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Wrestling / Vader

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"It's time! IT'S TIME! IT'S! VADER! TIME!"

Trained by Brad Rheingans, Leon Allen White (May 14, 1955 – June 18, 2018), known in the wrestling world as Big Van Vader, was one of Professional Wrestling's legendary big men, having made a name for himself all over the world, including WCW, WWE, and Japan. Among his many achievements, he was a 3x WCW World Heavyweight Champion, a 3x New Japan Pro Wrestling IWGP Heavyweight Champion, a 1x New Japan Pro Wrestling IWGP Tag Team Champion with Bam Bam Bigelow, and a 2x All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion. He started his career in the AWA in the mid-1980s as "The Baby Bull" Leon White and also competed for Otto Wanz's Catch Wrestling Association in Austria/Germany, Pro Wrestling NOAH and TNA.

As usual, That Other Wiki has an article on his career.

Not to be confused with Darth Vader or the band called Vader.



  • The Ace: He's the only man to have ever held three different world titles from three different promotions on three continents (UWA Mexico in North America, New Japan in Asia and the German Catch Wrestling Association in Europe) simultaneously, making him the closest thing professional wrestling has ever had to a true world champion since the death of Lou Thesz, the first undisputed world wrestling champion.
  • Acrofatic: Especially considering his finisher, the Vadersault (which is, indeed, a Moonsault).
  • All-American Face: He was the leader of "Team USA" during the USA vs Canada Feud.
  • Animal Motifs
    • Vince McMahon wanted to rename him the Mastodon so that he could trademark the name. He has the ability to turn into one in the WWF In Your House Challenge video game.
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    • Before going to Japan and becoming Vader he was Baby Bull, then Bull Power.
  • Arch-Enemy
    • Riki Choshu in New Japan.
    • Sting in WCW, and while probably not as personal as Riki Choshu from Vader's point of view, Vader was able to make Sting team up with his own long time nemesis, Ric Flair.
    • Akira Taue in All Japan. They did team up once but were not a particularly good team and went right back to feuding.
    • In Real Life, Will Ospreay, which started over Vader criticizing a match of Will's (the one against Ricochet in the Best of the Super Juniors), turned into a ton of back and forth sniping between the two over the Internet (laced with what seemed like genuine animosity) and ended in a match in Britain's Revolution Pro Wrestling.
  • Ax-Crazy: At the start of his WWF run, which actually got him (kayfabe) fired. Jim Cornette was able to get him to settle down when he brought Vader back and acted as his manager.
  • Badass Beard: It was most noticeable during his spat with the less hairy Bret Hart.
  • Badass Santa: The WWF had him dress up like Santa Claus, so he gave out candy and used the opportunity to sneak attack The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust.
  • Bash Brothers: Bam Bam Bigelow, 2 Cold Scorpio, Stan Hansen, "Dr. Death" Steve Williams.
  • Belly Flop Crushing: Used many variations of the splash throughout his career
  • Bowdlerize: His WCW feud with Cactus Jack was more violent and bloody than their televised showings would have you believe.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": A red "V" on his black mask. His red masks have less obvious, small black or white marks, depending on which you are looking at, that could be called a "v" as well.
  • The Brute: Made a career out of it. It helps that he's a legit tough guy inside and outside the ring.
  • The Bully: This was basically his entire character, delighting in abusing others with his strength in and out of the ring. He was a much nicer guy in person, though like most wrestlers, he has negative stories about him.
  • Bullying a Dragon: While generally a sweet guy in real life (despite being a rather stiff performer in the ring), Vader could be pushed too far. When Ken Shamrock (an infamously stiff worker himself) faced him at the WWF In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell PPV in May 1997, he laid into Vader with stiff kicks to the knees and blows to the head. Eventually Vader had enough of this treatment and, even though he was booked to lose to Shamrock by submission, wound up a Megaton Punch which absolutely flattened the veteran MMA fighter. After shaking the stars out of his vision, Shamrock rushed into the finishing sequence of the match (where he got Vader in an ankle lock and made him tap out) very quickly.
  • Captain Ersatz: A favorite for Fire Pro Wrestling. He also appeared in the videogames Saikyou: Takada Nobuhiko under the name of "Geiger" and Funaki Masakatsu: Hybrid as "M. Cougar". He was also the inspiration for Fatal Fury's brutal superheavyweight masked wrestler Raiden.
  • CatchPhrase
    • The aforementioned "Vader Time" shtick.
    • Also, what Mick Foley called his "'Who's the Man?' gorilla-grunting routine."
  • Cool Helmet: For years he would wear a large smoke-emitting helmet to the ring that resembled a cross between a gas mask and an elephant's head.
  • Cool Mask: Until Kane removed it
  • Death from Above: THE VADERSAULT. Vader was 450 pounds. (to put that into perspective, that's very nearly the current weight of The Big Show.)
