Wrestling fans across the world were shocked to see the news that Leon White, better known as Big Van Vader, passed away recently after a long battle with his health. Although he was just 63 years old, the past year and a half have been tough for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and Wrestling Observer Hall of Famer, as he has been battling congestive heart failure.
One of White’s children tweeted from the wrestler’s account that he had passed away on Monday night after battling his heart condition and pneumonia: “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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/hJYjumvxjH
— Big Van Vader (@itsvadertime) June 20, 2018
In early May, White mentioned that he had successful heart surgery, and things were looking up him. There have been concerns about his heart for quite some time, since White announced his struggles publicly on Twitter back in November 2016. During an event in Japan in Spring 2017, Vader collapsed during a show, which he claimed was because of a shot to the head.
Outside of wrestling, White was remembered primarily for his appearance on the TV series Boy Meets World. He played Frankie Stecchino Sr., the father of the bully Frankie the Enforcer. On the show, Stecchino Sr. was also a professional wrestler who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Additionally, White appeared on an episode of Baywatch cleverly titled “Bash at the Beach.”
Because of White’s popularity in Japan, after wrestling in NJPW for years and winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship–which is where he got the name Big Van Vader–his likeness has actually been in a couple of video games as well. Alexander The Grater from Saturday Night Slam Masters and Raiden from Fatal Fury.
He was a powerhouse performer who was well-loved within the wrestling communities and paved the way for the next generation or superstars. Hopefully, WWE will honor him by adding him to the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame.