Wrestling legend Big Van Vader has died at the age of 63. This comes a month after he was diagnosed with a severe case of pneumonia, and about two years after he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and told he had two years left to live.
Fans are now taking this time to reminisce about their favorite moments involving Vader, who was basically the Brock Lesnar of the 1990s. Although he was never inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame when he was alive, he definitely deserved it, and that’s something that will hopefully be corrected soon.
Here’s a look at some of the absolute greatest Vader moments of all time.
When he defeated Inoki, causing the audience to riot
Vader joined New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1987. His debut match was against Antonio Inoki; Riki Choshu had already challenged Inoki and lost that night, but Vader came out hoping to take on Inoki after that.
In the match, Vader just completely obliterated Inoki in less than five minutes.
The audience, who would have been rooting for Inoki, was so upset that this new guy came in to defeat him that easily that they actually rioted. This resulted in NJPW being banned from that venue for a few years.
When he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Vader’s first championship win while he was with NJPW came in 1989. He entered an eight-man tournament against Shinya Hashimoto and emerged victorious, becoming the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
This victory meant that Vader had become the first non-Japanese person to hold that title, according to Cageside Seats.
Vader ended up dropping the title to Salman Hashimikov a month later, only to win it back within a few months. Shortly after, he ended up winning the CWA World Heavyweight Championship and UWA World Heavyweight Championship as well, making him the only person to hold three heavyweight championships in three different continents at the same time.
When his eye popped out of its socket and he kept wrestling
One of the craziest Vader moments ever came at an event in 1990. He was wrestling Stan Hansen, and not long into the match, Hansen accidentally poked Vader with his thumb and caused his eye to pop out of its socket.
But rather than stopping the match, Vader seriously just pushed his eye back in and kept going. This, by the way, came after Vader had broken his nose at the start of the very same match. Vader later said:
“A lot of people said, ‘You’re crazy, you should have stepped out of the ring…’ But it never crossed my mind not to [finish the match].”
Afterward, Vader had to have a metal plate placed under his eye and take some time off to recover.
When he fought Sting at Starrcade
After joining World Championship Wrestling, one of Vader’s first feuds was with Sting, and this would lead to some truly fantastic matches.
One was at The Great American Bash in 1992, during which he defeated Sting and became WCW World Heavyweight Champion. But perhaps their best confrontation was at Starrcade 1992, during which Sting defeated him.
One year later, Vader performed in another match that fans consider to be one of the best of his career: his match against Ric Flair at Starrcade 1993, which ended in Flair winning the title. It was in this 1992/1993 period that Vader was really at his height.
When he feuded with Cactus Jack
Of course, we can’t talk about Vader without mentioning his feud with Cactus Jack/Mick Foley, as this resulted in some legendarily brutal injuries.
Their first match was during a WCW Saturday Night show; Cactus Jack defeated Vader, but Jack ended up breaking his nose and needing to get 27 stitches. In a later match, Vader powerbombed Jack onto the concrete floor.
Their Texas Death match at Halloween Havoc is particularly infamous, and it ended with Jack getting hit with a cattle prod.
But their most infamous match came on March 16th, 1994, when Mick Foley got his head caught in the ring and legitimately had his right ear torn off. Even though Foley really lost his ear because of the ropes, the legend would become that Vader ripped it off.
When he made his Royal Rumble debut
In 1996, World Wrestling Federation hyped up Vader’s debut, and he ended up entering as the 13th entrant during that year’s Royal Rumble.
Vader eliminated four people, including Jake Roberts and Doug Gilbert, only to find himself eliminated by Shawn Michaels.
But even after Michaels eliminated him, Vader got right back into the ring and kept going wild.
When he attacked Gorilla Monsoon
On the Raw following that Royal Rumble, Vader flipped out at WWF officials.
As this was happening, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon tried to stop him, only to find himself getting a Vader Bomb.
This got Vader “suspended” within the storyline, although really this was just so that he could take some time off to recover from injuries.
When he fought Shawn Michaels at Summerslam 1996
Vader and Shawn Michaels had a lot of great matches during a feud in 1996 and 1997, but one of their best was at Summerslam 1996.
Michaels was the WWF World Heavyweight Champion at the beginning of this storyline; Vader attacked him during a match, getting himself placed in a tag team match against Michaels at In Your House 9: International Incident. That match concluded with Vader’s team winning after Vader pinned Michaels, and this led to a one-on-one match between Michaels and Vader at SummerSlam.
In this main event, Vader first won via count out, but the match got restarted since the title can only transfer via pinfall or submission. So then Vader got himself disqualified by using a tennis racket to beat Michaels, and the match had to be restarted a second time. Finally, it got a proper ending when Michaels pinned Vader and retained the title.
His fatal four-way at In Your House 13
Vader had a great feud with The Undertaker in 1997 beginning at Royal Rumble, during which he defeated the Dead Man in a singles match. Both of them also competed in the actual Royal Rumble match, getting eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin; Bret Hart and The Undertaker got eliminated by Austin, too.
So this resulted in a fatal four-way match at In Your House 13 between Austin, Hart, Undertaker, and Vader. Vader ended up bleeding pretty severely after being attacked by Stone Cold, and he was eliminated by the Undertaker.
His 2012 return
Vader returned to WWE a few times during the 2000s, with his most recent appearance being on an episode of Raw.
On the June 11, 2012 episode, he returned and had a match against Heath Slater, pretty much completely destroying him. For being 57 years old at the time, he put on a pretty great show, and the crowd was quite into it, chanting “You still got it!”
This would wind up being Vader’s final WWE match, although he did make an appearance on Raw‘s 1000th episode.
His role on Boy Meets World
After his death, many fans of Vader’s remembered his Boy Meets World role fondly as an iconic example of wrestling crossing over and becoming cool in the mainstream.
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