WWE Forgotten Legends 4: Big Van Vader

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2010


For those who have been following this series, I am sorry it took so long to write this one, but Vader is an interesting man and I wanted to take my time and do him justice.

Vader, Born Leon Allen White, is one of pro wrestling's more interesting characters to say the least.

White was a high school football star who was so good that he was approached by over forty colleges to come play for them. He ended up deciding on the University of Colorado where he earned All American status.

During his time in college, White earned himself a degree in Business Administration. After a successful run in college, White was drafted to the NFL to be a part of his hometown LA Rams.

During his first season he did not see much time on the field,  as he was put on the injured reserve list. It was his second season where Leon White would find fame as he ended up playing in Superbowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers would go on to win that night, but Leon was happy he got to play in a Superbowl at all, as most football players never make it to the big game.

It wasn't until a couple years later that White's interest in wrestling would peak. He was approached in a gym by someone who remembered him from his college football days. He was told to look into pro wrestling as a new career, and he did.

White cut his teeth in the AWA (American Wrestling Association) under the names Baby Bull and Bull Power. During this time his in-ring work improved so much he earned a shot at the AWA title against the legendary Stan Hansen.

In 1987 White went to Japan to compete in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He was given the name Big Van Vader after a character from Japanese folklore.

In a match with Antonio Inoki, Vader ended up causing a riot when he defeated an already battered Inoki. NJPW was banned from the Sumo arena for years due to the incident.

Vader ended up winning an 8-man tournament to crown a new NJPW World Champion.  After losing the title a month later, he began touring Europe.

After regaining the NJPW World Title, Vader went on to challenge for, and win the CWA World Title, becoming the first man to hold both titles at the same time, as well as being the first person to ever hold two World Titles from two separate companies.

Vader added another World Title to his resume when he defeated El Canek for the UWA World Title. Vader held the belt for about a year, something that is almost unheard of today.

Vader returned to Japan to face off against his old rival Stan Hansen. The two men, who are both known as the toughest men to ever wrestle, used very stiff blows during the match to give a more realistic effect, but what came next was almost too real.

One of Hansen's punches landed wrong and he actually caused Vader's eye to pop out of it's socket. Let that sink in for a second; his eye popped out of his socket. Proving he is one of the most bad ass men on the planet, Vader popped the eye back in and finished the match as planned.

This, along with his growing title win record, gained him acclaim in the United States, and he was eventually brought into WCW while still holding the IWGP World Title.

1990 was a great year for Vader as he regained the CWA and IWGP titles again. 

Vader began wrestling as a tag team with Bam Bam Bigelow, and the giant pair won the IWGP Tag Team Titles from Hiroshi Hase and The Great Muta, who at the time went by Kenji Mutoh.

After suffering a legit knee injury at the hands of Muta, Vader and Bigelow dropped the titles to The Steiner Brothers. After returning from injury, Vader began to focus more on his career in WCW.

Once he began appearing in WCW on a regular basis, he was given a manger. The Legendary Harley Race brought Vader straight to the top. Vader ended up defeating Sting in his second attempt to gain the WCW World Title.

Vader lost the title in a historic match. He was set to face Sting, but Sting had been attacked earlier in the night, so he was replaced by Ron Simmons. Simmons would go on to win the title becoming the first African American World Champion.

A few months later Vader regained his title from Simmons in March of 1993. After losing the title back to Sting, Vader would get it back six days later for what would be his third and final WCW World Title reign. 

During this reign, he fought the likes of The British Bulldog and Dustin Rhodes, but his feud with Cactus Jack is what would garner attention. 

Vader and Cactus had very physical matches, sometimes ending in Foley getting injured. Vader powerbombed Mick onto the concrete floor causing severe injuries to his left side.

Over the next three years Vader would go on to feud with a series of wrestlers from Davey Boy Smith to Hulk Hogan to Ric Flair.

Vader was scheduled to face Sid Vicious in a match, but Sid was released after he stabbed Arn Anderson while in London.

Flair was chosen as the replacement and defeated Vader after putting his career on the line.

Vader made a brief return to Japan before joining the WWF. He debuted for WWF at the 1996 Royal Rumble. Vader came out and eliminated four guys right off the bat, before being eliminated by Shawn Michaels. He returned to the ring and assaulted everyone, even throwing some of them out of the ring. The eliminations would end up not counting and HBK went on to win for the second time.

The man they call Vader began a feud with Shawn Michaels that led to a six man tag at "In Your House." Vader pinned Michaels to get the win for his team. Being managed by Jim Cornette, Vader faced Michaels for the title in a match that was restarted twice before HBK won by pinfall.

In 1997 Vader began feuding with The Undertaker. The two men faced off in a match that would see Paul Bearer betray the Taker and allow Vader to get the win. 

During that year's Royal Rumble Bret Hart eliminated Steve Austin, who was able to sneak back in due to refs being busy on the other side of the ring. Austin eliminated Vader and the Undertaker, along with Bret Hart to win the Royal Rumble.

After unsuccessfully going after the WWF title, Vader teamed with Mick Foley, who was Mankind at the time. Part of what made their team interesting was that they never agreed on anything and would end up brawling between each other during their tag matches.

After the team of Foley and Vader disbanded, he went on to have many different short term feuds with the likes of Golddust, The Hart Foundation, and Kane.

After interfering in Kane's inferno match, the two would face off in a mask vs. mask match, which Vader lost.

After negotiating his release from WWE, Vader returned to Japan for a bit. During his time in Japan, Vader won the Triple Crown title—a title not held by many Americans at the time.

Vader would end up returning to the US. There he made a brief run with the newly formed TNA Wrestling, coming to the aid of Dusty Rhodes.

Vader would make one more WWE appearance before retiring from wrestling. He was in the corner of Jonathan Coachman during his match with Batista.

His last match was April 29, 2010 where he teamed with his own son to win a tag team match for Return of the Emperor.

Big Van Vader proved throughout his career that in order to be successful you just have to try your hardest. Vader never looked like the typical wrestler, but that never stopped him from dominating his opponents.

He is by far one of the toughest men to ever walk the planet. I see Vader getting a Hall of Fame induction sometime within the next five years, he certainly deserves it.

So that's it folks, let me know what you thought of the man they call Vader.

I plan on doing one final forgotten legends article so please vote for who you would like to see featured in the poll at the top.


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