Football: Born and raised in Lynwood, California in 1956. Leon White captained his high school American football team in 1972-73, playing both offensive and defensive lineman. Earned city, state and national honours. Leon started at three offensive line positions at the University of Colorado. On CU's 1975 offensive line, he was considered one of the best in college football history. Also named consensus All-American and All-Big Eight at guard and center from 1976-77, and a pre-season All-American at tackle before a knee injury. Was made co-captain later that year and was voted the outstanding linesman of 1977 Hula Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and Japan Bowl.
Leon White graduated with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a minor in Sociology before playing for the Los Angeles Rams between 1977-1981 who he represented in the NFL Arm Wrestling Championships, reaching the finals two years out of three. Leon also became a sparring partner for former WBA World heavyweight boxing champion, Mike Weaver.
AWA: In 1985, Leon White attended the Wide World of Wrestling Training Center under the direction of Brad Rheingans who more recently trained Brock Lesnar. Later that year, he made his debut for Verne Gagne's AWA under the name Baby Bull. Verne Gagne labeled Bull "the future of wrestling." Bull's first major feud was against legendary brawler Bruiser Brody who 'broke his leg' with a chair in a televised match.
Bull unsuccessfully challenged for the AWA World championship against future nemesis Stan Hansen. He also fought another future nemesis, Otto Wanz, booker of the European Catch Wrestling Association. Vader, as Bull Power, relieved Wanz of his CWA World title in March 1987 in White's hometown of Denver, cOLORADO (he had held the belt for nearly nine years), his first of thirteen World heavyweight titles. Leon wrestled several tours in Europe, also winning the CWA World Cup Tournament (the first American to do so). After losing the title back to Wanz (who else?), Leon was the second choice (after Jim Hellwig/Ultimate Warrior) for New Japan Pro-Wrestling's new monster character, Big Van Vader.
Japan: Antonio Inoki, the booker of New Japan was so impressed with Leon White, that he agreed to put him over in their first meeting in late 1987 (Inoki's first defeat for over four years), resulting in a subsequent riot, New Japan were banned from Sumo Hall for a year. Now sporting a full mask (as opposed to the partial mask he later wore in WCW), and basing his style on AJW wrestler, Aja Kong. White had a successful near five years in NJPW, capturing three IWGP World titles. The first of which occurred in 1989 at the Tokyo Dome, defeating Masa Chono, Tatsumi Fujinami (who had vacated the title) and Shinya Hashimoto in a one-night tournament for the vacant title. Later losing to Salman Hashimikov, before winning for a second time against Riki Choshu, Vader's second reign lasted over a year.
At one point in 1990, Vader held the IWGP (Japan), CWA (Europe) and UWA (Mexico) World titles simultaneously. Gaining worldwide respect, Vader debuted in WCW, destroying Tom Zenk on PPV and later had a brutal rematch with Stan Hansen. The first of the Hansen matches headlined a joint New Japan/All Japan Tokyo Dome event, where Vader's eye just about came out of it's socket. Only the swelling kept the eye intact. Vader went onto win (and lose) the CWA and IWGP titles for a third and final time. Vader's last title reign in NJPW was with Bam-Bam Bigelow (as Big, Bad & Dangerous) in the tag team division.
WCW: During Vader's tours of America, he was offered a full time contract. After being asked by NJPW to take time off for knee surgery earned at the hands of Keiji Mutoh in six-man action, Vader accepted WCW's offer. One eighth of the Chamber Of Horrors cage match at Halloween Havoc, Vader later joined Harley Race's heel stable which included Lex Luger, Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash) and Mr. Hughes. Replacing Luger as the top heel, Vader feuded with, and defeated, Sting for the WCW World title at the 1992 Great American Bash. After losing to (and later winning back from) Ron Simmons, Vader became "the man" in WCW. Defeating Sting, Davey Boy Smith and Cactus Jack on PPV in 1993 before losing the title to the booker man, Ric Flair at Starrcade.
From his WCW tenure, Vader was widely acknowledged as the greatest super heavyweight to compete within the squared circle. Capturing three World titles, as well as an ultra successful series of dates in UWF-I, losing to, then defeating Nobuhiko Takada for his eleventh World singles title, which was presented by Lou Thesz. It was holding this that enabled him to avoid cleanly losing to Hulk Hogan (Ric Flair who ousted Vader's friend Dusty Rhodes out of the political picture lacked this foresight and lost routinely to the Hulkster), although politics prevented White from ever being pushed again as champion. After a backstage incident with Paul Orndorff, and a lengthy injury from the Bash At The Beach match with Hogan; Vader's contract was terminated.
Path of Destruction: As well as his three WCW World title reigns, Vader's WCW domination was also known for the path of destruction through WCW's locker room. From cracking the ribs of Sting at a TV taping in April '92, giving Nikita Koloff career ending neck injury, a numb left arm, and a hernia after a Vader clothesline in November '92, notoriously breaking the back of jobber Joe Thurman in a handicap in late '92, busting the mouth of Kensuke Sasaki at Battlebowl '92, severely injured the shoulder of Ron Simmons at a house show in December '92 en route to his third WCW World Championship, breaking Davey Boy Smith's nose at Slamboree '93, to the annihilation of one Cactus Jack.
