On Wednesday morning, it was announced on Twitter that Leon White, better known as Vader or Big Van Vader, died at age 63.
From Vader's twitter account, one of Vader’s children said, “It is with a heavy heart to inform everyone that my father, Leon White, passed away on Monday night (6/18/18) at approximately 7:25pm.” In a follow-up tweet, they added: “Around a month ago my father was diagnosed with a severe case of Pneumonia. He fought extremely hard and clinically was making progress. Unfortunately, on Monday night his heart had enough and it was his time.”
Vader was best known in the United States for being a three-time World Championship Wrestling champion, and feuded with the likes of Sting, Ric Flair and Cactus Jack in his WCW run. He would go on to the World Wrestling Federation, and while he would feud with the likes of Shawn Michaels (where he main evented SummerSlam 95 in arguably his best WWF match), he never could crack through for a consistent main event run at the time.
Arguably his best work, however, came in Japan. It was there, in 1987, where he was given the “Big Van Vader” moniker. He came out in a large wrestling mask, and became one of the most important gaijins (foreigners) in New Japan Pro Wrestling history. In his first appearance for New Japan, he beat legend Antonio Inoki, which caused riots in the building. He became a three-time IWGP champion, and is still a legend in the country.
Before wrestling, White also had a two-year run in the NFL, playing for the Los Angeles Rams. He was a third-round draft pick in 1978, after becoming a two-time All-American at Colorado.
During his wrestling run, he also had a bit of pop-culture fame in the 1990s, as he was a recurring guest character on the show “Boy Meets World.” One episode even featured a match between Vader and WWE Hall of Famer Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
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