Killer Kowalski then...
Edward Walter Spulnik
6'6", 280 pounds
August 30, 2008, Waltham, Mass.
Masked Executioners, Masked Destroyer
There are many stories told of Killer Kowalski. Some are even true.
Here are a few facts:
He was born in Windsor, Ontario, the son of Polish immigrants. For a time, he worked in an auto plant with his father before getting the call to go into pro wrestling.
He wrestled for 26 years, in over an estimated 6,000 bouts.
He retired in 1977, and soon became a teacher, operating the Killer Kowalski Institute for Professional Wrestling in Massachussets. His most famous student would probably be the late Big John Studd. Together teacher and protege held the WWF tag team titles for a short time in 1976 under masks as the Masked Executions. Captain Lou Albano managed them, and Nikolai Volkoff was also an Executioner. His best known student in today's mat game would be Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
In Oct. 1952, at the Montreal Forum, Kowalski kneedropped Yukon Eric, and severed a piece of Eric's ear. As the story goes, he was now a heel. He did visit Yukon Eric in the hospital, however, but began laughing at Eric's huge headdressing for the severed ear. Reporters caught him laughing, and called him sadistic (despite the fact that Yukon Eric was laughing too). Killer Kowalski was born.
Jan. 14, 1953, Kowalski was involved in the first professional wrestling match to be televised in Canada. He was matched against Yukon Eric in the Montreal Forum.
He faced all the top names over the years. Whipper Billy Watson, Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, Gorgeous George. Said Whipper to Maclean's magazine: "Kowalski was a rugged customer. I considered him to be in the Top 10 in the business."
Killer Kowalski in October 1998.
Killer Kowalski Photo Gallery
Killer Kowalski Career Record
Sep. 7, 2008: Don Leo Jonathan reflects on Killer Kowalski
August 30, 2008: Killer Kowalski dies
August 19, 2008: Killer Kowalski removed from life support
August 10, 2008: An uplifting visit with Killer Kowalski
August 9, 2008: Outlook for Killer Kowalski improved
Jan 24, 2005: Confessions of Killer Kowalski
Aug. 18, 2003: Kowalski's school closing
Feb. 10, 2002: Kowalski gets top CAC award
Oct. 10, 2001: Review: Kowalski photos, video don't quite click
Feb. 6, 2001: Killer Kowalski slams Chyna's book
Nov. 25, 1998: Killer Kowalski a true storyteller
Oh, Killer. He's an outstanding wrestler. Killer's about six-foot-seven, six-foot-six. I wrestled him one time for 45 minutes and I was in fairly good shape. I was up and down, up and down, up and down for 45 minutes and he was still as fresh as a daisy at the end of the 45 minutes. I was wondering when he was going to run down. He was a vegetarian and a kind of a religious fellow too ... He used to fly a plane for me sometimes. I had a Comache 250 and Kowalski would fly the plane sometimes. Kowalski was a hell of a man on the mike ... Kowalski became one of the most skilled speakers, vicious speaker. He could sell a house out just interviewing him on television. He was a powerful speaker. ... He'd just give Ed [Whalen] a hint of what he wanted and he would get it. He [Whalen] was a professional. He could get a good story out of anyone he had in front of him. The fellow got to thinking he was a public speaker after being interviewed by Ed. They fancied themselves as talented after a while.
Stu Hart from a Nov. 1997 interview with SLAM! Wrestling
Killer toured my native Australia many times from 1964 under the Jim
Barnett promotion. He was the archetype heel who gave our local boys
heaps of beatings over the years. He feuded with Dominic Denucci who had
a large Italian following Down Under.
He made headlines in the mainstream press when he applied his dreaded
claw hold on talk show host Don Lane. Lane was goading Killer about
wrestling being fake so Kowalski took matters into his own hands -- literally. Lane was howling and not at all impressed, threatening law
suits etc. The question of wrestling's legitimacy never came up after
that. (The public loved it by the way because Lane was a loud Yank.)
I saw him Wrestle Mark Lewin live at Melbourne's festival Hall in 1971.
He is fondly remembered by all wrestling fans in Australia. If he was
around today he'd kick ass big time.
Go Killer !!!
Killer Kowalski is the greatest all around wrestler in the history of
the sport. He could wrestle scientifically,brawl or mess around and get
hardcore. I'll remember his matches with Bruno Sammartino as some of the
best matches of that era(late-60' and early-70's). Then again,would you
expect anything less? They were two of the greatest stars of their era.
Johnny Valiant said,"He wasn't afraid of a monster". Well,Johnny,that's
because he was one.
