I recently spoke with Leon “Big Van Vader” White. White is a former WCW world heavyweight champion, former IWGP heavyweight champion, Triple Crown heavyweight champion and was recently ranked by WWE.com as #5 on the list of “30 best big men in wrestling history.” Vader also is a former NFL player, who played for the Los Angeles Rams NFC championship team. You can get a video message from Vader and other wrestlers and celebrities at CelebVM.com.

In part three of the interview below, Vader discussed signing with WWE, WWE not pushing him properly, WWE promising him the World title — twice, another gimmick Vince McMahon had for him and more.

Click here for part one, where Vader discussed his NFL career getting cut short, getting his start in pro wrestling, The Ultimate Warrior almost getting the Vader gimmick and much more.

Click here for part two of the interview, where Vader discussed saving Sid Vicious’ life, signing with WCW, Ron Simmons defeating him to become the first African American World Heavyweight Champion and what it meant to him, Eric Bischoff taking charge in WCW, his WCW departure and more.

Wrestling INC: So when you signed with WWE, or WWF at the time, your shoulder was bothering you even before you joined?

Vader: Well no, I told Vince upfront that I needed surgery. And that’s what I did. I did the deal with Gorilla Monsoon and then the next day I was off to the hospital. My agent agreed for me to come back in ninety days and I needed ten months and that was my deal. I said, “I need ten months, that’s the deal. This is the money I want, this is the deal I gotta have, ten months after the opening.” And it didn’t happen so that whole first year with the WWE, I couldn’t… you know, I come out, I’m bench pressing six hundred, I come out of surgery, I can’t bench press hundred pounds and can’t do a pushup, can’t raise my hand over my head, yet I’m in the ring with the WWE? And really, let’s face it, this is the stiffest competition of my career. But if all of a sudden, I come back to the WWE healthy, Vader, at four hundred pounds, dominant, but I think the same outcome happens, it just… I couldn’t raise my hand. I’m three-seventy instead of four-oh-five and I’m fat. I’m a fat three-seventy and wasn’t a big, powerful four hundred, so it was a bad time in my career.

But you know what, as far as the WWE goes, I made money. I drew money, and [when it was] time to get out, I asked Vince for my release, and we parted friends. I think he respected that, and I’ve never said anything bad about him. As far as I know, he’s never said anything bad about me and I moved on, went back to Japan. Two weeks after I got back to Japan, I was world champion again and life was good. It didn’t take me long once my shoulder was well to get back on top.

Wrestling INC: When you signed with WWE, they would call you “The Man They Call Vader.” Was that something where they were concerned about who owned the name or was that just their way to put a spin on it?

Vader: Oh, Vince wanted to change the name to The Mastodon and create a whole new [character]. And you know what? I should have done it. This is stupid, I mean you’ve got a creative genius like Vince who says, “Man, Vader, hey, you’ve been Vader, you’ll always be known as Vader, but I’m going to change the name officially to Mastodon.” They’ll own it, but he’ll market it, it’s his, he’s going to make money so there’ll be dolls. And I had a lot of dolls and action figures when I was Vader with the WWE, you know, ten, twelve of them but I might have had thirty or forty with it if I’d let him change the name. And I should have. That was a mistake. That was just stupid, that was stupid on my part. I should have said, “Yes, sir, Mastodon sounds fine. Please. I want five dolls on the market every year.” And he probably would have said yes, you know?

Wrestling INC: Were they going to give you a different costume and everything?

Vader: No, I don’t think so. I think the name would have been changed on the costume but I don’t know because I said no, but why change anything? The mask was great, just change the name. You could change the colors maybe, all black, that would have been cool.

Wrestling INC: Your first night with the company was a very memorable night at the Royal Rumble, you kind of destroyed everybody. You were eliminated by Shawn Michaels, but you still got to go back in there and destroy him. What was that first night like?

Vader: Well I was so mean, I took some pain pills and I was still four hundred pounds and then after the surgery and the ninety days were up and I needed almost a year, and I fought over that. I fired my agent over that. I told Vince “I can’t even do a pushup,” I was scheduled to do [a match with] Yokozuna. “You don’t understand, I can’t do it.”

