50. Big Van Vader (c) vs Stan Hansen (IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match, NJPW Super Fight, 10/2/1990)

Vader held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship three times over the course of his career in NJPW. And his first reign lasted over a year! But perhaps no defence of his World title is more renowned than this one, against Stan Hanson. I’ve seen plenty of wrestlers injured during a match, but the injury Vader suffers during this match has to be one of the most grotesque ever suffered by a wrestler. While the injury gets all the attention, the two still manage to have an entertaining match.

Hansen was infamous for his in-ring style. Stiff as a brick wall, careless at times, he was a brawler at heart. Compare one of his punches to a John Cena punch; Hansen’s looked (and probably felt) real. Of course, he fit in perfectly to the Japanese world of wrestling. Put him in the ring with Vader and you get two men beating the stuffing out of each other. And that’s all you want sometimes, isn’t it?

And this match looks to be a hard-hitting brawl, a standard violent match between the two heavyeweights. Even before the bell had rung, Hansen broke Vader’s nose by swinging around his cowbell! Everything proceeds as normal, with the two battering each other, until Vader goes for an armbar five minutes into the bout, uncharacteristically. He then pulls his mask off, and appear ls to pop his eye back in to his socket.

Yes, somehow Stan Hansen had managed to gouge Vader’s right eye out. Did Vader ask the referee to stop the bout? No’ he pushed his eye back into the socket, closed his eyelids tightly and continued for another ten minutes!!! The action understandably slows down for a period, as the two wrestlers figure out what they are going to do next…but they soon start throwing vicious punches and lariats at each other! They brawl inside and out of the ring, causing absolute chaos.

How did Vader continue the match with the possibility that his eye could fall out? It boggles the mind! I mean, I’ve gone into work sick before, but this is a whole other level! It is courageous, it is brave…but I think it overshadows the bout. All I focused on is Vader’s swollen eye, and wondered if it would pop out again. The bout becomes a little disjointed, as Vader is trying to find his feet (maybe literally?), fighting with one eye.

The lazy double countout doesn’t help matters either. This was a joint show between NJPW and AJPW, with Hansen from AJPW, so it was unlikely that the title would change hands. But a double countout? Boring! Without the eye incident, I doubt this match would be memorable. An enjoyable brawl, but I came out more impressed with Vader’s bravery than anything else!

Hammy’s Rating: *** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

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