Long before Mick Foley became a household name after the Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker, he suffered a concussion, broken nose, 2 black eyes and 27 facial stitches by Vader at a TV taping on April 6, '93, fifteen days and a powerbomb on the concrete floor later, Cactus suffered a serious concussion, loss of feeling in his right arm & left hand and complete loss of equilibrium. But that was nothing compared to what happened to Cactus in the WCW European Cup tour of Germany, on March 16, '94 where he lost his ear in a match with Vader. Amazingly enough, Cactus fought on, until being told by Vader to "Let's go home man, your ear just fell off!"
Wrestler of the Year: During Vader's amazing path of destruction in WCW, he became Wrestler of the Year (1993) in Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Superstars of Wrestling, WCW Magazine, Rec.Sport.Pro-Wrestling, WCW Magazine and Wrestling Observer Newsletter! In addition, he also was the MVP in the Pro Wrestling Torch, Heel of the Year in Superstars of Wrestling, Rulebreaker of the Year in Wrestling: Rulebreaker as well as Heel of the Year in the Observer and having the Maneuver of the Year (Moonsault).
Vader also had three top ten PWI500 finishes during his WCW tenure: #2 in 1993, #5 in 1994, and #7 in 1995. It was because of his amazing WCW run that he became an inaugural member of the prestigious Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996.
WWF: Even though Vader's WWF stay was considered a failure, it still featured several highlights. Coming after his amazing Tokyo Dome performance, returning the favour to Inoki, Vader had high profile battles with WWF champion Shawn Michaels (at SummerSlam '96) and the fabulous Final Four match up (in early '97) with Steve Austin, Bret Hart & The Undertaker. Vader's downfall, again was political, due to the backstage clout of the Clique (see how Michaels conveniently dropped the title to Sid before the It's Time PPV) and the Kuwaiti incident (although the 'official' stance was as regards to his weight). He gained his contract release in late 1998.
At first managed by Jim Cornette, later, Paul Bearer, Vader debuted at the Royal Rumble where he got over huge. The suspension obtained after attacking Gorilla Monsoon at Monday Night Raw conveniently allowed Vader to undertake surgery from an injury obtained at the previous years Bash At The Beach against Hulk Hogan. Vader was presumed incapable of carrying Yokozuna to a singles match at Wrestlemania, the match becoming a six man, yet must've impressed somewhat during his tenure as he carried the inexperienced (in pro-style) Ken Shamrock to a great 'No Holds Barred' match a year later. Unfortunately it was the last WWF highlight for the Mastodon.
Back in Japan: Remarkably, coming just a few months after jobbing to nobodies like Bradshaw and Mark Henry, Vader defeated Akira Taue for the prestigious Triple Crown title (the first wrestler to hold both the IWGP & Triple Crown Titles), defeated Kenta Kobashi in the Championship Carnival final (only the 3rd American after Abdullah the Butcher and Stan Hansen to do so), and headlined the Tokyo Dome against Mitsuharu Misawa. Vader finished 1999 with a second Triple Crown win, and being voted Most Improved wrestler in the Wrestling Observer. After winning the said Championship Carnival against Kenta Kobashi, Vader cried in the ring, although probably at the memory of Giant Baba. Vader entered All Japan initially as a tag team partner for former foe Stan Hansen, first at the Tokyo Dome in May of 1998, and later in the Real World Tag Team League.
Vader returned from an elbow injury in 2000 to then new group, Pro-Wrestling NOAH, where he captured the Tag team titles with close friend Scorpio. Before the tag team title tournament, Vader defeated Akira Taue and Daisuke Ikeda, before losing to Yoshihiro Takayama in the Semi Final of the singles tournament which was won by Mitsuharu Misawa.
After a brief (two) appearance(s) in NWA TNA, Vader joined Riki Choshu's money losing World Japan group in 2003, his biggest victory; over Don Frye. WJ also saw Vader face the Road Warriors and recent WWE signing, Kenzo Suzuki.
Today: In early 2004, Vader signed a six match $400,000 contract with Dream Stage Entertainment, the first match of which was a worked match at Hustle-1 against Shinya Hashimoto, although it is now doubtful that he will make his shoot fighting debut. Vader recently appeared for Jersey All Pro Wrestling, teaming with Mike Awesome to defeat Samoa Joe and Dan Maff, at The Unchained World - an All Japan card - where he defeated promising rookie Kohei Suwama and in 2005 at DDT's Summer Vacation in tag team action.
Vader's son, Jesse Allen White, has committed himself to a football scholarship with the University of Oklahoma. Meanwhile, his father has signed a recent WWE legends merchandising deal, wrestling occasionally on the independent scene including an appearance at RAW and Taboo Tuesday with Godlust against Batista (serving as Coachman's bodyguards) and winning the IZW heavyweight title. Vader has since signed perhaps his last contract of his career, wrestling for New Japan's WRESTLE LAND promotion.
