I really enjoyed writing about how great the Sgt. Slaughter/Hulk Hogan feud was in this column and people have been requesting more of these types of updates as opposed to the Random ‘Restling Reviewer Videos, so let’s do another one.

Shawn Michaels vs. Big Van Vader (Summerslam 1996)

I love Vader. I have always loved Vader. I loved Vader before I saw him wrestle a single match, watched any of his work in WCW and even before I  knew his first name was ‘Big Van’. To me, Vader was the ultimate Big Man. The Big Man that all other Big Men will be judged against from now until the sun goes cold.

Which is why Summerslam 1996 breaks my heart every time I watch it.


Bit of back-story first. As a child I always booed the bad guys and cheered the good guys when watching wrestling, but would start to root for the villains when watching formulaic shows like Power Rangers. I bring up Power Rangers as even as a stupid kid (and I was a really stupid kid) I knew Rita’s hand wouldn’t be raised at the end of the episode. However, as I was watching one episode and thinking I knew how it would end and being full of self-loathing being hooked on a show I was beginning to like less and less (nothing’s changed) …Lord Zedd showed up.

Not only did Lord Zedd look like the coolest thing imaginable to a child of the nineties but in his very first episode he destroyed the Power Rangers’s Droids. After dozens of episodes of getting thrashed by the Rangers on a weekly basis, it seemed impossible to visualise Rita managing to inflict pain on even The Blue Ranger at this point. Lord Zedd knew what I wanted to see…something interesting and non-formulaic and something that hurt the dull, dull, dull and painfully American Power Rangers. Lord Zedd gave me hope that the bad guys could not only win sometimes, but win BRILLIANTLY.

Back to wrestling: I watched 1993-1998 wrestling via the reliable Silver Vision VHS releases my friends owned. I didn’t have a guide to continuity so I simply watched them in order of most interesting cover. Look at the one for Summerslam 1996 and tell me you don’t want to watch it.

The show marked the first time that I can recall watching wrestling and wanting the heel to win. As a boy, I did not give a damn about Shawn Michaels. Come on now. He’d get cheered by women, dress like a stripper fireman and WWF would run montages for him like this:

Bret Hart was the man because he did what was right and beat up pirates when they stole his jacket. Sgt. Slaughter was the man because he stood up for his beliefs despite adversary and he made Hogan bleed. Shawn Michaels came out to music that sung about how great he was and looked like a walking, talking version of Starlight Express. He was That Guy At School Was Good At Football And Got All The Girls Despite Being Thick As Fuck. If I cheered him, I was scared Bret Hart would stop mid-match, look at me, shake his head and quit wrestling forever.

So Shawn Michaels vs. Vader, with the World Title on the line. Storyline wise, Vader pinned HBK during the multi-man main event at In Your House: International Incident to earn his title shot. Vader had been on a tear up until that point and Michaels had been playing the Boyhood Dream card ever since he pinned Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XII. My boyhood dream was to work on Red Dwarf which was another reason to hate HBK.

Cheering for Vader  in many ways was like cheering for Lord Zedd. He represented evil things and supporting him felt brilliantly wrong to a child raised strongly Christian. Sadly, whereas Lord Zedd would succeed against his enemy, Vader would not.

The Match…

Every single time I watch this match, I hope that Vader is going to win. It has become the wrestling version of watching The Great Escape and hoping that this will be the year they all make it out.

Vader looked like a wrestler and wrestled like a wrestler, as opposed to a member of Take That. He spent twenty minutes beating Shawn Michaels up in every conceivable way…powerbomb in the ring, powerbomb on the outside and punches that gave Michaels’ flashbacks to Syracuse. Any time Michaels had any offence, it looked unbelievable to me (in a not-very believable way). How could Shawn’s Axe Handle Smashes knock Vader down? Even Rita looked like she could take out Shawn Michaels at this point.

The ending is what makes it. Way before the multi-restart ending was perfected with Steve Austin and Dude Love and rehashed for the next ten years, this match shocked me every time it stopped and started.  Vader kills Michaels on the outside and HBK is unable to make the count back in. YES, VADER WINS! Ah, no World Title change via Count Out so Jim Cornette (Vader’s manager at the time) dares Michaels to restart the match. He does. YES, STUPID MICHAELS! Michaels ends up grabbing Cornette’s tennis racket and using it on Vader, thus getting himself disqualified. YES, VADER WINS! Ah, no World Title change via Disqualification. Cornette dares Michaels to restart the match a second time. He does. THIS IS THE BEST MATCH EVER! I GET TO SEE VADER WIN THE TITLE AND BEAT MICHAELS THREE TIMES IN ONE TAPE!

Michaels hits the Sweet Chin Music and Vader kicks out. YES! Vader powerbombs Michaels for two because the referee is out of place for the pin-fall. NO! Vader sets up for the Vader Bomb but changes his mind and decides to make Twink Pancake with the Vadersault instead.

Vader misses and Michaels somehow gives him a crappy moonsault for three.

