Leon Allen White, (May 14, 1955 – June 18, 2018) better known by his ring names Big Van Vader, or simply Vader, was an American professional wrestler. White spent the majority of his career with promotions World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), and All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in the 1990s.
A super heavyweight wrestler capable of aerial maneuvers such as the moonsault (voted by Wrestling Observer readers as the "Best Wrestling Maneuver" for 1993), White competed as both a face and a heel. Among other accolades in WCW and Japan, he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (the first non-Japanese holder) and the WCW World Heavyweight Championship three times each, and a former GHC Tag Team Championship once.
- 1 Professional wrestling career
- 2 In wrestling
- 3 Championships and accomplishments
Professional wrestling career
New Japan Pro Wrestling (1987–1992)
Although originally signed to All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), AJPW owner Giant Baba traded White's contract over to New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in 1987 after consideration. Upon joining NJPW, White was given the ring name Big Van Vader and began to wear a black wrestling mask. His new identity was based on a strong warrior of the same name from Japanese folklore. He was introduced as the crown jewel of the Takeshi Puroresu Gundan stable that was managed by Takeshi Kitano. After a match where Riki Choshu had challenged Antonio Inoki in a losing effort, Vader demanded a match with the already worn down Inoki, and was victorious. This led the pro-Inoki audience to riot, resulting in NJPW being banned from the Sumo Hall, which was its home arena; the ban was rescinded in 1989, when NJPW did their first show back in Sumo Hall on February 22.
After winning the final match of an eight-man tournament against Shinya Hashimoto, Vader was declared the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He was the first gaijin (non-Japanese) wrestler to hold the title.
On May 25, one month after being crowned champion, Vader lost the title to Russian suplex master Salman Hashimikov. Hashimikov dropped the title to Vader's old rival, Riki Choshu, on July 12. On August 10, Vader was given an opportunity at Choshu and the title. He defeated Choshu to become a two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Shortly after winning the title again, White traveled to Europe, again using the name Bull Power, to face Otto Wanz for the CWA World Heavyweight Championship. He won the match and, as a result, held the Heavyweight Championship in two separate organizations at the same time. He continued to travel between Japan and Europe, defending his titles. In November 1989, Vader traveled to Mexico to defeat El Canek in the Universal Wrestling Association for the UWA World Heavyweight Championship, becoming the first and only man to hold three world heavyweight titles in three continents simultaneously. He lost the UWA championship back to Canek on December 12, 1990.
In February 1990, Vader faced Stan Hansen at an AJPW versus NJPW supercard show. Before Vader entered the ring, Hansen accidentally broke Vader's nose with the bullrope Hansen carried to the ring for his matches. During an exchange of stiff punches, Hansen unintentionally poked Vader's right eye with his thumb during their brawl, which caused the eye to pop out of its socket. After removing his mask, pushing the eye back into its socket and holding it in place with his eyelid, Vader continued wrestling Hansen until the match was rendered a no contest. As a result of the injury, Vader required a metal plate to be surgically placed under his eye. Vader's success garnered the attention of World Championship Wrestling, who convinced him to work for them while still the IWGP Heavyweight Champion and an active competitor in NJPW.
Vader's first match in WCW took place on July 7, 1990 at The Great American Bash, where he defeated Tom Zenk in a little over two minutes. Around this time, Vader began a feud with Stan Hansen in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Two weeks later, Vader went to Europe and defeated Rambo in a tournament final to reclaim the vacant CWA World Heavyweight Championship and become a three-time CWA World Heavyweight Champion in the process. In January 1991, Vader defeated Tatsumi Fujinami to earn himself a third IWGP Heavyweight Title reign. This reign was short-lived however, as Vader lost the title back to Fujinami on March 4. Rambo ended Vader's CWA World Heavyweight Championship reign on July 6, 1991. Vader went on to defeat Fujinami for the CWA Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship but, upon his signing of a WCW contract in 1992, the title was declared vacant. At this point, WCW and NJPW were reaching a tentative working agreement. This benefited Vader, as he could now have his schedule coordinated far more easily. This helped alleviate his difficulty in gaining notoriety in WCW, as his previously infrequent appearances did not allow the audience to see him very often.