On May 12, 2007, Vader faced Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake at Spartan Slamfest, a World Wrestling Coalition charity show. On January 2008 he underwent hip replacement surgery. In 2010 and 2011 Vader made some brief appearances in All-Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro-Wrestling Zero One and returned for the first time in years in the US at a WrestleReunion show in Los Angeles. Vader resurfaced in the WWE making a surprise appearance in June 2012, wrestling Heath Slater and in July of the same year on the 1000th episode of the show. Having lost by his own admission 112lbs after being bedridden for 6 months (result of infection following a double knee-replacement surgery) and staying in comatose condition for 33 days (revealed in an interview with WWE.com), he finally overcame some major personal demons including a bad alcohol addiction and his wife leaving him. Later in 2012 he reappeared in Japan. His son who made the transition from football to pro-wrestling was fired from his developmental contract from WWE in 2013. Vader also shares a significant amount of time as a motivational speaker for groups like the Wounded Warriors Alliance.
Some interesting trivia:
-Vader never worked in ECW, although was asked twice, due to Paul Heyman wanting him to job to Taz and later, Justin Credible.
-At Pride Fighting Championships Shockwave event in 2002, Kazushi Sakuraba came out wearing a Vader style helmet and mask complete with 'Sakuraba Time' t-shirt. Unfortunately, 'The Gracie Hunter' lost to 'Pro Wrestler Killer' Mirko Cro Cop.
-Bret Hart said that the only person in the locker room who even remotely warned him about the infamous screwjob was Vader, who simply told him to "watch his back".
-In July 2002, Vader was suspected of drink driving in Colorado, it took 8 officers, 2 dogs and 3 sets of handcuffs to subdue him!
-The Tag Team with Bam-Bam Bigelow was known as Big, Bad and Dangerous.
-Vader left NJPW, after being asked to have time off for knee surgery, Vader accepted more bookings from WCW instead.
-He was also only the 3rd American wrestler (after Abdullah the Butcher and Stan Hansen) to win the Championship Carnival.
-After winning the said Championship Carnival against Kenta Kobashi, Vader cried in the ring, probably at the memory of Giant Baba.
-The only wrestlers who have competed against Hulk Hogan on PPV in the 80's & 90's in singles competition and never got pinned (in the first or return match) were Bill Goldberg & Vader.
-Vader was the former sparring partner of former WBA World Heavyweight Boxing champion Mike Weaver.
-Vader can play the piano!
-Vader is a born-again Christian
-Ultimate Warrior Jim Hellwig was the first candidate to play Big Van Vader.
-Leon's best friends in the business are 2 Cold Scorpio and the American Dream Dusty Rhodes.
Vader in video games:-Vader is known as either Saber or Star Saber in the 2D Fire Pro Wrestling series, starting with the original on the PC Engine back in 1989, to the latest game, the excellent Fire Pro Wrestling Returns in 2005 on the PlayStation 2. The series highlight remains Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium on the Super Famicom.
-In the Fatal Fury series, is known as Raiden (US) or Big Bear (Japan). Fatal Fury was SNK's answer to the phenomenal Streetfighter II, appearing firstly in the arcades and Neo Geo, but later being ported to other consoles such as the Super Famicom. Big Bear also appears in Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury Special, Capcom VS SNK, Capcom VS SNK: Pro, Capcom VS SNK 2 and Card Fighters Clash 2.
-Capcom also capitalized on the success of Big Van Vader in Japan with the Alexander The Grater character in Muscle Bomber. Originally an arcade game, Muscle Bomber was later ported to the Super Famicom. The game was also translated to the west as Saturday Night Slam Masters, with Grater becoming Sheep. The arcade also sported a sequel.
-His first official video game release was in the New Japan Toukon Sanjushi Gameboy game (1991). Two years later came the excellent New Japan Fantastic Story on the Super Famicom. I don't believe the game has ever been dumped as a rom however.
-Vader also appeared as an official character in the piss poor WCW SuperBrawl on the SNES.
-And in the same year ('94) in WCW The Main Event on the original Gameboy.
-Two years later in his first WWF game, In Your House on the PlayStation.
-Not to be outdone, WCW, risking lawsuit, released WCW Vs. The World, a much improved game (they did use the Virtual Pro Wrestling engine), with Vader (dieting nonetheless) as The Turk, also on the PSone.
-All Japan released the N64 game, Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 and it's originally titled sequel, Virtual Pro Wrestling 2. The former was also released on PSone, although nobody bought that.
-Vader features in perhaps the greatest wrestling video game, the awesome Giant Gram: All Japan Pro Wrestling 2 on the Dreamcast. Sega fans were also honoured with a sequel, Giant Gram 2000: All Japan Pro Wrestling 3, which even added Bruiser Brody to the mix. It's worth buying a cheap Dreamcast on eBay to play Giant Gram.
-He also appears in another PlayStation 2 series, the popular All Star Pro-Wrestling.
-He appeared in Spike's (the Fire Pro developers) PS2 game, King Of Colosseum (Green) and it's sequel King Of Colosseum 2 (Vader is playable as a purchasable wresler sample only).
-He appears as downloadable content in WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 and again as a regular character on both WWE '12 and WWE '13!