Before he was big, John Studd was tag team champion

Not many people remember this, but Big John Studd is a former WWF Tag Team Champion. Or make that former WWWF tag champ.

Studd was trained by wrestling legend Walter “Killer” Kowalski in the 1970s, and at one point in 1976, Kowalski and a young Studd donned masks and became the Executioners. Yes, I know, they were probably two of dozens of Executioners in the lore of pro wrestling.

Anyways, as the Executioners under the tutelage of Captain Lou Albano, Studd and Kowalski defeated Tony Parisi and Louis Cerdan, and were stripped of the belts about seven months later.

Fast forward to 1983, and Studd without the mask became a star again in the WWF with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as his manager. Studd went on to have one of the longest and most well-known feuds of the decade with Andre the Giant. He and Ken Patera were the ones who cut Andre’s hair, which meant the end of Andre’s afro for good.

Studd’s most famous match was probably against Andre at the first WrestleMania, and he also won the Royal Rumble in 1989 as a babyface.

Kowalski left a lasting impression on wrestling beyond his well-known bout where he accidentally sheared off Yukon Eric’s cauliflower ear with a knee drop in 1952. The Killer trained quite a few stars in modern wrestling, as besides Studd, he also tutored Triple H, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, current New Japan star Giant Bernard, TNA wrestler Frankie Kazarian, Perry Saturn, and others.

Studd and Kowalski have since passed on, with Studd dying in 1995 from cancer and Kowalski dying in 2008 from the after-effects of a heart attack.


  1. Pingback: Looking back at Albano’s legacy of managing tag team champions | Boston Garden Balcony
  2. bostongardenbalcony

    Wow, awesome back story. I never knew why the Executioners got stripped of the tag belts. Just what the world needed was another Executioner, right? Ironically, I remember in the early 1980s when Kowalski ran a local promotion in Boston called “Bedlam from Boston,” and for whatever reason, when Kowalski wrestled, even though he was identified by his name, he wore a mask.

  3. J.Cee

    The Executioners dominated the wrestling world out of nowhere. Though Kowalski was easily identifiable in profile, the other was the subject of speculation in Inside Wrestling, who they misreported as Doug Gilbert and Skandor Akbar. As it turned out, it was Chuck O’Connor who later became best known as John Studd. During a TV taping, a 3rd Executioner ran into the ring at the same time that Lou Albano shuffled one of them beneath the ring apron after he was thrown out of the ring. The WWWF regarded this infraction seriously, and this prompted a TV tournament to determine the next champions.

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