Leon “Vader” White will be part of this year’s WWE Hall of Fame class.
The announcement was made by WWE through Bleacher Report with Vader joining The Undertaker in the class of 2022.
White passed away in June 2018 at the age of 63 due to heart-related issues and had been battling pneumonia.
After being drafted by the L.A. Rams in 1978, injuries curtailed his football career and he made the move to professional wrestling under the guidance of Brad Rheingans.
White adopted the persona of ‘The Baby Bull’ and later ‘Bull Power’ in the AWA and would venture to Europe wrestling for Otto Wanz’s Catch Wrestling Association in 1987 and winning their world championship.
His largest break occurred when he was recruited by New Japan Pro Wrestling where the birth of ‘Big Van Vader’ occurred. It was a character designed for Jim Hellwig, who signed with the WWF, and led to White assuming the role he would forever be tied to.
It was a star-making debut for White, who pinned Antonio Inoki in three minutes at Sumo Hall in December 1987 where a riot broke out and the company was temporarily banned from the building.
White became IWGP heavyweight champion in April 1989 on the first professional wrestling card to take place at the Tokyo Dome where he won a one-night tournament.
In 1990, he had a memorable yet gruesome match with Stan Hansen at the Tokyo Dome where White’s eye came out of the socket and he continued to wrestle. The horrifying video made its way to WCW where Jim Ross and Jim Cornette made a big push for the company to bring White in.
After balancing WCW and New Japan, Vader would eventually go full-time with World Championship Wrestling and was the dominant heel for the company from 1992-95.
He won the WCW title for the first time in July 1992 beating Sting at the Great American Bash and trading the belt with Ron Simmons that year.
In an all-time classic, Vader dropped the title to Ric Flair at Starrcade 1993 in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a case of resorting to a backup plan after Sid Vicious was scheduled to challenge Vader but was fired from the company after the incident in England where he and Arn Anderson got into a violent fight that included scissors and garnered negative publicity for the company.
Vader remained a major player throughout his WCW run, although the company shifted when Hulk Hogan arrived in the summer of 1994. The two had several pay-per-view matches together in 1995.
After a backstage fight with agent Paul Orndorff, where Orndorff struck the talent over an argument, Vader left the company. It was a widely circulated story with Orndorff kicking away at Vader wearing flip flops and led to Vader joining the World Wrestling Federation and debuting in January 1996 where he attacked figurehead president Gorilla Monsoon.
His time in the WWF was less memorable and peaked with a program with Shawn Michaels where the two headlined that year’s SummerSlam with Michaels winning.
His weight was an issue and led to the talent being sent to a weight loss clinic at Duke University in North Carolina.
He exited the WWF in 1998 and had a resurgence in All Japan Pro Wrestling, winning the Triple Crown in March 1999 and was among the foreigners that would migrate to Pro Wrestling NOAH, although Vader didn’t start there until 2002.
Over the remaining years, he worked many independent dates and maintained a presence in Japan. He did several guest appearances in WWE including the Taboo Tuesday event in November 2005 and the Raw 1000 event in July 2012.
In 2016, a Twitter back-and-forth led to Vader having a match with Will Ospreay after the veteran was critical of Ospreay and Ricochet’s Best of the Super Juniors match that year.
White underwent a pair of open-heart procedures in 2018 prior to his passing in June that year.
The WWE Hall of Fame ceremony takes place on April 1st at the American Airlines Center following Friday Night SmackDown and will air at 10:30 p.m. ET on Peacock/WWE Network.