The Loss of a Legend. Vader passes at 63 Years Old.
I have very mixed feelings about writing this article. I knew Vader pretty well from various sources, friends, and podcasters. This man had been battling health issues for a while when it came to his heart. The sudden loss isn’t as sudden as one would expect and I don’t mean that in a horrible way. I just wish that the circumstances were different. I’ve been a heavy proponent of putting this man in the Hall of Fame for a while now. I wanted to see him get his due before this tragedy actually occurred.
Leon White was pronounced deceased Monday night at age 63. I was honestly pretty surprised that there wasn’t a 10 bell salute to this legend, but it’s not really my place to assume what WWE feels or quite possibly does not. I don’t personally know if the man’s family wanted to leave it for later, perhaps they’ll have a tournament for the man at some point or a heartfelt 24 hour special. I just hope to see something for Leon.
I don’t even know where to begin to tell people to go for watching this beast of a man, that at times seemed like he was so much more than a mere mortal wrestler.
Vader wasn’t your typical big-man!
Vader wasn’t the kind of 300 lb. to 400 lb. athlete you would expect. This man was far ahead of his time with a great mind for the business and an insane work rate.
It was odd during a big man match to sit and wait for some of the top rope maneuvers, but that is what you got with Vader. Nobody who’s seen it can forget the “Vader Bomb”.
Intense Rivalries and Programs.
Vader has stood head and shoulders with some of the greatest in the business, whether it be Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, Sting, Macho Man Randy Savage, and so much more.
Most fans expected a bad turn around for 2 big men, one being Lex Luger, but we got a pretty decent program. You can’t discount the man’s WCW work, all of which can be seen on the WWE Network. Whether it was Raw, WCW Saturday Night, WCW Nitro, or New Japan you’d get a good match with this big man.
The first gaijin (Non-Japanese) IWGP Heavyweight Champion
Many are unaware of this. Leon White “Vader” was the first gaijin (Non-Japanese) professional wrestler to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title. He was seen in Japan as what in the US would easily be considered a legend. His superstar status was huge in winning an 8 man match for the title.
The most violent WCW Rivalry.
Vader had a huge rivalry with Cactus Jack in WCW. This led to the loss of Mick Foley’s ear, many stitches, broken bones, bruises that Mick Foley still suffers from today. I’ve seen so many different shoot interviews and variations of statements about this rivalry and I am happy to say that none of them speak negatively about what has occurred. I truly miss this kind of hatred and struggle in professional wrestling today. There were no titles, it was just about pride and putting on a good show for the fans.
It’s sad that a man with this size and ability never moved further in the business, while under the umbrella of WWE. Leon was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2016 and continued his wrestling career after being told he only had 2 years to live. I want people to understand that this man would rather give of his body and entertain the fans, rather than settle down and extend his life expectancy. Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan, you have to appreciate somebody who loves what they do and those whom they do it for even after such shocking news.
I can’t say enough things about Leon White at this point. His rivalries with Shawn Michaels, Cactus Jack, and Undertaker are among some of my favorites that took place stateside. I appreciated his abilities and am ecstatic when I hear another big man who tries to fly, citing Vader as their inspiration.
Do you remember any Vader matches or moments? Sound off in the comments and Rest in Power, Big Man.