It is with great sadness that we can report that one of the big men in wrestling history, Vader (who sometimes wrestled as Big Van Vader) has passed away at the age of 63. His real name was Leon White and he was a father of two children.
Vader was dealing with heart issues for several years, which he tweeted about openly. On Wednesday morning, his son tweeted from his account about Vader dying on Monday night. His son noted that Vader was diagnosed with pneumonia and then he had heart issues leading to his death. You can see those tweets below.
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. pic.twitter.com/dP4CNaMuXa
— Big Van Vader (@itsvadertime) June 20, 2018
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. pic.twitter.com/hJYjumvxjH
— Big Van Vader (@itsvadertime) June 20, 2018
On behalf of everybody associated with TJRWrestling, we send our heartfelt condolences to Vader’s family, friends and fans all around the world. He left an incredible impression on us whether we knew him or not.
World Wrestling Entertainment wrote about Vader’s death on WWE.com as well noting the following:
WWE is saddened to learn that Leon White, better known to WWE audiences as Vader, passed away Monday night at the age of 63.
White began his sports-entertainment career in the mid-1980s after retiring from the NFL due to injury. He rose to national prominence in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association before joining New Japan Pro Wrestling as the masked Big Van Vader. He went on to become one of the promotion’s biggest stars and most feared competitors.
Vader then transitioned to World Championship Wrestling, where he would make the biggest mark of his career. He engaged in memorable rivalries with the likes of Sting and Ron Simmons, becoming a dominant, three-time WCW World Champion in the process.
In 1996, Vader joined the WWE roster, where he squared off against Superstars such as Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. He also found success on the small screen with a recurring guest role on the popular 1990s television program, “Boy Meets World.”
WWE extends its condolences to White’s family, friends and fans.
Vader accomplished a lot in his career. Some of his accolades include:
WCW World Heavyweight Champion (3 times)
IWGP World Heavyweight Champion (3 times)
AJPW Triple Crown Champion (2 times)
TJR Thoughts: Vader will be missed. He left a big impression on me when I was in my early teens. I started watching WCW in the early 1990s and have fond memories of Vader working with Sting and Mick Foley (as Cactus Jack) with Vader instantly becoming a favorite. Vader made it look legit He was a legit badass that looked scary. A power wrestler with agility. Great talent.
He was never WWE Champion, but he came close at SummerSlam 1996 against Shawn Michaels. There were plans for Vader to take the WWE Title from Michaels in 1996, but Michaels didn’t like working with Vader due to Vader’s stiff style and Sid was the one that beat Michaels for the WWE Title instead. Sadly, Vader’s WWE run was not as good as it should have been.
To the people saying Vader should have went into the WWE HOF, of course he should have. He’s probably the best North American wrestler in last 30 years that isn’t in. The WWE HOF is a great honor, but it is flawed too.
Here are some tweets from people in the wrestling community that knew Vader and others that grew up watching him like so many of us did.
— Harley Race (@8XNWAChampion) June 20, 2018
My heart is heavy with the news of Leon White’s passing. He was an amazing performer who brought out the very best in so many. Best big man ever, the most effective monster heel of his generation. My heartfelt prayers to his loved ones, and my gratitude for having known him. pic.twitter.com/uy3yBfwZOs
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) June 20, 2018
Leon White entertained (and intimidated) audiences all over the world with his size, strength, and agility. Saddened to hear of his passing and our thoughts are with his family at this time. #RIPVaderpic.twitter.com/5jtryoSvpI
— Triple H (@TripleH) June 20, 2018
Maaaaan…Vader was my guy as a child and was a sweetheart when he came down to FCW to help train us. I’m forever grateful for the conversations I was able to share with him. Condolences to Leon’s son, Jesse, and the rest of his family.
— Ettore “Big E” Ewen (@WWEBigE) June 20, 2018
I will add more tweets throughout the day.
Rest in peace Vader and thank you for the memories.
Vader’s last @WWE PPV was a match with me, he wanted me to kick out of his finish/he told me “today you get the old Vader, I want it to mean something when you win.” RIP big man, and thanks! #respectpic.twitter.com/t3FiP2jMmh
— John Layfield (@JCLayfield) June 20, 2018