It is with great sadness that I must report that the wrestling world has lost a champion today. MouthoftheSouthShore.com would like to offer its condolences to the Kinicki family, who lost the great Gene Kinicki after a long and tough battle with cancer. He was 81 years old.
For those younger wrestling fans who are unaware, "Big Thunder" Kinicki was a big star in the 50's and 60's in the AWA and NWA, capturing both heavyweight titles at different points in his career. The NWA title in particular was his crowning achievement as he defeated the infamous Lou Thesz to become a heel champion (a rarity at the time). He held the belt for over 2 years, finally dropping it to another legend, Dory Funk.
On a personal note, there's a bit of a connection between myself and Gene Kinicki as we both attended the University of Arizona. As far as I know, he is the only professional wrestler to don the Wildcat Cardinal and Navy, so it is unfortunate that he has now passed.
Although we have lost yet another wrestler, we can take solace in the fact that Kinicki lived a full life and succombed only to an the strongest of opponents, cancer. He will truly be missed in the wrestling world, and his contributions will never be forgotten. If any older fans have a memory of Gene Kinicki, please share them in the comments below. I'm too young to have seen him wrestle, but I'd be very interested to hear from some who have.
Gene "Big Thunder" Kinicki: 1928-2010 RIP