Remembering Kurt Von Hess
– Article by Paul Stratoti photos contributed by Paige Sutherland.
To this reporter Kurt von Hess will always be remembered as a potential main event star yet he was a mid-carder when I saw him wrestle. I didn’t really take note of him until he teamed up with Karl von Shotz (aka John Anson) as Waldo von Erich was the dominant German heel of our area (Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland) as well in Vince McMahon Sr’s WWWF at that time.
Born William Terry during World War II in April of 1942, this Canadian pro wrestler debuted for Frank Tunney’s Maple Leaf Wrestling in September of 1968 and continued to compete there as well as in the International Wrestling Enterprise and Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling among other North American promotions. For all intents and purposes we will be referring to him in this article as Kurt.
Several years ago I ran across an article in one of the many wrestling Websites that still flourish today and was impressed with the overwhelming emotion that Kurt’s daughter Paige displayed in her heartbreaking post as she spoke of the emptiness brought about by Kurt’s passing. I am now honored to have her as a member of my Family and friends Facebook Page.
On May 21, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Bob Morrow defeated Kurt.
The following Thursday on May 28, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Lou Klein defeated Kurt by disqualification.
June 4, 1970 at Cleveland Arena saw the Stomper defeat Kurt.
August 13, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Chief White Owl defeated Kurt.
August 27, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Kurt defeated Lil’ Abner Osborne
September 10, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Kurt vs Lil’ Abner Osborne went to a draw.
On September 17, 1970 at Cleveland Arena Tony Marino defeated Kurt in the 2nd match.
Later in a 6 Man Tag Team Match Haystacks Calhoun, Fred Curry & Chief White Owl defeated Hans Schmidt, Dr. Bill Miller & Kurt.
October 29, 1970 at Cleveland Arena: Kurt vs Chief White Owl went to a draw.
November 5, 1970 at Cleveland Arena: Dominic DeNucci vs Kurt went to a draw.
November 19, 1970 at Cleveland Arena: Chief White Owl & Mighty Igor def Kurt & the Executioner.
November 26, 1970 @ Cleveland Arena: Haystacks Calhoun & Mighty Igor def Kurt & Bruce Swayze
December 3, 1970 at Cleveland Arena: Haystacks Calhoun & Chief White Owl def Kurt & the Executioner .
On December 10, 1970 at Cleveland Arena in a 6 Man Tag Team Match Tex McKenzie, Ben Justice & Chief White Owl def Bull Curry, the Executioner & Kurt
February 11, 1971 at Cleveland Arena Kurt defeated Bruce Swayze.
March 11, 1971 at St. Joseph High School Dominic DeNucci defeated Kurt.
March 18, 1971 at Cleveland Arena: Kurt vs the Executioner went to a draw.
March 25, 1971 at Cleveland Arena Chief White Owl vs Kurt went to a draw.
April 1, 1971 at Cleveland Arena the Executioner defeated Kurt.
April 8, 1971 at Cleveland Arena: Bobo Brazil & Vic Rossitani defeated Kurt & Eric the Red.
April 22, 1971 at Cleveland Arena: Chief White Owl & the Executioner vs Hans Schmidt & Kurt went to a DRAW. Hans was perhaps the most dominant German heel wrestler of the time internationally who wrestled in the Cleveland area while Fritz von Erich ran the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
April 29, 1971 at Cleveland Arena Dominic DeNucci defeated Kurt. Also, Waldo von Erich was on the same card later.
May 13, 1971 at Cleveland Arena: Kurt vs Pete Sanchez went to a time limit draw.
May 20, 1971 at Cleveland Arena: The Stomper vs Kurt went to a time limit draw.
On May 27, 1971 at Cleveland Arena Kurt defeated Pete Sanchez.
June 17, 1971 at St. Joseph High School: Eric the Red & Kurt vs Executioner & Pete Sanchez went to a draw.
