The wrestling world has lost another legend with the passing of multi-time World Champion Big Van Vader, aka Leon White. Join Seth and Crazy Train as they pay tribute to arguably the greatest “Big Man” to step foot into the squared Circle. White was born on May 14, 1955, in Lynwood California. He was a two-time All-American football player for the University Of Colorado. After college, he was drafted into the NFL by the Los Angeles Rams where he played Center for two years. He was part of the NFC Championship team that played in Super Bowl XIV. Shortly after that, he was forced to retire from the NFL due to injury White began his professional wrestling career in 1985 for Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association. There he was given the name “Baby Bull” Leon White, a babyface who eventually challenged Stan Hansen for the AWA World Championship.
It was his time in Japan where White truly gained his stardom. In New Japan Pro Wrestling, he was christened “Big Van Vader”, and given the now-famous mask and headgear that would become a definitive look for the rest of his career. On April 24th, 1989, Vader became the first “gaijin” (foreigner) to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship by winning a tournament, defeating Shinya Hashimoto in the finals. Vader would win the title on two more occasions, in 1989 and 1991. During this time, he also wrestled for Otto Wanz’s Catch Wrestling Association in Austria, and Universal Wrestling Association in Mexico. With World Title wins in all three promotions, Vader became a world champion on three continents simultaneously. He and fellow gaijin Bam Bam Bigelow won the IWGP Tag Team Championship under the name Big, Bad, And Dangerous.
Upon losing the tag titles to The Steiner Brothers in 1992, Vader began wrestling full time for World Championship Wrestling. There he defeated Sting for the WCW Title at The Great American Bash and feuded with top stars such as Ric Flair, Ron Simmons, and Mick Foley. Vader would hold the WCW Title on three occasions, with reigns totaling 377 days. After a successful run in WCW, Vader was hired by Vince McMahon to work for the then World Wrestling Federation, where he was given a much-hyped debut at the 1996 Royal Rumble. While he did not win any championships in the WWF, he did have high-profile feuds against The Undertaker and World Champion Shawn Michaels.