Vader, real name Leon White, dead at age 63

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

Vader (photo credit Wade Keller © PWTorch)

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Leon White, known in pro wrestling Vader and Big Van Vader, died on Monday morning from complications from pneumonia. He was 63 years old.

Vader had been public in the last year or two about health issues related to his heart and had said doctors said he didn’t have long to live.

He began his pro wrestling career as “Baby Bull” Leon White after being trained by Brad Rheingans. His career really took off in Japan in the late 1990s, including a run as the IWGP Hvt. Champion from 1989-1991. He also had a main event run in WCW from 1990 to 1994. He had memorable matches and feuds with Sting, Mick Foley, and Ric Flair. He was considered among the best big man workers of his generation based on his work from 1989 to 1994.

He was signed by the WWF in 1996 at a time that talent was moving from the WWF to WCW, so the Vader signing was symbolically seen as the WWF scoring a rare victory in the battle of big name talent signings. He received a big push, but ended up not becoming a top tier star with WWE as his body had been through a lot and his size and age limited what he was able to do in the ring compared to years earlier in WCW and Japan.

He made sporadic appearances in the U.S. and Japan for years afterward including a match in TNA as recently as 2015.

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