Cleat Geeks

34 Facts You Might Not Know About Vader

As most of you know, we here at cleatgeeks like to look at an athletes accomplishments when they pass away instead of being sad. This article is no different. Vader gives us many years of athletic accomplishments in more than one sport, in more than one country, with more than one company. So let’s celebrate a lifetime of accomplishments with a one article where hopefully you discover something you did not know about Vader.

  1. Vader’s real name is Leon Allen White. White was a nationally ranked center who was recruited by forty colleges. He played offensive line at the University of Colorado, where he was a second-team All-American for the Buffaloes in 1977. He earned a business administration degree. In the 1978 NFL Draft, White was drafted as a center by the Los Angeles Rams with the 24th pick of the 3rd Round (80th overall). During White’s first season, he was put on the injured reserve list, but in his second season, he played in Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was forced to retire after only a couple of seasons due to a ruptured patella.

2) While working out at a gym, White was spotted by a man who remembered him from his college football days who suggested he look into professional wrestling. Trained by Brad Rheingans, White got his first national exposure in the American Wrestling Association (AWA). He went by the moniker Baby Bull.

3) On March 22, 1987, he won his first championship, the CWA (Catch Wrestling Association) World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Otto Wanz in Denver, Colorado, ending Wanz’s reign of nearly nine years in its only title change in the United States.

4) Although originally signed to All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), AJPW owner Giant Baba traded White’s contract over to New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) in 1987 after consideration. Upon joining NJPW, White was given the ring name Big Van Vader and began to wear a black wrestling mask. His new identity was based on a strong warrior of the same name from Japanese folklore.

5) As Big Van Vader, he actually caused a riot! After a match where Riki Choshu had challenged Antonio Inoki in a losing effort, Vader demanded a match with the already worn down Inoki, emerging victorious. This led the pro-Inoki audience to riot, resulting in NJPW being banned from the Sumo Hall, which was its home arena; the ban was rescinded in 1989, when NJPW did their first show back in Sumo Hall on February 22.

6) After winning the final match of an eight-man tournament against Shinya Hashimoto, Vader was declared the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He was the first gaijin (non-Japanese) wrestler to hold the title.

7) In February 1990, Vader faced Stan Hansen at an AJPW versus NJPW supercard show. Before Vader entered the ring, Hansen accidentally broke Vader’s nose with the bullrope Hansen carried to the ring for his matches. During an exchange of stiff punches, Hansen unintentionally poked Vader’s left eye with his thumb during their brawl, which caused the eye to pop out of its socket. After removing his mask, pushing the eye back into its socket and holding it in place with his eyelid, Vader continued wrestling Hansen until the match was rendered a no contest. As a result of the injury, Vader required a metal plate to be surgically placed under his eye.

8) On March 1, 1992, he and Bam Bam Bigelow began teaming as “Big, Bad, and Dangerous”, and the duo would go on to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Hiroshi Hase and Keiji Mutoh.

9) In May, Vader faced Mutoh, now known as The Great Muta, one on one and suffered a legitimate knee injury. This injury was a factor in he and Bigelow losing the title to the WCW World Tag Team Champions, The Steiner Brothers after a near four-month reign.

10) Vader’s first match in WCW took place on July 7, 1990 at The Great American Bash, where he defeated Tom Zenk in a little over two minutes.

11) When he began working for WCW full-time, Vader was paired with manager, Harley Race, and received a shot at Sting’s World Heavyweight Championship on April 12, 1992, and was disqualified. Sting suffered a pair of cracked ribs and a ruptured spleen in the match after taking a Vader Bomb.

Image result for vader

12) Vader received a rematch with Sting on July 12 at The Great American Bash, which he won to become the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion. His reign was short-lived, as he re-injured his knee, forcing him to lose the title three weeks later to Ron Simmons, who substituted for Sting after he was attacked by Jake Roberts earlier that night.

13) Upon his return at Halloween Havoc, Vader sent Nikita Koloff into retirement and legitimately broke the back of jobber Joe Thurman, paralyzing him for a few hours.

