Big Van Vader
May 14, 1957
Leon "Bull Power" White
"Baby Bull" Leon White
Big Van Vader
The Vader Bomb (WWF)
CWA (Catch Wrestling Association) World Heavyweight title (as Bull Power) defeating Otto Wanz
(March 22, 1987);
IWGP Heavyweight title defeating Shinya Hashimoto [Tournament] (April 24, 1989);
IWGP Heavyweight title defeating Riki Choshu (August 10, 1989);
CWA (Catch Wrestling Association) World Heavyweight title (as Bull Power) defeating Otto Wanz
(August 21, 1989);
World Heavyweight title defeating El Canek (November 22, 1989);
CWA (Catch Wrestling Association) World Heavyweight title defeating Mark Rambo for vacant title (December 22, 1990);
IWGP Heavyweight title defeating Tatsumi Fujinami (January 17, 1991);
CWA (Catch Wrestling Association) Intercontinental Heavyweight title defeating Tatsumi Fujinami (December 21, 1991);
IWGP Tag Team titles w/Bam Bam Bigelow defeating Keiji Mutoh & Hiroshi Hase (March 1, 1992);
WCW World Heavyweight title defeating Sting (July 12, 1992);
WCW World Heavyweight title defeating Ron Simmons (December 30, 1992);
WCW World Heavyweight title defeating Sting (March 17, 1993);
WCW United States Heavyweight title defeating Jim Duggan (December 27, 1994);
AJPW (All Japan) Triple Crown Heavyweight title defeating Akira Taue for vacant title (March 6, 1999);
AJPW (All Japan) Triple Crown Heavyweight title defeating Mitsuharu Misawa (October 30, 1999);
AJPW (All Japan) World Tag Team titles w/Steve Williams defeating Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi (February 20, 2000);
NOAH Global Honored Tag Team titles w/2 Cold Scorpio defeating Akitoshi Saito & Jun Akiyama [Tournament] (October 19, 2001);
IZW (Okalahoma) Heavyweight title defeating Aaron Neil (October 22, 2005);
Professional wrestling career
American Wrestling Association (1985–1987)
While working out at a gym, White was spotted by a man who remembered him from his college football days who suggested he look into professional wrestling. Trained by Brad Rheingans, White got his first national exposure in the American Wrestling Association. He went by the moniker Baby Bull, which was later changed to Bull Power. White honed his skills during this time, and his ring work improved significantly to the point that he was granted a title match against Stan Hansen for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, which he was unable to win.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (1987–1992)
Although originally signed to All Japan Pro Wrestling, AJPW owner Giant Baba traded White's contract over to New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1987 after consideration. Upon joining NJPW, White was given the ring name Big Van Vader and began to wear a black wrestling mask. His new identity was based on a strong warrior of the same name from Japanese folklore. He was introduced as the crown jewel of the Takeshi Puroresu Gundan stable that was managed by Takeshi Kitano. After a match where Riki Chōshū had challenged Antonio Inoki in a losing effort, Vader demanded a match with the already worn down Inoki, and was victorious. This led the pro-Inoki audience to riot, resulting in NJPW being banned from the Sumo Hall, which was its home arena; the ban was rescinded in 1989, when NJPW did their first show back in Sumo Hall on February 22.
After winning the final match of an eight-man tournament against Shinya Hashimoto, Vader was declared the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion. On May 25, one month after being crowned champion, Vader lost the title to Russian suplex master Salman Hashimikov. Hashimikov dropped the title to Vader's old rival, Riki Chōshū, on July 12. On August 10, Vader was given an opportunity at Chōshū and the title. He defeated Chōshū to become a two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Shortly after winning the title again, White traveled to Europe, again using the name Bull Power, to face Otto Wanz for the CWA World Heavyweight Championship. He won the match and, as a result, held the Heavyweight Championship in two separate organizations at the same time. He continued to travel between Japan and Europe, defending his titles. In November 1989, Vader traveled to Mexico to defeat El Canek in the Universal Wrestling Association for the UWA World Heavyweight Championship, becoming the first and only man to hold three world heavyweight titles in three continents simultaneously. He lost the UWA championship back to Canek on December 12, 1990.
