The WWE Universe has lost another legend in the industry as news broke on Wednesday that Big Van Vader died on Monday night at the age of 63.
The WWE was considering a Vader WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2018 but passed on the superstar and now it is too late for fans to ever see the big man accept that honor.
How did Vader die?
Vader’s son revealed to fans through his father’s Twitter account that the cause of death was revealed to be heart complications one month after he suffered from a severe case of pneumonia.
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. pic.twitter.com/hJYjumvxjH
— Big Van Vader (@itsvadertime) June 20, 2018
Vader, real name Leon White, wrestled for the WWE, WCW, AWA and New Japan over a professional wrestling career that lasted for over 30 years.
Vader actually started his athletic career in football, where he played college ball with Colorado and then was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the 1978 NFL Draft. He played for the Rams in Super Bowl XIV but was forced to retire early due to a ruptured patella.
That led to Vader moving on to professional wrestling. After training with Olympic wrestler Brad Rheingans, he joined the AWA, which at the time was one of the top three American wrestling promotions, alongside the WWE and NWA.
Vader then achieved his first level of success in Japan, where he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (the same title that AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar held years later). His biggest feud there was against WWE Hall of Fame star Stan Hansen.
After this, Vader moved on to WCW where he had some amazing feuds with names like Mick Foley and Sting, the latter of which he won the WCW world title from. He was also involved in a historic moment when he lost the title to Ron Simmons — the first African American to ever win a major world title in the United States.
Vader held that world title two more times, beating Ron Simmons to regain it, and then losing it and winning it back from Sting. He finally lost his final world title to Nature Boy Ric Flair.
The next year, Vader debuted in the WWE and made his mark quickly when he attacked legendary wrestler Gorilla Monsoon and started his act as a monster in the new company. However, things did not go well for Vader in the WWE and he never reached the same level of success he had in Japan and WCW.
That is possibly the reason that a Vader Hall of Fame induction has still not happened yet. In 2018, Vader was rumored to be on the short-list of an induction, and many fans wanted to see the big man make it into the WWE Hall of Fame before he passed away.
The WWE chose to pass on him yet again, but with his passing, one wonders if the WWE will posthumously induct him in 2019 — although that comes too late for those fans wanting to see Vader accept his WWE Hall of Fame induction.
Vader left the company after three years. He returned to Japan, had a brief stop in TNA Impact Wrestling, and finished his career in the indies.
Vader was still wrestling and making appearances at wrestling shows and conventions all the way to earlier in 2018.
RIP Big Van Vader. One of the all-time greats. Met him a couple of years ago and got this pic with my son pic.twitter.com/REZWeoeeo6
— Shawn S. Lealos (@sslealos) June 20, 2018
In 2016, Vader revealed to fans that he had congestive heart problems and that doctors believed he had two years left to live. Vader went to Diamond Dallas Page for help and received some strong advice, but when Vader refused to retire from professional wrestling to protect his health, there was nothing Page could do.
Vader said at the time that he couldn’t afford to quit wrestling, as that was his only income.
One year and seven months after saying he had less than two years to live, Vader died. Vader leaves behind two children, one of which followed his father’s footsteps into the professional wrestling industry (Jesse White).