Boris Malenko Death – Cancer
1933-1994 (Age 61)
From German villain to Russian heel, Lawrence J. Simon showed the many roles wrestlers could play throughout their careers. Simon went from driving a truck to driving wrestling fans crazy with his heel character, Boris Malenko.
The hated wrestler competed from the 1950s through the 1970s before opening a wrestling school where he trained his sons Dean and Joe Malenko.
Breaking into the Business in New York
Born Lawrence Simon on June 28, 1933, in New Jersey, Simon learned amateur wrestling at the YMCA in his youth. As he grew older, Simon drove a truck in New York City but eventually trained to become a professional wrestler. The future Boris Malenko broke into the business in the 1950s, one of wrestling’s peak business periods.
Simon worked for Vince McMahon Sr. under his real name of Lawrence Simon before working as various characters. These included Crusher Dugan, Otto Von Krupp, and the name he became infamous for—Boris Malenko.
Boris Malenko (or “The Great” Malenko as he was often billed) worked as a Russian heel, playing off the very real Cold War concerns about the Soviet Union. Promoters built the powerfully built wrestler up as “The King of the Russian Chain Match”, hyping him as undefeated in said bouts.
A Hated Heel
During the early ’60s, Boris worked for Jim Crockett Sr., terrorizing the territory’s babyfaces. Malenko was known for his powerful promos and was considered one of the top talkers of his era. Unfortunately, when many fans were unaware of kayfabe, Malenko’s ability to anger the fans led to riots, including one incident in which he was stabbed.
An Epic Angle
“The Great Malenko” would work many memorable matches and angles, but perhaps his greatest storyline involved a bout where he brutally beat up Florida babyface Sam Steamboat (no actual relation to later wrestler Ricky Steamboat although Ricky was billed as Steamboat’s son). Wrestler Eddie Graham intervened, punching out Malenko and knocking his false teeth out. Graham added insult to injury on the hated heel, destroying his false teeth with some well-placed stomps. This led to a huge feud, including several Russian Chain Matches.
After a dispute, Boris Malenko left Championship Wrestling from Florida; the cunning wrestler continued working, including a run in Southeastern Championship Wrestling and a return to Jim Crockett Promotions’ Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. There, he worked as “Professor” Boris Malenko, managing heel wrestlers The Masked Superstar and Kim Duk. One infamous incident featured the Masked Superstar using Malenko’s lit cigar to blind babyface wrestler The Mighty Igor.
In between his dastardly deeds, Boris Malenko managed to win many championships, such as the AWA World Tag Team Championship, the NWA Brass Knuckles Championship, the Florida Heavyweight Championship, the Southeastern Heavyweight Championship, and several others.
According to journalist Mike Mooneyham, Malenko retired in 1980 before embarking on phase two of his wrestling career.
A Terrific Trainer
As memorable as “The Great” Malenko’s in-ring career, his work as a trainer is even more remembered. Malenko would train a small army of future wrestlers during this phase of his career.
Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter obituary on Malenko discussed how Malenko:
helped start out wrestlers like Johnny B. Badd, 1-2-3 Kid, Paul Diamond, Typhoon, Chris Champion, Barry Horowitz, Al and Lou Perez, his sons Joe & Dean, Brady Boone, Timothy Well, Bobby Blaze, Ricky Santana, and Buddy Landel.
Malenko’s work as a wrestler and trainer is highly regarded, including a 2016 induction into the National Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame and a posthumous induction into the WWE Hall of Fame’s 2018 Legacy class.
Boris Malenko Death
Boris Malenko died on September 1, 1994, at age 61, after battling leukemia for several months. Malenko had been receiving chemotherapy and passed away after suffering an infection. He was survived by his sons Dean and Joe.