‘Long-time coming’: Wrestler Gene Kiniski named to BC Sports Hall of Fame

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Canada’s self-styled “greatest athlete” is finally getting his due. Wrestler Gene Kiniski is being inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Historian Steven Verrier says Kiniski may not be a household name anymore, but is well known to sports fans “of a certain age” — and has a special connection to Vancouver. The push to get Kiniski inducted started before he passed away in 2010.

“I was excited to hear that after all this time, A very worthy nominee has been named to the list of inductees. I was just ecstatic,” Verrier says.

“In my mind, Kiniski is the greatest Canadian professional wrestler who ever lived.”

Born in Edmonton in 1928, Kiniski played one game for that city’s CFL team before becoming getting into the ring. He promoted himself as Canada’s Greatest Athlete.

“He was at the top of the mountain for three years in the 1960s as the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion,” Verrier says.

“He was known in much of the world he was a huge star in the United States, in Asia. He was a world traveller. In Canada, I think his profile was raised to a completely different level. He was known to Canadians coast to coast.”

RELATED: A Q&A with Steven Verrier, author of Gene Kiniski: Canadian Wrestling Legend

At the height of his success, he settled in Vancouver while appearing in bouts around the world.

“He was active in communities where he lived. He was very open to the media, he was a great sportsperson, he gave himself to charitable work. He’s one of those guys who, in many ways was larger than life and larger in a lot of ways than his profession,” Verrier says.

“What drew me to Kiniski, really, was finding out little details that showed that he was much more than a wrestler. He was great at wrestling, but I think you could rightly call him a pillar of the community.”

The formal ceremony for the 2021 inductees is set for June of 2022.

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