Former WCW Champion Big Van Vader was recently interviewed by Hannibal TV to discuss the illustrious story behind his fight with Paul Orndorff. You can check out what he had to say below:
His backstage fight with Paul Orndorff in WCW:
“Paul has been making a living talking about this night. I understand Paul is sick, I understand he has throat cancer, is that right? It’s hard to say this but, I was there that night and Paul had a crippled right hand. His right hand was the same size as my wrist all the way up to his shoulder. That’s the hand he hit me with. 20 years ago he was saying this, and today he’s still saying this. He’s still doing interviews about it. One of the things he says is, ‘I got five extra years on my contract’ and kinda smiles. I need to speak out because I never have really.
“Eric Bischoff called me at 8 in the morning at the Marriott and said, ‘Leon, you have promised me pictures or a photoshoot for weeks, you have to do them today or you’re fired.’ I’m not kidding. So hey, you get up and you go. Four hour photoshoot, grueling and exhausting. You gotta go in your street clothes and put your hot stuff on, get all pumped up and put your uniform on, and start posing right? And if that photo doesn’t look good let’s do it again, that photo doesn’t look good, ‘let’s do it again,’ so it just became grueling. So I called Eric and said, ‘Please call over and tell someone I’m going to be late because I’m doing this.’ Of course he didn’t do it. I just did a four hour photo shoot, I had my bag and I went into the room to sit down, I just did that traffic from the Atlanta towers over to the CNN center. So you’re gonna sit down right? So I sit down, he comes in, and he says ‘You’re fu*king late, why are you late?’ I said ‘Paul, didn’t someone tell you? I’m f*cking doing this photo shoot. Didn’t Eric tell you?’ He said ‘No nobody told me a f*cking thing.’ And I said ‘Well that doesn’t give you a reason to f*cking mistreat me.’
“Then I said ‘If that’s not good enough for you then you can go f*ck yourself, because I’ve had it, because I’m not getting cussed out by you, you’re not my boss.’ And he thought he was. And I had been told specifically that during that period of time, Dusty Rhodes was my boss and Eric Bischoff, those two. Other than that, no one is above you. He turned around and walked out, and Terry Taylor comes in and gets me [and says], ‘Leon, regardless of where you were, we gotta do some interviews.’ I got my mask, took my shirt off, got my rubber hose so I could pump up, and I’m running to do the interviews. Paul steps in and blocks me from doing the interviews and called me everything in the book and threatened me, in my face. Face-to-face. So I slapped him. I thought that was a threat to my well being and my safety. You tell me you’re going to beat the hell out of me, then I’m going to defend myself. So I slapped him, feet came off the ground, his back hit the cement and his head just missed the steel tool box where we put the tools to put the ring together. I thought ‘My god if his head hit that, I’m done.’ No matter why I’m late, if his head hits that and he’s hurt I’m fired and will probably go to jail. I went over and put my hand on his chest and said, ‘Paul are you okay?’ And he was coming to because he hit the ground hard because I slapped the sh*t out of him. So Paul has a right arm about the size of this wrist, all the way up. He’s 200 pounds, he’s really in bad shape physically. He’s not the Paul Orndorff, 260, 270 pound guy, he’s 215.
“When he gets up, he gets up and I’m thinking, ‘If I fight him back and do what I think I should do to defend myself, I’ll get fired at the very least. Maybe I’ll hurt him.’ I thought I had slapped him initially so I wanted to get that back, so I let him hit me in the face. It was nothing, it was that weak right hand. He hit me a second time, a third time, I dragged him down with me. And Paul, some of the wrestlers helped Paul up, and he kicked me once or twice before he got up. I remember that I got up and grabbed him and we went into the coaches room fighting like a wrestling type fight. He had boots on, and I don’t know why that matters but I guess if you’re barefoot or have slippers on it’s harder to fight somebody. He’s an agent, he has his work boots on. The next day, [everyone is like] how ‘Paul had beat me up?’ What they’re seeing, those three hits to the face, it was like my twelve year old son hitting me in the face. My role was to be the bad guy who beat everyone up. So everyone that I wrestled, I spun right?”
Who broke up the fight:
“When I took him into the coach’s room, Meng came up behind me and said, ‘Leon that’s enough you’re gonna hurt him.’ At that point I didn’t want to mess with Meng, because that would have been a mistake. Not only was he fresh, I just kept on fighting, but no you don’t want to mess with Meng.”
If slapping Orndorff led to him being released from WCW:
“No, ultimately Eric Bischoff — and this was probably the second mistake I made because slapping Orndorff felt good but it was wrong. No way should I punch first, I should’ve said, ‘Go ahead and take your best shot’ and then I could’ve done anything I want with him. The second mistake was when Eric, he did send me home, but I heard I was going over on Hogan on the first Nitro which was coming up. I was in suspension, so they were going to bring me out of suspension. They were looking for something big. I had heard Eric was in my corner saying, ‘Leon is a hard worker’ he took that WCW belt for a year and never once had a bad match. So Eric says, ‘During this period of time off we want you to take a six month pay cut.’ And that’s a lot of money. I said ‘Eric, for this?’ I said, ‘I can’t see a six month’s pay cut, I mean that’s half your salary.’ Close to a $400,000 fine. How about 150? 200? And he wouldn’t come off that, so I told Eric if that was his decision then I was gonna go elsewhere.”
His response to Bruce Prichard’s claims that he didn’t make as much money as he says he did:
“Excuse me, how the f*ck would Bruce Prichard, a WWE official, know what I was making in WCW? Because the only two people that really know what I made was Eric, the WCW officials in suits, my agent, and me. Everything else was just Ric Flair, ‘come on Eric tell me’, so Eric shoots out a number to make Ric happy. Eric is under contract. He had signed a contract, that said confidentiality. We had a confidentiality clause, I didn’t want no one to know. I mean Flair, and I’m not trying to bad mouth Flair, but someone heard something and said something, so.”
Why he ultimately left WCW:
“The fine. I didn’t want to take the fine. They said you take the six month suspension and this fine, and you can come back. I said, ‘come back with my full contract?’ He said ‘Yeah, I’ll do that for you.’ Then there was the six months that wasn’t gonna be deducted, which was very fair on Eric’s part, but that didn’t stick in my mind even after just six months that things would’ve been — I would’ve been in great shape, lost some weight, got tan. Made a real run out of it.”
What finally made him make the big jump to WWE:
“I got a settlement, we settled out of my contract because it was substantial. I think I had six years left. If you multiply those six years with would I would’ve made, it was a bad mistake on my part. I don’t know, I think [it was] pride. Pride and business don’t work, so that was a big big mistake.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Hannibal TV with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Hannibal TV