So, Leon White has passed away. I am very bummed out because, not only was he a great wrestler but, he seemed like a great guy especially in the world of pro wrestling. I know there will be better tributes and stories than what I could piece together so, I just want to say 'Thanks!'
What's sorta uncanny (to me) is that I had the notion of posting about my favorite Vader in Japan matches just a day ago. Well, I'd like to do that now. I'm not overly sentimental and am not using his passing as a way for folks to read my blog...I clearly get no profit Instead, I'd like to celebrate his work in wrestling. Do yourself a favor and watch one of these and powerbomb someone in memory of Mr. White!
Big Van Vader vs. IWGP Champion Tatsumi Fujinami (13:27, 6/26/88) *** A pretty enjoyable squash type match as Vader threw Fujinami around like a doll. The bummer is that Vader isn't quite stiff yet and Fujinami airballed on a couple moves but he sells the damage well and Vader already shows use of psychology by slaughtering The Dragon's back. The end is cool but not really believable considering the damage done...Re-Watch: I'd have to say I've change my mind about this match. I think it's really, really good. Near great even! The psychology is really sound with Vader trying to dismantle Fujinami while the Dragon tries guile & quickness to slay the mythical monster of Vader. Maybe it's because I got done reading an article on Lovecraft but I saw Big Van Vader especially with the head-piece as a Cthulu-type creature. As stated below, you've got to understand that NJ is like more action based American wrestling akin to what Cactus Jack & Sting did in their '92 WCW PPV match perhaps. If you're cool that it's not '92 AJPW then, damn is this a fun & dramatic match. It also didn't hurt that I've seen more Fujinami & know why this match worked.
Big Van Vader vs. Shinya Hashimoto for the vacant IWGP Title (9:47, 4/24/89) ***1/2 I liked this match but it was too short...although that may have been by accident. Lou Thesz was the ref & he hesitated on the 3 count indicating that maybe the match ended unexpectedly. Here was a very good match cut short. Both guys were stiff & Hashimoto was looking to snap Vader's arm. I wish it would have been a few minutes longer. Re-Watch: I've watched this a couple times a year or more after my initial review & really nothing changes. I really wish it would've gone a couple more minutes with Hash getting some more kicks in on Vader or running a sequence or two to spice up the ending.
Big Van Vader vs. IWGP champion Riki Choshu (10:04, 8/10/89) **** It seems Riki only brings it when he has to because he wrestled like the Riki Choshu that has multiple 4 star and 5 star matches to his name. This match is stiff and well paced for 10 minutes with the stand-out being a Riki Lariat that knocks Vader backwards over the guardrail. If this went a bit longer it was bound to get better. Still the best match so far & it really shows how great Vader is for such a massive guy. Re-Watch: Yeah this is pretty good considering how limited each guy is both in what they can take & what offense they bring (size, agility). And by pretty good I mean quite enjoyable. One needs to think of NJ in this time period with a certain level of wrestlers as WCW Japan, if that makes sense. If this were on American TV, I'd watch every G-D week without a doubt. This match is good proof. It's not Jumbo vs. Tenryu though. Still it's rough & tumble and very fun stuff. Excellent pick for a Vader compilation!
Big Van Vader vs. IWGP Champion Tatsumi Fujinami (12:57, 1/17/91)***3/4 Dammit Fujinami if you're going to do a enzuigiri try to make contact! Like their first meeting, he's small enough for Vader to throw and splash him...and you know it's wearing him down. Vader bled here which was cool and when the Dragon was punching and it was believable. There was some heat & once again Vader performs on par with a guy 100 lbs lighter & with a decade more experience. Re-watch: Wow! My opinion has really shifted on these matches. I thought this was an awesome match with only a moment of weakness. The moment is that enzuigiri but on re-watch & the context of the match, it was a gamengiri meant to hit Vader in the face or above the eye...as to put over the blade job...or that's what I think! Just a stupendous match showing each guy's versitility. Fujinami is a great wrestler but here we get to see that Vader is too. He's not just the greatest super-heavy weight (I haven't seen much prime Andre) but one of the greatest of all time. ****1/4 but I could go higher.
Here's an odd one but, I liked it!
Big Van Vader vs. Tony Halme (1991) ***1/4 This match was a pleasant surprise as it's really want I want to see in a Vader match: both guys slugging the crap out of one another. And I mean stiffly slugging one another. Of course Halme, being a pro boxer went half power, he was stiff on the body shots and made the head punches believable due to Vader's superior selling. A thouroughly enjoyable worked shoot especially since Vader lost! (I hope I'm not spoiling anything!)
