interviews, which he agreed to do.
While he was walking out to do the interviews, Orndorff came back and got in his face over it, calling him out. Orndorff kept inviting him to take a shot at him, so he slapped him across his face but he immediately realized it was wrong. Orndorff took a header, literally, as his feet came up as far in the air as his head had been and he landed head first on the floor. He walked over to check on Orndorff and then Paul started to swing at him. He then put down his hands and decided he wasn’t taking another shot at him because he wanted to stay employed. He just started dodging Orndorff’s blows as best as possible before finally blocking one of his blows and getting him in a front facelock. If he’s wanted to hurt Orndorff bad, he’d have never gotten back up after the first shot.
Immediately after the fight, Orndorff went into the offices with WCW administration and Vader could hear a bunch of shit about how he’d beaten up Orndorff so badly and that he’d sucker-punched him, wondering how that can happen if Orndorff’s in his face calling him a “no-good piece of shit” and begging him to take a swing at him. After hearing the verbal dick-sucking that Orndorff was getting for the executives over how he handled Vader, Vader kicked in the door and challenged Paul to go a few more rounds with him, reminding him that he hadn’t thrown a punch yet and that he was still standing after taking three shots from him in the face. Orndorff decided he wasn’t going to finish it at first and, finally, he came out and Vader got his ass on the ground. Vader would have taught Orndorff a lesson if Meng hadn’t broken it up. After he explained everything to Meng later, Meng says that he wouldn’t have broken it up in hindsight. Vader feels he has to take responsibility for the situation regardless of anything else because he’d hit Orndorff and had to pay the price, which ended up being that he lost his sweet deal with WCW which had been guaranteed for the next few years.
Vader feels there were some mitigating circumstances in play, as he’d been injured since Bash At The Beach and he had told Bischoff he was injured and couldn’t work. Since management had him penciled in to take on Flair and Arn in a handicap match at the next Pay Per View, he was told he HAD to do that match. Since management told him to work while hurt, Vader decreed that he was only going to be doing TV and PPV after that and absolutely no house shows. This didn't cause him to start drinking although it caused him to drink more and to take pain pills. He doesn’t think he would have been as ugly with Orndorff if he wasn’t taking 8 Percocets a day for those injuries he was told to work through. Vader tried to use this against Bischoff when it came time for a punishment but guys like Flair and Hogan saw an opportunity to get rid of him and turned up the heat backstage. He takes responsibility for what he did but says that Paul shouldn’t have done what he did.
Sidenote- If ANYONE questions why I call Paul Orndorff an arrogant, no-good, slimy piece of shit and was exceptionally rough on him in his shoot interview, read the previous four paragraphs again. Orndorff didn’t help matters by being a complete prick in his interview, by the way. I wish Vader had broken Orndorff’s GOOD arm once he knew he was getting fired.
Match from Japan- Vader does a run-in and destroys both of the guys in the match.
Gene Okerlund’s comments about him on his 900 number- Gene had claimed Vader had been fired for being a locker-room bully. Vader feels that it was the company pissing on the guy they were getting rid of. He and Mean Gene didn’t like each other anyway, as Gene had found out what Vader was making and wasn’t too happy about it.
Touring in the USWA- He worked the same show as The Undertaker one night. He didn’t get heat over it because it was all Bischoff’s idea. Vader said hi to Taker and Paul Bearer on his way in then did his deal, which was cutting a promo in the ring, driving to another location and kicking the shit out of some people on camera, then going home.
Were there ever any plans for him to make a stop in WCW on that tour? Not that he knew of, although he was fired shortly thereafter.
We then get that USWA show, as he beats up a referee and some wrestlers.
