Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Big Van Vader

This write up started as a brief career overview of Big Van Vader for my upcoming post about Wrestlers Who Died in 2018, however the more I wrote I decided to make this a post on it's own.

The Baby Bull in the AWA
After a failed football career Leon White was trained by Brad Rheingans debuting in the AWA as the Baby Bull in 1985.  In 1986 worked for Otto Wanz's Catch Wrestling Association under the name Bull Power.  The following year he won the CWA World Championship ending Wanz's near 9 year run as champion.  Strangely the match took place in Denver, Colorado.  He would go onto hold the championship three times.

Bull Power with the CWA Championship
He debuted in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1987 after being given the gimmick Big Van Vader and demolished Antonio Inoki in short order in his debut match causing a riot in Sumo Hall.  On May 25, 1989 he won his first of  three IWGP Championships.

Big Van Vader IWGP Champion
In November 1989 he debuted in Mexico for the Universal Wrestling Association.  He defeated El canek to win the UWA World Heavyweight Championship, a title he would hold for one year.  He also wrestled a couple matches for CMLL a few days after winning the UWA Championship.

Big Van Vader with the UWA Championship
In February 1990 New Japan battled All Japan in Supercard that lead to Vader going on to have a memorable feud with Stan Hansen including having his eye popped out of it's socket.  Vader pushed it back in and continued the match.

After getting his eye popped out
The first time I ever saw Vader was watching the Wrestle War 1991 tape and seeing Vader and Hansen battle to a wild and crazy double DQ.  On July 12, 1992 Vader defeated Sting at the Great American Bash to win the WCW World Championship, he would hold the title three times.

Big Van Vader with WCW Championship
I loved watching Vader in WCW he was so dominate and was just the man.  Then he went to WWF and well, he just wasn't.  After WWF he would return to prominence in All Japan winning the Triple Crown Championship and NOAH winning the GHC Tag Team Championships with 2 Cold Scorpio.  He would bounce around the independents, making sporadic appearances in TNA, WWE, and AJPW.

Big Van Vader as Triple Crown Champion
Vader & Scorpio NOAH GHC Tag Team Champions action figures
I saw Vader wrestle live just once on June 1, 2012 at the Pro Wrestling Syndicate 5th Anniversary show in Rahway, New Jersey.  On the card he wrestled Too Cold Scorpio in a hard hitting match that was much better than I expected it would be.  Vader won with a Vader Bomb.

My photos of Big Van Vader vs. 2 Cold Scorpio

From August 21, 1989 to December 12, 1989 Vader accomplished something that I do not think anyone else has ever duplicated.  He held three different world championships in three different promotions on three different continents.  Mexico's Universal Wrestling Association, Austria's Catch Wrestling Association, and Japan's NJPW IWGP Championship.

He caught the headlines once again in the summer of 2016 after Will Osprey and Ricochet had a much herald match in New Japan Pro Wrestling.  Vader was very critical of the match which lead to a twitter feud between Vader and Osprey.  This lead to a match on August 12, 2016 that saw Vader defeat Osprey at RevPro Uprising 2016 in Bethnal Green, London.

In April 2017 he wrestled his last tour of Japan, a three day stint wrestling in six man tags in Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Osaka.  His final match came on May 25, 2017 defeated The Ironman at WrestleJam V in Ringgold, Georgia.

In November of 2016 after a vehicle crash, Vader was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and was very public about the fact that he only had a couple years left because of it.  A year and a half later he succumbed to pneumonia on June 18, 2018 at the age of 63.

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Later Readers!

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