Keiji Mutoh & Hiroshi Hase vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Vader 03/01/92: People say this match isnt very good but, shit! I thought it was fantastic. The timing and near finishes were just awesome. You knew the hope spots were going to be there but, wow! This was just an awesome match that should be on every one of these guys Best Of comps. The stand-outs were Hase and Vader. The segments they had were just great stuff and very stiff. Vader was just punishing throughout and Bigelow and Mutoh were the charismatic ones who put the flashy bits in. Everything was hitting just right. Like I said maybe this is a case of low expectations and being surprised but I really enjoyed this. ****1/2
Vader vs. Antonio Inoki (14:16, 1/4/96)****1/2 What a physical match-up! 600 lb. cherry-cheeked Vader versus a withered-up Japanese government employee. I'm surprised Inoki wasn't killed then re-animated and then killed again because it sure as bloody hell looked like it. Man got dumped on his dome two times that would make Tiger Mask II's tail spin 'round. Then he made a good comeback & slapped on the ju-ju-got-to-me armbreaker and got the victory. Although by the looks of it, he should've kept his shoulders down after the first swell of punishment. Vader & Tony put on a monster truck show & Inoki played the part of 'Gravedigger.'
Vader & Stan Hansen vs. Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (Real World Tag League '98 Final)***1/2 Ha! Akiyama got beat-up here and Kobashi got worked over pretty well too. Hansen wasn't movin' too well but the Gaijin team was stiff. How's that face doin' Akiyama? Re-Watch (2015): Im going to mosey on down a shakey tree branch and say that this was a great match. Maybe its hued by the early 90s lucha libre and 88 Hansen that Ive been gluing mine eyes to but, this was fantastic stuff. Everyone was going at their 98 best. It was stiff, fast and full of teases and pay-offs. Ironically the lucha has got me really excited on the pay-offs. I guess that shouldnt surprise me too much, what with the wide-spread bribery down there! Get it? Pay-off? Bribery?...Any how this was just a real exciting match. I think at this point in AJ history we have to look at Kobashi as the ace regardless of what Misawa and Kawada are doing. This style of match really takes us right back to the late 80s Native Japanese versus the built like Frigidaire Gaijin Hansen/Gordy vs. Tenryu/Kawada Tag League 88 sound familiar? Great Match
Vader vs. Kenta Kobashi (1/15/99) (16:59) **** Pretty nice singles match that was very physical for both guys. Kobashi was taking hits & gettin' splashed on while Vader isn't used to getting hit & slammed too much let alone movin' for 17 minutes! Can anyone beat Super Vader? Even Misawa?
Vader vs. Triple Crown Champion Mitsuhara Misawa (10/30/99) (12:12) ***3/4 Vader was very brutal with his slams here. Misawa tried fighting back with very stiff elbows and dives. It just wasn't enough & I think it ended early. Vader did a reprisal of his role versus Inoki.
Vader & Steve Williams vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori (2/12/00) (8:02) ***1/2 Hard hitting mid-card style slug fest. The gaijins dominated and double teamed. This was an all fun match and made everyone look good.
Vader vs. Toshiaki Kawada (2/17/00) (13:44) ****1/4+ This is how it's done! Kawada even used Vader's own fore-arm clubs and used his kicks tactfully. It was just a smart match that peaked at the best time and one of Vader's best. Both knew the limitations and they excelled. Just as in all of Vader's best bouts. Re-Watch: A really stiff slug-out. It was kind of what I wanted in Vader's 1990 match against Hansen. Really awesome stuff & both guys sold the stuff very well. Geez...it's probably not that hard to do considering the blows being dealt. Kawada showed himself superior to his peers by getting so much out of Vader and structuring the match so it told a believable yet suspenseful story. Vader isn't a slouch but because of his size it's up to his opponent create the tension & drama. Having a match with him is like going up against a steam shovel, so what are you going to do to make it something special? Misawa & Kobashi do fine, Taue fails but, Kawada truly excels.
Vader & Steve Williams vs. AJ Tag Team Champions Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (2/20/00) (25:14)****1/4 A very solid tag team title match. Vader & Dr. Death are a hell of a team and Akiyama was ready to bring it. Kobashi dogged it a bit but, took some good shots and nice bumps so it didn't matter too much. Another fun tag match & really the place where Vader & Dr. Death (at this point in his career) shines.
Misawa & Ogawa vs. Vader & Scorpio (11/30/01) Full match here showing that NOAH could be a different product even if that product is 80s AJPW!! Really fun stuff in a more American style. Good to see Scorpio as he really is the heart of this match.
Apologies for inconsistency but, ya get the point
I'd also recommend Vader in UWFi and Leon White vs Stan Hansen AWA from ESPN. One of the sweetest rookie vs champ matches. YouTube dat!
Thank you for all your hard work and passion Mr. Vader, sir! RIP Mr. White