|Classic Wrestler Ramble:
If you grew up in and around Boston in the last 20 or so years, you probably know the name Killer Kowalski. It's true of my friend Andy who was a casual fan during his childhood. It was true of my friend Jeff who couldn't care less about wrestling, despite a growing appreciation for the non-ring aspects of Lucha. Boston has a way of making its local sports heroes a part of the popular consciousness.
A vegetarian and life-long abstainer, if he were wrestling today he'd be a straightedge cult face somewhere that the punk and wrestling subcultures overlapped. As it is, I'm surprised I've never seen a homemade "KowalskiX" patch on one of the high-schooler punks who hang out in Harvard Square. Then again, how many of them are serious punks, let alone some variation thereof. Kowalski said his lifestyle gave him the energy he needed to have good matches.
The opinion of his work seems to vary. I've seen and read workers say he blew up quickly. I've seen and read workers say he wore them out. Sometimes it's been the same worker. I've only seen two matches of his: a mediocre TV match against Edouard Carpentier and a fantastic match vs. Buddy Rogers. Perhaps this speaks highly of Rogers' ability and low of Carpentier's and Kowalski's. Perhaps it's because the TV match was to hype a rematch at a house show, where the money was. (The TV ended with a DQ that just screamed, "come watch Carpentier get his revenge.")
He seems to have been a big draw. Ever since the fateful night he removed Yukon Eric's ear, people showed up to see this monster of a man. Once Kowalski was asked what he thought of Bruno Sammartino. He replied, "I can't tell you. Every time we were in the same building, we were facing each other."
I'm told that MSG got the big stories, but the Boston Garden got the serious wrestling. The Boston fans weren't willing to settle for the watered down product. I don't know if I believe that. Bostonian sports fans like to take any shot they can at New York.
It seems questionable when looking at the indy scene. Garbage promotions seem to be the rule, although there are a number of talented workers doing straight matches in most of them. Thing is, one of the biggest indy draws is Kowalski. People will go to shows and take their kids to see him. Sometimes he just signs autographs and shakes hands. Sometimes he gives a speech. It's always the same speech. The fans hated him when he was a wrestler. They love him now that he's retired He loves and thanks them/us.
It doesn't fail to pop the crowd. Hell, Kowalski standing up pops the crowd. Every time I've been on a show where Kowalski appeared he recevied applause and chants of "killer, killer!" as he was pointed out. His speech is given total silence. He recession usually gets a standing ovation.
It's the weird devotion of a sports town that has more in its history then its present. Since Kowalski made Boston his home, Boston made Kowalski its unlikely hero.
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©2001 by the author