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Friday, December 27, 2013

Today in Wrestling History - Big Van Vader Debuts in Japan

December 27th 1987
Big Van Vader debuts in New Japan 

One of the most memorable debuts in the history of wrestling takes place at New Japan's "Inoki Toukon Live III" event at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. Riki Choshu & Masa Saito defeated Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura in one of the feature matches of the evening. Following the bout, Antonio Inoki defeated Choshu in an anti-climactic main event, winning via disqualification in six minutes. Big Van Vader then entered Sumo Hall and obliterated Inoki, knocking him out and pinning the Japanese legend with a powerslam in a match that didn't even last three minutes. The crowd rioted, resulting in New Japan being banned from running events at Sumo Hall for over a year. Vader immediately skyrocketed to the top of New Japan, as it had been years since Inoki had lost a match via clean pinfall.

The man behind the Vader mask, Leon White, had previously wrestled as "Baby Bull" Leon White in the AWA, and as Bull Power in Germany. He was actually scheduled to debut for All Japan Pro Wrestling, but New Japan worked out a deal with their promotional rival to sign him away for the Big Van Vader gimmick. Interesting to note, the first two choices New Japan had for the Vader gimmick were Sid Vicious and The Ultimate Warrior. Vader's debut in Sumo Hall is one of the most memorable, and controversial, events in New Japan history. 

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