, Leon White
was bored with life on the Los Angeles Rams
. He felt like he needed to get into pro wrestling
. So he did, and became possibly the best super-heavyweight
in the world, under the name Vader
He trained under Brad Rhenigans of the AWA and wrestled some shows for them in 1986 and 1987 under the names Baby Bull and Bull Power, which he first used when wrestling in the European organization Catch around the same time. In 1987 he beat Catch owner Otto Wanz for the organization's World Heavyweight Title. Although he only held that title for a few months, it was there his international acclaim and title collecting began.
In 1988, New Japan Pro Wrestling signed White and gave him a brand new identity: Big Van Vader. It was made for him by New Japan to fit his appearance and increasingly aggressive style. And while in Japan he trained heavily, added to his moveset, and gained tons of respect within the organization, and with the press and fans. And on April 24, 1989, he dismantled the competition (including Masahiro Chono and Tatsumi Fujinami) in a tournament to become the International Wrestling Grand Prix (or IWGP) Heavyweight Champion. He lost the IWGP title the next month but then regained it in August against longtime rival Riki Chousu. He then went back to Germany in the same month and defeated Otto Wanz to win the Catch title again. Then in November, he defeated El Canek in Mexico for the UWA Heavyweight Title.
His first major exposure to American wrestling fans was in Summer of 1990, when the NWA/WCW had White debut under the Big Van Vader moniker. It was also the first time that most people first saw the infamous mastadon helmet, complete with steam output. The NWA didn't really have much for Vader to do at the time except squash jobbers convincingly. And that was okay, since he had tons of major matches elsewhere. In early 1991 he started a feud with Stan Hansen in New Japan, which not only carried over to all the feds he wrestled in, but also cost him the titles he held. He did regain the IGWP and Catch titles for a few months each however.
In 1992 he began wrestling more exclusively for WCW, where he soon dropped the "Big Van" from his name (due to New Japan laying legal claim to the full name), and under the managing of Harley Race became the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, defeating Sting in July. He later dropped the title to Ron Simmons due to his need for knee surgery, but over the next year and a half came back to hold the title two more times. He also had legendary feuds with both Sting and Mick Foley, who was then wrestling as Cactus Jack. The feud with Cactus Jack in 1993 had some pretty brutal moments, with Foley on the recieving end of most of the brutality. More famous incidents the concussion-causing powerbomb of Foley on the concrete that took place on TV (which also set up the infamous amnesia angle), and the much-documented severing of Foley's left ear in Germany. At the end of 1993, Vader was in a feud with former partner Sid Vicious, and was slated to retain the title against him at Starcade '93. But then, a few weeks before, Sid decided to attack Arn Anderson one morning with a pair of scissors, and get himself ousted from the company. So in a pinch, they replaced Sid with Ric Flair, who also put his career on the line. Suffice to say, Vader's third title reign was over, but he was promised a fourth title reign in the spring. Well, some guy by the name of Hulk Hogan got in the way of that.
Through most of 1994, Vader was pretty much stuck in an unimportant feud with Ray Traylor (in the Guardian Angels-licensed gimmick). He also took dates off from WCW to compete in and win the Best of the World Tournament for the UFWI shootfighting organization. The end of the year saw him competing for the WCW United States Heavyweight Title, which he won at Starcade '94. He also laid out a challenge to Hogan's World Title, which unfortunately didn't go far, due to Hogan's unwillingness to work with Vader due to his tough ring style. So almost all of the matches in the Hogan/Vader feud ended more or less inconclusively, and with the final match, a Cage Match at Bash at the Beach '95 that saw Hogan go over, Vader felt like his time in WCW was up. Vader was more or less contemplating a return to Japan during the rest of his time in WCW, which saw him turn face and briefly feud with Flair and Anderson and the Dungeon of Doom. He even agreed to join Hogan's team in the Wargames match at Fall Brawl '95 against the DOD. He walked away, accepting the offer from Hogan to join the team, yelling something about going to take a shower (probably the 3rd funniest thing I've seen him involved in, behind the mini-movies). And the next week he got into a fight with then-booker Paul Orndorff and got fired.
