|"But if you're really injured and you gotta take four or five pain pills and raise your blood pressure through the roof to fucking wrestle for twenty minutes and obviously the drinking and the other things I don't really care to go into right now, but somewhere, obviously, there needs to be some kinda regulation."
What's going on guys? Sorry for the delayed reaction, I got a giant savoury hot dog that's 180 pounds that'd knock me over trying to get out the door. (laughs)
How many pets have you got?
I just got the one right now. He really is, he's about 185 pounds, he's father-figured me, and just trying to keep him inside, his breathing. He wanted out and he got out, believe me. He knocked me over, bolted through the door. What time is it? Tell me what time it is? From the power of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado, I bring you the Prince of Power, for it is Vader time.
Since retirement, what have you been up to?
Well, I'm self-employed, I have a , buy them, dress them up and sell them with my partner. Also I work for a company with a year-round contract. Pretty much, it's part-time work. An international, marketing firm in Japan, in Tokyo, international. Check this out, I got to know these people through my career in Japan, they do five billion gross dollars annually. Occasionally I do personal appearances, actually I have matches scheduled for November and January as we speak and that's something I'd like to continue doing at my age and in my condition. Between wrestling and football in the NFL and a long time wrestling with my size and what I did, doing the moonsaults and the dropkicking and all that stuff, I'm beat up, let's call it as it is.
Is there a guy wrestling right now that reminds you of yourself?
First of all the late, great Bam Bam Bigelow, what an athlete and what a huge man, he could do virtually anything. I would compare myself to him, not the other way around. Bam Bam was a great athlete, he did some phenomenal things in the ring for a man, what 430, 440 at times and at other times 410, 420. He went up and down that weight scale like I did.
I think right now, gentleman's in the WWE, the Samoan, I'm not up on all these names right now but I think you know who I'm talking about? Painted face...
Big, quick moving, gets across the ring extremely I really believe in the, there's a big difference between power and strength. Power is the ability to move over from point A to point B and deliver a blow, and that guy can do that. Now, I'm sure he's very strong in the gym. For example, Mark Henry. He can go in the gym and squat 1,000 pounds and bench press 1,000 pounds, but I believe the definition between power and strength, there's a major difference and I actually believe Mike Tyson was the most powerful man in the world. To be able to move and knock someone out, that's power.
I remember watching RAW two years ago when Vader came to ring. It came out of nowhere leading to Taboo Tuesday. Whose idea was it?
I have no idea whose conception it was but I saw it as an opportunity to give back a little bit. It goes back to Mr. Laurinaitis. We all know Joe the Animal, his younger brother John Laurinaitis and I, we worked together for All Japan Pro-Wrestling while Giant Baba was still alive. John and myself, we got along real good. And John is not only a very smart man, just being intelligent and very well spoken so I believe he wrestled under the name of Johnny Ace in Japan. And now John, Mr. Laurinaitis, he's one of the top honchos of the WWE and I got a call from him. He said "Leon, will you do me a favour?" And obviously when friends call you asking for favours, I did it. I was very sick at the time and hadn't been working out. I'd been sick the week prior and he called me a week before and I said "John, I'm not in shape. What have you got in mind?"
To make a long story short, it was a favour for a friend. Should I have done it? I don't know. But I had some fun, I saw some old friends. I visited Shawn Michaels and Hunter. I gotta see some young stars, John Cena, I'd never seen him. So for me it was a trip down memory lane. And again, should I have done it for my legacies sake or was it a a bad position to put me in? I really don't look at it that way, it was a favour to a friend and I was glad to do it.
You obviously had a good time in Japan...
In Japan I worked for Inoki, Giant Baba, and also a gentleman Mitsuharu Misawa, he's the one that broke away from Baba. Baba was ill, and then he passed away and I decided to go with Misawa. I decided to finish my career with Baba, then with his passing, a lot of verbal promises, handshakes, just didn't exist without his presence. So I went over to NOAH and had a good run with Misawa. I've been blessed. Between, I worked for Dusty Rhodes who was my booker in WCW, obviously Vince McMahon, the owner/booker, Giant Baba, Inoki and then Misawa, in Europe for Otto Wanz and in Mexico for Carlos Minez. I tried at one time to total up all the titles I've held around the world, I certainly I'm not about to encroach among Ric Flair's record, but single world titles, tag team world titles, it's right around 40. Again, I don't know whether they're recognised or not, but I've held a run around the world.
