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The story of how Vader nearly lost his eye in Japan

Antonio Inoki had held an inter-promotional supercard between All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling in October 1990 titled Super Fight In Tokyo Dome. Inoki’s current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, the monster known as Vader, would defend himself against fellow angry American “The Lariat” Stan Hansen on Japanese soil. This match will go down in history as one of the most memorable matches of the decade, not because it was the title match on the Super Fight card, but because it would be the now infamous match where Vader would lose. almost his right eye.

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The Legendary Eye of Vader Incident at NJPW Super Fight 1990

Along with the legend of Vader’s Eye comes the many tales that have been passed down over the years. These include that Stan Hansen intentionally gouged out Vader’s eye for some malicious reason, or that he was somehow protecting his place in Japan despite the two operations at different companies. The Eye of Vader story is brutal, but much simpler than any well-laid devious plan. It all starts with the giant helmet that Antonio Inoki bought for Vader to wear, and how Hansen jumping Vader as he tried to get into the ring would cause Vader’s nose to break in the helmet. Damage to Vader’s nose and orbital socket early on would pave the way for the horrific event to come.

In a 2016 interview with Hannibal TV, Stan reviewed the infamous incident with Vader’s eye and a story Vader had recently told him when they last met.

“I don’t remember it per se, but he was like, ‘You hit the thing (Vader’s massive helmet) and the thing came back and broke my nose right away.’ He said “the thing hit me in the face and broke my nose”. So he sees red, and we just hammered each other’s dog shit. -Stan Hansen

The first five minutes of the match were non-stop meaty men slapping meat in some sort of brawl. That’s how it went until some sort of stray thumb grabbed Vader and popped his eyeball out of the socket, leaving it hanging slightly on his cheek. Vader would discuss this in a rare interview with Title Match in 1998.

“He had caught me in the eye, and I turned around and felt my eye on my cheek…I turned my back and just shoved it. Nature just took over a bit, and the swelling caught the eye. I knocked him into an arm bar, then kept blinking… That was a good fight, if you ever get a chance to see that. -Vador

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Vader removed his mask and his eye began to visibly and horribly close. The two juggernauts would battle for another ten more minutes until the match was ruled a double countout, with the IWGP Championship remaining with Vader. Not only that, but he was also able to latch on to his eye.

There was no hard feelings between Vader and Stan Hansen

2016 would see Vader have the honor of inducting his good friend Stan Hansen into the WWE Hall of Fame. He was able to take a light-hearted look at the legendary incident and celebrate the career of one of his greatest friends and rivals. Vader made it clear that he didn’t believe there was any malicious intent and it was simply a freak accident caused by the helmet, Stan’s lack of vision, and an unlucky twist of fate.

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Both Vader and Hansen are Japanese wrestling legends, WWE Hall of Famers and two of the greatest brawlers in wrestling history. Vader will die at the age of 63, just two years after he was able to induct his friend into the WWE Hall of Fame. Four years later, Vader was added posthumously.

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