I have many personal memories of Killer Kowalski. I use the term 'personal'
because I have the honour of calling Killer Kowalski...Uncle Walter.
As a kid, the fact that I had a famous uncle was a little bit lost on me. I
think the only important thing to me was the neat stuff he would bring me
every time he visited. As I grew older, however, I soon decided that having
Killer Kowalski as an uncle was definately cool! School bullies would keep
their distance and the young girls wouldn't. How perfect.
By the time I was ten or eleven, I was old enough to tag along with my
uncle to all his local fights (in Montreal), even though my mother
protested ferociously! It was during those times that I found out that
Killer Kowalski is a completely different person, and personality, from
Walter Kowalski. I couldn't believe that this man could be so viscious. In
fact, such was my disbelief, that I once asked my uncle, "Is wrestling
fake?". There was a two second flash of anger across my uncle's face and
then he said something to the effect of "Do you go to a movie because it's
real? Or do you go to see a great show?" I think that he was trying say
that the skill and work that goes into the performance of professional
wrestling is what should be recognised by the audience. However, not every
audience member has such a firm grasp on reality. I'll give you an example.
Every time I went to a fight with my uncle he would drop me off at the
front door and then 'go look for a park'. At the end of the match he would,
once again, leave me at the front door, always with his wrestling bag, and
'go get the car'. It was only last year that he told me the story behind
You see, for the likes of Killer Kowalski, entering and, especially,
leaving the venue was a dangerous undertaking. A few wrestling fans looked
upon my uncle as a truly evil person and they thought it was their duty to
wait for him in the parking lot with baseball bats and metal pipes. He
always made me wait at the front door to protect me from injury! As I think
back, there seem to be times when he returned with the car looking a
little worse than when he left. If there are any wrestling fans out there
who have done, or plan to do, something similar, don't be an idiot. These
wrestlers work hard for your entertainment. They also have
wives,sons,daughters,nieces and nephews who love them and don't want to see
Thanks for your time.
Mark Spulnik,Sydney,Australia, email@example.com
One of my memories regarding wrestling goes back to the late 50's or
early 60's when I was about 12 years old. I attended my first live match
at the Montreal Forum and the main event was the Championship match
between Killer Kowalski and Edouard Carpenter. In those days
Championships were decided with the best 2 out of 3 falls and it was not
unusual for a main event to go well over an hour in length. The Forum
that night was packed to the rafters just as it would be for a Canadiens
The match itself was a classic with each winning one fall, (Killer
winning his with the famous Claw Hold to the stomach), and by the time
the bell rang for the third and deciding fall to decide the
championship, (Killer was the Champion at the time) the crowd was in a
I can remember it as if it was yesterday as Carpenter focused on working
on Kowalski's supposed injured knee. The match went back and forth until
finally Carpentier got the 3 count and was crowned the new Champion. The
crowd of course was ecstatic as the world's biggest heel had gone down
to defeat at the hands of the local hero. Although Carpenter was from
France, Quebecers both English and French, had adopted him as their own.
I believe in later years Carpenter became part of the WWF French
language broadcast crew.
I am a fan who likes the heels more than the faces and Killer Kowalski
was definitely a heel lovers heel. It was him that made me the wrestling
fan I still am today.
Steve Boydell, Calgary, Alberta
Being a young man of 23 years, one might ask, "What in the heck do you
know about Killer Kowalski?" Well, what I remember is something that
may be the most special kind of memory. My grandfather was a huge
wrestling fan. He worked on the railroad for nearly forty years and was
always being sent the New England area and some times into the Quebec
area of Canada. His entire paycheck would get sent home to my
grandmother but grandpa always kept a little back to eat and if the
right show came up he'd go. We'll papaw was a huge wrestling fan and
would tell me stories of the matches that he and the other workers would
go and see. At that time it was the biggest of events. Men would dress
up in their best suits and go see the real men grapple to the end.
Papaw always liked the bad guys so I heard stories about Haystacks
Calhoun, Gorilla Monsoon but mostly I heard the stories over and over
about the "meanest, toughest man in the history of the world!" That man
was of course, Killer Kowalski. Pap's eyes would get as big around as
silver dollars as he would brag about Killer working the crowd and how
he would get the fans so worked up they would be ready to push over the
guard rail and go after him right there. Pap would get so animated when
he would talk about Killer. "He was vicious!" Pap would always say.
