Gene Kiniski was Canada’s…………

One day I was sitting in a pub listening to the guy next to me tell his buddy about how 1950s/60s wrestling bad guy Gene Kiniski used to bill himself as “Canada’s Greatest Athlete.”

I thought that was great, so I tracked down Kiniski in Point Roberts, Wash. and gave him a call. I thought it would be good for the little newspaper column I had back then.

He answered the phone by saying, in a loud and gruff voice,  “CANADA’S GREATEST ATHLETE!”

Yes he did. It was awesome.

He was also a terrific guy on the phone, full of fun and laughter, and he went on about his family, his son’s restaurant in Point Roberts, his contentment now.

Just a nice, sincere fellow who had also played pro football for the Edmonton Eskimos before his wrestling career had begun, and one who had adopted the villain role and “Canada’s Greatest Athlete” shtick by bashing bashing heads, throwing chairs out of rings, and pissing wrestling fans off, all as a way of supporting his family.

For every saintly Whipper Billy Watson, there had to be a Gene Kiniski to stomp and growl.

In 2010 we lost this colourful character and I don’t know about Canada’s Greatest Athlete, but there’s a good chance he was Canada’s Nicest Athlete.

He asked me to send him a clipping of the column, which I did, and he sent me these in return. I never made it down to see him, and I regret it.

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15 thoughts on “Gene Kiniski was Canada’s…………”

  1. Dennis,

    I have been meaning to write to tell you how much I have enjoyed your recent series of posts about players and sundry others from days gone by – always interesting. You are a good writer, Dennis, and I believe that you should consider working with an editor to help organize your posts (and photos) and publish them as a book.

    [In her early 70s, my mother was given 160 letters that she had written to a friend while she was stationed in England with the RCAF (Women’s Div.) during WWII. She spent a couple of years working with an editor and in 1997 they published “Props on Her Sleeve: The Wartime Letters of a Canadian Airwoman”.]

    Best wishes to you and your family for a joyous Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year! Keep those posts coming….

    Sincerely, Eric

  2. Thanks a lot, Eric. I appreciate your kind words very much. How great is that about your mom! Good for her, and I’ll bet it was both enjoyable and emotional for her while going through her letters.
    Best wishes and Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.

  3. Hey Dennis. Thats really cool buddy. I used watch Gene on all star wrestling every weekend with Ron Morrier. Gene was funny . He came to Gold River a couple of times back in tge late 60s. I even had his autograph at one time.

  4. Hi Anvilcloud. Great to hear from you! I’ve never been a big wrestling fan but I’d see these guys on TV sometimes, and when I was a kid I’d go to the arena for wrestling events. I don’t know if Gene Kiniski ever came to Orillia but he was definitely a major headliner on the wrestling circuit.

  5. I echo Eric’s comments as well Dennis. Just plain fun to read your posts. We are leaving Wisconsin today to visit family in Texas! Have a beautiful Christmas….

    Pat

  6. Great read as always DK. Wishing you and all your readers a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY and HEALTHY NEW YEAR and about last nights game NEVER MIND.

  7. Hi Dennis…really a great story as all yours are. You have had a very interesting life. Many of us watched Gene back in the day and while he was boisterous he also had a nice way about doing that. Unlike many today. Anyhow more than that I wanted to wish you and all family the very best for the holiday and coming year.

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