Was he open to coming back to WCW before he got fired? Bischoff had offered him a deal in which he’d get suspended for six months with no pay or that he could tour in Japan. He explained to Bischoff that 6 months without pay would be like getting a $300,000+ fine, which far outweighed the damage he did to Orndorff. He also said that it would be impossible for him to work in Japan if he had to have his shoulder fixed in that six months. Looking back, he could have taken the six months off and come back to work the rest of his contract, which would have run through the end of 1999. He admits his behavior that night and the few weeks prior were bad but that the injuries the company was forcing him to work through were causing him enough pain to act irrationally. He also felt that the company was showing no respect because if Sting had the same injuries, he’d be in the hospital rather than in matches. “If Hogan was hurt, there’s no doubt he’d be in a suite in the hospital, but I’m supposed to suck it up.” The match they made him do was, in his opinion, bullshit anyway because it was the first handicap match to headline a pay per view that he’s ever heard of. It was a silly match because he was taking on “20 time, no, 41 time World Champ Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.”
His entry into the WWF- He didn’t need to go there as he’d managed his money well and he had plans on how to put that money to work in his community. He wanted to go back to Japan and had been talking to Inoki but knew that Baba was interested and didn’t want a repeat of the war between the two of them to get his services the first time back in the late 80s. Vince McMahon had called him during his negotiations with Japan. He had told him he had an upcoming match with Inoki and that he was scheduled for surgery afterwards.
The Dome match with Inoki in 1996- It was a one-match deal but he certainly wishes it had been a two-match deal as had been speculated in the wrestling press.
Inoki vs. Vader in the Dome- Vader misses an avalanche on Inoki, who then rolls him into an armbar and causes him to tap out.
Comments about Vader only doing his best in Japan- They’re right when they refer to the last three years, as he’s allowed to turn it up a notch while he’s over there. He then puts over his treatment by Vince McMahon and talks about how, when a piece of steel used to repair the damage done to his face in the Stan Hansen match came loose, he was treated with a lot more respect than he would have received in WCW. Every time he got hurt, such as Shamrock breaking his nose at In Your House: Cold Day in Hell, he was taken care of. He says that Shamrock was just trying to get over and was green, which is why Shamrock unconsciously reverted back to a shoot style in the match and kneed Vader in the nose. The deal with his eye was that he was taking a lot of chokeslams from Kane, who was just learning how to do the move right, and the piece of steel in his face jarred loose as a result. He gives a lot of credit to Paul Heyman but says that Vince is the most creative man in the business. He also puts over Jim Ross.
Asking for a release- They were surprised when he asked for his release and, when asked why, he said that he wasn’t allowed to be Vader in the WWF because he wasn’t allowed to use the style that he used in Japan. He doesn’t name a name but says a major star pitched a fit over his stiffness and told him if he was ever that stiff with him again, he’d be gone the next day. (Sounds like Shawn Michaels to a T, although Bret Hart also bitched about Vader’s stiffness in his interviews.) Another wrestler also bitched about his style later. He doesn’t point fingers at anyone but just says his style didn’t fit in there and he just wanted to go back to working with Stan Hansen and Johnny Ace in Japan.
Why he didn’t succeed in the WWF- He doesn’t feel he has anything to be ashamed of for his time in the WWF but feels that everyone had high hopes for what he could do there and he just came up short. There are some specific was in which he was mishandled while he was there.
First, he was injured when he came in and yet they put him in the Royal Rumble match and had him do an angle where he attacked then-WWF president Gorilla Monsoon. It was a great angle that got him a ton of heat but it was horrible timing, as he was going to be out for surgery the next day, and he feels that Vince and company should have held off on it until then.
Second, he was promised the WWF title from Shawn Michaels in late 1996. The problem was that they took the match around the loop for two months with Shawn winning every night. When you consider that it was 8,000 to 10,000 people per show and they had 40 shows, it was about 40,000 people who had seen Shawn beat him 1-2-3 with a certain finish going into Summerslam 1996 in Cleveland. Since those 40,000 people were probably a decent chunk of the pay per view audience of the company, it’s logical to see how those 40,000 wouldn’t buy the show because they think they know exactly what’s going to happen on the pay per view.