"He'd come after ya, and he'd never stop!" "I remember one time I saw
him fight Bruno Sammartino, the greatest champ of all time, and Killer
gave him the fight of his life!" Pap will tell over and over how Killer
would slap the claw on his opponents stomach and "try to rip the guts
right out of a man!" Though I've only seen Killer Kowalski wrestle once
on an old black and white reel, I feel like I've watched him wrestle a
thousand times and I guess I have in my head, visualizing in my mind,
while pap described his favorite wrestler, Killer Kowalski, terrorize
and destroy yet another opponent. One day I hope to meet Killer
Kowalski, I carry a peace of him with me in my heart whenever I take my
children to my parents house to visit their papaw and my mind drifts off
to my papaw and those stories he'd tell. Two men are the toughest men
in the history of the world to me. John Wayne and Killer Kowalski. And
if the Duke had ever dawned the tights, I'm almost positive Killer would
have "ripped his guts out!"
Steve Gaines, Pro Wrestling Insiders
Many eons ago I remember seeing Kowalski when he was staring out. It was at
a card held at East York Collegiate Stadium which had just been built.
Whipper Watson was a local hero and fought Sky Hi Lee that night. They
introduced a new guy, Wladek "Tarzan" Kowalski, from Hamtramck, MI as I
recall. He later became the heel, Killer. I recall a student teacher at
high school who said that he had known Walter Kowalski in Windsor.
Later on when he became a name Killer wrestled Whipper for the British
Empire Title ( Whip held that for years and years). Then he was billed from
Windsor. I can remember Yukon Eric suddenly coming from the Yukon instead
of Fairbanks, Alaska in order to challenge Whipper for that title.
I have very fond memories of KILLER wrestling in the Pittsburgh
area...I remember you wrestling Bruno Sammartino in the 70's
I had the pleasure of meeting you in Pittsburgh in November of 1998
and it was the thrill of a lifetime......I was very impressed with your
wrestling abilities and skills..I hope that you are doing ok//and
safe and happy??????? May God be with you
frank thomas hodnik
During the early 80s Killer took some of his students from his wrestling school and booked some time at a TV studio in Lowell, MA. The program was called Bedlam in Boston, and it was a rather quaint way to see how the business was handled back then.
They would tape about six hours worth of matches and then chop it up into hour long segments, broadcasting weekly (Saturday mornings, I think). The talent was thin - his students were eager but not very good - so The Killer brought in a few veterans, including Dom Denucci and Bull Curry (Yes, Bull Curry!) and some guys who were midcarders in the WWF at the time (Ron Shaw and Hans Schroeder, who were not stars, engaged in a wild brawl that surprised the heck out of all of us at ringside.)
I remember Killer greeting people at the door like he was hosting a party, and that some of his students would shake our hands as we left, "Thanks for coming!" they'd say.
Bedlam from Boston didn't last long, probably not more than a few months, but I have fond memories of it.
Here's a Bedlam from Boston memory.
Killer not only ran the show, he would wear his blue mask once in a while and actually mix it up with one of his students. Killer named himself "Champion" of whatever federation was being touted (he may have called himself The Grand Prix Champion, but I'm not sure on that...)
Anyway, I was ringside during a few of their endless taping sessions. Killer got in the ring with a tall skinny wrestler known (I think) as The Black Diamond. After a few uneventful minutes of grappling, Killer slung Diamond into the ropes and readied himself to deliver a standard forearm blow to the chest. Killer missed his spot, or Diamond timed it badly, and Killer slammed his arm right into the poor guy's nose. The guy went to the canvas, clutching his face, blood spurting from his nose. I heard Killer yell to the ref, "Count him out!" Killer merely placed his hand on the guys chest whike the ref gave a quick 1-2-3. Later on, my friend and I saw Mr. Diamond in the parking lot behind the TV studio. He had enough wiring and tubing in his nose to go scuba diving!
If anyone asks Diamond if wrestling is fake, all he has to do is recall the day Killer broke his nose!
In 1985 I worked up the nerve to dial a phone number that would supposedly connect me to Killer Kowalski's wrestling school.
I was 22 at the time and really in need of something to do. To my shock, Killer picked up the phone on the third ring. I recognized his voice from countless TV interviews.
At the time he charged a flat fee of $1,000 to join his school. He kept chanting it to me ($1,000...$1,000). He would answer any question I asked by saying "A thousand dollars."
We chatted for a few seconds. I was nervous, because suddenly I realized how silly I was being. I stand 5'9 and weigh 175. Killer was disgusted with me. I could hear it in his voice. (What kills me is that I have uncles who are well over six feet tall and they couldn't give damn about wrestling.)
"You're too small," he said.
"Can I be one of those midget wrestlers?" I said.
