The man known as Big Van Vader is a legend of pro-wrestling, having won countless championships around the world. Sadly, that hard-hitting life has taken its toll and Vader announced on Nov. 14 that he only has ‘two years left to live!’ Click to see.
“Told by two heart doctors, at this time, that my heart is [worn] out from football and wrestling,” Vader (real name, Leon White, 61) tweeted. “I have two years to live,” he added, noting that “[congestive] heart failure [is a] reality.” That news is quite literally heartbreaking, as Vader is an iconic wrestler who has found success in practically every major promotion in the world.
Before stepping in the ring, Leon had a bright future ahead of him on the gridiron. He was a nationally ranked offensive center, catching recruiter’s attention while playing at Los Angeles’ Bell High School. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1978 and even played in Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sadly, his NFL career ended due to a ruptured patella.
Told by 2.heart Drs at this time that my heart is wore out from footbal&wrestling I have 2 yrs to live , conjestive hesrt failure reality
— Big Van Vader (@itsvadertime) November 15, 2016
Yet, Leon’s fame and fortune was just beginning. After he was convinced to try out pro-wrestling, the man would turned heads because of his size and his agility. Leon, with his body of a heavyweight, had the agility of a cat, and he would pull off amazing areal maneuvers such as the moonsault and the “Vader Bomb.”
Fucking hell, now Vader is dying.
— Thomaster (@Thomaster_stl) November 15, 2016
Vader is dying, and him telling us about it is one last feat of strength. https://t.co/pSiyCmCQzO
— Tom Breihan (@tombreihan) November 15, 2016
He would start out as Baby Bull and Bull Power before he was christened Big Van Vader while wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling. He was the first non-Japanese wrestler to ever win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and he would go on to win many more titles. His accomplishments include All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship and the WCW Heavy Weight Championship (3 times!)
Though Vader appeared in the WWF (now WWE) from 1996 to 1998, he is most known for his tenure in WCW, per The Sun. There, he challenged such future WWE Hall of Famers as Dusty Rhodes, Sting, 57, and Cactus Jack (aka Mick Foley, 51) In fact, Vader was wrestling Mick in a now-infamous match in 1994 where he ripped off Mick’s ear, according to Tech Times.
The wrestling lifestyle (and subsequent alcohol abuse) that damaged his heart also caused the end of Vader’s marriage, as his wife left him in 2007. They have a son, Jesse White, 30, who is also a professional wrestler. Along with the love of his family, Vader also has the support of wrestling fans across the world during what will be his final years. How utterly sad.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Leon and his family during this time. HollywoodLifers, what is your favorite Vader memory?