Best: It Is Motherf**king Vader Time
In celebration of one of my very favorite wrestlers of all time showing up at age 57 to murder dudes with extremely fat prejudice, here are 5 random moments from Vader’s career that have stuck with me.
1. Vader’s WCW Debut:
When I was a kid, my parents loved wrestling so we’d order every (or most) NWA/WCW pay-per-views and tape them onto VHS. I burned out my VHS of The Great American Bash 1990 watching Vader’s debut, where this guy in a f**king steaming elephant helmet comes out of some terrifying part of my nightmares and royally f**ks up the Z-Man. The match is maybe 2 minutes long and has been in my top 10 sentimental favorites for decades. Vader made more of an immediately impression on me than any other wrestler I can name. Additionally, Tom Zenk blows.
2. The time I wedged my way into the front row at a show and tried to high five him. He wasn’t giving out high fives, so I slapped him on the boob. He smelled like peppermint.
3. That time he deadlift-German’d Anotnio Inoki to death. To literal death.
4. The time Stan Hansen hit him so hard his eyeball popped out.
5. The time he got emasculated by Mr. Feeney.
Best: From Now On, I’m Only Standing Up Like Vader
Oh man, how much did I love Vader trying to walk up steps or stand up? I guess when you’re 60 and weigh 400 pounds you can’t do things as nimbly as you could before, but Vader’s standing technique of “sprawl out on the floor, planet your feet, use your hands to push yourself up to standing” was hilarious. He practically had to lie down on the steps to climb them.
I’m so happy to see Vader again. This was a proper Vader tribute match, not like that weird time when Jonathan Coachman brought him back with Goldust to beat up Batista and Vader was too fat to leave the ring without falling over. WWE Vader has always been really sad, so I’m happy to see him treated with respect and gravitas. I’m also happy that Slater got to fight him a little, and wasn’t made to look like a total putz. The Vader Bomb looked extra great, but I would’ve loved to see The One Man
Rock Band eat a powerbomb. Or at least have them call it a Big Van Crush.
I love you, Vader. Even if you wouldn’t take a picture with me.
Worst: In A Better World, AJ Would Get To Look Like A Wrestler Here
The Women’s Liberation Movement going down in independent wrestling these days has spoiled me, so it’s with the knowledge of that spoilage I say I didn’t like AJ being treated like a total non-factor in the match (a “glorified handicap match”, to which she nods) where she’d get hurt like a helpless little girl if she got in the ring. More and more local promotions are realizing that “women’s wrestling” shouldn’t exist, but that women should WRESTLE, and wrestling should be the thing. Sara Del Rey gets high-profile singles wins against men in CHIKARA, Portia Perez wins Anarchy Championship Wrestling’s Heavyweight Championship, Mia Yim is winning TLC matches against guys in CZW and so on. It’s not a regional thing stuck in one promoter’s mind. It’s happening. And I mean yeah, if AJ wrestled Kane he could probably kill her with a boot, but in a company where Rey Mysterio can win the WWE AND World Heavyweight Championships, it’s not ridiculous to think AJ couldn’t get a legit move or two in on Daniel Bryan.
So hey, I know it’s WWE and I know how WWE works. I know AJ would get snapped in half by either of those guys. But stuff like this makes Beth Phoenix in the Royal Rumble a novelty statistic, and turns WWE’s female employees from wrestlers to wrestler’s girlfriend when they become a person of note.
Best: AJ, The Most Complex Character In WWE (For Better Or Worse)
AJ was the star of this match, no doubt about it. The match was f**king terrible, but it was fun enough to watch, and AJ proved she belongs in that spot. As I mentioned before, good or bad, AJ is the most developed and fleshed-out female character in recent WWE history, where the Divas are either a bitch or a well-meaning spunky type who cries when they win the Divas Championship. AJ’s got an entirely different thing going on … she’s playing wrestlers against each other, playing herself against expectations, changing the approach, working the angles. She’s given us a legitimate reason to think she’ll go in any of three directions at No Way Out, and as obvious as it is that she’s trying to earn Daniel Bryan’s forgiveness, it’s still a more outlined plan than “Big Show gets fired, nobody on WWE roster can interfere in match between John Cena and guy who fired Big Show”.
One of the only disappointing aspects of it is that she isn’t this character in the Diva’s Division, which desperately needs it. If WWE put a little effort into giving people like Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, Natalya, Maxine and Kaitlyn characters more thorough than Good or Bad they could very easily and very quickly have an interesting thing going on, whether the wrestling was good or not. The other Divas would benefit by being given a purpose and earning the fandom of different kinds of people who might not be into them as titty models, and AJ would benefit by getting to be an awesome mentally unstable character without having “mentally unstable” be synonymous with “woman”. Not a crazy chick, but a chick who is crazy. That’s so tiny, but so important.
She’s doing a hell of a job with it. Even the coldest heart had to be warmed when she started skipping. Then immediately frozen when the announcers couldn’t summon a spirit younger than 40 to call it.
Worst: Tell Me Daniel Bryan Didn’t Just Get Pinned By That Sh*tty Elbow
The most offensive thing that happened on Raw without a goddamn doubt was Daniel Bryan, WWE title contender, getting pinned by the worst looking transitional move in wrestling. I want to know what part of a man jumping on you awkwardly with his armpit caused you to be knocked out cold.
Punk, I’m begging you, learn how to drop an elbow. The “Best In The World” should be brave enough to land hip-first without bailing. Seriously, I will forgive an entire year of you derisively calling Mexicans “amigo” and never speak an ill word if you drop one decent elbow. One. Ever.