Sidenote- That’s true in a sense, but with Shawn holding the WWF title the only finishes they could have done were for Shawn to beat him and send everyone home happy or for Vader to win in a way that wouldn’t let him leave with the title.
He contrasts that with WCW where he may do a pay per view main event with Sting but wouldn’t face him for 2 months straight on the house show circuit and job every night. Even though the house was good but the buyrate was crap. “Hmm… I wonder why. It must be Vader’s fault because it CAN’T be Shawn’s fault…” He says that if you put Steve Austin against Shamrock on house shows for two months and have Austin win with the Stone Cold Stunner every night, no one will buy the pay per view because they all think that Austin will win with the Stone Cold Stunner. Stone Cold wouldn’t get the blame either, as Shamrock would get blamed for not drawing.
Vader and Stan Hansen vs. Johnny Ace and Kenta Kobashi- Kobashi catches Hansen for a small-package for three at about 23 minutes into the match.
The Summerslam match with Shawn Michaels- The temper tantrum that Shawn threw in the match was because things didn’t go exactly as Michaels had planned. It surprised him because he thought Shawn was more professional than that.
Thirdly, the original plan was for him to beat Shawn for the belt, Bret to beat him for the belt, him to regain it from Bret, then Shawn to win it from him. That changed after Summerslam, as Sid got that run instead. He got in shape around that time and was declared by Vince to be the MVP of the Final Four match between him, Austin, Bret Hart, and Undertaker for the WWF title that Shawn Michaels had vacated by “losing his smile.” He then did a few matches with The Rock, then Rocky Maivia: Blue Chipper and Intercontinental Champion, and was told that after the Kuwait tour that he’d win the Intercontinental Title. He ended up getting detained in Kuwait because he had an incident on a Kuwaiti talk show.
The American director and English producer of the show had wanted a publicity stunt so they told him to destroy the set and grab the host’s tie when he was asked if wrestling was fake. It was a live show and they hadn’t told the host beforehand so the host walked out. The producer and director told the magistrates that the whole event was pre-planned, so he was allowed to wrestle that night but, the next day, the announcer filed charges against him and he had to hire an attorney. The problem was that the day the charges were filed was on the eve of an Islamic religious holiday so Vader was stuck there for two weeks before anything could get fixed. He’d have been out of there the next day if it had been any other week on the Islamic calendar. He was in a $600 a night resort during that time and NOT a jail cell, despite rumors to the contrary. He said he “actually got a tan” while relaxing those two weeks at the resort.
He didn’t think that it would get as much play as it did in the US but feels that the WWF spread the story so they could exploit the situation. No one was upset at him and the office had no problems with it because Earl Hebner was on set at the show and heard the producer and director tell him to do it. The problem was that his window of opportunity to win the belt from Rocky had passed him by. (Owen Hart ended up winning the belt from Rock.)
His weight- The company asked him respectfully to lose some weight in order to prolong his career so he didn’t have any problems with that request.
Facing Ken Shamrock in an Octagon Cage Match at an FMW show- Shamrock started spitting up blood in mid-match because he had a previous injury. He thinks that the powerbomb he gave Shamrock re-aggravated it because “the ring was like cement.” Right after that, Shamrock tapped out and it was an unscheduled finish. Both guys were scared when all that blood was pouring out of Shamrock’s mouth. He’s not sure what the problem was though. (According to Shamrock, it was a tiny tear in his lungs that was continually re-aggravated.)
Vader vs. Ken Shamrock- This is the FMW Octagon match and it is done in shoot-wrestling style rather than a stiff wrestling style. As Vader said, he wins after Shamrock starts coughing up blood after a powerbomb and tells the referee he can’t continue.
Shawn and Bret’s backstage problems- He stayed out of it although he knew there were problems. Both guys were friends of his so he doesn’t know what to think. “They were both squabbling over the top spot and Stone Cold stole it from both them.” (Swish… nothing but net.)
