K: Kostas - Kwariani
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
The posters proclaimed him “The Butcher of Budapest,” and it was a fitting nickname for the shaven headed assassin. Enthusiast Johns Shelvey got it about right when he said Kovacs "Looked every bit a bad dream."
Another fan, WilliamR, 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 recalled "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."
Our mememories of this 20 stone villain of the ring are sadly limited to a couple of his ten television appearances. Even on our 1960s 17 inch black and white screen he made an impression.
Britain was the second home for Kovacs for ten years, moving backwards and forwards between the United Kingdom and the Continent, mostly Germany and Austria. In all he made sixteen visits, each limited to the forty match labour restriction imposed on overseas visitors at that time. So lengthy and frequent were his visits that he must have become as accustomed to working with his opponents as the local British wrestlers.
It was claimed that Kovacs was an Olympic Gold Medalist. We did find Jozsef Kovacs wrestling in the 1952 Olympics, albeit not a medalist, which could well have been him, but have no confirmation as yet.
Opponents from the beginning were of the highest calibre. During that first visit during October and November 1968 opponents included Alan Garfield, Geoff Portz,Norman Walsh, Dennis Mitchell, Mike Marino, Ray Apoolon and Gordon Nelson.
Josef Kovacs was a visitor to Britain every year until 1968, with the exception of 1966. Opponents were always top notch and there were high profile matches at the Royal Albert Hall. Wins over Kiwi Kingston and Ray Apollon in 1959 and 1961 were followed by losses to fellow Hungarian Tibor Szakacs,Georges Gordienko and Joe Cornelius. His final Royal Albert Hall outing was a draw with John DaSilva in April, 1964.
Kovacs final visit to Britain was in 1968. He died in August, 1990.
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.
The barrel chested Max Krauser was listed by Wrestling Heritage in our top ten overseas visitors of the 1930s. He was a Jew born into a family of eleven children in Stanislawow, Poland. An expert skier, rugby player, swimmer and skater it was in wrestling that he gained fame, wrestling throughout Europe, Australia and the United States.
A student at the University of Livov Max gained a Degree in Science. A fan of the wrestling he is said to have jumped into the ring, aged 22, challenging a German champion and beginning an internationally renowned wrestling career.
Arriving in Britain in 1934, with little wrestling experience. he was soon swapping holds with the likes of King Curtis, Francis St Clair Gregory, Anaconda and George Clark. And he beat them all! Many matches ended with his favourite move, the aeroplane spin, leading to billing as European Heavyweight champion.
This Polish Jew was a hard man who knew how to wrestle.
He wrestled in Britain intermittently between 1934 and 1938. Political developments in the 1930s made it unlikely that the Jewish heavyweight would return to Poland. Leaving Europe in 1938 he travelled to Australia, and whilst wrestling there the Second World War broke out. Max moved on to the United States where he enlisted in the army. Following retirement in the late 1940s Max and his wife set up their own business manufacturing luggage.
Mihalyi Kuti (Also known as Micha Nador)
powerful heavyweight from Hungary Mihalyi Kuti made his way to Britain
in 1960 for Dale Martin Promotions. He was an impressive site, standing
6'3” tall and weighing 17 stones. In his mid twenties he proved a
formidable opponent for the likes of Mike Marino, Alan Garfield and The
Zebra Kid amongst other top heavyweights of the time. On television he
knocked out Dennis Mitchell on 17th September, 1960, a sign of his
power. Four days later he benefited from the referees disqualification
of Alan Garfield in a high profile match at the Royal Albert Hall in
London. In subsequent televised matches he beat Johnny Yearsley and lost
to Dazzler Joe Cornelius.
Mihalyi returned to Brtain in each year up to 1965, again mostly working in the south but again with occasional jaunts north. In the 1970s he returned in 1971 and was last seen in Britain in 1972 when appearances seem to have been mostly in the north.
Throughout his career Mihalyi Kuti worked mostly in Germany and Austria, as late as 1981 he was known outside of Britain as Micha Nador.
Mihalyi Kuti died in 2010.
Born in Georgia, Tsarist Russia Kola Kwariani is reputed to have been a genuinely hard man who wrestled in Britain and around Europe in the 1930s before making a name for himself in the professional rings of North America. He played the part of the hired killer in the 1956 Stanley Kubrick film, The Killing. Born in 1903, died 1980.