Moderator: whitemilesdavis

RIP Leon "Vader" White

Erick Von Erich
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Joined: May 13th, 2005, 9:06 pm

June 20th, 2018, 11:04 pm #1

Died from complications of pneumonia, earlier this week.

Great, great heel run in WCW. Even though I was probably 15 or 16 when I first saw him, he scared me a little. The guy looked like a bad-ass bounty hunter from a post-apocalyptic future. Toss in the evil-looking ring mask and the total dominance in his matches. Just....wow. Haven't seen his 90's Japan work, but I understand he kicked impressive amounts of tushy over there, too.

FWIW, I always preferred calling him "Big Van Vader" and not just "Vader".
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Scrooge McSuck
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Joined: December 8th, 2004, 2:32 am

June 21st, 2018, 2:12 am #2

First and foremost, Vader, or “Big Van Vader” as he was originally called, TERRIFIED THE HELL OUT OF ME. Part of it was his in-ring style, part of it was his intimidating size, but most of it was the steam spewing elephant mask that he wore to the ring. Intimidation at its finest. Years later and its still one of the more memorable entrances of the era, and one of the few WCW entrances I thought stood out from the pack. Even at a young age (I was no older than 10 when Vader worked his last match in WCW), I considered him a cool heel (see also: The Undertaker in 90-91), and actually was pulling for him over Hulk Hogan (no, my hatred of Hogan in the mid 90’s isn’t a late-developed fabrication. I thought him in WCW was a nod to being washed up, and thought Vader was cooler).

Vader joined the WWF in the early days of 1996, and I legit marked out when they announced him as a participant in the Royal Rumble Match. It still was obvious Shawn Michaels was walking away the winner, but this was a big deal for me, being too young to know he was released by WCW over a backstage altercation with Paul Orndorff. Despite a strong performance in the Rumble (destroying a bunch of outsiders like the Headhunters and Doug Gilbert), it was his Monday Night Raw debut that stuck with me for years. Not only did he squash Savio Vega, he physically assaulted GORILLA MONSOON. Except for one random occasion on Prime-Time years earlier, nobody ever laid their hands on Monsoon. The storyline suspension wrote him off for shoulder surgery, but as a fan watching it happen, it made him look like the indestructible monster I remembered from WCW. Vader’s 1996 was solid, if in hindsight, unspectacular. I lost interest in the product in 1997, and by the time I came back to it, Vader was a babyface, far away from the WWF Title picture. He still had the name value, but 12 year old me couldn’t wrap his mind around why he was barely beating guys that were also way outside the title picture.

My appreciation for Vader interested in me in looking outside of WWF and WCW for his matches. When I got into tape trading, it was hunting down footage of Vader that got me into watching Japanese pro wrestling. I didn’t know the companies or what the storylines were, but to see him giving even more brutal punishment in matches was a thing to see, and from there I looked deeper into the video library to expand my collection and my “wrestling pallet.” Beyond that, I looked at Vader as an example that size doesn’t dictate athletic ability. He wasn’t the smoothest, but he carried his massive frame well, and worked like a tank at the same time. As someone who always had issues with keeping weight down, I saw a powerful man and thought “you can be a bigger guy and still be able to do things smaller guys do, just just have to work harder at it.”

Anyone who followed social media in recent years probably read of his poor health, and given a timetable from doctors that he only had so long to live. Unfortunately, that timetable proved to be accurate, passing away at 63 years of age. Our last visual of him on WWE TV was inducting Stan Hansen into the Hall of Fame a few years ago, and a final legacy of fans sadly pleading with WWE to induct him into the Hall of Fame as well before his passing. Vader might’ve left the spotlight in America two decades ago, but his legacy carries on. His classic encounters with Sting and Cactus Jack in WCW, destroying Gorilla Monsoon and “breaking Yokozuna’s leg”, forcing him to be stretchered out on a FORKLIFT. Giving Kane one of the worst, most awkward tombstone piledrivers in history… waffling Ken Shamrock for working too stiff at Cold Day in Hell… There’s a lot to remember, and more to find that has slipped through the cracks.
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torturedsoulv1
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torturedsoulv1
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Joined: April 17th, 2010, 9:33 pm

June 21st, 2018, 4:29 am #3

Loved him in WCW. Best wrestler in the world in 1992 and 1993 IMO

I've never followed Japanese wrestling, but he was a big deal there

His WWF run wasn't so good. Partly the Kliq. Partly WWF booking. Partly his weight gain

I also remember him in the AWA. As baby bull Leon White. In '85 or '86 I think

RIP Big Van Vader
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Erick Von Erich
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Joined: May 13th, 2005, 9:06 pm

June 21st, 2018, 10:03 pm #4

I'll second that "best wrestler in the world from 92-93". People could make fun of wrestling's silliness, but with VADER coming at you, there was absolutely nothing funny about him. The old cliche about: "there's a guy you'd never want to meet in a dark alley" wasn't hyperbole with him. Or, as Heenan might say: "I wouldn't want to meet him in a well-lit alley, either!"

Had a younger friend from back in the day...he was actually one of the kids that "Bull Power/Baby Bull" Leon White pulled out of the crowd and brought into the ring with him! Circa that 85-87 window in the AWA.

Never knew that he played in Super Bowl XIV for the Rams against the Steelers.

Due to his University of Colorado connection, the local papers around here would include little tidbits about him, every so often.

I think he hit WWF too late, IMO. It was a weird game in 1996, but if he had come in circa 1990-1993, things might've been different. Honestly, I could see him with a Yokozuna type of push in those days.
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torturedsoulv1
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torturedsoulv1
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Joined: April 17th, 2010, 9:33 pm

June 22nd, 2018, 7:32 am #5

Vader had so many high impact moves as well

Powerbomb finisher. Chokelsam, Clothesline. Big splash. Even his punches in the corner looked stiff

Then he had a moonsault. Which was amazing for a man his size. The Vader bomb from the 2nd turnbuckle was good as well

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torturedsoulv1
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torturedsoulv1
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Joined: April 17th, 2010, 9:33 pm

June 22nd, 2018, 7:32 am #6

Vader had so many high impact moves as well

Powerbomb finisher. Chokelsam, Clothesline. Big splash. Even his punches in the corner looked stiff

Then he had a moonsault. Which was amazing for a man his size. The Vader bomb from the 2nd turnbuckle was good as well

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