Back in ’95, Paul Orndorff and Vader got into a heated argument backstage that led to an all-out fight. According to Vader, he had been at a photo shoot earlier in the day that ran long. When he arrived at the venue, he was met by an irate Paul Orndorff. What took place next was an absolute mess…
“They got into the darndest fight you ever saw. He beat him ’til he was bleeding- it was a mess!”
-Bullet Bob Armstrong on the Paul Orndorff and Vader fight
The WCW Backstage Brawl Between Paul Orndorff and Vader
“It was pretty much just a misunderstanding. I wasn’t who I am today. I was drinking a lot.
Paul had thought I showed up late, and he was one of the agents, and he was kind of dressing me down for it. I responded in kind, saying, ‘Excuse me? Mr. Bischoff has said that I had to take a photo session.’ So Paul didn’t know that I was on an assignment from the boss…”
TERRY TAYLOR (witness):
“After a match, Vader was asked to do an interview, and he said, ‘Sure, just wait until I’ve changed’. Around this time, Paul Orndorff started talking shit to Vader. Paul walked away, Vader slow-burned, and Vader ended up getting into Paul’s face shortly thereafter…”
“[Bischoff] had sent me over to the CNN Towers where the offices were.
It was right at traffic time. So, I took my photos, got dressed, and came directly over, and I was an hour and a half late, but – again, Eric said, ‘I know you’re going to be late.’
Eric told me that he would let everyone know I would be late as I was taking a photo session that I had to do.
Apparently, I had been asked to do this a few times, and I had put it off and put it off, and he said, ‘Now, you have to do it.’ Again, he told me that he would let everyone know that I was coming, but I would be late. Paul took exception to that, and we squared off…”
“[Vader] had to do an interview. Dave Penzer and Kevin Sullivan asked him to do an interview because we had fifteen minutes to do the interview, and if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to do it for a week. I just said, ‘Leon, could you please do this interview, it’ll take you five minutes, and you’re done…’
I was doing my job. One thing led to another – we had words. It was like David and Goliath.”
“Paul was threatening me four or five inches from my face, and I slapped him.”
“He sucker-punched me.
He made a bad mistake because I got up…”
TERRY TAYLOR (witness):
“Vader hit Paul first, and it turned into a brawl from there once Orndorff miraculously got Vader onto the ground.”
“Everyone said I sucker-punched him. You know, when a man is four inches from your face, calling you a fat bleepity-bleepin’-bleep saying he’s going to bleepin’ bleep you – that’s threatening in nature.
So, I felt I was defending myself, so I just slapped him, and his feet literally came off the ground.
There was this steel shed that they had these big, giant steel tools in [that were used] to put the ring together, and his head must have missed that by three inches. My God, if the back of his head would have hit that, he could have been hurt and killed, and I would have been in jail.
You know, I was 400 pounds, and I could bench 600, and Paul had one arm. Again, Paul’s a tough guy but certainly at that point – 225 or 230 pounds. Really, one of his arms had nerve damage, which really crippled him.
[So] I backed up against the wall, and Sting was to my right, and I crossed my hands in front of me, and I was just not going to fight, thinking that I could end up in jail very easily. Paul hit me three or four times directly in the face, and I let it happen. I didn’t move, I had my hands crossed in front of me, and he puffed my eyes and bloodied my lip. Again, I didn’t fight back, and finally, as he was going for a fifth hit, I grabbed him. I grabbed him, and front-face locked him, and we went to the ground.
He got up first and kicked me a few times in the face.”
“I hurt my foot. I kicked him so many times in the head; it hurt my foot. I had flip-flops on…”
‘BULLET’ BOB ARMSTRONG (witness):
“They got into the darndest fight you ever saw. Paul just beat his big fat- I mean, he beat him ’til he was bleeding. It was a mess…”
“Before I could get up, [Paul] had been ushered into the agent’s room.”
“They had a lot of people there [to pull me off of him]. It was one of those unfortunate things that happened. The only thing that I am thankful for is that if my body wasn’t hurt and I didn’t have all of that nerve damage on my right. God knows I might be in jail for killing him…”
“Now, I was very upset, and I was ready to fight. I got myself together and went after him – and I’m not saying that Paul was running from me because that’s certainly not the case. Paul’s a big, tough guy. But I think that some powers-that-be said, ‘Paul, you’re an agent. What the hell are you doing fighting one of the wrestlers?’ They had gotten him in that room, and I went in after him, and they said, ‘Leon, you cannot fight in here. Get out.’ So, I told Paul, ‘Let’s go out in the parking lot and finish this…’
Now, I’m not saying that Paul wouldn’t have gone out to the parking lot with me, but he wasn’t allowed to, and that’s pretty much the way it ended.
You know what? Paul Orndorff’s a big, big, tough man. I’m sure he would agree to fight me ten out of ten times. At that given moment, after I had slapped him, I’m backed against the wall. I’m not going to lose my job. I’m not going to jail. Then, when I was ready to fight, he was [the one trying to save his job]. I don’t know what was said to him when he got in that agent’s room.
You know, it’s just unfortunate.
We had a lot of things in common. He was a [former] football player; I was a football player before.
Heck, I had given him a red Labrador. I had actually shipped it from Denver when my male and female Labrador had puppies. He wanted to train it and teach it to be a hunting dog. So, it was just unfortunate as he was a friend of mine before.
I have no hard feelings. Quite frankly, you get tired of telling the story and rehashing it. [But] that’s exactly what happened. Period.”
The Real Reason Vader Left WCW After His Fight With Paul Orndorff
Over the years, it was reported that Vader was fired as a result of this fight, but in an interview with Hannibal TV (H/T: Wrestling Inc), Vader revealed that wasn’t the case and opened up about the real reason why he left WCW for WWE after this incident.
“[After the fight], Bischoff said, ‘We want you to take a six-month pay cut.’ That’s a lot of money,” Vader explained. “I said, ‘Eric, for this? I can’t see a six month’s pay cut; that’s half my salary.’ It was close to a $400,000 fine. ‘How about 150? 200?’ He wouldn’t come off that, so I told Eric if that was his decision, then I was gonna go elsewhere.”
Vader continued, “I didn’t want to take the fine. They said, ‘You take the six-month suspension, and this fine and then you can come back.’ I said, ‘Come back with my full contract?’ [Bischoff] responded, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that for you.’ Then there were the six months that wasn’t gonna be deducted, which was very fair on Eric’s part, but that didn’t stick in my mind.”
As for what made him make the big jump over to WWE, Vader said, “I got a settlement [from WCW]. We settled out of my contract because it was substantial. I think I had six years left. If you multiply those six years with what I would’ve made, it was a bad mistake on my part. I don’t know. I think [it was] pride. Pride and business don’t work, so that was a big big mistake.”
Editor’s update (February 10, 2020): After reading this article, David Penzer reached out to us to share his thoughts. He was the main ring announcer for WCW at the time and was a witness to the above-described altercation between Paul Orndorff and Vader.
“As someone who was directly involved and liked both guys,” Penzer began, “I can tell you that Orndorff’s is the most accurate description of what happened. It had nothing to do with Vader getting there late, and nobody telling anyone he was at a photo shoot.”
When researching stories like these, it’s always fascinating to see how much one person’s account vastly differs from another. This is why it’s so important to include as many different first-hand accounts as possible as the truth always lies somewhere in-between! We thank David for taking the time to shed further light on this story.
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Some of the quotes above were compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.