In February 1990, Vader faced Stan Hansen at an AJPW versus NJPW supercard show. Before Vader entered the ring, Hansen accidentally broke Vader's nose with the bullrope Hansen carried to the ring for his matches. During an exchange of stiff punches, Hansen unintentionally poked Vader's right eye with his thumb during their brawl, which caused the eye to pop out of its socket. After removing his mask, pushing the eye back into its socket and holding it in place with his eyelid, Vader continued wrestling Hansen until the match was rendered a no contest. As a result of the injury, Vader required a metal plate to be surgically placed under his eye. Vader's success garnered the attention of World Championship Wrestling, who convinced him to work for them while still the IWGP Heavyweight Champion and an active competitor in NJPW.
Vader's first match in WCW took place on July 7, 1990 at The Great American Bash, where he defeated Tom Zenk in a little over two minutes. Around this time, Vader began a feud with Stan Hansen in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Two weeks later, Vader went to Europe and defeated Rambo in a tournament final to reclaim the vacant CWA World Heavyweight Championship and become a three-time CWA World Heavyweight Champion in the process. In January 1991, Vader defeated Tatsumi Fujinami to earn himself a third IWGP Heavyweight Title reign. This reign was short-lived however, as Vader lost the title back to Fujinami on March 4. Rambo ended Vader's CWA World Heavyweight Championship reign on July 6, 1991. Vader went on to defeat Fujinami for the CWA Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship but, upon his signing of a WCW contract in 1992, the title was declared vacant. At this point, WCW and NJPW were reaching a tentative working agreement. This benefited Vader, as he could now have his schedule coordinated far more easily. This helped alleviate his difficulty in gaining notoriety in WCW, as his previously infrequent appearances did not allow the audience to see him very often.
On March 1, 1992, he and Bam Bam Bigelow began teaming and won the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Hiroshi Hase and Keiji Mutoh. In May, Vader faced Mutoh, now known as The Great Muta, one on one and suffered a legitimate knee injury. This injury was a factor in he and Bigelow losing the title to WCW World Tag Team Champions, The Steiner Brothers, after a near four-month reign. This also marked a decrease in his NJPW appearances, as Vader began to focus almost entirely on WCW and the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
World Championship Wrestling (1990–1995)
Vader was originally signed with World Championship Wrestling in 1990, but was only used sparingly until 1992. When he began working for WCW full-time, Vader was paired with a manager, Harley Race, and received a shot at Sting's World Heavyweight Championship on April 12, 1992, and was disqualified. Sting suffered a pair of cracked ribs and a ruptured spleen in the match after taking a Vader Bomb from Vader, though he continued to compete infrequently while recuperating. Vader was placed in a feud with Nikita Koloff shortly afterward while Sting recuperated. Vader finally received a rematch with Sting on July 12 at The Great American Bash, which he won to become the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion. His reign was short-lived, as he re-injured his knee, forcing him to lose the title three weeks later to Ron Simmons, who substituted for Sting after he was attacked by Jake Roberts earlier that night. Vader was out of action after Clash of the Champions in September as he underwent knee surgery.
Upon his return at Halloween Havoc, Vader sent Nikita Koloff into retirement and legitimately broke the back of jobber Joe Thurman, paralyzing him for a few hours. At Starrcade, Vader lost to Sting in the finals of the King of Cable tournament. Two days later, Vader defeated Simmons by taking advantage of a shoulder injury of Simmons's to regain the World Heavyweight Championship. On March 11, 1993, Vader lost the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to Sting in London, England. Six days later, he regained the title in a rematch in Dublin, Ireland. In subsequent weeks, Vader successfully defended the title against Davey Boy Smith, Sting, and Dustin Rhodes.
In late February 1993, White signed an eight-date agreement with the Union of Wrestling Force International (UWFi), where he competed as Super Vader due to legal issues concerning the Big Van Vader name. By September 1993, he was simply known as Vader in the United States. He worked with UWFi for over two years. His greatest triumph under there was a victory in the Best of the World Tournament, which started April 3 and ended August 18, 1994. Vader first defeated Salman Hashimikov and then Masahito Kakihara in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Vader defeated Kiyoshi Tamura, and beat Nobuhiko Takada in the finals to win the tournament and the UWFi World Title. He later left the promotion after a financial dispute.
