Gene Kiniski Death- Cancer

“Canada’s Greatest Athlete” would hold several world titles during his career including the prestigious NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

1928-2010 (Age 81)

“Canada’s Greatest Athlete” Gene Kiniski lived up to his nickname, holding the National Wrestling Alliance World (NWA) Heavyweight Championship, the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Heavyweight Championship, and singles and tag titles from promotions around the world.

Standing 6’4,” Kiniski prided himself on his physical condition and his ability to go toe-to-toe with any and all opponents. His gift of gab and wrestling skills made him a main event draw wherever he worked.

Canada’s Greatest Athlete is Born

Born in Edmonton, Alberta on November 23, 1928, Eugene Kiniski played as a defensive lineman for the Canadian football team, the Edmonton Eskimos. Kiniski injured his knee, leading to his retirement from football and a full-time career as a pro wrestler with an acclaimed career lasting from the early 1950s through the 1980s.

After an initial run on the American West Coast, Gene Kiniski wrestled in Canada, appearing in the successful Maple Leaf Wrestling promotion run by Frank Tunney. Kiniski worked as a heel, feuding with some of the biggest names of that time including Whipper Billy Watson and Pat O’Connor.

Gene Kiniski Vies for a World Championship

Kiniski would team with Buddy Rogers in Maple Leaf Wrestling. Later, he challenged Rogers for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Indeed, Kiniski vied for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship but always seemed to come up short. Nonetheless, he won a number of other singles and tag team belts in Montreal, Maple Leaf Wrestling, and NWA All-Star Wrestling.

The rough-and-tumble Canadian won Montreal’s version of the world title in 1957, defeating Édouard Carpentier before dropping it to Killer Kowalski. While some fans credit this as a world title win, critics argue it was nothing more than a regional title.

Reaching the Top

Eventually, Kiniski’s toughness, strength, and relentlessness led to his first world championship in 1961 when he defeated Verne Gagne for the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Heavyweight Championship. The AWA World Championship was still in its infancy but it eventually became one of the “Big Three” world titles at the time, along with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and later, the WWWF Championship.

Gene Kiniski was less successful when he challenged Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Championship, but another world championship was in the cards.

On January 7, 1966, Kiniski defeated Lou Thesz for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, Kiniski’s reign lasted until February 11, 1969 when he lost to Dory Funk Jr. Kiniski remained a top draw wherever he went, continuing to hold many championships. He even found time for a small part in Sylvester Stallone’s film Paradise Alley.

A Legitimate Tough Guy

Gene Kiniski’s reputation as one of wrestling’s legitimate tough guys led to him serving as special referee for Starrcade’s main event between NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. After his retirement, Kiniski made occasional appearances, including the WWF’s 1987 Legends battle royal at the Meadowlands and a 1992 battle royal featuring a young Chris Jericho.

Gene’s sons Nick and Kelly Kiniski followed in his footsteps but didn’t enjoy the same level of success, eventually moving on to new ventures.

Gene Kiniski’s Death from Cancer

Gene Kiniski was diagnosed with cancer, putting up a valiant fight until the cancer spread to his brain. On April 14, 2010, Gene Kiniski passed away at age 81

Other pro wrestlers who died in 2010 include Angelo Poffo, Baron Mikel Scicluna, Chris Kanyon, Giant Gonzalez, Grizzly Smith, Jack Brisco, Lance Cade, Ludvig Borga, Luna Vachon, Mike Shaw, Skandor Akbar, and Trent Acid.

What are your favorite memories of Gene Kiniski? Let us know in the comments below.