Leon White, best known as Vader, died on Monday (June 18). He was just 63.
One of his children revealed the news on Twitter on Wednesday (June 20). White had open-heart surgery in late March and had been battling pneumonia over the past month before he died of heart failure, after battling pneumonia over the past month.
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
White wrestled professionally for more than three decades as Vader, sporting a red and black singlet, paired with a leather mask of the same colors.
He retired from the NFL due to injury and entered the world of professional wrestling in the mid-1980s, rising to fame in Japan, when he became IWGP heavyweight champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He eventually joined the WCW in 1990 and became world champ, before moving on to WWE (then known as the WWF) in 1996.
At WCW, Vader was engaged in memorable rivalries with legends like Sting and Ron Simmons, and then, Shawn Michaels and The Undertake at WWE.