Kowalski photos, video don't quite click
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM!
Killer Pics, the book, above.|
Killer Tales ... Killer Pics, the video, below.
There is no doubt that Wladek "Killer" Kowalski is truly a living legend in
the pro wrestling business. A Canadian trailblazer and a record-setter
whose influence on the industry is as strong today as it ever was,
Kowalski's success opened the door for his fellow countrymen to follow in
his footsteps. Operating his world famous wrestling school (The Killer
Kowalski Institute for Professional Wrestling) outside Boston, Massachusetts,
Kowalski has passed on his knowledge, love and respect for pro wrestling to
his students. Such big name stars as Triple H
, Perry Saturn, Albert,
John Kronus and the late, great, Big John Studd all got their start at
At the mere mention of his name, fans may have visions of the 6'6", 280-pound behemoth from Windsor, Ontario, kneedropping Yukon Eric
a piece of his ear thereby earning his gruesome nickname or mauling his
opponents as he gave that trademark glower that would strike fear into the
hearts of friends and foe alike. In a new video -- 'Killer Tales...Killer
Pics' -- and book -- 'Killer Pics' -- another side of Kowalski is revealed.
A side that may shock and surprise many who thought they knew the Canadian
superstar. Most would never guess that the 'Killer' inside the ring was an
imaginative and sensitive artist outside the ring.
At the height of his career in 1960 Kowalski bought a Hasselbad camera
became a photography buff. What began as a hobby to document his travels
around the world soon became a life-long passion. Both the new book and
video document Kowalski's stunning work...with varying degrees of success.
Though more moderately priced at $19.95 (U.S.), the video ('Killer
Tales...Killer Pics') is about as close to a bargain basement production as
one can get. With all the production value of a public access television
show, 'Killer Tales...Killer Pics' provides some fascinating insight by
Kowalski of the wrestling industry and his photography but little else. For
approximately 50 minutes viewers are treated to Kowalski being interviewed
by some guy named Charles Bayon. There is no footage of Kowalski wrestling.
No footage of him putting his students through their paces at his school.
It's just Bayon and Kowalski chatting. If Kowalski were not such a great
storyteller the tape would be an utter waste of time and effort. The
"talking heads" format will surely bore fans used to the razzle and dazzle
of 1970's video production and have them routinely tapping the fast-forward
button as there might be a lot to hear but not much to see.
On the other hand, the book ('Killer Pics') is a virtual treasure trove of
images. Not only are there grim photos of the devastation caused by the
atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are wildlife photos
from Rhodesia and South Africa as well as candid shots Kowalski took of
such renowned grapplers as George 'The Animal' Steele, Chief Peter Maivia,
Pedro Morales and Larry Zbyszko. At $47.50 (U.S.), 'Killer Pics' is a bit
pricey at first glance. But then again, that's about what one would expect to
shell out for any limited edition collector's item.
What ties both the book and the video together is also the greatest failure
of the project. There is very little background or information to accompany
the photos in the book. There is no context given and therefore no clear
understanding of how or why Kowalski took the shots he did or what
circumstances brought he and his subjects together at that point in time.
To get some of that you have to purchase the video. Because of this crucial
shortcoming, these new offerings are more suited to die-hard Kowalksi fans
who are willing to purchase the entire package. Others would just be stuck
with remarkable photos without any meaning to them or a lackluster video
that just talks endlessly about them.