News Wednesday that pro wrestling legend Big Van Vader had died at 63 did not surprise many who had been following the former world champion since his November 2015 tweet announcing that doctors had given him two years to live.
Told by 2.heart Drs at this time that my heart is wore out from footbal&wrestling I have 2 yrs to live , conjestive hesrt failure reality
— Big Van Vader (@itsvadertime) November 15, 2016
“This two year diagnosis is wrong, I’m gonna prove it wrong. I don’t really care what they’re saying. You know, I’ll see what happens, I guess and certainly there’s no way around that.”
The defiant big man noted that he was booked in Japan and the U.S. for both wrestling and autograph appearances, and he did keep a busy schedule unusual for someone with his diagnosis. Vader explained in detail in his interview that something he had always prided himself on–being a 400-plus pounder doing 30 and even 60-minute matches–was the cause of his congestive heart condition. In layman’s terms, a man his size had just worn out his heart because of his football and pro wrestling careers.
After Vader’s 2015 tweet, many immediately clamored for the former WCW and WWE star to be put in the WWE Hall of Fame. Old rival Mick Foley–who lost part of his ear due to a match with Vader in Germany in 1994–took to Facebook to make the case:
A “thankful” Vader looks back on his legacy
Vader never did enter the WWE Hall of Fame before his passing but did feel like his career was worthy of such an honor. A little over a year before his death, he wanted to make it clear that fans, friends, and family–no one–should feel sorry for him.
And he planned to fight for his life until the very end.
“If it is my time to say goodbye and move on to, you know, what the next level is, whatever is next, then so be it,” said Vader in March 2017. “But I’m simply not gonna go out like that. I’m going out fighting. I’m going out positive.”
Sh*t man, here’s another thing to: If you’re feeling sorry for me, don’t be man, because I’ll tell you what, I’ve lived the life that’s second to none. I’ve literally been around the world ten times. I mean, I’ve been a high school all-American and a college all-American and I got drafted to the Rams… and played in the Super bowl…I don’t know how many world titles I have…”
“I had a 30-year career in wrestling. I’ve never missed a meal. I’ve never been without money,” Vader continued. “In fact, most of my life I’ve had quite a bit of money. I was always smart with my money.”
“You know what, at 60 I don’t have long left and so be it, but don’t feel sorry for me man, because I’ve lived a great life.”
“I’m thankful for the time I’ve had.”
My heart is heavy with the news of Leon White’s passing. He was an amazing performer who brought out the very best in so many. Best big man ever, the most effective monster heel of his generation. My heartfelt prayers to his loved ones, and my gratitude for having known him. pic.twitter.com/uy3yBfwZOs
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) June 20, 2018