"Are you a wise guy?" he said. He was losing interest in me; I was desperate to keep him on the line.
I asked him if I could be a ring announcer. Killer told me he had a guy from a local radio station to do that. (I'd seen that guy - his name was Mel Simons and he was terrible. He treated the audience like we were a bunch of boobs at a game show.) I asked if I could be a referee. Killer told me his referees were all former wrestlers. I couldn't get a break. Finally he told me about some protein drinks he was in favor of, and suggested I buy some. He told me I could gain 30 pounds in a couple of months.
"And then you'll train me?"
And that was the end of it. I suppose a more serious fellow would have devoured vitamin shakes all summer but I couldn't see myself doing that. I thanked Killer for his time. I hung up the phone. I knew I couldn't be a wrestler. I imagined myself getting thrown out of the ring, landing on my head and breaking my neck. There had to be an easier way to make a living. At least Killer was honest with me. If he was just a money hungry bastard trying to keep his school afloat he might have taken my money and I might have been hurt by some 300 pounder trying to make a name for himself. Killer probably did me a favor by blowing me off.
Years later I have found myself living a few blocks from his school. I walk past it when I get off the subway after work and can hear the sounds of body slams up there. I'm always tempted to go in and have a look, but I'm pretty sure I'd be chased out. I'm also pretty sure the Killer's price has gone up since 1985.
The first time I saw Killer Kowalski was in the summer of 1974 on our 15"
black and white television. I was hooked. Killer Kowalski. Just the name oh
wow. But there was so much more! The way he moved the way he terrorized his
opponents,this guy was different. He was special. Some inner talent just oozed
out of him as he stomped on The Cisco Kid's stomach, sofetening him up for the
torturous claw hold and the incredible Flying Kneedrop off the top rope that
would send the Kid to the Hall Of Never To Be Seen Again Wrestlers. Killer
Kowalski became my adolescent obsession. While other kids idolized rock stars
my bedroom wall was covered with pictures of Killer Kowalski. Black and white
pictures cut painstakingly from the pages of "The Wrestler" and "Inside
Wrestling" magazines. My patient mother would wait at the magazine counter of
the cigar store while i pored through magazines hoping for an article or
picture of the Killer. It's hard for me to believe but this was all in the
very late stages of his brilliant career. He hung up the tights in 1977 as
half of the W.W.W.F. tag team champions, so I was seeing him on the verge of
his retirement. What must he have been like in his heyday! Killer Kowalski
provided endless hours of entertainment a kind of hero to a young boy without
a father in those long ago few years and for that I will be eternally grateful
to Walter Kowalski.
Years later as the host of a radio talk show, i mustered the courage to call
Killer and invite him to be a guest on my show. He graciously accepted and
made the long trip to Brockton from the north shore of Boston. He told his
great stories...Haystacks on the airplane...Yukon Eric in the hospital with no
ear...he was such a great guest he came back to do it again! And talk about a
thrill, I felt 12 again as he signed the first wrestling magazine i had ever
bought, the September 1974 Inside Wrestling with him and Bruno on the cover.
Killer Kowalski will go down in sports history as a legendary figure who
earned respect and admiration worldwide. But to me he'll always be my hero the
With Love and prayers for continued happiness, Steve Albert
As a former referee and student/friend of walter he was one tuff cookie in
trying to train a a lightweight 185lb he would yell to move faster and
quicker I trained against him almost got killed literally I turned into a ref
for his independent group doing Bedlam from Boston TV shows out of a TV
studio with maybe 50 people then he hooked up with Bruno/Denuccis group out
of Penn. we toured Ma,NH,Maine,RI. with people like Zybsko, Bruno Jr, Dom Denucci,
Valiant bros. Walter would ref main events and wrestle once in a while I was a
friend for a while he taught me to like natural food and was fun to be around . He used to get us students into WWF shows at Boston Garden and hang around
dressing room Saw him recently still looks great
Matt C, Boston
Killer was, and still is, my all time favorite wrestler. No one mentioned
the Bedlam From Boston TV program that was done in 1959, I believe. It was
done in a small studio with Sam Munschnik as the announcer. Killer was the
Unlike other TV shows of the era, the program built up to the following
week's program as opposed to a card at say Madison Square Garden. This was
very addictive to me. The best one was when Pepper Gomez "The Man With The
Cast Iron Stomach" said that Kowalski's abdominal claw could not penetrate
his rock hard stomach. They made a deal that if Kowalski gave him the claw
and Gomez survived, then Gomez would get a title shot. When the time came,
Gomez laid down on the mat and Kowalski gave him a knee drop to his throat
and proceeded to annihilate him. So much for Pepper Gomez.
