In the early 1990s, Big Van Vader was a force to be reckoned with in World Championship Wrestling. He made his debut in 1990, but wasn’t used on a regular basis until 1992. That was because he was often times working in Japan making a good living for himself. By the time 1992 came along Vader found himself right in the main event picture for WCW and feuding with WCW World Champion, Sting.
At the 1992 Great American Bash, Vader won his first WCW World Championship. He’d lose the title two months later to Ron Simmons, but by the end of the year he’d regained the championship. 1993 was the year of Vader in WCW as he mostly feuded with Sting, British Bulldog and Cactus Jack. Some of the matches he had with Sting and Cactus Jack were some brutal encounters. The strap match between Vader and Sting at Superbrawl III is one of the best strap matches ever and a death match with Cactus Jack at Halloween Havoc is a personal favorite of mine.
Vader’s run as WCW World Champion came to an end at Starrcade 1993 when he was defeated by Ric Flair. Oddly enough, Vader would never win the WCW World Championship ever again. After failing to dethrone Flair for the WCW World Championship in early 1994, Vader began a feud with The Boss, formerly known as Big Bossman in the WWF. They’d have several pay per view matches throughout 1994. In total, they’d have three PPV matches. Spring Stampede, Bash at the Beach and Halloween Havoc. Whether he was known as the Boss, or the Guardian Angel, he always loss to Vader on pay per view.
At Fall Brawl 1994, Vader won a triangle match involving Sting and Guardian Angel to become the number one contender to the WCW World Championship, which was held by Hulk Hogan. Three months later at Starrcade, Vader won his first WCW United States Championship by defeating Jim Dugan in an underrated match. By the end of the show, Vader confronted Hogan leading to a much anticipated feud in 1995 between the two.
I’ve covered the Hulk Hogan vs. Vader feud in-depth previously, so I won’t do the same here. In short, Vader battled Hogan on pay per view three times at Superbrawl, Uncensored and Bash at the Beach. Shockingly, Vader didn’t win the title, but he also was never pinned or submitted. Following the conclusion of his feud with Hogan at Bash at the Beach, Vader turned face for the first time in his career feuding with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. He won a handicap match at the August Clash of the Champions.
With the debut of Nitro coming soon in September 1995, it was rumored that Vader was going to win the WCW World Championship on the second episode of the series. However, Vader wouldn’t even be with the company by the time Nitro made the airwaves due to having a shoot fight with Paul Orndorff weeks prior. Vader was fired for the incident.
Arguably WCW’s top heel was now a free agent. Would he go back to Japan or maybe in a few months he’d return to WCW? Vader did have a match with Antonio Inoki at the January 4thm 1996 NJPW show, but Vader would jump ship to the World Wrestling Federation to continue his career. He’d make his debut at the 1996 Royal Rumble. Vader wasn’t able to win the Royal Rumble as he was eliminated by eventual winner Shawn Michaels.
Vader made a huge impact on the following night on RAW, though. After defeating Savio Vega in a singles match, Vader attacked several officials and attacked WWF President Gorilla Monsoon leading to a suspension. After his return, Vader began to feud with former stablemate Yokozuna. A memorable moment on RAW saw Vader attack Yokozuna so badly that Yokozuna had to be carried out of the arena on a forklift. Vader won the feud when he defeated Yokozuna’s team at WrestleMania XII in a six man tag match.
The following month at In Your House, Vader defeated Razor Ramon in what would be Ramon’s final PPV appearance for six years. Vader’s dominance would earn him a WWF World Championship match at SummerSlam 1996. The title opportunity came about after he pinned Shawn Michaels at In Your House #9 in July. At SummerSlam 1996, Vader failed to win the title despite winning by both count-out and disqualification. Eventually, Michaels prevailed following a superkick.
For the remainder of 1996, Vader battled with Psycho Sid in an attempt to get another shot at the WWF World Champion, but failed to win against Sid in October. Rumor has it that Vader was supposed to win the WWF World Championship at Survivor Series 1996 prior to Sid’s rise in popularity.
Now out of the WWF World Championship picture, Vader began a feud with the Undertaker and earned a victory over him at the 1997 Royal Rumble. However, by WrestleMania XIII Vader found himself in a tag team with Mankind (formerly Cactus Jack in WCW). The duo failed to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships from Owen Hart and British Bulldog at the event.
Vader would return to the WWF World Championship picture in July 1996 as he’d challenge new WWF World Champion the Undertaker, the same man he defeated in January. However, this time with the title on the line, Vader wasn’t able to earn himself a victory.
Seemingly on the decline in his heel role in the WWF, Vader was turned face in the fall of 1997 after a match with the Patriot as they began a USA vs. Canada feud with the Hart Foundation. Vader was on Team USA at the 1997 Survivor Series event and was pinned by the British Bulldog to lose the match for his team. During the match, Goldust walked out on the team and that led to Vader feuding with him entering 1998.
Vader’s biggest feud in 1998 was with the recently debuted monster, Kane. Vader would lose two pay per view matches against Kane at No Way Out in February and then a mask vs. mask match at Over The Edge. Following the feud, Vader became an enhancement talent putting over guys like Mark Henry, Bradshaw and Edge before departing the company to wrestle in Japan.
While competing for AJPW in Japan, Vader won the Triple Crown and the 1999 Champion Carnival. Since 2000, Vader had stayed fairly busy on the independents and Japan. He’s also made brief appearances in both WWE and Impact Wrestling.
Recently, Vader has had health issues and had open heart surgery. He’s determined to overcome the health ailment. He was told he had two years to live, but he’s making strides to surpass that timeframe.
What are your memories of Vader’s wrestling career?
Thanks for reading.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.