AS I SEE IT: Killer Kowalski tribute

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

A day many oldtime wrestling fans suspected would happen, but dreaded finally took place late Friday night/early Saturday morning as Walter “Killer” Kowalski passed away with his wife Theresa by his side.

Kowalski had been in a coma since suffering a heart attack on August 8. Despite resulting brain damage, Kowalski’s vital signs were strong until only days ago.


Apparently, for once, the great heel known in my Philadelphia area for scaring young fans and putting over Bruno Sammartino when it was good for business decided to take things home when HE was good and ready.

The first public mention of Kowalski’s passing came in a sweet and genuinely heartfelt goodbye from the blog of TNA’s Frankie Kazarian:

Walter “Killer” Kowalski

Current mood: sad

I was just woken up by a phone call that I have been dreading. My good friend Steve King just called and informed me that our dear friend and trainer Walter “Killer” Kowlaski has passed away.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have always attributed Walter with all of my success in pro wrestling. He took in a 20 year old kid who had traveled 3,000 miles from southern California, and embraced him like a son. He was kind enough to pass on his extensive, and unique knowledge of this business to me.

From day one, Walter became my trainer, and my friend. He guided me through every step of pro wrestling, but more importantly, taught me how to be a genuine, good person, and to treat others with respect, dignity and class. I owe so much to Walter, that I could never put it all in words.

The time we spent together is and always will be some of the most precious memories I have, and I will keep it in a special place in my heart. So much of the best things that have happened to me are a direct result of his mentoring. The people I have met, the relationships I have made, and my success in and out of the ring are a direct result of him.

Walter loved angels. We had many conversations about them on our regular trips to church that we both enjoyed on Sundays. To me, and anyone who knew him, Walter was an angel. He was a gentleman, friend, and honestly one of the best people to come into my life.

Walter, I love you and I could never sing your praise enough. You set me on a path in this business, and in life, that has been in one word, a dream. Rest in the kingdom of heaven my dear friend, as you are now amongst the angels that you loved.

Your student, friend, and brother in Christ,

Jim Ross reminded fans on his blog of his other talents, such as being an accomplished photographer, writer, and most importantly a trainer who worked most recently with the Killer Kowalski Institute of Professional Wrestling as an old-school disciplinarian, fostering respect for the wrestling business.

Ross’s blog also brought up Kowalski’s sense of humor, telling the story of how, when Kowalski married at age 79, he told his friends that “he had to marry the lady because she was with child.”

Kowalski is known to have trained HHH, Perry Saturn, John Kronus, Chyna, Big John Studd, Chris Nowinski, Matt Bloom (aka A-Train and Giant Bernard), April Hunter, Frankie Kazarian, and Kenny Dykstra.

I never met Killer Kowalski, but it seems that he put a lie to the old wrestling adage that a wrestler’s in-ring character is just the wrestler’s natural personality
turned up a few notches.

Kowalski seems to have been genuinely beloved by everyone he met, and as far from the “Killer” character as is possible. He was a vegan at a time when not eating meat and animal products was an incredibly foreign concept.

His titles included the NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship and NWA Central States Tag Team co-Champion with Bulldog Austin, NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight Championship, held the Montreal Athletic Commission’s Heavyweight Championship on 12 separate occasions, the International Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Championship 5 times and their Tag Team Championship on 4 occasions.

Kowalski also held the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship/Hawaii, NWA Pacific Coast Tag Team Championship/Vancouver version with Ox Anderson and Gene Kiniski, the NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship (Los Angeles) and was co-NWA Americas Tag Team Championship with Kinji Shibuya, NWA San Francisco’s Pacific Coast Heavyweight Championship and co-held the NWA Pacific Coast Tag Team Championship with Hans Herman. He held the Southwest Sports, Inc/Big Time Wrestling NWA Texas Brass Knuckles Championship and NWA Texas Tag Team Championship.

Kowalski also held Stampede Wrestling’s NWA Canadian Heavyweight Championship twice and NWA International Tag Team Championship twice. Kowalski was co-WWWF United States Tag Team Championship in 1963 with Gorilla Monsoon, and co-WWWF World Tag Team Champion with Big John Studd as the Executioners in 1976.

He was elected to the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2003, and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996, to the WWF Hall of Fame in 1996, and received the Iron Mike Mazurki Award from the Cauliflower Alley Club in 2002.

Kowalski’s funeral services will take place on Wednesday, September 3rd at the Weir Funeral Home, 144 Salem Street, Malden, MA. Afternoon services will take place from 2:00-4:00 pm and evening services from 6:00-8:00 pm.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that wrestling fans send donations to: Walter “Killer” Kowalski Memorial Fund, Citizens Bank, 876 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148.

Somehow I imagine Killer’s hanging out up in the eternal reward he believed in so much with his student John Kronus. Kronus has a smile and a frosty mug in his hand, while as always, Killer is drinking something a lot more healthy.

Until next time….

(Title histories courtesy of

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