Even over the phone, it sounds like Gene Kiniski could still go, and go hard. In a recent chat with SLAM! Wrestling, he shared a bit about his current health and his health philosophies.
With bum knees, the 76-year-old “Big Thunder” is unable to wrestle anymore, and that pains him more than anything. “Actually I’m all beat up. My joints and stuff are all worn out.”
Never one of the greatest bodies in pro wrestling, the standout football player and University of Arizona grad Kiniski made the best with what he had. “I had a lousy physique but I was always in such superb shape. My stamina was so great that I was exceptionally strong. If you look at me, I’m just big — my bone structure, my hands, my size 14 shoes, 6-foot-5, 275 pounds. You had a lot to reckon with when you went up against a guy like me.”
He recalled an old compliment from a jockey or a trainer. “‘Hey Kiniski, you son of a bitch, you did pretty good with those bad wheels of yours.’ Horses were on their legs, same as me.”
A conversation with Kiniski is a little like trying to spit into the wind. He’s going to dominate.
“Everybody keeps telling me how great I look, but the only thing is that the goddamn wheels are gone,” he said. “I still work out five days a week, but I can’t run anymore, so I counteract that by swimming.”
Swimming is “very theraputic. I can’t run anymore because my knees are so screwed up. So by swimming, I keep the equation balanced.”
He is proud of his decision to stay fit. “Everyone calls it working out, but I call it doing my physiotherapy. I get on my bike and go for a bike ride. Then I still go swimming every Monday and Wednesday.”
The former NWA World champion and promoter for the Vancouver-based All-Star Wrestling shared his thoughts on aging from his home in the Pacific Northwest.
“The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but one is still young,” he said. “You have to be realistic. You used to go bombing down the stairs. Uh uh. You have your goddamn hand on the rail. You’re old but you’re still young. It doesn’t work that way.
“You can’t give up. If you’ve got an ache, you’ve got to live with it.”
Kiniski is not one of those wrestlers who looks back on his career with any negative thoughts. “I have one regret about the way I made a living — I wish I could do it all over again. I had so many goddamn perqs and all that. I just couldn’t see myself being a 9-to-5er, not that there’s anything wrong with it. I’ve been all over the continent, the world, and made a beautiful living. Hell, I’m still reaping awards.”