July 22, 1971 at Cleveland Arena in an NWF World Tag Team Tournament: Eric the Red & Kurt defeated Bulldog Brower & Chief White Owl who were disqualified. Next, Erik the Red & Kurt defeated Tony Parisi & Luis Martinez to win belts! – Later, Erik the Red & Kurt defeated Chief White Owl & Don Cochran
August 7, 1971 at Cleveland Arena: During a 71/2 hr. NWF Afternoon Supercard TV taping Eric the Red & Kurt von Hess defeated Pete Sanchez & Mickey Doyle. Later, Tony Parisi wins a 17 man battle royal! … Still later, Kurt defeated the Stomper. – Still later yet Bulldog Brower & Dominic DeNucci defeated Kurt & Erik the Red.
September 2, 1971 at Cleveland Arena: Tiger Jeet Sing & Tony Parisi defeated Erik the Red & Kurt.??Also around this time Kurt won the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship from wrestleer Bob Lueck and kept it until February 1972 when he lost it to Tor Kamata.
Von Hess & von Shotz – ‘Forever’ NWF Tag Team Champions!
John Anson arrived from Calgary around this time and as Karl von Shotz began teaming with Kurt. In September of ’72 Kurt and Karl rose to the top of the tag team division by defeating Jacques Rougeau and Gino Brito for the International Tag Team Championship. They would compete in Canada where they fefended those belts as well as in the Sheik’s NWA “Big Time Wrestling” promotion.
October 28, 1972 at Cleveland Arena: Luis Martinez & Chief White Owl defeated Kurt & Karl von Shotz. Around this time this reporter remembers seeing the only promo I ever saw Kurt talk in during a “Big Time Wrestling” segment. This then-fourteen year old remembers thinking that Kurt erred when he called his tag team partner “Shotz” instead of von Shotz. In addition, this would be the last time I ever saw Kurt talk in promo during a live wrestling card. I do remember however, seeing Kurt wrestle one final time during a WWF program.??On December 9, 1972 Kurt and Karl defeated the Stomper and Ben Justice for the NWA World Tag Team Chamopionship at Cobo Arena. Later that month they lost the titles to Tony Marino and “Flying” Fred Curry AS these two tag teams continued to fight for tag team supremacy that year Kurt and Karl would regain the tag team titles 3 more times until finally losing them to Tony Marino and Bobo Brazil in 1974. ??February 22, 1973 at Cleveland Arena saw Von Hess & Von Shotz defeat the Rougeaus (Ray & Jacques)
On October 6, 1973 Cleveland Ohio Cleveland Arena Von Hess & Von Shotz vs Mighty Igor & JB Psycho went to a DRAW!
March 14, 1974 at Cleveland Ohio Cleveland Arena saw Von Hess & Von Shotz defeat Chief White Owl & Billy Five.
March 28, 1974 Cleveland Ohio Cleveland Arena saw Pampero Firpo, Bobo Brazil & Walter Johnson defeated Kurt, von Shotz, and George Cannon who was counted out.
April 11, 1974 Cleveland Ohio Cleveland Arena: Mighty Igor & Pampero Firpo defeat Von Hess & Von Shotz who were disqualified.
In May of 1974 Kurt and Karl won the National Wrestling Federation’s World Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. They remained champions until Powers & Martinez sold the promotion to current incumbent WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki. As Inoki intoduced Kim Duk (aka WWE’s Tiger Chung Lee) to the United States, he took the promotion back to Japan and created the still flourishing and successful New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. Shortly thereafter, Kurt and Karl won the NWA North American Tag Team Titles by defeating Johnny Powers and Pat Patterson.
On August 16, 1974 in Los Angeles, California they lost the titles to Seigi Sakaguchi and Antonio Inoki. They would soon split up after which Kurt then returned to work the Sheik’s promotion.
On August 18, 1974 at Akron Armory in a Texas Death Match Kurt defeated Fred Curry.
August 24, 1974 at Akron Armory saw Bull Curry defeat Kurt by DQ.
September 14, 1974 Akron Ohio Akron Armory: In a Cage Match Bull Curry & Bulldog Brower defeated Kurt & George Cannon. Kurt was the exception here as while Curry & Brower were known to have most battles take place outside of the ring George Cannon wasn’t even a bona fide wrestler.
November 17, 1974 at Akron Armory: Baron von Krupp & Kurt defeated Hank James & Leo Burke.