I've seen the video of the match in Japan with Stan Hansen, where he knocks your eye out and you finish the match. What was going through your mind?
Stan and I, I would say we were friends. We never hung out together or drank together but we were friends. That was way back in 1990. There was 77,000 people there and we were one of the main events. Inoki was one, and then Bam Bam and a newcomer, the big giant sumo wrestler, you remember his name?
No, not Akebono, it was before him. 6 foot 8, grand champion. Yellow boots on, he trained. Anyway, him and Bam Bam and me and Stan. We were one of 3 or 4 main events. Then again, 77,000 people, we were obviously getting great pay days, and he didn't knock it out, he thumbed it out. It was a misunderstanding, I was told Stan would be introduced first as the All Japan champion and I would be introduced second. There was no discussion between Stan and I who would be introduced second. I don't think anyone really gives a shit, but that's the way we were told. So Stan went out in the ring.
Stan (laughs), he couldn't see very good back then with his glasses off. And the crowd, light, smokes, the laser lights that the Japanese are famous for. I was told get in the ring with that big old cumbersome Vader mask and blow out the smoke you know? I said that's gonna be a chore as I'm not sure Stan'll let me do that. He could take the belt and crack the shit out of it. They said they didn't care, that's what I was there to do. So, I was standing near the ropes attempting to get up the steps with this 60 pound object in my hand and he came over the top with that cow bell and hit me right on the nose and he wasn't aware of it. But suddenly I couldn't hear, 77,000 people were going crazy and I couldn't hear a thing and my nose was pouring out blood and my ears were seeping out fluid, I don't know if it was blood, I couldn't hear a damn thing.
And I stood there for about a minute, the late Cornetto, he was one of the late wrestlers who passed not too long ago said "Hey, what's going on? Get in the ring." And I couldn't move, so when I heard the crowd again and when I came to, I sat down the big mask and got into the ring, walked up to Stan like we were gonna face off and I just slapped him in the ear, the face as hard as I could, twice. The bell rang, I was trying to get into the corner and say "Hey look man, the whole face is bleeding." The nose needed about 10 stitches after that and we were in the corner. He started flinging and I started flinging, and I grabbed him, turned him around and put him in the corner and it was his right hand that tore the eye out of it's socket and it came out on my cheek.
Just instinctively I shoved it back in it's socket and ended up having three surgeries on that and I had around three orbitals around the eye and the glands are like a piece of spaghetti that holds your eye and it stretched when it came out on my cheek and I shoved it back in so when we fixed the eye and put it back in, I would look to the left and the right eyes was large, I looked to the right and he right eye was lad. so we had to go back in and do it again. holding the eye and there was a lot of nerve damage and I lost some vision in that eye, and just recently, excuse me, that's my dinner...
(laughs) I went back in and they said "This was a big trauma you received back in 1990." So I went to the doctor using my insurance, they said the back half of my eye structure was built like an ice cream cone a few years ago and you can imagine an ice cream cone with the ice being the eye? And the structure of the ice cream going to a small point, like a waffle. It's like an ice cream zone, you know what I'm saying? It gets narrower, the back two thirds of the structure of the eye has disintegrated and it's causing my eye to recede. That's why it's getting blurry. They said, well, I could go blind. If the eye recedes too much I'll lose a nerve and I'll go blind in that eye.
Rest of the interview coming soon...
08 June 04: Excerpt of a Puroresufan interview with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett about Big Van Vader
Stuart: There are countless possibilities for you in Japan now. Dream matches both in the pro wrestling or vale tudo ring are constantly discussed. Barnett vs. Sapp, Barnett vs. Fedor, Barnett vs. Cro Cop, Barnett vs. Vader, Barnett vs. Chono, Barnett vs. Kobashi, and so on. Out of all the possible fighters in any combat type, who would you like to face the most?
Barnett: Of all those, I think Cro Cop and Kobashi are the most interesting to me.
Cro Cop, because he's supposed to be the "Puroresu Hunter" and that is a name that I can not allow him to keep. It's insulting to the whole pro-wrestling community.
