NAME OF SCHOOL: Killer Kowalski’s Pro Wrestling School; Chaotic Training Center
LOCATION: Malden, Mass.; North Andover, Mass.
TRAINERS: Killer Kowalski, Tim McNeany, Mike Hollow
OTHER CLASSMATES & ALUMNI: Triple H, Big John Studd, Perry Saturn, John Kronus, Kenny Dykstra, Chyna
When discussing the greatest wrestling trainers in history, it would be difficult not to mention the legendary, if not mythical, Walter “Killer” Kowalski, who earned his nickname by shearing off Yukon Eric’s ear in a Steel Cage Match. A WWE Hall of Famer, Kowalski was Bruno Sammartino’s primary foe during the 1960s and ’70s (WATCH), partnered with Gorilla Monsoon and held the World Tag Team Championships with Big John Studd as The Executioners.
After retirement from the ring, Kowalski gained a reputation as one of the world’s finest trainers. With a roll call that includes Triple H, The Eliminators and current Superstars like Tensai and Damien Sandow, it’s easy to see why. “It was awesome,” Tensai told WWE Classics. “I’ve been around the world and have seen a lot of different wrestling schools, and he’s put out some of the best. His record shows it. It was very well done. I have a lot of respect for him. He was also a great guy and a great friend.”
The former Japanese star remembered some early antics with his teacher. “Kowalski had a toupee, and he and I had a really nice kinship together,” Tensai recalled. “He used to always come to me before the shows and ask, ‘Is my toupee on straight?’ And it was, but I would tell him, ‘No, Walter, move it over a little bit to the left.’ By the end of the night, that thing was sideways and all over the place.”
But Tensai insisted his training was far from a goof around session. “It was ‘come to work.’ You put your boots on, it was time to work. [Kowalski] put you through a routine that you had to do, and it was hard,” Tensai explained. “He sorted you out. A lot of people would go in there during [The Monday Night War] when everyone wanted to be a wrestler, but not for the right reasons. They might have liked watching it, but putting in the hard work was a different story, and Kowalski sorted that out real quick.”
Another of Kowalski’s students, Damien Sandow, echoed Tensai’s sentiments. “I started very young. I was 16,” Sandow told us. “At the time, I was the youngest guy there. You had to be 18 to train, but Killer made an exception in my case. I remember being a boy in a man’s world, and it was a real wake-up call.” Sandow continued, “Looking back on it, it made me tough-skinned by withstanding a lot physically and mentally. And obviously the training there was going to be the best you’re going to get anywhere.”
As tough as he was, Kowalski’s students heap nothing but praise on their master. “I have so many memories of that school and the instruction he gave me,” Sandow said. “I still use a lot of his stuff to this day.”
Tensai agreed. “It was one of the best memories that I’ve had in the world of wrestling,” he said.
As Kowalski got older, his school was passed along to younger trainers like Mike Hollow, who trained Kofi Kingston. “I was fortunate to have a coach like Mike Hollow who taught me about the importance of the basics,” Kofi told us. “When you build a house, you want to have a good foundation, and he definitely gave me that good foundation.”
Kofi recalled the grueling schedule that he endured to gain those basics. “I was training there five days a week while I was also working a full-time job,” Kofi explained. “I’d drive for an hour after an eight-hour work day, have a three-hour class, then another hour drive home. You talk about paying dues, I feel like I definitely did, but it was all worth it. If I didn’t do that, I’d probably still be wondering what it would be like to be a WWE Superstar.”