Upon returning to WCW, Vader defeated Cactus Jack via countout on the April 17 episode of Saturday Night. During the match, Jack suffered a broken nose and needed 27 stitches for wounds on his face. The match was heavily edited for broadcast, as WCW did not wish to show the severe bleeding. In a rematch on April 24, Vader powerbombed Jack onto the concrete floor outside the ring, resulting in Jack suffering a concussion and temporary loss of feeling in his left hand and leg. Believing he had sent Jack into retirement, Jack later appeared in a series of skits involving his powerbomb-inflicted amnesia and a search for his past. In the meantime, Vader began to feud with a new arrival to WCW, Davey Boy Smith. They met at Slamboree in May for the World Heavyweight Title. Vader lost by disqualification when he hit Smith with a chair, though he retained the title. Vader and Sid Vicious then formed a partnership and called themselves The Masters of the Powerbomb. They faced off with Smith and his new partner, Sting, at Beach Blast in July, where they lost to Smith and Sting. Following this, Vader and Cactus Jack's feud was restarted as Jack was cleared to return for Halloween Havoc to face Vader in a Texas Death match. Jack stood up to a series of devastating moves near the end of the match, though Vader won when Harley Race stunned Jack with a cattle prod that kept him down for a ten count. On March 16, 1994, Foley lost his right ear in a match with Vader in Munich, Germany; Foley's head became trapped in the ropes, which were under excessive tension, causing his ear to be torn off.
Vader was originally scheduled to face Sid Vicious at Starrcade. The real-life dismissal of Vicious after his stabbing of Arn Anderson in England, however, forced WCW to find a quick replacement. Executive producer Eric Bischoff placed Ric Flair in the match, which was scheduled in Flair's hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. In the storyline, Vader did not take Flair seriously until he agreed to put his career on the line against Vader's title. Vader dominated the match, but Flair capitalized on failed interference by Race and Vader's weakened knees to win the match with a rollup and end Vader's third World Heavyweight Championship reign. Vader continued to feud with Flair until SuperBrawl IV, when Flair once again defeated Vader, this time in a "Thundercage" match.
Vader then feuded with The Boss, defeating him at Spring Stampede. He also faced Sting at Slamboree for the vacant International World Heavyweight Championship. Sting requested the match rather than be awarded the title after an injury to his original opponent, Rick Rude, and defeated Vader. At Clash of the Champions XXIX, Vader defeated Dustin Rhodes and earned the opportunity to face the United States Heavyweight Champion Jim Duggan. In the Starrcade title match, Vader defeated Duggan with the aid of Duggan's 2x4 to win the United States Heavyweight Title.
In January 1995, Vader had to end his alliance with Harley Race, because in real life, Race was involved in an automobile crash and Race left WCW. Vader confronted the World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan, and informed him that he could not avoid the monster. The two met at SuperBrawl V, with Vader managing to kick out of Hogan's leg drop after a count of one. The referee was knocked out before Vader hit the Vader Bomb on Hogan. Ric Flair ran to the ring, made the three count, and attacked Hogan, resulting in Vader's disqualification. A rematch was signed, a strap match for the inaugural Uncensored pay-per-view. Flair once again intervened (this time in drag to avoid revealing his presence) and managed to cost Vader the match by getting himself carried by Hogan as he touched all four turnbuckle pads. Vader was stripped of the United States Heavyweight Championship on April 23, 1995 for multiple violent offenses. However, Vader gained another opportunity to win the World Heavyweight Title from Hogan at Bash at the Beach in a Steel Cage match. He conspired with Kevin Sullivan and the Dungeon of Doom to gain a psychological edge before the encounter, which Vader lost when Hogan escaped the cage. He then restarted his feud with Flair, based on his frustration at Flair's constant interference in his title matches and Flair's annoyance at his inability to defeat Hogan. At Clash of the Champions XXXI, Vader defeated Flair and Arn Anderson in a 2-on-1 handicap match. Following the event, Hogan grew interested in Vader and asked for his assistance in his developing feud with the Dungeon of Doom by asking him to join him, Randy Savage, and Sting for WarGames. Vader complied but the storyline never developed as, shortly after, Vader was fired from WCW after he was involved in a locker room brawl with Paul Orndorff.
The title video for the September 4 debut edition of WCW Monday Nitro featured multiple shots of Vader (one of four wrestlers featured, along with Hogan, Sting and Savage), who parted ways with WCW shortly thereafter. Absent from the first episode, he had been scheduled to face Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on the September 11 edition, but was replaced by Lex Luger, who issued a challenge to Hogan on the debut show. Vader would never perform on Nitro.
Return to NJPW (1996)
At Wrestling World on January 4, Vader had his first post-WCW match, facing the man whose four-year winning streak Vader had ended over eight years ago, Antonio Inoki. Inoki was over 50 years old at the time, but the match lasted nearly fourteen minutes before Inoki won the match.
World Wrestling Federation
Vader in 1996.
