GG and I spoke about this on a recent edition of FGB Radio and the unfortunate has happened. Former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Gene Kininski passed away earlier this morning, losing his battle with cancer. He was 81.
He was born right outside of Edmonton, Alberta Canada and played college football and wrestled. Kininski portrayed a villainous heel for most of his career and had a legendary feud with “Whipper” Billy Watson early in his career. Kininski will most be remembered by wrestling fans as the first Canadian man to hold the recognized NWA World Heavyweight Championship and a favorite amongst Canadian sportswriters of the era. He defeated Lou Thesz in 1966 in St. Louis to become the Champion and held the title for three years non-stop until he would lose to Dory Funk Jr in Tampa, Florida at the legendary Armory. He was honored in the 1992 Cauliflower Alley Club festival.
We wish his family the best.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was watching Saturday Night’s Main Event where the big angle for this Wrestlemania started. The main event was scheduled for Hulk Hogan vs. The Magnificent Muraco and instead of Muraco’s regular manager Mr. Fuji by his side, Bobby Heenan was in his corner. They said that Fuji had the flu, which was an angle alert. However, I was only nine so I didn’t know about angle alerts. During the match, Hogan went after Heenan and King Kong Bundy came in to attack Hogan and “pearl harbor” him as Vince McMahon would say. It was a sneak attack that left Hogan laying in the ring, taking big splash after big splash. As a young Hulkamaniac, I was devastated. I had just been turned on to wrestling the year before by my best friend at the time, and I bit hook, line, and sinker. There I was, up at midnight, watching my hero take the beating of his life. Bundy was played up huge. He was a mountain of a man. He actually resembled the letter “O” with his short but fat torso and lack of neck. He used to be called a condominium with legs. As Hogan lay lifeless in the ring, I was upset at this guy with the bald head and wrinkled forehead. But I was smart enough to know my guy was going to get revenge. The storyline was that Hogan was in the hospital suffering from rib injuries and you could write the Hulkster to wish him well. I wasn’t that gullible, but I know other young kids were. They even had Mean Gene Okerlund talk to the doctor and they showed x-rays of Hogan to sell the angle. They would meet again in the main event of Wrestlemania 2 and in a steel cage.