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Gene Kiniski (1928-2010)


Real NameEugene Nicholas Kiniski
Lifespan - 11/23/1928 - 4/14/2010
6'5" 272 lbs. - Edmonton, ALB

Athletic BackgroundFootball [CFL], Wrestling [University of Arizona]

Teacher(s) - Dory Funk, Sr., Tony Morelli

Professional BackgroundCalifornia, Arizona(`55), Toronto, San Francisco[AWA](`62) San Francisco[NWA](`68), Amarillo(`75)

AliasesGene Kelly, Mighty Canadian, Masked Canadian

Peak Years`59-`73

Place in HistoryGene Kiniski was one of the best wrestlers of the 1960s and enjoyed major world title runs and a lot of regional success up through the mid-80s. Kiniski grew up in Western Canada as a dual sport athlete and honed his skills in the Southeast United States, where he actually broke into pro-wrestling. Dory Funk Sr. and Tony Morelli introduced and trained him, but he pursued pro football before a knee injury forced him to fully commit in the early 50s. Kiniski actually worked his way up quickly winning tag and singles titles throughout the Western United States, his major program being a main event feud with Whipper Watson. He was an imposing figure with a distinct face, crewcut hair and rough brawling style. Kiniski was eventually brought into the AWA, where he exchanged the title with Verne Gagne and was establishing himself as a frequent contender to the NWA, WWWF and WWA titles. He moved to Vancouver in the early 60s and began co-promoting with Sandor Kovacs and Al Tomko and saw them through their strongest days in the late 60s and early 70s. This power brokership paid off in a big way in 1966 when Gene Kiniski etched his name in the record books by defeating Lou Thesz in St. Louis to win the NWA World title and he would hold that belt for three years. Kiniski's frequent challengers were Don Leo Jonathan, Eddie Graham, John Tolos, Stan Stasiak and of course Thesz. His reign was ended in Tampa by Dory Funk Jr. and aside from a few challenges to Funk, Kiniski basically settled in Vancouver and concentrated on building All-Star Wrestling with men with Jonathan, John Quinn, Dutch Savage and Guy Mitchell. Kiniski focused on other projects as his career winded down including: helping his sons Kelly and Nick into the business, doing bit parts in films and TV and doing shots here and there in Toronto and St. Louis. He made appearances for JCP/WCW and WCW in the 80s and 90s typically being recognized as a legend and he actually worked his last match in `92 in Winnipeg. Often billed as "Canada's Greatest Athlete," Gene Kiniski was a tremendous athlete, who became successful in seemingly everything he attempted in his career that spanned five decades.