Wrestling INC: You had surgery but you were still in the title picture for pretty much the entire year. You had the feud with Shawn Michaels and then you had the feud with Undertaker.

Vader: You know what, the title was promised to me two times. I was supposed to be a two-time heavyweight champion. If I did the job for Shawn at SummerSlam, and then something would happen and I’d get it then give it to somebody else, take it back and then give it back to Shawn in San Antonio. Instead, somehow that got changed around.

Anyway, Sid took that run and then I had a really great opportunity, Vince said to me, “You’re not just a good worker, you’re a great big man and there’s this guy coming in here called The Rock. Just take him under the arm about ninety days and just beat the hell out of him. I want you to teach him how to wrestle but be rough on him.” The Rock was just “Yes, sir, no, sir” to me and for ninety days, I beat him every night, but I made him listen. You know, “Hit me harder,” and “Do this,” and “This psychology and that psychology,” and the last night, he beat me and we shook hands and he went on and I think I did a pretty good job. He had a whole lot to work with. And then, for that, [Vince] said “We’re going to give you a run at the Intercontinental and then that never happened.

Wrestling INC: Most people felt like you weren’t booked properly. How did you feel about how you were used?

Vader: That’s the understatement of the year. I really think you could legitimately say up until present time… obviously Brock [Lesnar] is special. He was trained by the same guy as me; I think that might have something to do with it. But I was the most dominant physical heavyweight champion from ’85 up until now and in Japan, Europe, first four hundred pounder to do a moonsault, first guy to hold world titles on four continents, twenty of them, four hundred pounder, the list goes on and on and, I don’t think you can say anyone’s been more dominant than me as a world champion. In Europe and Mexico and WCW and especially in Japan, obviously that reign has probably ended by now, maybe he needs a couple more wins like that to take the title officially but, I mean let’s face it, he’s very special.

So to say everywhere I went I was so dominant and was the number one guy in the company, and let me tell you something, go over to Japan and just get on the roster was tough to do and then going over there being the number one guy and become the world champion, that’s a different thing. Not many people have done that – Terry Funk, Stan Hansen, and there’s a few more. So, yeah, I think its safe to say I did pretty well, I did fantastic everywhere I went. I think my run into WWE was productive in terms of drawing money, but it could have been different, and you just can’t turn back the clock. It’s “I should have”, and everyone’s got an excuse, and I’m not offering an excuse today. I’m saying this is what it is, and I don’t think I have any reason to apologize for the career I just had.

If you break it down, big men, like the WWE ranks me the fifth ranked big man of all time, WCW ranked me as seventh ranked wrestler of all time, and then there’s giants, Andre, [Big] Show, Kevin Nash, I don’t know, take your pick who’s better, Kevin? Kevin number one, Andre two; Andre one, Kevin two, I don’t know, but there’s a lot of giants. But the super heavyweights, myself, Bam Bam [Bigelow], Yokozuna, in the consensus, I’m considered the best super heavyweight and that’s just the deal, I mean the move set, the dropkicks and the moonsault again, and Bam Bam was certainly physically gifted and may he rest in peace, and my partner, but he would openly admit it, he couldn’t go out there and put in twenty five minutes like I could with a two hundred twenty five pound Japanese guy. He couldn’t do it and he dropped weight, and really three-fifty, three-sixty, which was his best weight, he’s not really a super heavyweight, is he? Super heavyweights are four and above. I don’t know, but Bam Bam was fantastic and extremely talented, and that’s what I’m talking about, there is a perfect example of a super heavyweight having athleticism. He could moonsault and dropkick, he could do it all.