In the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble, Vader's debut was heavily hyped on television as he was billed as "The Man They Call Vader". He made his first World Wrestling Federation appearance as a participant in the Rumble match. He entered at number 13 and eliminated Jake Roberts, Doug Gilbert, one member of the Squat Team, and Savio Vega. He also fought with his ally Yokozuna. Vader was eliminated by Shawn Michaels before he reentered the ring and started assaulting everyone, including Michaels. Vader defeated Vega on the following Monday Night Raw, before assaulting WWF officials. Eventually, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon demanded that Vader cease his attacks, and received a Vader Bomb for his efforts. As a result, Vader was suspended for his actions, though in reality he needed time off for shoulder surgery.
Jim Cornette campaigned for Vader's reinstatement, and by the time Vader returned, Yokozuna had left Cornette's management. At February's In Your House 6, Vader appeared during Yokozuna's match against The British Bulldog. Yokozuna was about to pin The Bulldog, when Vader attacked him, handcuffed him, and delivered a severe beating. This led to what was supposed to be a one-on-one encounter between Vader and Yokozuna at WrestleMania XII. However, the match became a six-man tag team match pitting Vader, Owen Hart, and The British Bulldog against Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, and Jake Roberts. The stipulation was that if Yokozuna's team won the match, he would have five minutes alone with Cornette in the ring; this never occurred as Vader's team won the match when Vader pinned Roberts.
Feud with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker (1996–1997)
Vader then attacked WWF Champion Shawn Michaels after one of Michaels's matches. Vader's attack on Michaels earned him a spot in a six-man tag team match at In Your House 9: International Incident. Vader, Owen Hart, and The British Bulldog teamed up against Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, and Sycho Sid. Vader pinned Michaels to win the match for his team. Vader faced Michaels again at SummerSlam, where Vader won by count-out. Cornette, however, realized that the title could not change hands through a count-out and got the match restarted. This time, Michaels used Cornette's tennis racket and was disqualified. Again, Cornette managed to get the match started over. Finally, Michaels scored a pinfall over Vader.
Following his feud with Michaels, Vader faced off against The Undertaker in a singles match at the Royal Rumble. During the match, The Undertaker's former manager, Paul Bearer, attacked him and helped Vader win; Bearer then became Vader's manager. Both Vader and Undertaker went on to compete in the Royal Rumble match, during which Steve Austin was eliminated by Bret Hart. However the referees did not see this, as they were attending to Terry Funk and Mankind on the floor, allowing Austin to sneak back into the ring and eliminate both Vader and Undertaker, then Bret Hart, who was busy eliminating Fake Diesel, and win the Rumble. As a result of this, Vader and the other men eliminated by Austin, Bret Hart and The Undertaker, were put into the four-way main event of February's In Your House 13: Final Four for the WWF Championship. Vader, after bleeding profusely, was eliminated by The Undertaker. Bearer then persuaded his two proteges, Vader and Mankind, to go after the Tag Team Championship, despite the fact that the two men often brawled between themselves. They failed in their bid to win the tag team gold at WrestleMania 13.
Various feuds and departure (1997–1998)
Vader in September 1997.
Vader again received an opportunity to face The Undertaker (this time for the WWF Championship) at In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede, but lost. On the following night's Raw is War, Vader wrestled The Patriot. The Patriot won the match and then went after Bret Hart, who came to ringside during the match. Vader attacked The Patriot, and then brought him back into the ring, where he went for the Vader Bomb. Hart came into the ring and laid the Canadian flag over The Patriot. Vader got down, picked up the Canadian flag, broke it, and started a brawl with Hart. This turned Vader face and served to bring Vader into the USA vs. Canada feud. At Survivor Series, Vader was the leader of Team USA, with Goldust, Marc Mero, and Steve Blackman (replacing the injured Patriot) as they faced Team Canada, composed of The British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, Doug Furnas, and Phil LaFon. During the match, Goldust walked out on his team. Team USA lost the match after The Bulldog pinned Vader after hitting him with the ring bell. Goldust and Vader feuded throughout the fall and finally faced off at the Royal Rumble, in a match which Vader won. Goldust eliminated Vader from the Royal Rumble match later that night (Vader entered at number 30).
Following his feud with Goldust, Vader began feuding with Kane, and both faced off for the first time at No Way Out of Texas. Vader lost after a chokeslam and a Tombstone Piledriver before Kane subsequently attacked him with a large steel wrench, resulting in Vader being taken away on a stretcher and was kept off of television for a while. A few months later at Unforgiven, Vader returned during Kane's Inferno match against The Undertaker. Kane was attempting to leave the match when Vader appeared and fought him back to the ring to continue the match, which Kane lost. Vader and Kane had a rematch at Over the Edge in a Mask vs. Mask match. Vader attempted to use a wrench on Kane like the one used on him months before, but Kane managed to recover and defeat Vader, costing him his mask in the process. In a post-match interview with Michael Cole, Vader said, "I made the biggest mistake of my life. Maybe Vader time is over. I'm a piece of shit. A big fat piece of shit."