14) Another fimiliar superstar also soon returned to WCW, his name was Cactus Jack. These two began a rivalry during the cable show WCW Saturday Night on April 17th. During the match, Jack suffered a broken nose and needed 27 stitches on his face. In a rematch on April 24, Vader powerbombed Jack onto the concrete floor outside the ring, resulting in Jack suffering a concussion and temporary loss of feeling in his left hand and leg.

15) But that was not the end of this feud. Vader and Cactus Jack’s feud was restarted as Jack was cleared to return for Halloween Havoc to face Vader in a Texas Death match. Vader won when Harley Race stunned Jack with a cattle prod that kept him down for a ten count. On March 16, 1994, Foley lost his right ear in a match with Vader in Munich, Germany; Foley’s head became trapped in the ropes, which were under excessive tension, causing his ear to be torn off. But, as you can see in the video below, it was not the ropes that actually ripped his ear off, it was Vader himself.

16) This incident actually almost got Sting arrested. As the story goes, when Foley was rushed to hospital the ear stayed behind, Sting realized it needed to be at the hospital if it was to be saved. Therefore, Sting got in a car with a driver who spoke little English,(rember the match took place in Germany) got to the hospital with the ear only to have them call the police on him. Basically confronted with a man wearing neon tights, a silk robe and matching facepaint clutching a severed ear they thought he was crazy. The driver explained he was a wrestler and they worked it all out. Although Flair and the others had some fun with Sting about his near trip to the mental hospital.

17) Between the two matches mentioned above, while Foley was recovering from his concussion, Vader did two other programs. First he began to feud with a new arrival to WCW, Davey Boy Smith. They met at Slamboree in May for the World Heavyweight Title. Vader lost by disqualification when he hit Smith with a chair, though he retained the title. Vader also teamed with Sid Vicious forming a tag team called, The Masters of the Powerbomb. They were defeated by Smith and his new partner, Sting, at Beach Blast in July.

18) Vader actually was one of the people who helped Ric Flair gain one of his record 30 total titles, he defeated Vader for his 2nd title reign as WCW Heavyweight Champion, but the circumstances were awkward to say the least. Vader was originally scheduled to face Sid Vicious at Starrcade. The real-life dismissal of Vicious after Arn Anderson stabbed him in England, however, forced WCW to find a quick replacement. Executive producer Eric Bischoff placed Ric Flair in the match, which was scheduled in Flair’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. In the storyline, Vader did not take Flair seriously until he agreed to put his career on the line against Vader’s title. Vader dominated the match, but Flair capitalized on failed interference by Race and Vader’s weakened knees to win the match with a rollup and end Vader’s third World Heavyweight Championship reign.

19) Vader was fired from WCW after he was involved in a locker room brawl with Paul Orndorff.

20) In 1996, Vader’s debut was heavily hyped on television as he was billed as “The Man They Call Vader” though Vince McMahon had originally wanted to rename him “The Mastodon.”

Image result for vader

Photo by; Sky Sports

21) He made his first World Wrestling Federation (WWF) appearance as a participant in the Royal Rumble match, as he entered at number 13 and eliminated Jake Roberts, Doug Gilbert, one member of the Squat Team, and Savio Vega; he also fought with his ally Yokozuna, but Vader was eliminated by Shawn Michaels before he reentered the ring and started assaulting everyone, including Michaels.

22) Much like in his WCW days, WWF decided to team Vader with a manager, but it might not be who you would think. Vader faced off against The Undertaker in a singles match at the Royal Rumble, and during the match, The Undertaker’s former manager, Paul Bearer, attacked him and helped Vader win; Bearer then became Vader’s manager.

23) During his time in WWF he never won a championship of any kind. He did win a Slammy Award, and participate in WrestleManias 12 and 13 where his record was 1-1.

24) Vader and Kane had a match at the Over the Edge pay-per-view with a Mask vs. Mask stipulation. Kane managed to defeat Vader, costing him his mask in the process. In a post-match interview with Michael Cole, Vader said, “I made the biggest mistake of my life. Maybe Vader time is over. I’m a piece of shit. A big fat piece of shit.”

