Before Kayfabe Commentaries blew up in 2007 with its innovative line of DVDs, it was initially known for its audio commentary tracks which featured wrestling legends recording their thoughts and memories from some of their career’s milestone matchups.
These commentaries were meant to be listened to while watching the matchups in question. The only problem with that is Vince McMahon won't give up the rights to any footage for independent DVDs, thus you’d need to find the match in question yourself, then play the tracks over it to get the full effect.
Always trying to figure out a way to deliver an innovative new product, the KC crew now offer up the new “Ringside” series, which enables you to go into the ring with the wrestling legends. The first participant in the series is the man they call Vader.
As mentioned off the top, McMahon enjoys the monopoly he has on the wrestling footage of the world and thus this DVD is not a "Best of Vader DVD," with alternate commentary. Instead we have a specialized shoot interview, where Vader sits down with host Sean Oliver and discusses the build, execution, and backstage happenings surrounding some of Vader’s biggest matchups.
The footage of these matches do play in the background, serving as a memory aid for Vader to recall and discuss certain aspects of the matchups. This fact may draw some criticism from those who are drawn to the title, with the idea of acquiring the classic footage; instead your acquiring a solid shoot interview.
The matchups in question spans a decade of Vader’s career, touching on his time in Japan, the AWA, WCW, and the WWF. We begin in 1986 in the AWA where Vader was known as Baby Bull, and was taking on Bruiser Brody. Vader discusses how he got into the business, his time working in the AWA, and how his time there played a major influence on his career. He also provides insight on what the AWA-WWF competition was like at the time.
Big Van Vader debuts in Japan next, and takes on Japanese legend Antonio Inoki in 1987. He discusses the origins of the Vader gimmick and the reactions of the Japanese fans.
Third match on the card is Big Van Vader against Hashimoto from 1989 in Tokyo, Japan, where he would capture the IWGP title in a tournament final. Vader discusses about the heat between he and Hashimoto at the time, and the stiff Japanese wrestling style he had to endure to win the tournament.
Fourth match pits Vader against Stan Hansen at the 1990 AJPW/NJPW Super Fight in the Tokyo Dome. Vader discusses how this match cost him more money than he made because of surgeries, including one to put his eyeball back in its socket! He also reveals how and why he got out of the WWF at the time to head back over to Japan for this match.
Fifth match is the clash between Vader and Sting from WCW’s Great American Bash in 1992. Vader discusses how he got into WCW , how well he worked with Sting, what it meant to win the WCW title, and also compares the US crowds to the Japanese crowds.
The sixth bout is a handicap affair, as Vader takes on Joe Thurman and TA Macoy on an episode of WCW worldwide in 1992. This is the match where Vader broke Thurman’s back while working away to stiff on the kid. Vader discusses the incident in-depth, expresses sorrow, and is informed by Oliver that not only is Thurman OK now, but is a police officer in Georgia.
Seventh match on the card is one of the most infamous matches of Vader’s career—the battle between he and Cactus Jack from Munich, Germany in 1994.
This match is known for being the match where Mick Foley lost his ear. Vader discusses this incident and also the effect the long drawn European tours had on the boys, including how it led to the fight between Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson (where Anderson ended up stabbed with a pair of scissors).
The eighth match is probably amongst the most widely seen matches of Vader’s career, that being his Summerslam 1996 matchup with Shawn Michaels. Vader discusses the creative differences and incidents that caused him to leave WCW, and how it led to him being brought into the WWF. He also offers insight into Shawn Michaels frame of mind at the time, as it is widely known that Michaels was quite full of himself at the time. Vader also discusses whether or not he was supposed to win the title that night and what would eventually lead to his departure from the WWF.
The match lineup rounds out with a 1994 shoot style fight between Vader and Nobuhiko Takada from Budokan Hall in Japan. Vader discusses how this match came about, as he was under contract to WCW at the time. He also gives insight into how much of this fight was a shoot and how much was a work, and much like many wrestlers nowadays, Vader discusses whether he could have been a successful MMA fighter.
Sean Oliver’s strength as a host has always been his visible interest in the questions he asks, and the research that was put into them, but the obvious question that I need to address—beyond the shoot interview—is the fact that they are watching, and at times referencing, a match that you can’t see overly distracting? The overall answer is no.
The more specific answer would be that for five to 10 seconds, when something specific is referenced you can't see, you may be left saying to yourself: "Man, I wish I could see the footage."
A prime example of this is when Vader performs a dropkick against Hashimoto, but luckily the flow of the interview is maintained well enough so that every time you start to think that, you also begin to forget it because you're listening to a new story from Vader.
Therefore, I’d recommend giving the title a spin and seeing for yourself if it’s your cup of tea. Chances are you’ll enjoy it, as almost everything put out by Kayfabe Commentaries nowadays is praised by wrestling fans across the board.
Ringside with Vader is now available on DVD from Kayfabe Commentaries. For more information or to order your own copy check out www.kayfabecommentaries.com, And to read all of my previous DVD reviews check out www.wrestlingdvdreviews.vze.com