- Ken Shamrock debuted in 1997
- Part two was even more brutal
Ken Shamrock was a huge free agent in the late 1990s. The former UFC SuperFight champion had built a reputation as one of the most dangerous guys alive, but with the future of MMA looking bleak, Shamrock shifted his focus to the pro wrestling world and WWE quickly snapped him up.
The company introduced him as a viewer during an episode of Monday Night RAW, and commentators cheered him on as soon as he got on screen. Jerry Lawler conducted an interview to welcome Shamrock to WWE, and later the former UFC champion entered the ring and got Billy Gunn to tap out in record time.
Soon after, Shamrock was involved in one of the most memorable WrestleMania moments of all time when he guest-refered the classic match between Austin and Hart. His actual PPV debut in the ring came a few months later at Cold Day In Hell PPV in 1997 and his very first opponent was Big Van Vander.
Ken Shamrock debuted in 1997
The match was No Hold Barred and to this day this particular brawl stands out as one of the toughest matches ever played in the square circle. Shamrock came out with guns blazing, throwing legitimate kicks and punches, and eventually breaking Vader’s nose in four separate places.
The big man held on but was visibly shaken by the force of the punches and from time to time he would whisper to Shamrock to relax but unfortunately the MMA fighter carried on and ended up injuring his leg next to his nose .
At this point, Vader had had enough. He had a reputation as a stiff worker himself, but Shamrock had rightly injured him, and so Vader nearly chopped off Shamrock’s head in the final minutes of the fight with the most brutal lasso you’ll ever see.
This incident happened when the two athletes were in the corner and Shamrock blasted Vader with elbows to the head and knees to the stomach. After a brutal knee to the face, Vader hit Shamrock with a clothesline and Shamrock collapsed onto the mat in a daze and probably semi-conscious. In fact, that wasn’t even a lasso as Vader just hit Shamrock on the head with everything he had. Shamrock later secured an ankle lock and Vader knocked out, ending the matchup as the MMA fighter won.
Vader was understandably upset, but he kept his anger to himself and never developed a rivalry with Shamrock backstage. That being said, these two did face off a few more times, and while Shamrock was a lot more cautious, the fights were still pretty brutal and tough. The spiritual successor to the first fight took place in September of the same year.
The first encounter on PPV is well remembered, but a few months later, Vader and Shamrock faced off again, this time in Japan, and the match was brutal on a whole different level. Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling was a promotion in Japan and for their annual September event, Fall Spectacular, they managed to get Ken Shamrock and Big Van Vader.
This was billed as a gunfight and the two were locked in the cage much like you would see in MMA. Despite the publicity, this was a successful wrestling match, but the way these two competed felt like they were in a real MMA match.
Shamrock’s abdomen was taped and fans later learned he was working with a legitimate injury. The match started with the two circling each other and from there it quickly turned into a flashy match with lots and lots of hard punches from both sides.
Part two was even more brutal
Towards the end of the match, Vader powerbombed his opponent to the mat and Shamrocks started coughing up blood. The match was immediately stopped and Vader was awarded the win via referee stoppage.
The MMA fighter kept coughing up blood and the paramedics are taking care of him after the game. According to Shamrock himself, he had a tiny tear in his lung and when he took the powerbomb the wound worsened and he felt like he was drowning in his own blood.
He went on to mention that he was already hacking out blood before the fight but wiped it off and competed anyway, and when taken to the doctor he was told that he had torn his lung during the fight.
Despite this brutality, Vader and Shamrock got along well outside of the ring. After Big Van Vander’s death, Shamrock tweeted his condolences, praising Vader as one of the most talented great men ever and that his stamina and tenacity were on another level. A compliment like that means a lot, especially when it comes from a former UFC champion.