Vader took a few months off to heal injuries, returning to the ring in January 1996 for a one-time match with Antonio Inoki in Japan and hopes of a new start in the World Wrestling Federation. He actually made a pretty big initial impact in WWF, making a pretty destructive run at Royal Rumble '96, and then the next evening both squashing Savio Vega and getting involved in an angle where he attacked the current "president" of the WWF (this was before it was admitted to casual fans that Vince McMahon owned the company) Gorilla Monsoon. This set up the common suspension angle with Vader. He returned at the next pay-per-view, and through the year made his way through the ranks of the WWF. His first WWF World Title shot was at Summerslam '96 against Shawn Michaels. And he was scheduled to take the title, but Shawn threw a fit backstage, threatening to walk right then and there, so the match was changed to having more of a Dusty Finish than Dusty himeself could book. Even during the match, Vader landed just out of position for one of Shawn's spots, and in the middle of the match, he threw a fit. After that mess, Vader lost his top contender spot, again due to Michaels' backstage influence, and kind of drifted around the upper-card. He had a tag team partnership and eventual revisiting of the feud with Foley (this time with Foley playing Mankind) on the horizon. In fact, the Vader/Mankind team were scheduled to win the WWF Tag Titles against the British Bulldog and Owen Hart at Wrestlemania 13, but because of Bret Hart's heel turn, and the reunion of the previously feuding Hart family, Bret demanded that Bulldog and Owen keep the titles. So Vader was again a victim of locker room politics. So a frustrated Vader went on a Mid-East tour in April of 1997 with the WWF, and during a morning talk show in Kuwait he shoved around the show's host and destroyed the set when asked about wrestling being fake. For that little outburst, he was under house arrest for 10 days. He didn't apologize to the host of the show however, and accused him of extortion, a charge that the WWF offices backed up. After the incident, it never really was the same with Vader in the WWF. He went through a face turn in the midst of the Hart Foundation angle, and got good reactions, but the WWF just didn't have anything to do with him except use him as an opponent for up and coming talent like Kane. They were set to do more with him dependent on him losing weight(he was supposed to be one of the initial members of Vince's Corporation stable), and for a little while he was in better shape than he ever had been, but for a few months he had problems with the way his blood pressure was reacting to his new diet. So in October of 1998 he was released from the WWF.
Almost immediately after departing from the WWF, Vader joined All Japan Pro Wrestling and began an unsuccesful run for the tag titles with Stan Hansen, even though Vader was in better shape and moving better in the ring than he ever had. It impressed the bookers of All Japan enough to put Vader into singles competition, where he exceeded their expectations by making a strong showing in his win against Kenta Kobashi in January of 1999. In March of that year he defeated Akira Taue in a tournament for All Jpan's Triple Crown Championship. He was eventually defeated by Mitsuharu Misawa in May, then won it back in October. On February 20, 2000, Vader and "Dr. Death" Steve Williams defeated Kobashi and Jun Akiyama (The Burning) for the AJPW Tag Team Titles. The next week Kobashi got the win back from Vader in a singles match, and ended Vader's Triple Crown reign. In April, Vader had to take time off due to a nagging shoulder injury, so the All Japan board was forced to strip Vader and Williams of the Tag Titles. In June, Vader was one of 24 other All Japan wrestlers who departed the company with Misawa to form Pro Wrestling NOAH, which is where he competes today.
- 3 Time IGWP Heavyweight Champion
- 3 Time Catch Wrestling Assosiation Heavyweight Champion
- 3 Time WCW World Heavyweight Champion
- UWFI world Champion
- 2 Time AJPW Triple Crown Champion
- AJPW Tag-Team Champion (w/ Steve Williams)
- IWGP Tag-Team Champion (w/ Bam Bam Bigelow)
- Catch Wrestling Association Intercontinental Champion
- UWA World Champion
- WCW United States Champion
Some information courtesy of http://www.geocities.com/jfjwrestling/vader/