Guest Author - Vance Rowe
Wladek (Walter) “Killer” Kowalski was born to Polish immigrant parents and was raised in Canada. He was always big for his age and even though he was 6’4” tall by the time he became a young teenager, Kowalski never really had any intention to going into athletics. Most people the size of Kowalski usually try to get into football or basketball when they get into college. Not Kowalski however, he went into electric engineering. There are conflicting stories about what college he was attending when he was told that he could make more money than the fifty dollars a week he was making while working at the Ford plant in Detroit to help pay his way through college. However, he gave wrestling a try and the rest, as they say, is history.
He was born with the name Edward Walter Spulnik but in the early 1960’s, changed his name to Wladek Kowalski because it had a more ominous sound to it. When he began wrestling, he wrestled under the names of Tarzan Kowalski, Hercules Kowalski and the Polish Apollo. It wasn’t until 1952 in a famous match against a wrestler named Yukon Eric that he was nicknamed Killer and his reputation as a heel began to grow. He leaped from the turnbuckles and came down on Yukon Eric’s head with a knee drop and tore part of Eric’s ear off. To further increase his image as a heel wrestler, local newspapers stated that Kowalski went to visit Eric at the hospital and laughed at him because of his injury when in reality, they were both laughing at the way Eric looked with the bandages on his head. He was laughing with Eric and not at him. Other incidents to his heel fame included accidentally kicking former pro boxer Jack Dempsey in the diaphragm while Dempsey was a guest referee in the match between Kowalski and Pat O’Connor. Dempsey was hospitalized to be checked out and even he said Kowalski kicked him by accident but it was just an incident to further play up the heel character.
Killer Kowalski also started his own wrestling school in Walden, Massachusetts when he retired from pro wrestling in 1977 and trained such superstars as Big John Studd, Triple H, Chyna, and Kenny Dykstra. He even teamed up with Big John Studd in 1976 and they both donned black masks and called themselves “The Executioners”. They won the then WWWF Tag Team titles and Kowalski’s probably best known for being the thorn in the side of Bruno Sammartino in the late 1960’s and into the 70’s.
On August 8, 2008, Killer Kowalski suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized ever since. On August 18, 2008 several sources stated that he was removed from life support and died. The reports were wrong, but, Kowalski did finally leave us on August 29, 2008. His memory and his legacy will be with us forever however. He will be missed by wrestlers and wrestling fans alike. May God comfort you Walter and may you finally Rest in Peace.