Another favorite memory is that Killer Kowalski was the only wrestler who
during the interview would turn his back on the announcer. His huge body
would block the view of the announcer and you would only see the back of
Walter, or Wladek, if you read this, be assured that you have a special
place in my heart and the hearts of all wrestling fans who appreciate the
villains, as opposed to the namby pamby mama's boys they threw against you.
I remember one time when he came to our local high school to ref. It
was great! Afterwards I went up and asked for a autograph and he gave it
to me. He was very polite, nice, and cool. One day I hope to learn at
Jeff c. Massacuetts
Killer Kowalski is a regular writer/contributor to Wrestling- Then & Now newsletter- see his photos on our website at: www.walkertown.com/wtnow
He has a photo collection coming out shortly called Killer Pics from White-Bouke Publishing.
EVAN GINZBURG, EDITOR- WRESTLING THEN & NOW
I remember seeing the Killer at the old Cleveland Arena in the 50's, he
was absolutely great. He had a big following there, not to mention every
Polish person in town.
Leon F. Tomasic
Kowalski may have been the ultimate heel. His voice, his body, his
mannerisms, everything about him projected evil. He didn't get over with
cheap xenophobic gimmicks (like the evil Japanese, evil Russians, & evil
Iranians who followed him). He was, quite simply, an American Bad-Ass.
I read here that Kowalski ripped Yukon Eric's ear off in the 50's. Funny, I
remember reading about it in a wrestling magazine some 20 years after. The
story was changed too. It said that Kowalski bit Eric's ear off and
discussed Eric's quest to return the favor. Apparently Kowalski didn't
actually bite the ear off, but I still have relatives that swear they saw it
I remember Kowalski as an Executioner. He was the first masked guy I
positively ID'd all by myself. Of course, with a body like Kowalski's, I
don't know who he thought he could fool.
I held a fundraiser for a charity in 1993. I decided to live out my fantasy
by including some of the 'legends' I grew up watching. Naturally, I booked
Killer Kowalski to battle Baron von Raschke in a battle of the claws.
I held the event under a gigantic tent in the cul-de-sac in front of my
house. I had all sorts of food for the wrestlers in my house, which doubled
as the dressing room. Of course, I had a special vegetarian platter prepared
for Kowalski, as any self-respecting mark was aware of his eating habits.
As the others were demolishing everything in sight, Killer sat silently
without eating. I came in to see if everyone was okay, and noticed this. When
I told him an entire platter was there for him, he smiled, and appreciated
the fact that I took the effort.
Also, as mark/booker, I had written out general guidelines for eveyone's
match, mainly focusing on the finish. So, in my basement, I somewhat
sheepishly hand these out to all the boys, and only Kowalski looks at me, and
says, "I don't work from scripts!"
Best of all, at the age of 68, he took a bump off the top rope, without
hurting himself, at the end of the match.
Thanks for the memories, Killer!
Killer Kowalski was a great wrestling villain. I watched him in the
early '60s wrestle all the top guys and he was a fantastic draw. He had a
great rivalry with Bruno Sammartino and his interviews were almost as good as
his matches. One time (on television) he was signing a contract for a match
with Sammartino. Sammartino was using a special fountain pen his father in
Italy had given him. After they signed the contract, Kowalski grabbed the
pen and snapped it half, and proceeded to spray ink all over a white shirt
the stunned Sammartino was wearing. They began brawling ringside, and it was
great. It built up great anticipation for their match and only proved what a
lowdown, treacherous and vicious villain Kowalski was! Man, could that guy
get people riled!!
My memories of seeing Killer KOWALSKI in action date back to 1964-66, when
several of us in our mid-teens would regularly travel from Sydney's western
suburbs to the Sydney Stadium at Rushcutters Bay. One leg of that journey
involved about two miles of walking each way from the train station to the
Stadium. On the return journey, we would occasionally encounter a group of
"aspiring" young wrestlers who felt the need to "work out" their
frustrations after the bouts - especially if Kowalski had beaten the hell
out of their favourite in one of the matches.
Overseas wrestlers visiting Sydney during that era were generally
accommodated in hotels around Kings Cross, about half a mile west of the
Stadium. One evening we walked back from Sydney Stadium only a few yards
behind Killer Kowalski, Cyclone Negro and the late Buddy Austin. Needless
to say, no "aspiring" wrestlers ventured near us that evening!
Paul Rogers, ex-Sydney Australia
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