The Rocky Mountain Mastodon: A Tribute to Vader
Honouring the career of one of the greatest big men of professional wrestling.
A Mastodon is a large, incredibly strong animal, resembling a cross between an elephant and a mammoth. It has big tusks on each side of the mouth, which is used for protection, as well as scavenging for food. The Mastodon is a deceptively quick and extremely powerful creature.
He's known to walk alone and fend for himself, not taking too kindly to outsiders. Needless to say, the Mastodon is the animalistic twin to the man they call Vader.
Born Leon Allen White, his birth was induced early, due to complications and fear that if they waited much longer, the mother may suffer and possibly die from trouble related to delivering the massive newborn. At the time of his birth, Leon tipped the scales at a whopping 11 pounds and 23 inches long.
While some may assume his mother must've been larger than the average expecting parent, she wasn't. In fact, momma Vader was under five feet tall. Leon was raised with his sister, in the crime-ridden area of Compton, South Central Los Angeles.
For the young Leon, it was common to hear gunshots, stories of home invasions, murders, abductions and all other equally deplorable activities that happened on a daily basis around his neighbourhood. For Leon, early life wasn't full of smiles and Hallmark moments.
In fact, Leon was forced to grow up quickly, in order to be a protector for his sister and family.
In high school, Leon was a standout centre for national powerhouse Bell High School in L.A.. He was recruited by some of the most prestigious colleges in the entire country. When it was all said and done, Leon chose the University of Colorado to further his education, as well as play football at the next level.
While at Colorado, Leon became a two-time All-American, and in 1978, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round of the NFL Draft. Despite having his football career shortened due to injury, Leon was still able to play in Super Bowl XIV in 1980.
After his football career had been cut short, Leon was faced with the decision of trying to figure out what was next for him. He then recounted a conversation he once had with a college classmate, when he was told he should consider becoming a professional wrestler.
After doing a little research and finding a trainer, Leon started gearing himself towards a career inside the squared circle. Leon sought the services of Brad Rheingans to train him and help him get his foot in the door. Brad was also credited for training the likes of The Steiner Brothers, The Nasty Boys, JBL and Brock Lesnar, just to name a few.
In 1985, Leon made his professional wrestling debut with the AWA, under the moniker "Baby Bull," and was later renamed "Bull Power." Leon immediately began turning heads, thanks to his natural athleticism and quick learning. The AWA is also where he first faced off against Stan Hansen, who would go on to be his lifelong nemesis.
After a couple of years with the AWA, Leon made his way to Japan, where he would truly sink his teeth in the business and also where he would be given the name "Big Van Vader." While in Japan, Vader would taste the fruits of his labour and would begin winning championships, which proved to him, that he was in the right career, at the right time.
Vader was not your normal big man of professional wrestling. Before him, the industry had not seen a 450-pound man fly around the ring, as gracefully as he was able to. Before Vader, big men were supposed to come in, do a couple of body slams, maybe a chop here or there and possibly a splash in the corner before wrapping it up.
However, Vader came in and completely changed the perception of what a big man was supposed to do and how he was supposed to perform. Vader revolutionised the scene in his own way and wrestlers of today's era benefit from his efforts, especially the big guys.
As we all now know, Vader would go on to have success everywhere he landed, from WCW to WWF and back in Japan. Vader was a man's man and as tough as he was, he's also known to be a gentle giant when it comes to being approached by fans.
His legacy continues to live on today, as his son, Jessie White is currently pursuing a career in professional wrestling, hoping to do his father's legacy justice. But, those are some big shoes to fill, both literally and figuratively.
Vader compiled a laundry list of achievements throughout his career of over two decades, which included roughly 30 title wins in all, including some 21 world championships. These are astounding numbers that will likely not be met.
Vader has been continuing his career, making indie stops all over the globe. He's eager and happy to meet his fans with a huge smile, and it's blatantly obvious that he's grateful for the support he continues to enjoy to this very day. Unfortunately, there's some not-so-good news that we must share with our readers.
Vader recently went through a series medical tests and evaluations, and after conferring with his team of physicians, Vader took to Twitter to update his fans on the latest disturbing news:
"Told by two doctors at this time that my heart is wore out from football and wrestling. I have two years to live. Congestive heart failure is my reality."
This news is incredibly saddening for those of us who grew up watching Vader fly around and moonsault off of the corner top rope. Vader is a trendsetter who captivated audiences worldwide. He had historic runs with Sting, Flair, Ron Simmons, Cactus Jack and even Shawn Michaels.
Vader once had his eyeball pop completely out of socket during a 1990 match with Stan Hansen in Japan. Rather than call off the match, Vader popped the eyeball back into place and finished the match.
Many have asked, "Why?" Why on earth would he put himself through such agonising pain, when anyone else would have quickly retreated to the back and sought medical attention.
For Vader, there was no quitting. He's a consummate professional, who lives by the adage that the show must go on. He's a performer in every sense of the term, and he lived his life through his career, by putting the fans first and making sure that every fan who paid to watch him work, left the arena feeling as if they got their money's worth.
Some of today's Superstars could learn some valuable lessons about career longevity, by simply studying the career of the man they call Vader.
It is my hope that this medical crisis is met with some sort of miracle for Vader. Vader has given so much of himself to the sport of professional wrestling, and he deserves to live a long, full life, free of pain and free of grim medical prognosis. Today we honour the life and the legacy of the big man, the Mastodon from the Rocky Mountains. Thank you, Vader.
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