  • Death Seeker: May have been this in real life, as he had made statements to the effect that he would rather die in the ring than in a hospital bed.
    "If this thing's gonna happen, I'd rather be in a ring, anywhere, compared to sitting in a hospital room in a hospital bed, sitting there like some sheep getting ready to be slaughtered. It's not who I am, and it's not the way it's gonna happen with me."
    • Sadly did not come to pass as he died from heart failure at 63, though he at least got to stay active up until his death, which is more than most of his contemporaries got.
  • Demoted to Extra
  • Distaff Counterpart: Aja Kong, unofficially (Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 even pairs them and Bam Bam Bigelow together). Officially, Big Van Missy.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Vader was an infamously stiff worker as it was (he made his fame wrestling in Japan, where stiff shots were the norm rather than the exception), but the strength behind his punches and throws are what gave him an awful reputation outside of WCW and Japanese promotions — he once broke the back of an enhancement talent with a power bomb by accident and was reportedly brought to tears when informed about it. This also brought his push as a Wrestling Monster in the WWE to a screeching halt... Shawn Michaels was so spooked by a glancing potato (a "real" punch in Wrestling parlance) that Vader threw at him in a dark match that he reportedly refused to work a program with Vader, leading to other wrestlers doing the same. Without viable opponents, Vader tumbled down the card, becoming a shadow of himself as a glorified Jobber and eventually leaving the company without his famed mystique to boot.
  • Downer Ending: His death from heart failure at the age of 63. While he didn't die young as such, the real tragedy is that WWE refused to induct him into the Hall of Fame while he was alive, despite two classes going by since the diagnosis of his heart problems without them asking him and Vader desperately wanting to be inducted (as recounted by good friend Mick Foley), which cannot be interpreted as anything other than a callous intentional snubbing by WWE.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Used to have a black mask that covered much more of his face. The red ones that show more skin are the masks everyone from Japan to Mexico associate with him.
    • The weird giant elephant/Darth Vader helmet he wore to the ring in Japan is an even bigger example.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • With The Undertaker temporarily when he prevented Kane from escaping from their inferno match.
    • With The Patriot vs Bret Hart.
    • Attempted by Paul Bearer to give him and Mankind a common goal but it did not work.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Made his New Japan Pro-Wrestling debut in the Vader gimmick by Squashing the promotion's biggest star, Antonio Inoki at Year End in Kokugikan 1987, December 12, 1987 in a brisk 2:49, sparking a riot that led to the arena banning NJPW for fourteen months.
    • In WWF, he attacked and injured acting WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. A few months later, he assaulted Yokozuna, broke his leg, and then kept on attacking him while medics tried to get him onto an ambulance.
  • Eye Scream
    • In 1990, during an All Japan Pro Wrestling/New Japan Pro Wrestling supercard show, Vader faced fellow brawler Stan Hansen in a match. During the match, Hansen, who, like Vader, is known for his incredibly stiff style of fighting, landed a punch which caused Vader's right eyeball to pop out of socket. Fortunately, the eyeball was contained by the swelling of his eyelid.
    • And then, later in that same fight, he pushed his eye back in the socket with his own fingers.
  • Feel No Pain: His standard Badass Boast included him saying "I fear no man and I feel no pain!"
  • Fingerless Gloves: They complemented his flesh exposing mask well enough
  • Finishing Move: Powerbomb, Vader Bomb (second-rope inverted slingshot splash), Vadersault
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: In NJPW but he did eventually turn face.
  • Game-Breaking Injury
    • See Megaton Punch below; Vader couldn't walk for three days after that match.
    • Something of an inversion, Vader was the one that threw Cactus Jack into the ropes, where Cactus Jack got tied up and ended up losing most of one of his ears. Early in Cactus Jack's/Mick Foley's run in the WWE as Mankind the injury was shown to both reveal to wrestling fans who he was and to establish him as one of the craziest/toughest men on the roster. (For what it's worth, the injury was a terrible accident and wasn't anybody's "fault" per se. It was a planned spot Foley often did, and he attributes the injury to the ropes being too tight in Have A Nice Day.)
  • Gentle Giant: Outside of the ring, anyway. Jim Cornette was once asked what the first thought to come to mind was when he thought of Vader. Jim's immediate response? "A big ol' teddy bear".
  • Gimmick Matches: Vader technically should not have even lost his strap match to Hulk Hogan, given it was Ric Flair Hogan drug around for the four corners. Well, given it was Hogan, Vader probably would have ended up losing anyway but WCW didn't have the decency to keep the stipulation.
  • Heroic BSoD: Vader suffers one following his match with Kane at Over the Edge 1998, to the point where he calls himself a "piece of shit." (Clip starts at 2:58)
