On Ropes, Wrestler Ducks Out Of Kuwait

Posted: April 23, 1997

It was a takedown that the professional wrestler couldn't seem to escape, worse than a terrifying triple suplex or a harrowing half-nelson.

After Leon White, 38, better known by his World Wrestling Federation moniker Vader, shoved a talk show host in Kuwait and found himself under house arrest for nine days, he was finally allowed to leave the country yesterday, much to his relief.

``He's as unpopular down there as O.J. is up here,'' said WWF spokeswoman Cindy Clark.

Vader got into trouble following orders. Before an appearance on ``Good Morning Kuwait,'' an American producer told the wrestler to ``ham it up,'' according to WWF. He was not told, however, that the host knew nothing about wrestling antics.

He also wasn't informed that it's considered a serious crime for a foreigner to touch a Kuwaiti.

``Almost any time they make public appearances, they know they're expected to do some of their shtick,'' said Richard Lewis, a WWF vice president.

After being asked by TV host Bassam Al Othman whether professional wrestling was fake, Vader flipped a coffee table and grabbed Othman by the tie, knocking over several chairs. The table hit no one and wasn't damaged, but Othman was taken by surprise.

``The host was clearly, totally shocked,'' said Lewis, who studied a videotape of the show. ``He ran off the set of the show and never returned.''

Vader was charged with public humiliation and aggression, crimes that could result in a year in jail and fines.

Vader, a 6-foot-5, 458-pound former Los Angeles Rams linebacker, appeared in a Kuwaiti court for the first time yesterday. He had to wait nine days under house arrest because government agencies were closed for the religious holiday Ramadan.

Following his court appearance, Vader's passport was returned, and he was allowed to leave Kuwait.

Vader had to promise he would abide by the verdict of the Kuwait Court of Misdemeanors, which has scheduled a trial in two weeks.

Clark said she believes the decision will involve only a cash penalty.

Once he was freed, Vader headed for London on the first flight out of the country.

He plans to fly to New York on Thursday and hold a news conference in Manhattan on Friday.

Lewis said Vader wants to put the ordeal behind him.

``I know from speaking to others that he's pretty upset,'' Lewis said. ``Vader's looking forward to getting back in the ring, where he feels the safest.''

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