Real Name: Gene Kiniski
Stats: 6' 4" 265 lbs.
Kiniski, the 6'4 260 lb. multi-time World Champion, often referred to himself
during his entertaining interviews as "Canada's Greatest Athlete". Although
some may dispute his bold claim, there is more than enough proof to argue
that the rugged Kiniski was not speaking totally tongue-in-cheek. A quick
glance at the facts, and one might come to the conclusion that not only
was Kiniski Canada's Greatest Athlete, but perhaps he was also one of the
greatest wrestling champions ever... He was born in Edmonton, Alberta and
began his professional sports career not as a wrestler, but as a football
player for the C.F.L.'s Edmonton Eskimos until a knee injury forced his
early retirement in 1953. Although he was quite famous in sports circles
because of his CFL career, when Kiniski started in the pro wrestling ranks
he used the name Gene Kelly. As Gene Kelly, he won the Texas Tag Team title
in 1956, and later the Texas Heavyweight championship. By 1957 he was still
winning (two A.W.A. Canadian World Tag Team titles), but now he was using
his real name. Not that it mattered -- titles came to the big and tough
Canadian no matter what name he used! And despite his size and rugged approach
to the sport, Kiniski knew the importance of wrestling skill to a successful
champion. He resigned himself to becoming a proficient technical wrestler
early in his career. It paid off later for him -- in World Championship
Included among Kiniski's dozens of championship achievements are the British Commonwealth championship, 3 N.W.A. World (San Francisco version) Tag Team titles in 1955, 3 British Empire championships between 1959-1963, the N.W.A. World Tag team championship in 1960, 2 A.W.A. World Tag Team titles, 2 Hawaiian Heavyweight titles, 9 N.W.A. Canadian Tag Team titles between 1963-1976, the Asian Tag Team title in 1964 (w/Cyclone Negro) and the U.S. Tag Team title also in 1964 (w/Fritz Von Erich) to name a few. On July 7, 1961 Kiniski defeated Verne Gagne in St. Paul, MN. for the American Wrestling Association (A.W.A.) World Heavyweight title. His reign lasted only a little over a month before he lost the championship back to Gagne. The ambitious Kiniski was determined not to let that be his first and only World Title. It wasn't...
would rebound to win the N.W.A. Pacific Coast (Vancouver) Heavyweight championship
in 1970 -- his first of seven Pac-Coast title reigns. In 1973 he won the
Missouri Heavyweight title, one of the N.W.A.'s most prestigious regional
titles. But in 1979, he won and lost his final Pacific Coast championship.
Not much later, Kiniski retired after a stellar career. He is still involved
in pro wrestling in a limited capacity, though, and he even participated
in a match as recently as the first W.C.W. Slamboree (1993) in Atlanta,
GA., serving as (ironically) Dory Funk Jr's "ring man" during Funk's "N.W.A.
vs. A.W.A." legends match with Nick Bockwinkle. The Ring Chronicle
is honored to induct Canada's Greatest Athlete, "Big Thunder" Gene Kiniski
into T.R.C.'s Hall of Fame...
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