Vader aka Big Van Vader aka Leon White has died at the age of 63, his family said in a statement on Twitter. On June 20, a post published on Vader’s official Twitter account said that wrestling superstar died on June 18 at 7:25 p.m. A follow-up message 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.” He is survived by his two children.
TMZ reported that Vader had undergone open-heart surgery in March 2018. The site says that they spoke to Vader immediately after the surgery and that he was “feeling better and looking forward to getting out of the hospital.” In November 2016, Vader said that he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and that two separate doctors had told him that he had two years to live. That news came a week after Vader had been involved in a rollover car accident that had left him unconscious. Less than six months later, Vader said that he was no longer as pessimistic about his health and future.
Vader will be remembered for wrestling across various promotions in the USA and in Japan. Despite his size he was capable of phenomenal agility including his moonsault and “Vader Bomb.”
Among the more infamous incidents of Vader’s career includes an incident while the WWE was on tour in Kuwait. Vader, along with the Undertaker, appeared on a Kuwaiti talkshow. Vader took exception to Bassam Al Othman’s line of questioning, including the accusation that “wrestling is fake.” The WrestleZone report on the incident says that Vader spent a week on house arrest after the incident and was facing assault charges. However, after paying a fine, Vader was allowed to leave the country. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Mark Angeles wrote about the incident saying, “an American producer told [Vader] to “Ham it up,” according to the WWF. He was not told, however, that the host knew nothing about wrestling antics.” The New York Post quoted Othman’s lawyer, Douglas Clark Hogshead, as saying at the time his client “was scared to dead. You could see it on his face.”