WWE started Raw last week with a graphic in memory of Leon White, aka Vader, who passed away on June 18 following a hard-fought battle with pneumonia. His name, however, was not mentioned on the show, and there was no video tribute.
Dave Meltzer noted in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Vince McMahon issued a directive to the Raw announce team — Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Jonathan Coachman — not to mention Vader’s name on the show.
McMahon issued the same directive when Lance Russell, the legendary voice of wrestling in Memphis, Tennesee, passed away last October at the age of 91. While Russell never worked for WWE, Vader did and they own the entire WCW video library.
“With Lance Russell, there was the excuse he never worked for WWE and much of their fanbase wouldn’t know him, but if a live sport had one of its greatest announcers ever pass away, even if it was an announcer for another team, would they tell the announcers not to bring it up?” Meltzer wrote.
“On one hand, they played up [Jimmy] Snuka, who certainly was big but his era was decades ago not to mention the obvious baggage of him having been indicted on a homicide charge shortly before his death and the state dropping the case because his health was too bad to stand trial weeks before his death.
“With Vader, you’ve got a guy who was a superstar who they even brought back for nostalgia pops a few times and was the best working guy of his size in history, and drew money, and is all over their WCW video library as a top guy, and the decision was made not only to not show a video but not to even bring him up.”
Following his departure from WWE in 1998, Vader appeared at a WWE event three times. He returned to WWE on the October 31, 2005, episode of Raw when Coachman announced that Vader and Goldust would be in his corner for his street fight against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin the next night at Taboo Tuesday. When Austin decided against wrestling, he was replaced by Batista. Vader and Goldust interfered in the match on Coachman’s behalf and both received a spinebuster for their efforts.
On the June 11, 2012, episode of Raw, Vader defeated Heath Slater in a singles match. This was Vader’s final match for WWE.
On July 23, 2012, on the 1000th episode of Raw, Vader and several other WWE Legends prevented Slater from leaving his match against Lita, which she won.
On April 2, 2016, Vader appeared at the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony to induct Stan Hansen into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Road Warrior Animal ripped WWE for not airing a video package on Vader during Raw.
After Raw ended last week, the WWE Hall of Famer wrote the following on his personal Facebook account.
Seriously WWE all you throw up is a picture of Vader no video package? A main event performer for most of his career.
sorry just my opinion
While McMahon chose to not air a video tribute on Raw, WWE did honor him. A few days after Vader’s death, WWE posted this video on its YouTube channel paying tribute to the wrestling legend.
There is also a collection of his most memorable matches against the likes of Sting, Cactus Jack, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker on the WWE Network.