On December 19, 1975 in Toledo, Ohio Kurts Von Braunner and von Hess defeated Afa and Sika the Islanders (WWE’s Wild Samoans) for the NWA Tag Team Championship. In March of 1976 they lost the titles to Count Drummer and Christopher Colt. Kurt then moved on to NWA All Star Wrestling where when he teamed up with John Quinn he won the NWA Canadian Tag Team belts. On March 25, 1977 in Yokohama, Japan, Kurt and Quinn also won the IWE Tag Team Championship by defeating Isamu Teranishi and Animal Hamaguchi. The following night in Tokyo at Sumo Hall, they lost a 2 out of 3 Fall match against Teranishi and Hamaguchi where Kurt got pinned in the third fall.
For the remainder of the decade Kurt remained in the Southeatern USA feuding with the Wrestling Pro over the NWA Gulf Coast Heavyweight Title. Then on July 26, 1977 in Mobile, Alabama he lost it to Ken Lucas after which he bagan teaming up with Seigfried Stanke with whom he won the NWA Louisiana Tag Team Championship from Steven Littlr Bear and Ray Candy. They would eventually lose the belts to Terry Lathan and Ricky Fields.
In Memphis, Tennessee Kurt briefly teamed up with King Kong Bundy, Eddie Gilbert, Randy Collins, Masao Ito and Phil Hickerson. He faced Dutch Mantell and Tojo Yamamoto there as well. In addition, he also wrestled in Toronto. During this time he was once featured on WWE TV and may also be remembered in Toronto when he substituted for Mad-dog Buzz Sawyer in a Dog Collar Match against Roddy Piper.
Kurt was forced into retirement by kidney problems in 1986 and in 1990 was put on dialysis until in 1996 an organ donor donated his kidney to him. He soon purchased an Orange Crush distributorship from retired wrestler Wes Hutchins.
On March 13, 1999 at his west Hamilton home Kurt moved on to that big wrestling ring in the sky; the result of a fatal heart attack.
“I would have to say that his favorite partner (which was not for very long) was Eric “The Red” Hansen, who was also a very dear friend of his. Von Shotz and my dad’s egos clashed at times but they were at the top of their game when they were together and could be good at times. My dad enjoyed working with John Quinn out west (Canada) for a time. Their personalities were the same (easy going) and they came from the same town in Ontario. After that he had a mish mash of partners from Kurt Von Brauner, Ziegried Stanke and Randy Collie. Stand in partners included George Steele, King Kong Bundy and Don Kent.”
“Working for the Sheik could be difficult as he was a perfectionist and expected the very best from each of his boys. He didn’t ride my dad too much but certainly put him over when the time was right. My father did not like to talk about work at home so that is about all I can say. He was very; very protective over what he did for a living and the effect it had on my sister and I (we got bullied at school a lot for who he was). He had the “brotherhood” with wrestling and would rarely talk about it. When he would come home late at night from matches (usually with a pizza) he was more interested in what happened that day with me. He was devoted to his family, working out and making a living being the meanest basterd on earth at the time. Deep down he was a soft spoken, wonderful father.”
“When he was wrestling his main goal in the early days was to become a main eventer. He worked very hard to expose his image to as many territories as possible. Thus, we went with him throughout the US and Canada fro 9 years on the road. Some of those years he everal long tours to Japan and South Africa.
“The thing that stands out most in his career I would say is his time in Detroit. Several NWA titles held there. That is where he had the most success and then there was Montreal.
More than a few of his wrestling colleagues have described him as a technical wrestler. You had your hands full in the ring with him. He was gentle and very experienced. A few guys have said he was so gentle in the ring that they could barely feel him touching them. He had respect for every guy and always put them over if he had to. He also mentored a lot of the new guys like Ricky Johnson.
“I would have to say the match between my dad and Bruce Swayze stands out. They had a wonderful friendship. Both from Hamilton they were very close. They probably traveled to that match together and my dad would let him out around the corner of the arena – lol Bruce told me a few years ago at a reunion dinner that my father used to write letters and Bruce still had one from my dad. My dad would say in his letters how much he treasured their friendship. A man to man letter. My dad was very deep that way.
“I know why my dad called John Anson “Shotz”. That is how they referred to themselves out of the ring - Hess and Shotz.??“ Cheers, Paige”
—- Article by Paul Stratoti photos contributed by Paige Sutherland.