Stan Hansen vs. Leon White (4/8/86)
The first thing you’ll notice, if you’ve ever seen a Vader match, is that Leon White isn’t the mutilating, punch throwing son of a bitch he’d later be. This match is relatively early in his career, and Stan Hansen’s AWA Title happens to be his first real challenge. Without punches, without powerbombs, White relies on technical wrestling. Here, he’s particularly fond of the headlock. A fan in the crowd loudly shouts “BORING!” at poor Leon as he goes about his headlock, but it can’t be helped. This is the AWA, and technical wrestling is what got done in their ring. The rest of the audience isn’t as convinced as the heckler, however, as they come alive for White’s sporadic strikes against his much more experienced foe. For maybe the only time in his career, Leon White’s the inexperienced, imperiled babyface, and it’s actually pretty awesome. Not that I ever once believe for a second that Hansen is going down to a headlock, but for a young lion, he does well.
As for Hansen, he’s one of those guys who you don’t really beat, even if you’re lucky enough to gain a win over him. He’s a tough, crazy Texan bastard, capable of withstanding hellish amounts of punishment before turning it back on his opponent. And with a nickname like “The Lariat,” you know his clothesline is pretty good. This is the second of Hansen’s two reigns with a North American World Title, which is unfortunate unless you’ve seen some of the man’s Japanese work and realize how much of a legend he is over there. His run with the AWA Title would end disastrously, by the way. It’s pretty astonishing that he won the thing, considering how political/stupid Verne Gagne was (Hulk Hogan “won” the AWA World Title twice in 1983 and probably could have pushed the company to national prominence, but he didn’t, Hogan and a bunch of dudes jumped ship to the WWF, and the rest is history), but he did and, since he was splitting time between the AWA and All Japan Pro Wrestling, Hansen was scheduled to defend the title in Japan. For some reason Hansen was booked to drop the title to Nick Bockwinkle before those defenses took place, but AJPW, understandably, wanted to have Hansen defend the title in Japan as advertised. So Hansen took the title to Japan after he was stripped, which led to a legal injunction–Stan could either hand the belt back or go to court. He ran the title over with his truck and sent it back–mud tracks and all.
I’m going to go ahead and assume that Stan Hansen is better than you.
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.