  • Hero Killer
    • His WCW run began with him squashing Sting and then beating him again for the world heavy weight championship belt. Then killing careers by retiring Nikita Koloff and breaking Joe Thurman's back is really put him in this category.
    • Hope Spot: Vader would continue to beat Sting too but every match they had saw Sting get closer and closer to beating Vader. This went on for eight months. Due to injury Vader dropped the title to someone substituting for Sting's rematch, Ron Simmons, but he won the title back from Simmons after he was healthy again and no one else was able to beat Vader again until Sting finally got the job done.
  • Hired Guns: Hired by Jonathan Coachman along his former enemy Goldust to take out "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Instead the two of them ended up fighting Dave Batista.
  • Homage
    • Big Van Walter in Germany's westside Xtreme wrestling.
    • Some of Jack Swagger's moves are taken from Vader.
    • Raiden from Fatal Fury and character Alexander the Grater from Saturday Night Slam Masters, are videogame characters based on Vader.
  • Large Ham: Though he usually let a manager do most of his talking, Vader could get very animated when he decided to cut his own promos or when Jim Cornette was talking him up in the locker room.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: He'd tell you red and black were the superior colors.
  • Leitmotif: Mastodon in WWF, which was in reference to his vetoed rename...or maybe those weird helmets he used to wear. Or both.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Especially during his younger years.
  • Made of Iron
    • He got right back up after a Samoan drop from the 600 pound Yokozuna.
    • Stan Hansen broke his orbital bone and made his eye pop out, Vader popped it back in and kept fighting.
  • Megaton Punch: Delivers one to Ken Shamrock in their match at the WWF in Your house 15: A Cold Day in Hell PPV in May 1997. Shamrock was one of the only ones who could legitimately tolerate Vader's stiff style.note  After several minutes of Shamrock kicking Vader as hard as he could around the legs and thighs, Vader winds up and throws a punch/clothesline that levels Shamrock.
  • Mini Mook: Besides Big Van Vader, there was the lesser known Mini Vader.
  • Moment Killer
    • One of the biggest anticlimax promos in WWE history occurred on his time. When he did his "WHAT TIME IS IT?!" at the end, Sunny, the woman interviewing him, mentioned it was about 15 minutes until the PPV started. It deflated Vader.
    • Funny Background Event: But what everyone remembers about that promo is Road Warrior Hawk entering in the background, realizing he was walking in on the promo, gawking in surprise, and walking back out.
    • Another example for both came in 2005. Vader had been brought in by Jonathan Coachman (along with Goldust) for a beatdown on Batista (who was filling in for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin for a match at Taboo Tuesday.) Vader and Goldust laid Batista out (I know, right?) and then, as the villainous trio were making their exit, Vader jumped off the apron... only to lose his balance and promptly fall on his ass. Not that that match had much steam going into Taboo Tuesday as it stood, but that COULDN'T have helped.
  • Mythopoeia: In New Japan Pro Wrestling Big Van Vader was said to have been inspired by a legend in which a man fought to defend his village for seventy two hours straight, but no such story actually existed until Go Nagai (who is also behind Jushin Thunder Liger) came up with it.
  • Only One Name: Only known as Vader for awhile because New Japan took out a copyright on Big Van Vader and refused to let WCW use the entire name.
  • Power Stable
    • Makai Club in New Japan
    • Camp Cornette in the WWF
    • KAOS in Pro Wrestling NOAH
    • The Masters of the Power Bomb in WCW, after Booker T and Stevie Ray were taken in as Kole and Kane.
    • Also, the Dungeon of Doom
  • Precision F-Strike:
  • Prejudiced For Pecs: A beneficiary of it but also ran into the negative side of the trope too. Ole Anderson thought moonsaults from a guy Vader's size would not be bought by fans, for example.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: Boy Meets World made use of Vader's wrestling for the episode Sixteen Candles and Four-Hundred-Pound Men. He showed up at least one more time in The thrilla in Philla and was known to be the father of a one of the show's bullies.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Assuming it wasn't a really well-done work, Vader got into a slanging match on Twitter with Will Ospreay after he publicly criticised Ospreay's famous match against Ricochet at Best Of The Super Junior, which ultimately culminated in the two of them having a match at a Revolution Pro Uprising event in August 2016. After interference from Pete Dunne (on Vader's behalf) and Ricochet himself (on Ospreay's), Vader came out on top, but Ospreay then cut a promo on him where he implied that he'd been originally booked to go over but the ending had been changed after Vader had refused to lose, something he later stated openly in an interview.
  • Red Baron: (in the AWA): "The Baby Bull"; (in USAW): "The Prince Of Power"; (in WWE): "The Mastodon"
  • Ring Oldies: He could still get it done in the ring, even at the age of 60.