Subsequently, Vader had a series of losses and was reduced to the status of a jobber to the stars, having a feud with Mark Henry which Vader lost. After considering retirement, Vader instead negotiated his own release from the WWF so he could once again wrestle in Japan. His final WWF pay-per-view match was a loss to Bradshaw at Breakdown: In Your House in a No Holds Barred match on September 27. He lost to Edge on Sunday Night Heat in his final televised WWF match. His last match in a WWF ring was on October 25 at a Madison Square Garden house show in a Triple Threat Match with Mankind and Ken Shamrock, which Vader lost after he tapped out to Shamrock's ankle lock. In a shoot interview, Jim Cornette said part of the reason that Vader's WWE run was not as successful as what was hoped was due to the failure of properly booking Vader. In the interview, he reveals that Vince McMahon desired to change his name from Vader to 'The Mastodon'
All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah (1998–2002)
After leaving the WWF, Vader went to All Japan Pro Wrestling. He formed a team with his old foe Stan Hansen, with whom he made it to the finals of the 1998 World's Strongest Tag Determination League, where they were defeated by Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama. At the beginning of 1999, he became the number 1 contender to the Triple Crown by defeating Kobashi. He then won the (vacant) Triple Crown Title on March 6, 1999 by defeating Akira Taue. He then won the 1999 Champion Carnival. After Vader lost the Triple Crown to Misawa on May 2, he regained it on October 31. He then again lost it to Kobashi and took some time off.
After returning from is hiatus, Vader joined the new Japanese promotion Pro Wrestling Noah, where he won the GHC Tag Team Championship with 2 Cold Scorpio.
On February 19, 2003, Vader appeared in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) to defend Dusty Rhodes, who was fighting with The Harris Brothers. He won a tag team match the next week against the Harris Brothers via disqualification. He then began a feud with Nikita Koloff, whose career Vader ended long ago. However, TNA and Vader soon parted ways.
Vader returned to World Wrestling Entertainment on the October 31, 2005 episode of Raw, where Jonathan Coachman announced that Vader and Goldust would be in his corner for his street fight against Stone Cold Steve Austin the next night at Taboo Tuesday. When Austin decided not to participate, he was replaced by Batista. Vader and Goldust interfered in the match on Coachman's behalf and received spinebusters for their efforts. Batista pinned Coachman with the Batista Bomb to win the match. Vader left the company soon after and returned to compete in Japan.
Vader returned to Japan, wrestling at a Wrestleland show. He also worked in the independent circuit as Big Van Vader, including a tag match against Samoa Joe and Dan Maff in Jersey All Pro Wrestling with Mike Awesome as his tag team partner. On May 12, 2007, Vader faced Brutus Beefcake at Spartan Slamfest, a World Wrestling Coalition charity show for Wyoming Valley West School District. The match was held at the Kingston Armory in Kingston, Pennsylvania.
Return to wrestling (2010–present)
After wrestling his last match in 2007, White began working as a high school football coach. On April 29, 2010, White made a one-night return to wrestling under his Vader ring name at the event Vader Time 5 ~ Return of the Emperor ~. At the event, he teamed with his son Jesse and former tag team partner Scorpio to successfully defeat Makoto Hashi, Tamon Honda and Tatsumi Fujinami in the main event.
In the aftermath of the 2011 natural disasters in Japan, Vader and his son Jesse wrestled on special tribute cards for All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Zero1.
Vader made his in-ring return to the United States on January 28, 2012. He defeated Arik Royal and Adam Page in a handicap match at WrestleReunion: Los Angeles. On May 11, 2012 at Resistance Pro's event A Small Deadly Space, Vader defeated Jay Bradley.
On the June 11, 2012 episode of Raw, Vader made his first WWE appearance in nearly seven years, where he defeated Heath Slater in a singles match. On July 23 on the 1000th episode of Raw, Vader and several other legends prevented Slater from leaving in his match against Lita, which she won.
On December 7, 2012, Vader returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling, teaming with Keiji Mutoh and Kenso to defeat Bambi Killer, Franz Dynamite and Mazada in a six-man tag team match.