His house show series with Austin- They always worked together great. When they had toughman contests, it was Vader’s style and the matches were good as a result. “I’m not trying to say I’m the greatest worker that ever lived” but he’s been told he’s the greatest super heavyweight in wrestling history.
Was he supposed to get a run with Austin in mid-1998? If he was, he never heard about it. He was so beaten up around that time, character-wise, that he wouldn’t have been taken seriously against Austin. (That’s true… losing a mask vs. mask match to Kane, seeing Paul Bearer parade around in your mask immediately afterwards, then calling yourself “a fat piece of shit” on pay per view will do that.)
Speaking of which… the promos where he’d cursed at himself- He says it was sarcastic and that part of his deal near the end of his WWF run was where he’d play Sing Along With Vader with the crowd but, when they responded to “It’s time… It’s time…” with “It’s Vader Time”, he said that, instead, it was time for them to kiss his ass. Then, when The Rock came out, they’d immediately get on his side. He then gets back on track to the promo, which was cut after the mask vs. mask match with Kane at Over The Edge 1998, where he says the office wanted him to cut a promo about how he’d trained wrong to take on Kane. It ended up coming out closer to “I’m a fatass!”
The mask vs. mask match- Vince told him he didn’t have to take it off after he lost that match to Kane, so he just kept wearing it afterwards.
All Japan Tag Team tournament introductions- This starts as team #5 is introduced, Johnny Ace and Bart Gunn. The other announced teams are #6- Misawa and Ogawa, #7- Vader and Stan Hansen, and #8- Akira Taue and Kawada
Survivor Series 1997- When asked what he’d do if he was the booker, he’s not sure what he’d do and that’s probably why he doesn’t have that job.
Losing weight- They started asking two years ago and wanted him to get down to about 360 from 380. The target for him was 320 by the end of his contract. He worked hard to get down there. He eventually told them “I’ve lost the weight so either use me or let me go.”
The possibility of working for ECW- He’s watched their shows and gives credit to Paul E for being able to compete with WCW and the WWF. He looks forward to working for him part-time in the future so he can also work for Baba and some other groups.
Is Vader right for ECW? Yes, Without question.
Vader and Stan Hansen vs. ???- There are no English graphics this time and I can’t understand the announcer, so no names for their opponents here. Vader wins the match with a double powerbomb followed up by a second-rope Vader bomb.
Is there any chance of a return to the WWF or WCW? He hears Bischoff doesn’t like him much so he doubts it at this time. He left on good terms with the WWF so he may come back some day. He jokes that it’s the first time someone’s left the WWF on good terms in a decade. (Not far from the truth… most big stars like Hogan, Ultimate Warrior (three times by him alone), Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Sid Vicious, Mr. Perfect, Scott Hall, and Bret Hart left on bad terms between 1988 and 1998. There is some disagreement about the terms that Kevin Nash left on in 1996, though.) He’d probably go back to the WWF in a few years.
What up and coming talents will be huge soon? The Rock without question, as he’s great on the mic and a great athlete. Ken Shamrock and Steve Austin are also givens. (That turned out half-right… Shamrock’s career stalled in early 1999 and he left the company late in the year) Kane, Edge, Triple H, Road Dogg, and several others will be great eventually.
Vader and Stan Hansen vs. ???- This is from an All Japan tag team tournament. Vader and Hansen are 5-1 going into this match. Hansen wins it with a lariat.
Thoughts- INCREDIBLY GOOD shoot here. Vader’s interview is excellent and the matches included are top-notch once you get past the crappy AWA stuff at the beginning of the tape. The only problems with it is the Amateur Hour production of the tape but that’s all in the past as the video companies have learned how to cut a shoot MUCH better than this in the past four years.
Highest Possible Recommendation, especially if you’re a fan of Vader’s work in Japan.