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10 Moments Vader Proved He Was The Biggest Bad Ass In Professional Wrestling

Leon White's legacy is as hard-hitting and gruesome as they come...

For me, the passing of Leon 'Vader' White conjured up one of those moments whereby 'you don't realise how good something is until it's gone.' I started watching wrestling when The Mastodon's best days were behind him, so he was never one of my boys - but through watching wrestling over the past two decades, one message from all corners of the industry has remained constant: Vader was the best 'big man' ever to do it.

For me, Vader's legacy in professional wrestling will go down as perfecting a slice of match psychology that is still being used a lot today. The big man vs. little man situation is probably the most tried and tested formula a professional wrestling match has to offer and a lot of this boils down to Vader, in my opinion, and his string of matches with Sting in WCW. Nobody played the monster heel role better than Vader, while nobody tops The Stinger as a valiant, underdog babyface working from underneath.

Most other wrestlers can take their championships and records and shove them, quite frankly, because going back to watch a Vader match will show you that he benefitted the professional wrestling business in more ways than most could ever dream of. Vader's presence is still being felt in many matches we see today, and no higher compliment can be paid to him.

Oh, and he was a really hard bastard. Here are 10 moments, in no particular order, that prove he was a really hard bastard over the course of an illustrious career.

10. The Time He Attacked Gorilla Monsoon


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We're easing ourselves into this one. Don't worry, more severe things are coming.

I guess this is a moment only comparable to somebody walking up to the literal Princess Diana back in the day and spitting in her face. Back in 1996 you simply didn't put your hands on authority figures in WWE - nevermind one as universally beloved as everyone's favourite uncle, Gorilla Monsoon.

Following a demolition job on Savio Vega in what was his Raw debut, Vader made the most earth-shattering impression possible by putting his hands on Monsoon and delivering a Vaderbomb. The attack got him 'suspended' for 30 days so he could get shoulder surgery but bloody hell, what a start for the man.

Vader couldn't have looked like more of a monster if he tried. Being only the second time Monsoon had got himself physically involved in WWE programming since retirement from in-ring competition, the world was shook (as the kids would say).


9. The Powerbomb


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Behind the scenes, there are said to be very few wrestlers more caring than Vader. The bloke was renowned for being a sweetheart - probably too soft to be in the main event scene for some - so it's remarkable to see how he could turn into one hell of a sadistic bad ass when the time called for it.

One of those moments arrived on WCW Saturday Night in April 1993 during a match with Cactus Jack - a moment that temporarily paralyzed Mick Foley for real.

There's no nice way to dress this up - it's a Powerbomb onto the floor of an arena. No padding, no nothing - there was only thin air separating The Mickster from the floor of the arena when Vader hoisted him up into the air.

Brutality like this wasn't the norm on the big two back in the day so you can only imagine the effect this move had on fans' perception of Vader... a generation of children would automatically cry just at the mention of his name after this.

8. Brawling For Roughly 12 Minutes After His Eye Popped Out Its Socket


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Do not scratch your eyes - the title to this entry is absolutely correct. It happened during a match against Stan Hansen at NJPW's Super Fight In Tokyo Dome event in 1990. Who better to talk about it than Vader himself?

“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).

(After busting his nose as a result of Hansen's cowbell hitting him in the face) "When I finally came to, probably about forty-five seconds, I entered the ring, walked up to Stan and hit a big right, right in the ear. And that created the exchange that resulted in Stan thumbing me in the eye.

"So, the big fights on, and I’m punching him, I’m drilling him, bam, bam, bam, bam! He got back in the corner, and I was looking for the right and forgot he was a leftie – he went ‘wham, wham,’ and about the third one, my eye literally came out of the socket, hanging out. The sucker popped right out of my cheek…you couldn’t see it because the mask was on. So I went, ‘Stan, you popped my eye out, you motherf****r’ and I pushed it back in.

"Everything happened so quickly…it popped out, I shoved it back in and kept fighting. I really didn’t think that the thumb was necessary. I lost a great deal of sight in the right eye."

If that's not BAD ASS then I don't know what is.

7. Breaking Joe Thurman's Back


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I think it's fair to say that Vader worked himself up into a shoot here, brother. Of course, in a squash match like this, the supposed 'superstar' of the piece is supposed to look domineering over his opponent - but in this one, Vader took things a bit too far.

Delivering a devastating looking Chokeslam and Powerbomb combo, poor Joe Thurman didn't stand a chance. It's said that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and that definitely applies here - although there are some words that can also hammer the message home here, as Thurman was said to be paralyzed for the few hours following the match. That's many ouches, many, many ouches.


6. Getting Detained In Kuwait


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As I'm getting deeper into this list I'm learning that working himself up into a shoot is something Vader did on more than one occasion. Back in 1997, The Mastodon and WWF Champion, The Undertaker, appeared on a popular Kuwaiti chat show and would have professional wrestling banned for over a decade thanks to their actions - well, maybe just Vader. Undertaker did very well to keep his cool under the circumstances.

