We love you Gene -one of the best -gave the audience his all and left his opponent with their dignity even after kicking their butt!
Gene Kiniski, 81, a former CFL player with the Edmonton Eskimos, and member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, rose to fame in the 1960s wrestling in Vancouver with NWA All Star Wrestling and ultimately won numerous world championship titles with several wrestling organizations. At a time when it was considered the top honour in pro wrestling, Kiniski held the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) world title from Jan. 7, 1966 to Feb. 11, 1969.
Kiniski continued wrestling into the 1980s, appearing in the WWF legends battle royal in 1987. He finished wrestling professionally in 1992 at age 66, wrestling in a handful of matches for Winnipeg’s West Four Wrestling Alliance, stretching his career across five decades.
Born Eugene Nicholas Kiniski in Edmonton November 23, 1928, “Big Thunder,” as he was known, grew to legendary status for giving fans “$5 entertainment value for every $1 they spend,” as he told The Province in 1968.
He was a “heel,” or villain in the ring, and he played the role with relish. In his heyday, Kiniski was earning $100,000 a year wrestling in front of fans around the world — equal to more than $600,000 today. He wrestled at least 250 times a year in far-flung places like Japan and Hawaii, packing stadiums with tens of thousands of fans.
When Kiniski was challenged that the Edmonton Oilers’ Wayne Gretzky was more deserving of his “Greatest Canadian Athlete” title, he would say, “Get him to rassle me first, then we’ll play hockey and we’ll see how he does. The same with swimming, skiing, any $%& thing!”
Kiniski was predeceased by his wife Marian, and has two sons, Kelly, and Nick.
“Dad lived a great life,” Nick, 49, said. “His only regret would be that he wished he could do it again. He used to tell me that life wasn’t a rehearsal, it was a one-time take.”
“Some people just have that charisma where they can go anywhere and take over the room,” Nick said of his father. “People across Canada loved him and he loved them back.”