Wrestling Icon Vader Dies at 63

The big man had a memorable arc on “Boy Meets World.”


According to his official Twitter account, Leon White, the former wrestling superstar better known as Vader, died Monday at the age of 63. Also known as Big Van Vader and The Man They Call Vader, White battled a “severe case of pneumonia” before his “heart had enough,” according to the tweets. 

In his prime, White was one of the most agile and athletic giants in wrestling. That’s no surprise given his history as a standout football player. 

After starring at center for the University of Colorado, White was drafted in the third round of the 1978 NFL draft. He went on to play for the Los Angeles Rams before a knee injury ended his career. 

White first rose to stardom as a wrestler in Japan, Cage Side Seats explains:

He won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a tournament shortly after joining NJPW, becoming the first gaijin (non-Japanese person) to hold that belt. At one point in 1989, he held world heavyweight belts in Japan, Europe and Mexico simultaneously. One of his biggest rivalries later produced one of the most famous stories in wrestling, when during a match with AJPW’s Stan Hansen Vader’s left eye was popped out of its socket. He removed his famous mask, pushed the eye back into place, and continued to wrestle until the bout was ruled a no contest.

He came to the WCW in 1990 and went on to feud with superstars such as Sting and Ric Flair. By 1996, he’d become so popular that he crossed over into pop culture, appearing on Baywatch and a brief story arc of Boy Meets World

He joined the WWE in 1996, where he would often tangle with other giants such as The Undertaker and Kane. 

Vader’s name has recently come up in relation to the a WWE hall of fame induction, with Mick Foley vouching for his candidacy. Foley is one of the many wrestlers who remembered White on social media today.