We return with another ‘Missed Wrestling Opportunities‘. Previous pieces have looked at various superstars that promotions have dropped the ball with. However, today’s wonders what could have been had the WWE gone with a proper feud between Vader and Yokozuna.
When I came up with the idea of ‘Missed Wrestling Opportunities’ I really didn’t expect to write about Vader, one of my favourite big men ever, as often but there we are.
For the majority of 1993 the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship were held, respectively, by Big Van Vader and Yokozuna. It is not a massive jump in logic to suggest that for some wrestling fans, the idea of the two facing each other in 1993 or 1994 would have been considered a dream match.
Certainly, had their been a join WWE/WCW card at this point then the likelihood of the two facing would have been great and the chances of it being high up the card being pretty much odds on.
However, by the time Vader joined the company in 1996 the landscape had changed. Gone from being a main eventer, Yokozuna was relegated to a largely mid-card role in tag teams due to his massively increased weight. To this day there are suggestions he wanted to be the heaviest wrestler in the world. He certainly made a good attempt at it.
By the start of 1996, Yoko weighed an incredible 660 pounds which limited his movement in the ring even further. Although still a heel under Jim Cornette, tension was teased with Cornette’s latest acquisition: Vader.
Yokozuna left eventually left Camp Cornette, returned to Mr. Fuji and began a short stint as a babyface. He spoke English to the fans, had Fuji wave an American flag and challenged Vader. It was during this run that he was part of the WrestleMania XII six-man tag where he teamed with Ahmed Johnson and Jake Roberts to take on Vader, Owen Hart and British Bulldog.
A few weeks after WrestleMania in a match on Raw, Vader jumped on Yoko’s leg storyline breaking it. In reality it was to give him time to lose weight. He returned for ‘In Your House 8: Beware of Dog’ to wrestle Vader. During the event, a severe thunderstorm in the area caused the pay-per-view broadcast feed to black out. In one of the matches not broadcast, Yokozuna defeated Vader.
The event was rescheduled to take place again two days later, in which the matches that were previously blacked-out were shown. In what was essentially their rematch, Vader defeated Yokozuna. Yoko made his final WWF appearance at the 1996 Survivor Series, still going after Vader, however he only briefly entered the match illegally and it ended with all remaining wrestlers being disqualified.
Afterwards, Yoko was sent home again to lose weight. Although reportedly dropping 100 pounds, it wasn’t enough to satisfy even WWE officials and he wasn’t medically cleared to wrestle in some states.
After running out his contract, he reappeared on the independent circuit in 1999 weighing upwards of 750 pounds as he strived to reach a target of some 800 pounds. At the time of his death on October 23, 2000, he weighed 580.
Ultimately this match could have huge, no pun intended. In 1993/4 both were at the top of their game and Yoko had good enough movement to have allowed the pair to have a solid enough feud over the course of a series of matches. Fast forward a few years, however, and his weight issues were out of control and he didn’t have the ability to really work a one-on-one programme.
There was very little in their 1996 matches to suggest that a prolonged programme would have benefited either man or the WWE. But two years earlier… It certainly would have been a programme quite unlike anything else on WWF TV at that time. Oh what could have been…
Got a different opinion? Share your thoughts below.
You can read all previous ‘Missed Wrestling Opportunities here.