On March 1, 1992, he and Bam Bam Bigelow began teaming and won the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Hiroshi Hase and Keiji Mutoh. In May, Vader faced Mutoh, now known as The Great Muta, one on one and suffered a legitimate knee injury. This injury was a factor in he and Bigelow losing the title to WCW World Tag Team Champions, The Steiner Brothers, after a near four-month reign. This also marked a decrease in his NJPW appearances, as Vader began to focus almost entirely on WCW and the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
Union of Wrestling Force International (1993-1995)
In late February 1993, White signed an eight-date agreement with the Union of Wrestling Force International (UWFi), where he competed as Super Vader due to legal issues concerning the Big Van Vader name. By September 1993, he was simply known as Vader in the United States. He worked with UWFi for over two years. His greatest triumph under there was a victory in the Best of the World Tournament, which started April 3 and ended August 18, 1994. Vader first defeated Salman Hashimikov and then Masahito Kakihara in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Vader defeated Kiyoshi Tamura and beat Nobuhiko Takada in the finals to win the tournament and the UWFi World Title. He later left the promotion after a financial dispute. He later returned to WCW.
Return to NJPW (1996)
At Wrestling World on January 4, Vader had his first post-WCW match, facing the man whose four-year winning streak Vader had ended over eight years ago, Antonio Inoki. Inoki was over 50 years old at the time, but the match lasted nearly fourteen minutes before Inoki won the match.
All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah (1998–2002)
After leaving the WWF, Vader went to AJPW. He formed a team with his old foe Stan Hansen, with whom he made it to the finals of the 1998 World's Strongest Tag Determination League, where they were defeated by Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama. At the beginning of 1999, he became the number one contender to the Triple Crown by defeating Kobashi. He then won the (vacant) Triple Crown Title on March 6, 1999 by defeating Akira Taue. He then won the 1999 Champion Carnival. After Vader lost the Triple Crown to Misawa on May 2, he regained it on October 31. He then again lost it to Kobashi and took some time off.
Return to AJPW (2011–2012)
In the aftermath of the 2011 natural disasters in Japan, Vader and his son Jesse wrestled on special tribute cards for All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Zero1. On December 7, 2012, Vader returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling, teaming with Keiji Mutoh and KENSO to defeat Bambi Killer, Franz Dynamite and Mazada in a six-man tag team match.
On April 20, 2017, Vader made an appearance in Japan at Korakuen Hall as part of the Dradition show to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the debut of Tatsumi Fujinami. Following a six-man tag team match, Vader fell down to one knee and collapsed. Originally believed his collapse was due to dehydration, Vader posted on Twitter that he was dropped on his head during the match and that is what caused him to briefly pass out. He also said that it had nothing to do with his heart. Vader was able to walk backstage under his own power and he remained in Japan as he was scheduled to work two more shows in Fukuoka and Osaka. On April 22, Vader, Takuma Sano and Yoshiaki Fujiwara lost a six man tag team match to Koji Kanemoto, Shiro Koshinaka and Tatsumi Fujinami and his final match for the tour was on April 23 when Vader, Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Shiro Koshinaka, Takuma Sano and Yoshiaki Fujiwara.
- Finishing moves
- Release powerbomb
- Sky High Chokeslam (Leg trap chokeslam, sometimes from the second rope)
- Vader Bomb (Corner slingshot splash)
- Vadersault (Moonsault)
- Signature moves
- Body avalanche
- Face Eraser (Wheelbarrow facebuster)
- Forearm club
- German suplex
- Lariat sometimes from the top rope
- Short-arm clothesline
- Spinning backfist
- Vader Attack (Running body block)
- Vader Crush (Jumping splash, sometimes from the second rope)
- Vader Hammer (Multiple forearm chops to a cornered opponent's head)
- Vader Slam (Running powerslam)
- Entrance themes
- "Eyes of the World" by Rainbow
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Catch Wrestling Association
- CWA Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- CWA World Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- Impact Zone Wrestling
- IZW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Wrestler of the Year (1993)
- Ranked #2 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1993
- Ranked #27 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003
- Ranked #36 of the top 100 tag teams of the "PWI Years" with Bam Bam Bigelow in 2003
- Pro Wrestling NOAH
- GHC Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Scorpio
- Tokyo Sports
- Universal Wrestling Association
- UWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Union of Wrestling Forces International
- UWFI World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Best of the World (1994)
- World Championship Wrestling
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- BattleBowl (1993)
- World Wrestling Federation
- Slammy Award (1 time)
- Crime of the Century (1996) – Assault on WWF President Gorilla Monsoon
- Slammy Award (1 time)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- 5 Star Match (1991) vs Keiji Mutoh at NJPW G1 Climax Day 3 on August 9
- Best Heel (1993)
- Best Wrestling Maneuver (1993) Moonsault
- Most Improved Wrestler (1999)
- Wrestler of the Year (1993)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
Luchas de Apuestas record
|Winner (wager)||Loser (wager)||Location||Event||Date||Notes|
|Kane (mask)||Vader (mask)||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Over the Edge||May 31, 1998|