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Vader is fantastic. I could probably end the blog right there but you'd perhaps feel a bit hard done by having clicked this far. Having been a fan before this project of guys like Brock Lesnar – it still came as a pleasant surprise once I started going back through Vader's run in WCW from mid-1993. While Vader had his time at the top in the company, and was a big drawing star in Japan, the frustration looking back is that Vader's legacy perhaps wasn't, or isn't, where it should be.
Vader, a bit like Lesnar, never really seemed to be cut from the same cloth. The top of the WCW tree in 1993 featured Ric Flair, Cactus Jack, Ravishing Rick Rude, Sid Vicious – all dramatic characters in one way or another. Vader stuck out because, much like Lesnar in 2015, he was believable. That's not to criticise the likes of Flair or Foley, who are both excellent in different ways, but you didn't need to suspend your disbelief with Vader.
Vader's feud with Jack in 1993 was a proper mixed bag. It would contain those awful mini-movies, WCW's efforts to create a different feel with their storylines lead to them creating highly expensive and utterly illogical 4-5 minute features as part of storylines. Vader caused Foley a real life head injury by powerbombing him onto the ringside area at a WCW Saturday Night taping. This caused Jack to lose his memory and a lot of other things that didn't bare explanation, Jack eventually came back and claimed the whole thing was a ruse. Thankfully, where the story fell down both Vader and Foley stepped up. Their Texas Death Match at Halloween Havoc 1993 was an exhibition in brutality for the time.
Vader next moved onto Sid Vicious. Well, he should have – but Sid threw it all away when he got into a fight in Blackburn, England with Arn Anderson. Vader would've lost to Sid (and as I outlandishly outline here – would go onto change the entire course of the industry... probably), but instead was put on a collision course with Ric Flair at Starrcade 1993. The pair took part in what we viewed as the best match of 1993, Vader would drop his World Title and Flair would go into 1994 as the World Champion.
1994 would be a frustrating year if you were a fan of Vader. While never quite there – the introduction of Hulk Hogan would pay to that – he would never be that far from the surface. He and Sting butted heads on regular occasions when the company couldn't find anything better to do with either man, and Vader would have one of the best matches of the year with, of all people, Ray Traylor (Big Boss Man) at Spring Stampede. But it was on the eve of 1995 where Vader would finally make his mark.
Having won the number one contendership at Fall Brawl, Vader would play second fiddle to the quite frankly ridiculous Hulk Hogan vs The Butcher (Brutus the Barber Beefcake) feud at Starrcade. Vader would be in the opener, but at least it was to claim the United States Title – one that while beneath him boosted his already water-tight claims at the number one contendership for Hogan's title (one he'd already earned three months earlier). After Hogan disposed of Butcher in the main event, Vader confronted him backstage in front of most of the babyface roster, Mean Gene Okerlund and commissioner Nick Bockwinkel.
Vader basically said he was sick of Hogan's shit – he had been the number one contender for three months and Hogan had spent his time swanning about with the Three Faces of Fear. It was a fantastic promo, and WCW were smart not to have Hogan say anything back. Vader was finally where he belonged, back in the big picture a top WCW. As for why it fell apart, we'll review that shortly, but it wasn't for the want of trying.