WWE has confirmed Big Van Vader, real name Leon White, has died at the age of 63.
White began his pro wrestling career in the mid-1980s after retiring from the NFL due to injury and rose to national prominence in the American Wrestling Association before joining New Japan Pro Wrestling as the masked Big Van Vader. He went on to become one of the promotion’s biggest stars and most feared competitors.
Vader then transitioned to World Championship Wrestling, where he would make the biggest mark of his career. He engaged in memorable rivalries with competitors such as Sting and Ron Simmons, becoming a dominant, three-time WCW World Champion in the process.
In 1996, Vader joined the WWE roster, where he had programs with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker as well as finding success with a recurring guest role on the popular 1990s television program, Boy Meets World.
Vader is seen by many as a template the modern “big man” style of wrestling, being one of the first 300lb-plus wrestlers to regularly perform acrobatic and top-rope moves.