  • The Rival: Primarily known as an opponent of Tatsumi Fujinami and Ron Simmons, though Big Van Vader has teamed up with them on quite a few occasions and he ended up being a good teammate to both of them.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: He threatened to leave NJPW if they didn't book his rematch over Tony Halme, which they did. To be fair, Halme had shot on Vader at the first match and hit it for real, enraging White and forcing everybody to separate them backstage.
  • Signature Move: Vader attack (running body block), Vader Crush (standing splash, doing it from the ropes made it the Vader Bomb), Vader Hammer (forearms in the corner), Vader Slam (running power slam), face eraser (wheelbarrow face buster).
  • Smarmy Host: As asked by a Kuwaiti reporter if "wrestling was fake", which caused him to assault said reporter. Miscommunication lead to Jerry Brisco telling Vader it was a work, so he felt free to go crazy on the reporter but it was not, so he suffered a fine. Unfortunate since Vader was both passive otherwise and a stiff worker.
  • Spikes of Villainy: His helmet/armor had several long sharp bits in it. They were a little more curved points that spikes but same effect.
  • Still Got It: On his Raw appearance in June 2012, Vader went one on one with Heath Slater. Despite being a little slower on his feet and at getting back up than he used to be, Vader actually pulled out a pretty good match against Slater, and the crowd showered him with praise for his effort, popping enormously when he hit the Vader Bomb for the win.
  • Stout Strength: Vader was not just a big guy, he was strong enough to lift up guys just as large and larger than himself.
  • Tag Team:
  • Too Many Belts: Held the New Japan Pro Wrestling IWGP Heavyweight Title and the CWA (Catch Wrestling Association in Austria/Germany) World Heavyweight Title at the same time in 1989-1990, forcing him to go back and forth between two continents on a regular basis.
  • Tournament Arc
    • Defeated Shinya Hashimoto in the finals of the 1989 IWGP Heavyweight Title Tournament held by New Japan
    • Won the 1993 WCW Battle Bowl, which was more like a series of qualifying matches for a lethal lottery battle royal than a tournament but is counted as one all the same. Also, he beat Kane to qualify... the Kane who is better known as Stevie Ray, not the Big Red WWE machine.
    • "Super Vader" beat Nobuhiko Takada to win the UWFi Best of the World Tournament in 1994
    • In the last match of the seventeen day AJPW Champion Carnival 1999, Vader defeated Kenta Kobashi
    • In 2001, he and Too Cold Scorpio won the GHC Tag Team Title Tournament, Pro Wrestling NOAH version.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Costing Cactus Jack his ear was not even the end of it. In WCW, he would power bomb Cactus Jack on concrete, leading Jack into an amnesia angle (except not).
  • Versus Title: UWFi Pro Wrestling World Championship: Takada vs. Vader.
  • The Worf Effect
    • Was used to help Kane get over at a Pay Per View, and in order to build credibility for Kane as a monster heel, Kane had to annihilate Vader. Notably very controversial at the time, as Vader had built up a huge amount of credibility as a monster heel in WCW and Japan over the years. His career never truly recovered from such a devastating loss.
    • A few years prior, his career took another hit when in a match with Hulk Hogan, Hogan (who was at the height of his Invincible Hero stage) no sold Vader's Power Bomb, a move that has legitimately caused concussions and broken backs.
  • Worthy Opponent: In real life he speaks very highly of his feud with Mick Foley, noting that the hardest he has ever been hit was by Foley (then Cactus Jack) with a scoop shovel. Take into account that he was once hit so hard in the face that his eye popped out.
  • Wrench Whack: Tried many times during his feud with Kane.
  • Wrestling Family: His son Jesse was in WWE's developmental program WWE NXT as Jake Carter until he was released.
  • Wrestling Monster: One of the trope codifiers in North America, the other being the Undertaker. Still provides the page image because he was just that intimidating.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Had to use the name Super Vader when he worked in the UWF-I.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Tragically, Vader announced in November 2016 that he was dying of congestive heart failure and had possibly less than two years to live. As well as the expected outpouring of support, this made fans desperate for him to be inducted in WWE's Hall of Fame as soon as possible.
    • Diamond Dallas Page took on the challenge of trying to help Leon with his health using his patented DDP Yoga, and after what he did for Jake Roberts and Scott Hall, fans prayed he could work another of his miracles to help save another ring legend. Additionally, Vader consulted a 4th doctor who gave him a much more positive diagnosis than the first 3, meaning things might not have been as bad as they initially appeared...
    • ...but in the end, it wasn't enough. He had heart surgery in late March 2018, but soon came down with pneumonia. The stress proved too much for his already weakened heart, and he passed less than three months after the surgery, before he had a chance to go into the WWE Hall.

Alternative Title(s): Big Van Vader


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