Yokozuna [Rodney Anoa?i] was a super heavyweight, a very good one, two-time heavyweight champion, but he was limited because he was just too big. I remember Rodney coming over to Inoki and he was like eighteen years old and about three-eighty or something and, my god, what a talent. He’d been wrestling since he was in diapers and everybody knows his uncle, and knew his cousin, and me and him hit it off real good. We had a great friendship, what a fantastic human being, I mean I really enjoyed being around him. I enjoyed going to Japan and couldn’t get him to go to the gym, just “Come on, come to the gym with me,” but we had a lot of late nights, we’d be walking home. We couldn’t get a taxi it was so late, the sun would be coming up, the land of the rising sun, believe me, me and him saw that sun rise a lot of times. We’d find a Yakitori House, and they’d serve cold beer and chicken and rice, boy, we’d keep them open, more money, more chicken, more rice, more beer. And I can put it away, but Rodney could put it away, brother. Know what I’m saying? Rodney, man, you should have seen him at three-eighty, four hundred, it was just crazy, crazy talent. He just got too big but, God bless him. One of my fondest memories was that big seat I was telling you about on a Japanese bus. Well, Rodney kept getting bigger and bigger, and he sat next to me and he had this little small chair. He kept getting bigger and bigger before he came to WWE. Finally it was like, he was three-eighty and then four hundred, and then four fifty, then five hundred, and then it was like, you’d see him sitting there in that little chair, and finally I just stood up and said “Come over here, man, take my chair.” That’s the way it was, I let him have it, and I wouldn’t have done that for anybody else, because it was a comfortable chair. So that was friendship. I really loved Rodney, he was just fantastic. He represented his family and dynasty, just fantastic. One of the best of all time, just a beautiful human being, he really just always had a smile on his face, it was incredible.

Wrestling INC: What are your thoughts on TNA, I know you had a short run there. It seems like they’re in some trouble. Do you think it’s important to have a number two company?

Vader: I hope the best for them. I don’t think it looks good. I hope they manage to pull it out somehow. I think for them to have gotten on the map, they needed to get, they’ve done such a great job in creating a product. They spent a lot of money on [Ric] Flair and [Hulk] Hogan in the back office, which I mean come on, how much difference did that make? That kind of money, and no disrespect to those guys, great ideas, a lot of wresters have great ideas, great concepts but it starts with the little things, it an accumulation of the little things. it’s ten, twenty, thirty different little things that I do in a match that will make that match good and memorable, just like in football, on one given play in football, for me to block Randy White against the Dallas Cowboys. Then there’s ten little things I got to do to win that play. Same thing in wrestling.

So it’s an accumulation of little things, and what they should have done is taken some of that money they had backstage. They got Kurt Angle, they should have got a couple names, put them in the ring, and tried to make it more mainstream. Like in my era, let’s say if it was Rick Rude, and guys like that, guys that weren’t necessarily an Undertaker or a [John] Cena or a Stone Cold Steve Austin, but still a big star, big name. That’s what they need. It takes money to do that I know, so I hope they do [make it], it’s so healthy for the business.

It’s not what it used to be. You could get work anywhere. I could go to Europe and make money, I could go to Japan and make money, anywhere, and they were just territory after territory. It’s changing and it’s kind of sad, because let’s face it, once Vince rolled in, and I don’t see it happening for a long time, but it’ll go away. It’ll go back to the independents and regions and people will still crave entertainment, but for the moment we’ll have a nice little territory and another guy will have a territory. There will always be wrestling but it’ll be much different, it’ll go back to where you have a job and you work all week and try to get a few hours off on Friday and go wrestle Friday night. Who knows, might be good for it, you know, start it all over.

Wrestling INC: How was it going back there for the thousandth episode of RAW? How much has it changed since you were last there?

Vader: I think these guys are talented. Everyone talks about the Attitude Era, and I mean these guys are better looking, better shape, I think they’re more talented. I think a lot of the Attitude Era was just what we could do with a chair, with blood and stuff like that, and the product has become more PG. I mean, you look at a guy like Hunter Hearst Helmsley and where he started in this business and where he is today. I mean, yeah, sure, he married the boss’ daughter, but man, this guy’s talented and he knows the business and he runs that company. What a success story and a great wrestler. I just think the Attitude era was great in things that we could do and say that they can’t today, but these guys are so talented that it’s scary.

