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Vader

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I love Loss' take on Vader, that he wasn't really versatile in what he did but what he did worked incredibly well in almost every setting. For some people, that means he couldn't work at the level of the very best. I just know I always, always want to watch the guy.

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Vader had some great stuff in All Japan:

 

Hansen/Vader vs. Misawa/Ogawa 11/14/98
Taue vs. Vader 3/6/99
Kobashi vs. Vader 4/16/99 - must see
Vader vs. Misawa 5/2/99 - must see
Misawa vs. Vader 10/30/99
Misawa/Ogawa vs. Vader/Smith 10/99 - Ogawa gets the ride fo his life on a Vader German
Kobashi/Akiyama/Shiga vs. Vader/Smith/Kea 11/27/99
Misawa/Akiyama vs. Vader/Taue 1/17/00
Akiyama vs. Vader 1/23/00 - Vader runs out of ideas during the finishing run and uses the finish for a nearfall
Kobashi vs. Vader 2/27/00

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I have him Top 25 for sure, maybe even Top 15. Best super heavy ever, one of the better sellers ever, great carrier, worked a bunch of different styles well. You had to basically fit into his style of match in a lot of ways, but that didn't stop the matches from being great.

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A top 25 pick for me, he's shown he can work a variety of styles extremely well and get over in front of many different audiences. Arguably the greatest super-heavyweight ever, and in hindsight was a better pick than Hellwig for the Vader moniker/gimmick!

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Just curious, but where people are saying Vader worked a variety of styles, can you give me some examples?

 

I mean I like Vader a good bit, but I've seen him in AWA, New Japan and WCW and to my eyes he's more or less the same in all three contexts.

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He has also worked All Japan, UWFI, CWA (in Europe) and even EMLL.

 

He is the same everywhere, which is what I think his appeal is. Guys usually have to change up their game far more than Vader when they work in different environments. Yet he's able to just be Vader everywhere and it works.

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The UWF stands out like a sore thumb in a lot of ways. He is a complete outlier in that style but the way he works his stuff in is tremendous. He also looked good in the couple Mexico matches I saw him in.

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Playing devils advocate, how long was his peak and how long was he actually a great worker? Not an insignificant length to be sure, but if his peak isn't 92-96, is he as highly regarded? Also does he get points others wouldn't because he's the best big man?

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I dunno if you can deduct points because his peak occurred during a high-point for wrestling worldwide, but I think he was a good worker in All Japan in the late 90's, definitely stepping it up after a subpar WWF run. His peak was from 92-96, definitely, and while his AJPW work doesn't hold up to what was being done earlier in the decade, it's still good stuff.

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Right. I'd say he was good until 2000 at the least, and while there might have been a NOAH highlight or two before he stopped working there, he was basically done as a good worker after the TC run in 2000.

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Yep, Vader was having great matches as early as 1989. He didn't start his great run with the Sting feud.

 

Shit, that 1986 Leon White vs. Hansen match is great.

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Is it safe to say Vader was good from 1986 to 2000, with a peak of 1992-1996 in the middle of that? It's not a #1 case and probably not even a top 20 case, but it is a strong case for any wrestler.

 

To answer Dylan's question, the "best big man" case absolutely works in his favor, and I don't at all think it's unfair to give him extra credit for that, the same way we give guys like Ricky Morton credit for defining a role. He was working from a starting point in terms of his body type that has produced far less great workers than guys in the 220-260 range and not only did he overcome that, but he also had a long stretch where he was very good, and he was also probably the best American wrestler in the world in the early-mid 1990s. (That's something I'd have to think a little more about, but it wouldn't surprise me.)

 

I think people who criticize Vader for bumping his ass off are missing the point. He's a guy who could get away with doing just about anything in the ring because he was Vader. What I mean by that was that he managed to create an aura around himself where the whole was far greater than the sum of the parts, even though the sum was pretty high. Lots of monster types can't play pinball and maintain their credibility, so they have to take a different approach. Vader could. He had all of these extra tricks at his disposal because he was a fantastic athlete and used them all as much as he could. You sort of forget about the rapid fire bumping when he puts a guy in the corner and starts leveling him with fists.

 

He was also a breath of fresh air in a post-Flair heel world, which is something that has been mentioned in his favor before. There were a lot of guys at the time (Shawn, early Austin and Pillman are the first that come to mind) that were just doing their take on Ric Flair, but then you had Vader, Cactus and Regal doing something very different.

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I think people who criticize Vader for bumping his ass off are missing the point. He's a guy who could get away with doing just about anything in the ring because he was Vader. What I mean by that was that he managed to create an aura around himself where the whole was far greater than the sum of the parts, even though the sum was pretty high. Lots of monster types can't play pinball and maintain their credibility, so they have to take a different approach. Vader could. He had all of these extra tricks at his disposal because he was a fantastic athlete and used them all as much as he could. You sort of forget about the rapid fire bumping when he puts a guy in the corner and starts leveling him with fists.

 

 

First off, I don't have a horse in this race yet. I haven't seen enough Vader in far too long for me to have a strong opinion on this. That said, I found this interesting and I want to raise a potential (and only a potential) counterpoint: Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Just because there are tools that you can use doesn't mean they're the right tools for the situation. And some of that speaks to viewer expectations and some of it just speaks to certain narrative tools being more useful than others in creating a desired effect. It's possible that while he could "get away" with the bumps and while they might have added something for some viewers with certain tastes or in some situations in general, him doing something that he didn't have to "get away" but that instead would have more properly fit the situation he was in could have had a stronger overall effect? I wish I had some specifics for this and I'll keep it in mind while rewatching Vader, but I will say that if people feel the need to criticize the bumps, then maybe it did have an effect on those viewers suspension of disbelief, at least.

 

Or maybe they were just making their wrestling follow strict rules regardless of the actual match in question.

 

I don't know.

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That criticism is fairly new and to me, it seems to be a surface-level criticism just because it goes against type of what people think of a monster doing. If there's more to it, I invite anyone to go into that. I do agree with the general point that wrestlers shouldn't do everything they can just because they can. But it wasn't just showing off. It was a way he could do a better job than most monsters of making his opponents look good while still being a monster because he was able to go their speed and take their offense. Even though he left his feet more often, it still meant a lot when he did. My take away when Vader does three consecutive rapid bumps for Sting isn't that Vader is not as invincible as other monsters. It's that Sting sure is good to be able to take it to a guy like that.

 

That's actually a great lead-in to a conversation I wanted to have with you at some point, and now is as good a time as any to bring it up. We tend to criticize wrestlers sometimes for not working smart when they do things that maybe they shouldn't do for easy pops. But then I wonder how smart it is to be perfectly capable of doing something that would help a match or pop a crowd that a wrestler just doesn't do for whatever reason. Conventional wisdom is that it takes a hammer and a nail to hang a picture. If I had a special power that allowed me to hang a picture on a wall with a piece of tape - something that no one else has been able to do but for whatever reason I have figured out a secret to doing it - shouldn't I use my special, one-of-a-kind skills?

 

In the case of Vader, I think it's worth looking at how he was able to maintain his aura and be more giving at the same time, then ask if that all comes down to simple athleticism, or if there are things he did that other monsters could learn from.

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