Kobashi, because he has the strength of the fans and is at the top of his career right know. I want to know if he can trade chop for kick and suplex for suplex with me. Who would walk away and who would go on a stretcher.
Vader and Chono are legends and would make excellent matches, but they aren't in their top forms, and a younger champion like me beating them wouldn't carry the same weight.
Sapp is my former student, and when he had the IWGP it was a matter of pride to take it back, but after his defeat and giving the title back I don't have any reason to fight him.
Fedor to me is something that doesn't need to be thought about, it will just happen. Same as Noguiera, we will meet in the ring someday, and when that day comes pro wrestling will be supreme.
Rest of interview can be found here
This interview immediately followed a press conference at the Rihga Royal Hotel in Manhattan on Friday, April 25, 1997 in which Vader, a.k.a. Leon White, was facing the media for the first time after an incident that occurred in the country of Kuwait on Friday, April 11, 1997.
During a promotional appearance by both Vader and World Wrestling Federation Champion, The Undertaker on "Good Morning Kuwait", Vader was accused of assaulting the show's host, Bassam Al-Othman. The show's producer, during a pre-taping meeting, prompted and requested that Vader "be rough" and "have fun" during the interview. Al-Othman was not present at the meeting and had not been forewarned by the show's producer that the planned scenario would take place. Immediately following the incident, in which Vader grabbed Al-Othman's tie, yelled and used foul language, Al-Othman pressed charges against Vader, which resulted in a travel ban being enacted against Vader, detaining him in his Kuwaiti hotel room for nine days. This caused him to miss In Your House on Sunday, April 20, 1997 as well as the following night's Monday Night Raw - Vader has since been released and is awaiting a hearing date. In Vader's absence, the hearing will take place in Kuwait and Vader will be represented by an attorney from Titan Sports, parent company of the World Wrestling Federation. If found guilty, Vader could face up to one year in a Kuwaiti prison.
Paul: Vader, are you worried that you might be found guilty?
Vader: I'm obviously concerned and very regretful for my actions, but this incident has been blown so out of proportion that it is beyond my comprehension at this point. I went to a television station and did what I was asked to do. The only thing that I apologize for was my language, nothing else. This is what I do for a living and the fact that the announcer was not advised of this planning session that we had backstage tells me that he's holding me responsible for his director and producer, and I won't be held responsible. This was the first travel ban lifted in a decade in Kuwait and the reason was simply because a travel ban does not exist for the charges I was charged with. Basically, they were making things up as they went along, and because of the high profile nature of the incident, and because of who I was, and obviously because I work for the World Wrestling Federation, I was stripped of my liberty and my freedom. I had threats on my life. I had 24-hour security, all because I did what I was told to do, because I did what you are doing right now, your job, and I will not apologize for that. It's as simple as that. This case comes down to one thing - simple extortion. The gentleman [Al-Othman], who I apologized to in person for the misunderstanding, immediately went to the police station, filed charges, and said his integrity had been damaged. Well, twenty-four hours after the incident, his "integrity" could have been bought for $25,000 and then by the next morning, his integrity was worth $400,000. This is nothing more than a simple case of extortion, of an American in a foreign country doing what he was asked to do. I have not been charged with using foul language on TV, and if you saw the second half of the tape, the first thing out of the second announcer's mouth was, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a serious incident, please stop calling. This was a planned session." We then went on with the interview. You have to put yourself in his [Al-Othman's] shoes. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the TV officials. If you have a four hundred plus pound man on your set injuring people, you would immediately go to a commercial break, call the police, and have him escorted to jail. They didn't do that. They told another announcer to go on the set and tell him [Al-Othman], "This was all planned. Let's continue with the interview and get this over with." Mr. Al-Othman is upset because he wasn't involved in that planning session. After my public apology for one thing only, my language, we went on with the interview and talked about the benefits of education, staying in school and not trying to depend on your athletic endeavours to make a living. The fact that I am a college graduate with a degree in business from the University of Colorado, they directed that question toward me. So again, if you saw the second half of the tape, and you could understand Arabic, this whole thing becomes a frivolous act simply because they admit on national television that I was doing what I was told to do.
Paul: As a result of the ordeal that you suffered during your detainment, do you plan on taking legal action against either the station or Mr. Al-Othman?