The Good Morning Kuwait host asked: “In Kuwait, they say this wrestling is not for real… [do] you act?”

Oh dear.

Following a very diplomatic reply from The Deadman, and after the host tried to move on, Vader butted in and gave his response to a very naive question, flipping a coffee table and grabbing a rightfully terrified presenter by his suit collar. Undertaker, hilariously, didn't move a muscle - some might say he was as cool as a cucumber, but knowing what I know about 'Taker, I certainly wouldn't.

Vader claimed the incident was a work put on to give the show a ratings boost. In an interview with PWMania, Vader said: “I was acting under orders from the producer... but when I did what I did, the interviewer was caught off guard and was frightened. The cops were called and I went to jail.” He was charged with assault and using obscene language and placed under house arrest at a $600-a-night hotel. Even worse news for Vader was the fact his arrest landed on a holiday in Kuwait, meaning the courts were closed. Instead of being farmed out of the country inside 24 hours, he was forced to wait almost two weeks to be dealt with.

5. Showing No Mercy Towards Cactus Jack


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If a colleague's body part were to fall off in the middle of some kind of work-related activity, you or I might show them a slice of empathy and concern. You or I might even stop what we're doing, reassure them, and then get them to the closest medical facility as soon as possible.

Not Vader. After accidentally removing Mick Foley's dangling ear from his head - ripped loose after his famous hangman spot went a bit awry - The Mastodon carried on wrestling for roughly two minutes before mercifully delivering a Vaderbomb to end the match. During this time, Mick's ear was handed to the ring announcer and carted backstage to be iced and saved. As we're all too well aware by looking at poor old Mick today, the ear didn't make it...

I suppose we can all see why Vader didn't end the match immediately. After all, he was able to carry on wrestling with an eye popped out of its socket so a missing ear to him would be child's play.

4. Sit Down Ken Shamrock


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Ken Shamrock is a really hard man with many hard man accolades under his belt.

Vader didn't care about these accolades. Ken was being too stiff, and wasn't listening.

Nothing more needs to be said here.


3. Being Stripped Of The United States Championship In 1995


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Imagine doing something reprehensible and being rewarded for it - that's what Vader did in 1995 as he was stripped of the United States Championship seemingly so his waist was free to challenge for Hulk Hogan's WCW World title.

The stripping came as Vader was punished for 'multiple violent offences' - including hospitalising Dave Sullivan. That didn't matter, however, as at Bash At The Beach 1995, the big man was working in the main event inside a steel cage against Hulk Hogan with the richest prize in the industry - or however that goes - on the line. Where he should have been punished, he conspired and made it into a reward. That's bad ass in my book.

2. Not Having His Career Killed Instantly Thanks To That Post-Match Interview


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I still can't believe they made him say this. Why, when you've got a man who looks like that and who has a worldwide reputation as strong as his, would you make him say "I'm a fat piece of sh*t!"? Of course, things weren't going to plan for Vader in WWE for one reason or another, but the fact this short post-match interview didn't write-off his standing in the game as a legitimate bad ass, speaks volumes as to how much of a legitimate bad ass he actually was.

During his final major feud in the company against Kane, the pair met at No Way Out of Texas where The Big Red Machine won and then assaulted his opponent with a large steel wrench. Returning a couple of months later during that Inferno Match between Kane and The Undertaker, Vader would go on to face The Devil's Favourite Demon once more at Over the Edge in a Mask vs. Mask match, losing, despite using a large steel wrench of his own. That's when this shocking post-match interview took place, and I still can't believe my ears.

Vader would be a glorified jobber in WWE until he left in October 1998, but the fact he went on to achieve a modicum of success in All Japan defied the odds somewhat, such was the horrible job Vince McMahon et al did with him in the latter stages of his run there.

1. Living With 10 Clogged Blood Vessels


WWE


This one just about sums the man up - Vader was a fighter right to the very end. Any lesser man would have allowed this to consume their life, but Vader embraced it to the best of his ability and powered through for as long as he could.

During an interview with Bill Apter, The Mastodon told of how he was "a walking time bomb," living with no less than 10 clogged blood vessels in his heart - that's over 90% of his heart (in his words). Despite this, he was still able to make bookings and the like when on balance, he didn't really have to. Surely, and I can't be alone in thinking this, fans and promoters alike would have understood if Vader said 'I'm not feeling up to it today,' but he soldiered on to the very end.

Vader was the bad ass in professional wrestling - in and out of the ring.

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Ross Tweddell

Written by Ross Tweddell

Editor-in-chief of Cultaholic.com and presenter on the Cultaholic Wrestling YouTube channel. Email: [email protected]