I think they’re better. They’re better than we were. You know, if you look on the roster there’s no one like a Bam Bam, there’s no one like me on there. Mark Henry was a big guy but he wasn’t moonsaulting or dropkicking, and that’s my main argument. There’s four hundred pounders that can do that kind of stuff, and then go to Japan and be able to wrestle someone who’s two hundred twenty five pounds for twenty five minutes, and be able to do it day in and day out. That’s my argument for going into the Hall. It would be the biggest honor in my life; it would be a tremendous honor.

Wrestling INC: Speaking about the WWE Hall of Fame, have you ever been approached for it?

Vader: There’s been mention and talk, and, you just never know. It’s a very tough club to get in to. I don’t know. I guess that’s my answer, I don’t know. I hope so. I think I’ve earned it. I think that my representation from Europe, you know, from the AWA to Europe, I had three World titles and an Intercontinental title over there in Europe, the largest wrestling company in Europe, a legitimate, recognized world title at the time, the CWA, three of those and an Intercontinental over there, and then coming back to Mexico, I had three World titles down there, and three with the WCW and the United States title. In Japan I just blew it up over there, twelve tag titles, and Intercontinental titles, World titles. I think a lot of stuff that I’ve done has been historic, I mean the match with Inoki… I mean they had to shove an eye back in my face and keep wrestling. That’s just crazy, in front of eighty-thousand people, it never crossed my mind to stop, I just instinctively just did it. And I think back and I go “Wow, why didn’t I just stop and we could reschedule this thing, skip a few months and get well.” You know, I think so.

It’s a big deal, let’s face it, WWE, to me? I’ve been to so many award banquets, All-American this, All-American banquet here, the All-American teams and the All-Conference teams and all these award banquets? to me, that would be, as much as I love football, and even my Super-Bowl ring, this would be the most meaningful thing in my life. I hope it happens. If it doesn’t, I’ll be disappointed, but life goes on. I think I’ve earned it, I really do. I don’t think you can argue with my accomplishments and just the matches, the work.

Wrestling INC: Yeah, that’s great to hear, and it sounds like you are very busy and fans can get a voicemail message from you via Celebvm.com.

Vader: Yeah, its celebvm.com and wrestlingvideomessages.com. If you want a message from Big Van Vader, and the power of the Rocky Mountains, “it’s time, it’s time, it’s Vader time!” For any reason, for you, for a friend, for a birthday, for an anniversary, I give one heck of a birthday message, I sing happy birthday to you and I have a ball with it because it’s fun. They range from twenty five dollars to a hundred dollar videos, all you got to do is get on that website and tell them what you want and then next thing you know, it shows up, it’s right there on your phone or on your computer.

It’s a lot of fun, man. It’s a very special way to show someone you’re thinking about them, its unique. I’ve got to tell you, there was a little four year old kid named Gavin, and his brother was six or seven and he trying to help him get in and use the potty, right? He was scared of the toilet, he thought the toilet was a monster going to eat him, so I popped soft and said, “Jimmy how you doing buddy? You got to help Gavin get in that bathroom when it’s time to go, he’s got to go, you got to get the job done,” and at the end I basically said, “It’s time, it’s time, it’s potty time, Gavin!” I actually proposed marriage once, too, to a girl. Actually, didn’t propose marriage, but let him know she was very interested and he was interested in asking her and this would be a unique way to let her know. I actually got an e-mail back from one of them that said they were engaged to be married, so it’s a lot of fun. I wake up an hour early in the morning and do them and go from there.

Wrestling INC: Leon, thank you once again for taking the time to speak with us, I know we went a little longer than we talked about so I really appreciate that.

Vader: Yeah, we did. Your check will be in the mail right? (Laughs) From the bottom of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado, this is Big Van Vader signing off.

Click here for part one of our interview, where Vader discussed his NFL career getting cut short, getting his start in pro wrestling, The Ultimate Warrior almost getting the Vader gimmick and much more.

Click here for part two of the interview, where Vader discussed saving Sid Vicious’ life, signing with WCW, Ron Simmons defeating him to become the first African American World Heavyweight Champion and what it meant to him, Eric Bischoff taking charge in WCW, his WCW departure and more.