Big Van “The Man They Call” Vader was one of the best monster heels in WCW and the WWF. A behemoth with a true smash mouth style, killer look, and excellent big man ability, he looked to be unstoppable. I remember his awesome encounters with the likes of Sting and Ric Flair and like many, thought there was absolutely no doubt Vader would rule the business for years to come.
One trip to the shark infested political waters of the WWF, combined with rapid weight gain, and Vader was slumming in the prelims.
But not before he got a guest stint on Boy Meets World.
Yes, Boy Meets World, the wacky sitcom as part of ABC’s TGIF comedy extravaganza in the mid 90’s.
You wouldn’t think that Vader would be a guy sitcom producers would flock to for a guest appearance. A big, grunting, ferocious man of little words he was, after all. One can only surmise that perhaps they saw him in the starring roles in two-thirds of the unholy trilogy of WCW celluloid epics (those being the White Castle of Fear and Beach Blast, with the legendary Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal being the one he wasn’t in) and thought, “If he can do this crap with a straight face, he’s Laurence Olivier…Laurence Olivier in a singlet!”
Think we’re exaggerating?
Well, then explain how he was on the show, no joke, THREE TIMES!
The first time in a cameo as himself and the dad of one of the bully students that intimidates Cory into a wrestling match before the always wise Mr. Feeney steps in and threatens to tell everyone that Vader’s real name is….*whisper* Leslie.
Come now, “Leslie” ain’t that bad.
Now if it was “Ed Leslie”…
(Note from RD: You know, a bow tie would have reall accentuated Vader’s smoking skull helmet thingy.)
And so we get Cory irresponsibly using wrestling moves on the fellow classmate.
Of course, that could never happen today. No, we’d get 5 different “Don’t Try This At Home” PSA’s and then an inadvertent shot to the balls, all sequenced to a laugh track.
But back in the mid 90’s, when kids weren’t completely stupid and parents not obsessively litigious, you could do such things.
I weep inside for the more innocent world we once lived in.
By the way, that episode gave us something I always wanted to see. Robert Goulet and Vader sharing space inside a wrestling ring. How cool is THAT?!
(Note from RD: Would have been cooler if they did a duet of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”. Just sayin’.)
The second episode with Vader was a shorter cameo where Cory and Shawn befriend his son Frankie Jr out of fear but learn that despite being a big intimidating mountain of a boy, Frankie Jr is a sensitive soul and Vader busting into Cory’s kitchen like the Kool Aid Man (sadly without bellowing “OH YEAH!”) and cutting a promo is perfectly acceptable behavior in this TV show’s universe.
I should note this is perfectly acceptable as this is the same network that had Urkel traveling through time and cloning himself.
The main episode we’ll be looking at today is the 3rd and final episode with Vader in a bigger role as himself (see, he’s getting the hang of this). His son Frankie Jr. reveals himself to be a poetry enthusiast, which doesn’t meet with the approval of his wrestler dad and little brother.
I take issue with this, as Lanny Poffo is one of the best wrestler/poets this world has ever seen!
(Note from RD: Pick up your copy ofLimericks from the Heart…And Lungs! today!!)
Vader thinks that Cory is a bad influence on his son with the poetry and threatens to “crush him like garlic and put him in his spaghetti”.
Alright, Vader delivering that line made me smile.
But Cory wins him over by revealing he’s a wrestling fan and saw him powerbomb Sycho Sid in the Philly Spectrum. Yes, this show takes place in Philly, and not a single ECW reference to be found.
A TV show universe without ECW?!
Frankie Jr. asks for Cory’s help in winning the love of his dad by having Cory tell him wrestling business lingo and tips, such as telling his dad he’s putting the Vaderbomb on his opponent “too slowly”.
Hold on, when did CORY become a wrestling strategist? I’ll bet he’s a member of the IWC. Probably hangs out on theF4W BOARD, trolling people about how this week’s Impact is a better show than any 1997 Nitro.
Nevertheless, Vader appreciates his son’s advice and begins to approve of him and helps establish the bond between father and son.
It works so well that Frankie Jr. asks Cory and Shawn to accompany him to Vader’s WWF match against Jake the Snake at the Spectrum so he could be in his dad’s corner and advise him with the strategy Cory gives him.
Cory already agreed to attend his girlfriend Topanga’s Sweet 16 Birthday Party.
Cory’s a wrestling fan, what the hell is he doing with a girlfriend?
And f or the record, I don’t understand why 16 is such a special age for girls. I can’t remember anything that happened when I was 16 other than being bored in high school and watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Saturday mornings.
Anyways, he agrees to be in both places at the same time, which leads to the always fresh sitcom cliche of running back and forth to be in both places until it blows up in the person’s face and all is revealed and forgiven in the end, A-HA-HA-HA!!
It’s the day of the match and Brother Love (?????!!!) is the ring announcer/match commentator and says if Vader wins, he gets a title shot against Shawn Michaels.
Oh boy, I don’t see that going well…
Vader and Jake have a match that plods along as Cory and Shawn decide to run across the city to let Topanga know they made it to her party…
…but then rush out just as quickly. Lucky for Cory and Shawn, Vader and Jake are still wrestling when they get back. I know I’m breaking kayfabe and ruining the story but in 1996 I don’t see Jake lasting more than 10 minutes in the ring at best before the fans begin to rebel, file out and demand refunds.
Vader isn’t doing too well and Brother Love says that “their advice has not been paying off”. I don’t think Brother Love is paying attention because I haven’t seen Cory, Shawn or Frankie Jr. advise Vader in any way that a manager/adviser at ringside usually does.
Maybe they’re out looking to get a cane.
Or a megaphone.
Or a cell phone.
Or a tennis racket.
I really miss managers with absurdly blatant foreign objects at their disposal.
Wait, there they are!
Cory tells Frankie Jr to tell his dad to counter Jake’s DDT or else he’s done.
Sage wisdom there.
Aaaaaaannnndddd….they run out again.
These guys are pretty lousy managers.
Cory returns to the party but forgot to take off his Vader mask. Chuckle, chortle, guffaw. Topanga doesn’t seem to be suspicious about any of those and when she goes to ask the deejay to play their special song to dance to, Cory and Shawn see the match on the television at the party and are out the door again as Topanga is left there alone and disappointed.
Disappointment: get used to it, Toots.
Aaaaaaaaaannnnnnnddddddd back again. Geez, is this a Vader-Jake the Snake 60 minute Iron Man Match?
Vader appears to be losing the match but his son’s encouraging words of love for his dad whether he wins or loses inspires him to get his second wind and Vaderbomb Jake for the 3 count and title shot against Shawn Michaels.
Hope Shawn doesn’t throw a hissy fit when you forget to roll out of the way of his elbow drop this time, Leon!
Topanga is angry at first but then realizes Cory helped Vader bond with his son so she forgives him.
The episode comes to a close as they safely dance (Safely Dance, not Safety Dance) in the middle of the WWF ring once they know Jerry Lawler is nowhere near the building.
And we leave you with this image:
If there’s ever been an image on this site that begs to be modified into a motivational poster, it would be that one.