Leon White, Rams center who wrestled as Big Van Vader, dies at 63


Leon White, a center who had a brief career for the Rams but was better known as the professional wrestler Big Van Vader, has died at the age of 63.

“It is with a heavy heart to inform everyone that my father, Leon White, passed away on Monday night (6/18/18) at approximately 7:25pm,” White’s son wrote on Twitter. “Around a month ago my father was diagnosed with a severe case of Pneumonia. He fought extremely hard and clinically was making progress. Unfortunately, on Monday night his heart had enough and it was his time.”

White was a center at Colorado and was selected in the third round of the 1978 NFL draft. But his career with the Rams never got off the ground because of a bad knee. After retiring from football, however, a wrestling promoter was impressed by his size, strength and athleticism and offered him a job.

“The promoter knew who I was and decided to give me a chance,” White recalled in 2005. “Six months later, I was fighting for a world title.”

White started off in the American Wrestling Association as Baby Bull, then began going by Big Van Vader in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1987. He later wrestled in World Championship Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation, among other pro wrestling circuits. He faced the likes of Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan in his wrestling career.

In recent years White had a number of health problems, including congestive heart failure, and he said in 2016 that he had been told he only had a couple years to live.

19 responses to “Leon White, Rams center who wrestled as Big Van Vader, dies at 63

  1. SamFrancisco from SanFrancisco here.

    RIP Vader. You were one of the few greats. You may have been considered stiff in the ring by some of your peers, but we all know that’s part of the gig.

    True world champ. The Mastadon.

    It’s Time. It’s Time. ITS VADER TIME!

  2. I was hoping he would get another chance to do Steve Austin’s podcast before he left.

    He was a game changer. The first 400 pound moonsault. Rest easy big fella.

  3. Dude was unbelievable in Wrestling. I remember watching him against Sting for the WCW Title. His feuds with Sting, Flair, Luger, and Ron Simmons were some of the best of all time. That smoking mask he had, and his manager being Harley Race was just epic.

    RIP Big Man.

  4. Went to the wrestling hall of fame but he wasn’t inducted when we were there. Glad he was before he died though to be a part of it. Not a big place but pretty cool to have visited.

  5. I think I heard this was coming sooner rather than later. I wish it didn’t, I loved Vader. One of the original true monster characters in the business but from all accounts was such a nice person outside of the ring.

    RIP Big Van Vader.

  6. mybigthirdleg says:
    June 20, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Ban fake wrestling.”


    You aren’t “that guy” that runs around telling everyone wrestling’s fake are you? Everyone else realized that in 1990. Hell the WWE themselves tells you it’s all story-lines before each show.

    Do you also want to ban movies, because ya know Tom Cruise isn’t really an international spy and Tom Hanks didn’t really get lost on a tropical island.

  7. mybigthirdleg says:
    June 20, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Ban fake wrestling.

    Dude it’s live action theater. Most times still more real than reality tv & some NBA/NFL games..

  8. Wrestling is fake!? Oh no, my world is shattered. Ask Mick Foley’s ear (lost it in a match with Vader) how fake it is.

  9. I’m a product of the 80s when the WWF was massive with Hulk Hogan, the British Bulldogs, Ultimate Warrior, Iron Sheikh, Ric Flair, Macho Man Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Jimmy Super Fly Snooka, Ricky Steamboat, Sgt Slaughter, King Kong Bundy, Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, etc. We knew it was fake but was very entertaining.

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