Big Van Vader was a monster of a man with legendary status. His heavy fists might have broken plenty of bones and busted opponents open the hard way for years, but he also left a lasting impression outside the ring as well.
Jim Cornette called Vader by his real name, Leon White, and the two made plenty of towns as the Mastodon was a member of Camp Cornette. Although Vader is gone he will never be forgotten and Jim Cornette told a couple amazing stories about his friend Vader during a recent episode of The Jim Cornette Experience.
The first story Cornette told was an amazing illustration of how much the pro wrestling business meant to Vader. He came from a football background and started in the business a little later than most, but Vader loved everything about pro wrestling and fought to protect it no matter where he was.
"Leon and The Undertaker, a rare appearance on any kind of talk show for The Undertaker on a talk show but they were in Kuwait. It was a big tour, it was a sold tour for a lot of money," Jim Cornette said as he discussed how Vader once found himself detained overseas because he protected the pro wrestling business. "They were being interviewed on one of the morning news shows like 'Good Morning Kuwait' I think actually might have been the title of it or whatever the host just, actually said to the side some blatantly disrespectful stuff to the guys sitting there about how he thought that wrestling was all fake and a show. Whereas Undertaker kinda sat back and was cool he didn't say anything at first, Leon turned around and backhanded snatched that guy by his tie and his shirt and I'd had Leon snatch me when he was working and he'd yank all your chest hair out and it was stiff and the guy just s--t himself. Leon cut a little promo on him and let him go and kinda just pushed the little coffee table over and everything."
It should be noted The Undertaker answered the same question diplomatically as WWE Champion and didn't move at all during Vader's confrontation with the Kuwaiti interviewer. You can check out the video above and see the intensity for yourself, and while it might have made some pro wrestling purists proud the local authorities disagreed.
"They detained him," Cornette continued. "I guess some people would remember, some might not have been alive it was over twenty years but they detained him in Kuwait. After the tour was over all the guys left and were glad to get on the plane to come home and they kept Leon for a while deciding what to do. There was daily reports being called in. Vince called him 'our man in Kuwait.' You know he stuck up for the business I think more than I would've in Kuwait if I would've been there, but finally, they let him go. I can't remember if he paid a fine or whatever but they let him get back on the plane. You know that wasn't necessarily the venue to protect the business but he did it. I admired him for that."
Jim Cornette also told a rather humorous story about Vader being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Attitude Era was a time of all-out war on Monday nights and a grand pyrotechnic display was generally a part of the show. Although fans rarely see much pyro anymore unless it's a big event, it was a weekly occurrence on Raw as the show opened back in the day. Unfortunately for Vader, he found himself a little too close to the extravagant pyro display before Raw started one night.
"At the Raw tapings in the 90's during the Attitude Era, they started using all that pyro to open the show, right?" Cornette continued, "I guess Leon I guess didn't know exactly what time of night it was or the show was about to start but he walked under the stage where you could walk under the Raw stage and you could look out and see the crowd and the arena and the people. You could watch matches from under there, you know if you peeked through the curtain people couldn't see ya. So it was something people did every once in a while but not right at the start of the show because they're about to blow all the pyro off on top of the stage. He walked under the goddamn stage and nobody saw him or caught him and he was peeking out at the crowd and the building when suddenly they blew this s--t off right on top of him."
"All of a sudden several of the boys were sitting backstage and they see Leon come back out from under the stage and he's holding his head in both hands and he's swerving from left to right like in the cartoons, right? Like he couldn't figure out which was he's gonna fall down. He drops to his knees and he couldn't hear, people were screaming: 'Leon! You okay?!' Anyway, it was a famous moment there and poor Leon finally he could hear later on but god o mighty. I can't imagine -- it would've been like being shelled in the military."
If you use any portion of the quotes in this article please credit The Jim Cornette Experience with a H/T to Wrestling In for the transcription
Source: Jim Cornette Experience