The WWF clearly wanted this match to show the plucky underdog over-coming the odds and defeating the Last Boss and thus make us all love Michaels more, but all it did to me was make me lose faith in Vader forever. This would sadly be the highest he would get to in WWF in my eyes. Sure he looked great at Final Four, but did he win? No.


Even more soul-destroying was the fact that Vader WAS supposed to win the title here, but because it was the HBK of 1996 the result was changed in his favour.

WWF would later do the exact same storyline with Sycho Sid at Survivor Series the same year. Madison Square Garden was filled with thousands of males who had clearly all watched Summerslam and proceeded to side with Sid, a moment made even sweeter when Sid gave Jose Lothario a heart attack, powerbombed Michaels and pinned him for the belt. Apology accepted, Vince.

Vader would still be awesome, but never to the same extent I had envisioned him in. Watching more of his matches, the end always seem to came for Vader whenever he went for that bloody moonsault. He even lost the match where he debuted the frigging thing.

Lord Zedd would later end up in a caravan with Rita.

  • Uncle Cletus

    I think Vader’s career began its downward spiral when he dropped the “Big Van” part of his name. And that fucking terrifying mask

  • *Spoiler Alert*

    Zedd ultimately becomes a human when Zordon dies.

  • mrchopper

    I share the man-love for Vader. He was the reason I refused to believe my dad that wrestling was fake. I think I won that one.

  • Bigbabychalmer

    vader is and always will be irrevocably “the man”. 

  • Mr. McMahon

    Awesome article, Big Van Maffew.

  • taranaich

    Vader, like fellow Master of the Powerbomb Mike Awesome, was always one of those guys who should have been huge: tremendously strong, fast, agile, and can work great matches with a variety of opponents, only to be thwarted by backstage politics and their own decisions. A shame, but we still have some great bouts.

  • BigMikeyStyle

    you need to do a lot more of these Maffew, especially in place of the contributing writers reviews of stuff I probably wouldn’t watch anway.

    As far as Vader goes, yeah he got kinda fucked over here, which seemed to happen to a lot of people from 95-97 thanks to backstage politics involving HBK.  Vader definitely should’ve won here and could’ve been the monster Vince was looking for, especially given how good he looked after putting Yokozuna out of action.  He was big but not to the point where he only had six moves (see: Yokozuna, Mabel).  But when it comes to the “big men” wrestlers, I always thought Bam Bam was the best.  The fact that he kept moving from promotion to promotion is what prevented him from having a major run anywhere, but he was just as strong and mean as Vader, but he managed to (legitimately) hurt far less people than Vader did.

  • DynamiteEdge

    i mainly remember watching it live the PPV on Sky and Bearer turning on Taker.

    it would of been good to see Vader get the push rather than Sid,

    HBK might of won the match but he didnt end up being a guest star on boy meets world.

  • Jeremy

    Man, 16 years later & like you, Maffew, I keep expecting Vader to win this one. He should have won. If Vince wanted the fans to rally behind Shawn, what better way than to get revenge on Vader – who would be insulting every fan & destroying every wrestler on the roster.

    Hearing & reading about everything that Shawn & the Kliq got away with in the WWF really makes me wonder if those rumours of Shawn giving Vince a different kind of “Sweet Chin Music” are true…

  • Samuel Pooley

    lol i once wrote maffew one of these when he wanted contributers, said it was good and whatever, only for him to go to america for 2 months and forget all about it. the match i picked was savage v. hogan at havoc 96.

    anyway, lol article, poor vader

  • @Stubram2

    I always loved HBK as a boy, largely because before that I had loved the Rockers and because watching the ladder matches with Razor was almost too much for my infant mind to handle. Sure I hated Shawn when he turned on Marty but then he came good again and all was forgiven (I too always cheered the good guys)
    It wasn’t until years later when I “got smart” some that I learned of Shawn’s shortcomings (both as a whitemeat babyface champion in the 90s and as a human being). As for the Sycho Sid match at MSG, as a child I was heartbroken that my hero had lost the title. Looking back now my favourite part is Sid fist bumping fans at ringside while a man he assaulted is ostensibly dying on the floor nearby

    • I hadn’t seen the Ladder Match at that point. If I had, I probably would have respected him a lot more. The closest I got to liking HBK as a kid was singing his theme song and laughing at how bad it was.

      • @Stubram2

        Hilariously embarassing as this is Shawn Michaels’ theme song was the first song I ever learned all the words to. I used to complete WWF In Your House on PS1 over and over just to hear it hahaha

  • RealDoubleJ

    LOVE the Power; Rangers analogy! As a child of the 90’s that best reflects my mental state when watching a lot of kids shows root for the villains (who always had better character design) even though we knew how it was all going to end.

    To make my own analogy, I too was crushed by Vader’s defeat by a prettyboy upstart. It was akin to the final episode of Skeleton Warriors when Baron Dark finally gets his hands on both crystal halves to become an UBER-God only to be thrown into a lava pit by namby pamby LightStar. There was no Psycho Sid to even that up 🙁

    • You and me think the same. It’s why I loved Conan The Adventurer so much. It built up the hero as much as the villain and you watched every week to see if THIS was the week Conan would kill the bastard and restore his parents. 

      Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog suffered from Vader syndrome too, as Robotnik was a thousand times more entertaining than the irritating Sonic. One episode arc saw Robotnik travel back in time and gain possession of the Chaos Emeralds to became All Powerful God Robotnik. It took longer to make a cup of tea than it did for Sonic to  thrash him. I was glad the next version of the Sonic cartoon started with Robotnik having already ‘won’. 

  • kettlemutilation

    Maffew, apparently theyre stilll working on that Red Dwarf film…


  • Codster

    And who could forget his work on ”Boy Meets World”.

  • Jeff

    Wearing my Red Power Ranger t-shirt while I read this. Complete coincidence.  Agree completely with your article too.  There was not a heel better than Vader or more believable, but after this match, he was never the same.

  • derek

    Discussion of Shawn/Vader with no mention of that major fuck-up with the elbow drop?  Shame…

    • Vader’s manliness scared HBK mid-dive, so he stopped and reconsidered. 

    • TotalMark

      It always cracks me up how WWE includes this match on multiple DVDs but magically edits out that moment…

  • Teddylong12

    Always love Vince commentating. U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E!!!!!

    • Guest


  • eugenesteamboat

    Excellent Post. Been waiting for one of these for weeks!! Sooo happy. And now I get to go back an watch CZW 2007!?!?!?! Best Sunday ever!

  • TotalMark

    It truly speaks to Shawn Michaels egomania (brother) that he didn’t see the money in losing to Vader and building up the subsequent quest to RECAPTURE THE BOYHOOD DREAM. Vader is one of the biggest dropped balls in wrestling history. How could you not build around a guy who looked like he was legitimately hurting people when he wrestled them?

  • RMan413

    His appearance on Boy Meets World didn’t do wonders for his cred

  • As far as I’m concerned it was Hogan that truly ended Vader’s career after no selling his power bomb not unlike how Ultimate Warrior no-sold the pedigree.  Shawn just helped putting the nails in the coffin

  • Dirtbag

    The moral of the story – never pull hard on a man’s long hair, especially if that man is HBK.

  • Late I know but… Just watched this match after WrestleMania 33…. Anyways…

    Huge HBK mark here. Here is the thing. In hindsight Vader was an awesome wrestler, not just for his size, but for anyone. Back then I hated anyone that was attacking HBK. Obviously. I was a kid….

    All that said. And watching this again like 20 years later. This was an awesome epic match. Your problem is (with respect) – You didn’t get the result that you wanted.

    You don’t just take the title away from the guy who has every arena freaking out over him. That’s not just not fair. It would be very stupid for business. You are clearly smart. If you stop to think about it, you clearly realize this.

    It’s like that Randy Orton match at Mania 33. The writers were on a role on night. But they botched the “mind games” aspect with the lights and the ring maggots and whatever. Orton and Wyatt tried their very best to from a technical match aspect recover, and every time they did the damn gimmick would kick on, and the crowd that was ignited ALL night just went silent – AGAIN. So back to technical… Recover (kinda) the crowd – And BAM – The FUCKING GIMMICK!!!!! So finally the guys in the ring – The ref – Orton – Wyatt…. I swear…. They said “enough is enough” – We have to kill this match before the writers/producers kill our damn careers in one stupid botched script. WTF happend when everyone else that night seemed near perfect, I don’t know if I will ever understand, but… I swear… I feel that match wasn’t supposed to end there – But if it had continued – BAM! The gimmick would have kicked on again. Clearly this wasn’t sabotage at first, but as it kept going, it sure felt like it. For who? I have no idea. Perhaps some idiot producer knew he was already before this match going to get fired on Monday. I have no damn idea….

    Anyways… That long rant finally over, and back to 96. The point is this – Sometimes you HAVE to give the fans want they want. Even if as a company you don’t want to go in that direction. The alternative? Over one petty match, or even career turn… You lose $10s of millions of potential money. For what? The WWF/E being stubborn with the arena fans? No. You can’t do that as a company. They would have bankrupt themselves in 96 doing that.

    Back to Mania 33. Now the WWE can kinda give the middle finger to the fans because there is no WCW, and what? TNA? Come off that right now. And they DID! (or someone did – Vince should have killed it from the back after the second time!). And for what? To potentially hurt the careers of Orton and/or Wyatt? It’s freaking nuts! To flick off the fans? Come off it WWE.

    Anyways. I see a lot of parallels between that match yesterday and the 96 HBK/Vader match. But they had to go with the fans, because… WCW… Yesterday they didn’t. Cause… They are all of a sudden LOADED on the roster again. It feels like 97′ in 17′, 20 years later, and I say that in the very best way possible for both decades.

    Look. I’m not trying to attack you (really). The article was so stupid amusing in the best way possible. I’m going to come back and look for more stuff from you in the future. But…. Clearly we don’t agree. At least with how this 96 match went down.

    Hopefully you see this 5 years later 🙂