Big Van Vader Dead at 63 - Wrestler Leon White Passes After Battle With Pneumonia

Former WCW and WWE superstar Leon White, a.k.a. Big Van Vader a.k.a. Vader, passed away Monday night from pneumonia. He was 63.

One of White's children tweeted from his account to deliver the news before following up with more details behind White's passing. The second tweet read, "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."

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In early May, White tweeted he had undergone successful heart surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat. His heart shifted to an A-Fib irregular heart beat, which increased White's chance of having a heart attack and stroke.

White's athletic prowess was apparent early on. He was a nationally-ranked center for the University of Colorado and eventually drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1978 where he played two seasons before a patella injury ended his career. His wrestling career began in 1985 in independent promotions like the American Wrestling Association. Soon he headed to Japan where he would be given the name Big Van Vader and shape the persona that defined his in-ring career. In 1989, Vader would become the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, the most prestigious title in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He was the first non-Japanese wrestler to hold the title.

Vader would return to the 1990 for WCW where he would tussle with some of the biggest names in the industry like Sting, Ric Flair and Cactus Jack. He would capture three World Heavyweight Championships during his time in the company.

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His next stop would be the then WWF in 1996 where he immediately fought for the WWF World Heavyweight title against champion Shawn Michaels. However, his time in the WWF was short and his frustrations with the company forced Vader to head back to Japan before his retirement.

Despite his relative short tenure in the industry, Vader was a fan-favorite especially to current WWE superstars who have taken to Twitter to show their appreciation for White's work and express how he has influenced them.

Here are just a few examples.

Big Van Vader Dead at 63 - Wrestler Leon White Passes After Battle With Pneumonia | Gaming