He might still be exiled from appearing in anything WWE-related, but Hulk Hogan came a little closer to redemption after paying the perfect tribute to the late Leon “Big Van Vader” White.
A much-loved icon of wrestling – with many a child donning a pair of Y-fronts as a makeshift mask to replicate his famous headgear – Vader was a prominent figure in WWE during the 90s and gained legendary status wrestling in Japan and on the independent circuit.
Years of alcohol abuse and a bad diet brought on from life on the road took their toll though with White revealing in November 2016 that he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
He eventually succumbed to his illness in hospital this June, aged just 63 with news of his passing prompting a huge response online from anyone involved in the world of wrestling.
Chief among those was Hogan, whose kind words to interviewer Bill Apter may have gone some way to helping further heal the wounds left from his controversial parting of ways with WWE.
“It’s a sad day in the wrestling world when someone as talented and as big of a star as Leon, Vader passes away. He was not only a star domestically, but internationally – he had appeal that went around the world- it was a great loss today. Such a great human being and such a great wrestling star passed away,” Hogan said.
“He was nothing but respect, nothing but kind, never had a bad word to say to anybody I was ever around. He had a great sense of humor, and he was such a kind and nice man.
“I enjoyed working with him, and even though he was really snug in the ring, and he would really lay it in and he’d ring your bell, he never hurt you. He made sure that you were tough enough to stick with him, but he would never – I would never go out of the ring and go ‘Oh my God, he hurt me so bad. I can’t wrestle again!’
“He made it fun to have that type of heavy-handed, heavy artillery connection in there. But it made you really felt like you were in a war, so you were proud when you would come out of the ring from working with him. He was the consummate professional.”
Several other notable WWE stars past and present also paid tribute on Twitter:
Sad to hear of the passing of Leon “Vader”White.i Spent a lot of time with him in WCW in 93 & 94. pic.twitter.com/rJWI8BIjq9
— William Regal (@RealKingRegal) June 20, 2018
— Bill Goldberg (@Goldberg) June 20, 2018
Today is a sad day. One of the greatest big men to ever grace the squared circle has passed – "Big" Van Vader. My prayers are with you brother. #Respect #RIPVader God bless you and your family. @wwe #wwe ?? DDP pic.twitter.com/Ex26h7PAvv
— Diamond Dallas Page (@RealDDP) June 20, 2018
— Scott Hall (@SCOTTHALLNWO) June 21, 2018
Moved by the fans today, proud that our matches left a lasting memory with so many. Until we meet again Rest In Peace Big Van Vader pic.twitter.com/KX8Bz4aDkb
— KEN SHAMROCK (@ShamrockKen) June 20, 2018
R.I.P. Big Van Vader: gone but never forgotten.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.