Big Van Vader, or Leon Allen White as his birth certificate would have you believe, has some sad news for all of his fans. Here is a tweet shared to White’s twitter account. “Told by 2 heart Drs that my heart is wore out I have been given less than two yrs to live I am only now allowing this as part of my reality.”
Two cardiologists have told him that because of congestive heart failure after having to endure four decades of Professional Wrestling and American Football, he has only two years to live. What is particularly heart breaking is that, as we have no reference of time for when he received the news, he could have been told this weeks ago, but is only just now allowing himself to accept his prognosis.
I’ve been told that hearing your days are numbered is a numbing experience. Particularly when you have been given such a specific time frame. At least time is what Vader has. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his loved ones.
Vader began his athletic career in his home state of California as an offensive centre at Los Angeles’ Bell High School. His success gave him his pick of further education options, settling on the University of Colorado where played offensive line and became a two-time All-American. He went back to his home state and played for the Los Angeles Rams where he even made the team in Super Bowl XIV. He was forced to retire in 1979 due to a ruptured patella.
But Football’s loss was Pro Wrestling’s gain. After being scouted in a gym, he was trained by Brad Rheingans he signed by the American Wrestling Association as Baby Bull and later as Bull Power. It was here that he honed his skills in the ring to the point where he saw interest from Japanese wrestling companies. Although initially signed to All Japan Pro Wrestling, he was exchanged to New Japan where he would be the first American or ‘Gaijin’ (meaning ‘outsider’) to become IWGP Heavyweight Champion. It was new Japan that rechristened him as Big Van Vader.
After coming home to America in 1992 it was his signing with WCW that really made him a mainstream wrestling star. He began a main event program with current champion Sting and would win the title off of him. It would be the first of three reigns.
It was in WCW that Vader would have the feuds and matches that would make him a household name. His stiff wrestling style, no doubt picked from the Strong Style favouring Japanese promotions he learnt his craft in. During his time there he would also face Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) at a house show in Munich. This was the infamous match where Foley was relieved of two-thirds of his right ear.
After WCW, he had a short run in WWE where he his most high-profile rivalry was with The Undertaker. After losing a Mask vs. Mask match to Kane he could never regain the main event status he enjoyed in WCW. After that, he mainly toured indie promotions around the world including several stop offs in Japan and a couple of runs in TNA.
His most recent match in the spotlight was his Twitter feud with Will Ospreay over the quality of Ospreay’s highly lauded match with Ricochet in the Best of Super Juniors Final. The twitter war went on for some time and culminated in a match at Revolution Pro Wrestling’s Uprising event on August 12th at York Hall in London. He was 61 years old at the time.
Sadly Vader’s latest headline-making moment was a car crash that he was lucky to escape. The car rolled over twice and he was unconscious for over half an hour. The news of his congestive heart failure is not thought to be a result of the crash.