Vader: No. I certainly have been told that that could be an option, but I would just like to see this thing die and go away, to be honest with you. I would just like to point out that the young men and women of the Armed Services, that basically stand guard while we do what we're doing right now, live our lives, work and raise our families, are asked at any point to lay their lives on the line. I have a new found respect for what they do and how they do it because when I was there, the soldiers of Camp Doha and the Marines at the American Embassy in Kuwait were extremely supportive and offered their help in trying to resolve the situation. As an American, when your liberty and freedom are stripped, you realize what these people do for you, and to them, I would like to thank them very much.
Paul: After the incident was over, and you saw what happened on tape, do you feel that even though they strayed from the list of questions you were given, when you were faced with the question, "Is wrestling fake?" did that antagonize you a little bit?
Vader: No. I wasn't out of control, and I'm certainly not mad. You've just asked a question, am I grabbing your tie? Wrestling is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. I do a job that no one else in this room could do, and I'm very proud of that job. I'm very proud of what I do and what I am. I've been a world class athlete my entire life. I was a High School All-American, a two-time College All-American. I was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams and I represented them in their Super Bowl, and to do what I do on the TV screen day in and day out, I'm not ashamed of that. The question didn't antagonize me. Wrestling is what it is. You have your opinion of what wrestling is and you're entitled to it as Mr. Al-Othman was. You have to understand that I was doing my job as I saw it and as I was directed to.
Paul: Do you feel that this entire incident has endangered your employment with the World Wrestling Federation and are you afraid that you might lose your job over this?
Vader: Yes. I believe that my job is in jeopardy.
Paul: Do you feel that you were set up in any way by the Kuwaiti television people?
Vader: I don't believe that I was set up, but I believe that there was a lack of direction on their part. I mean, to direct me in that fashion and not tell their announcer is complete negligence on their part.
Paul: Do you feel that this event compares in any way to what happened between 20/20 Announcer John Stossel and David Schultz?
Vader: Not at all. If you watch the tape carefully, I simply touched the man. I grabbed his tie, yanked it and he was not harmed in any way, shape or form. Mr. Schultz slapped that guy [Stossel] as hard as he could and ruptured his eardrum, and it wasn't a planned situation. I believe that Mr. Al-Othman is holding me responsible for the actions of his director and producer.
Paul: John Stossel, knowing that the World Wrestling Federation is a powerful company with a lot of money, might have taken advantage of the situation. Do you feel that this is the same thing, that Mr. Al-Othman is just looking to make "a quick buck"?
Vader: Certainly detaining me was playing into his hands. It went from $25,000 to over $400,000 over night, and he was very adamant about me not leaving the country because the longer I stayed there, it put more pressure on me for a settlement. He's not getting one dime from me or from the World Wrestling Federation. Again, this is nothing more than a case of extortion.
Paul: Do you feel that once you sit down with Mr. McMahon [Vince McMahon, CEO of Titan Sports, parent company of the World Wrestling Federation], you might be able to sort this thing out and there won't be any problem with your employment?
Vader: I have high hopes, but I have not had that opportunity.
Paul: What was your family's reaction when they found out that you were being detained?
Vader: They were extremely concerned and upset. I still haven't been home yet.
Paul: Were you frightened at all?
Vader: I was extremely concerned, especially when I was getting death threats in a third world country after being stripped of my liberty and freedom. I'm not an unintelligent individual. I was doing what I was told to do. I apologize for my language but nothing more. Frankly, I'm starting to get bored with the whole thing.
Paul: Do you have a message for your fans who have been worried about you through this whole ordeal?
Vader: What they saw on Good Morning Kuwait is not dissimilar to what they see on Monday Night Raw. That's what I was there to do, to do a wrestling interview, to give the show ratings, and for us to put individuals in seats at the arena, nothing less than what I do every Monday night on Monday Night Raw. That was what it was and for that, I have suffered a lot. I'm sitting before you as a man who is taking full responsibility for his actions. There are some mitigating circumstances that I fell are very significant. But, to my fans, I hope they understand that when you ask me to be Vader, I'm Vader, and I get paid to do that, and I'm very proud of what I do.
Copyright © 1997 Paul Wein
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