K: Kostas - Kramer
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
American based Johnny Kostas stood over six feet tall and weighed 17 stones. He was known, as were others, as the “Golden Greek. He was born in Greece in 1929 and was interested in many sports as an amateur. He turned professional in the USA in 1950 and visited our shores in 1963 and 1967. By that time he was already well-regarded in North America, boasting a drawn verdict with Lou Thesz in St Joseph, Missouri. He remained undefeated for more than three years in South Africa between 1957 and 1961, drawing 50,000 in Sao Paulo, Brazil for his bout against Riki Dozan. Kostas caused interest with his gimmick of wrestling barefoot. We were easily pleased in those days
Josef Kovacs, the Butcher of Budapest, who "looked every bit a bad dream" according to John Shelvey. We remember watching this all square heavyweight assasin only from his television appearances on our 1960s black and white screens. More fortunate Wrestling Heritage readers have fond memories of the stocky powerhouse in their local hall. Heritage member Beancounter told us, "I saw him wrestle at Blackpool and Preston a number of times in the 1960's.... His speciality K O move was a type of reverse aeroplane spin in which his opponent was lifted facing upwards, spun and then brought crashing to the floor on his back." John Shelvey recalls "the sight of a wrestler, spinning across the ring like the blades of an injured helicopter, crash landing in a corner to be counted out." Kovacs arrived in Britain in 1958, establishing himself as a formidable force with wins over Geoff Portz, Ray Apollon and Bill Verna. Another win over Apollon was evident in a larger arena, the Royal Albert Hall in December, 1961. He was less fortunate in his following Royal Albert Hall appearance, losing to Tibor Szakacs, Georges Gordienko and local favourite Dazzler Joe Cornelius. Josef Kovacs was to remain based in Britain for a decade, occasionally leaving to share his art of skulduggery with fans on mainland Europe.
See the entry for Terry Goodrum
John Kowalski (Also known as Big K)
John Hayles managed to participate in the Helsinki Olympic(trial)s that had eluded Alan Garfield (q.v.), but on two wheels in 1956. A member of the Portsmouth Cycling Club the three times Hampshire cycling champion John took up wrestling whilst recovering from a cycling injury. Whilst stationary his front wheel was clipped, John was sent flying and broke his arm in two places, the result being a metal plate in his arm for the remainder of his life.
Building up his strength in the gym John became interested in wrestling. He then went on to be trained for the ring by Bruno Elrington at his gym in Sussex Street, Portsmouth, and was soon wrestling in some small hall shows of the independent promoters. The name Kowalski came about, as so often happened, when a promoter had billed an exotic sounding overseas star without having a wrestler that fitted the bill.
For most of the 1960s John worked for the independent promoters, up and down the country against top opposition men that included Cowboy Jack Cassidy, Jock Campbell and Don Stedman, with Coventry’s Adolf Dabrowski a frequent tag partner.
Signed up by Dale Martin Promotions on behalf of Joint Promotions John came to national attention with his television debut against one of the country’s top heavyweights, Steve Veidor. In the battle of the blondes John lost the match by the odd fall. It was the first of more than a dozen television appearances. Always a favourite of the fans the promoters just didn’t give John a break on television. There were no easy rides for this ex cyclist with television opponents that included Prince Kumali, Bruno Elrington, Kendo Nagasaki, Count Bartelli, Big Daddy, Mike Marino and Tibor Szakacs. The final television appearance came in 1987, almost thirty years after he had taken up wrestling. By then we sensed that John had just about had enough, and he retired from the ring three years later.
A frequent globetrotter John wrestled in just about every country in Europe and further afield to India and the Far East.
We have said many times on Heritage that John was one of our favourites that we always enjoyed watching. Although an imposing figure in the ring he never came over as threatening, and we were uncomfortable when promoters billed him as Killer Kowalski after an American of the same surname. Never a killer but always credible, that was John Kowalski.
Seldom outstanding but always in work thanks both to his size – well suited at 6’4” to pose a credible threat to even the most awesome opponents, such as Rocky Wall and possessing the hallmark of many underrated pros, the ability to switch believably from hero to villain according to the opponent.
John Kowalski died in November, 2016.
Related article: Roman Trilogy in Armchair Corner at www.wrestlingheritage.com
Another name lifted from across the Atlantic. And no, he wasn't John Kowalski our loveable heavyweight. Here's the Killer Kowalski we watched in the 1960s independent rings. We know nothing about him other than he certainly didn't look the part of a Killer, but did do a nice line in scowling. He scowled from the edge of the ring, he scowled centre of ring, and fans just knew what sort of wrester he was going to be, so booed and jeered accordingly.
We saw Killer Karl just the once, a 1966 outing when he failed to live up to his name against a young Johnny Kincaid. Not that he was a bad wrestler. Just not very memorable, other than the name. In 2010 we asked Johnny for his memories of Killer Karl. That's right, he couldn't remember him either.
See the entry for Karl Von Kramer