June 20 (UPI) — Professional wrestler star and former world champion, Vader, real name Leon White and also known as Big Van Vader, has died at the age of 63.
Vader’s son, Jessie White, announced the grappler’s death on his father’s Twitter page on Wednesday.
“It is with a heavy heart to inform everyone that my father, Leon White, passed away on Monday night (6/18/18) at approximately 7:25pm,” he said.
“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,” White continued.
Vader, nicknamed The Mastodon, started his squared-circle career in 1985 joining the American Wrestling Association after retiring from the NFL due to injury. He made a name for himself competing in New Japan Pro Wrestling before moving onto World Championship Wrestling where he was featured as one of the promotion’s biggest stars.
Vader, in WCW, was a three-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion and had once captured the United States Championship. He enjoyed classic feuds against legends such as Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sting and Ron Simmons.
The big and powerful Vader switched to WWE in 1996 and was featured in matches with more legends including Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Vader also had a recurring guest role on 90s sitcom Boy Meets World.
“Rest in Power Big Man. A shame we never got to mix it up more. #VaderTime,” current WWE star Samoa Joe said on Twitter alongside a selfie of himself making Vader’s signature v-shaped hand gesture.
“Maaaaan…Vader was my guy as a child and was a sweetheart when he came down to FCW to help train us. I’m forever grateful for the conversations I was able to share with him. Condolences to Leon’s son, Jesse, and the rest of his family,” said another current WWE star Big E of The New Day.