25) Subsequently, Vader had a series of losses and was reduced to the status of a jobber to the stars, having a feud with Mark Henry which Vader lost. His final WWF pay-per-view match was a loss to Bradshaw at Breakdown: In Your House in a No Holds Barred match on September 27. He lost to Edge on Sunday Night Heat in his final televised WWF match. His last match in a WWF ring was on October 25 at a Madison Square Garden house show in a triple threat match with Mankind and Ken Shamrock, which Vader lost after he tapped out to Shamrock’s ankle lock. In a shoot interview, Jim Cornette said part of the reason that Vader’s WWF run was not as successful as what was hoped was due to the failure to properly book Vader. After considering retirement, Vader instead negotiated his own release from the WWF.

Image result for vader and his son jesse26) On April 29, 2010, White made a one-night return to wrestling under his Vader ring name at the event Vader Time 5 Return of the Emperor. At the event, he teamed with his son Jesse and former tag team partner Scorpio to successfully defeat Makoto Hashi, Tamon Honda and Tatsumi Fujinamiin the main event.

27) In the aftermath of the 2011 natural disasters in Japan, Vader and his son Jesse wrestled on special tribute cards for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) and Pro Wrestling Zero1.Image result for vader and his son jesse

28) Vader’s son Jesse White was signed to a developmental contract by WWE in April of 2011. In March 2012; he formed a tag team with Corey Graves. Shortly after, he won the Florida Tag Team Championship with Graves. Shortly after FCW made the transition to NXT in September 2013, it was announced that his contract with the WWE had been terminated. But Jesse must have liked announcers in WWE as he began dating JoJo Offerman. They celebrated their third anniversary in September 2016, and at the time, JoJo wrote on Instagram, “It feels like just yesterday 😍 Thank you for being you. Happy 3rd Anniversary to this man ❤.” They were also still together as of April 2017 as Jesse posted a picture of JoJo at WrestleMania 33. But, since all the rumors between JoJo and Bray Wyatt surfaced, she is keeping her love life quiet so we are not sure if they are still together.

29) Vader appeared in 3 movies and 2 television shows. Fist of the North Star in 1995 as “Goliath”, Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows andThe Unreal Story of Professional Wrestling appearing in both as himself. He also appeared in Boy Meets World (1995, 1996) in episodes “The Thrilla’ in Phila”, “New Friends and Old” and “Sixteen Candles and Four-Hundred-Pound Men” as “Francis Albert Leslie ‘Frankie’ Stecchino, Sr.” and Baywatch (1996) in episode “Bash at the Beach” as “Vader.”

30) While in Kuwait during a WWF tour in April 1997, Vader appeared on the television program Good Morning Kuwait along with The Undertaker, who was WWF World Heavyweight Champion at that time. During the interview, the host asked Taker and Vader if wrestling was fake. In response, Vader flipped over the table they were sitting at and grabbed the host by the tie, asking him if it seemed fake while using foul language. In December, White was fined $164 for this incident. Below is a video of the incident.

31) White was born in Lynwood, California, and grew up in Compton, California. He was raised with his sister in a rough area of Los Angeles known as South Central, where the siblings experienced a home break-in. His father was a US Marine. His father also was an underwater welder for the US Navy and invented an automobile hoist, which made the family wealthier and let them move to a safer neighborhood in Bell, where White attended Bell High School. In high school, he competed in shot put on the track and field team, wrestled, and played football.

32) Partially due to years of alcohol abuse and travel, White and his wife divorced in 2007, inspiring him to quit drinking and curtail his travel. White also became a born again Christian.

33) White had double knee replacement surgery, resulting in wound infection, and he was bedridden for six months. Soon after recovering, he passed out during a plane trip to Japan for an autograph session. He was in a coma for 33 days, during which he lost 112 pounds.

34) White went in for heart surgery on March 12, 2018 followed by another in May to treat an arrhythmia. On June 18 at approximately 7:25 pm, after a month-long hospitalization for pneumonia, White died. He was 63 years old.

We at cleatgeeks want to send out our prayers and condolences to the White family and that them for sharing Vader with us.

 

 

 

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