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Big Van Vader

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Big Van Vader -- (born May 14, 1957, as Leon White, straight outta Lynwood, CA) was a "super heavyweight" pro wrestler best known for his work in Japan, WCW, and the WWF, who often ranks as one of (if not the) most agile big men in the business.

After years of football in high school, college, and NFL (mostly on injured reserve), Vader started in the business through AWA as Baby Bull and later Bull Power, before gaining experience and fame in Japan and adopting his famous ring name and attire. Additionally, Vader wrestled in Europe and Mexico before WCW signed him to work a split schedule in the United States and Japan (then WCW and NJPW formed a working arrangement to coordinate that schedule). His success in Japan earned him several championships, including tag titles with Bam Bam Bigelow, before he focused his career in WCW.

Big Van Vader successfully defeated Sting for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at the Great American Bash in July 1992, although he dropped the title to Ron Simmons a few weeks later. Vader regained the title from Ron Simmons before the end of the year, and he entered 1993 as the quintessential monster heel champion, fending off challengers like Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes, Cactus Jack, and Sting, before he was set to defend against Sid Vicious at Starrcade, but WCW fired Sid before the match and Ric Flair became the challenger, winning the his first WCW Championship in over two years. After losing the title, Vader fought men like The Boss, Jim Duggan, Hulk Hogan, and the Four Horsemen, leading to a faceturn, which barely materialized before WCW fired him for getting involved in a fight with Paul Orndorff backstage.

Shortly thereafter, Big Van Vader came to the WWF as The Man They Call Vader (or simply "Vader"). He made his in-ring debut at the 1996 Royal Rumble, where he promptly started feuding with resident big man Yokozuna, as well as WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. Vader teamed with Owen Hart and British Bulldog at WrestleMania XII to defeat Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, and Jake The Snake Roberts. Afterwards, Vader challenged WWF Champion Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam '96. Vader initially won the match by count-out, but Jim Cornette insisted the match continue. Vader won the match again by disqualification, but Cornette again demanded the match continue before HBK pinned Vader with a Moonsault.

After Vader left James E. Cornette's guidance, he started teaming with Mankind with Paul Bearer as his unofficial manager. Together, they challenged WWF Tag Team champions Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith at WrestleMania 13. Vader became a fan favorite in 1997 when the WWF was engaged in a land war between the United States and Canada. Vader feuded with the Harts, Goldust, Kane, and a few others before negotiating his release to return to Japan.

In October 2005, Vader returned to WWE for what may have been a "dream match" against World champion Batista but instead, it quickly turned into a comedy spot as Vader literally stumbled over his own feet as soon as he entered the ring. For undisclosed reasons, a WWE contract never resulted out of the appearance.

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