REAL NAME: Walter Nurnberg
AKA: Skull Von Stroheim, Kurt Von Stroheim, Henry Von Stroheim, Skull Nurnberg, “Dynamite” Joe Cox, Dr. Death #1
BORN: October 15, 1928 in Parry Sound, Ontario
DIED: August 2006
Wally Nurnberg, who recently died at the age of 78, was one of many who walked into Al Spittles’ Hamilton gym to get in better shape and came out a pro wrestler.
Nurnberg was born in Parry Sound, Ontario, but grew up in Port Elgin. He was a hockey player, making it as far as the Boston Bruins farm team, the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen. He hurt his ankle, though, and went to recuperate in Hamilton, where he had some relatives. He met a friend at his job in a steel mill, and together they started going to Spittles’ famed gym.
Spittles, who had worked as Al Hamilton as a pro wrestler, had a pretty simple gym. In the evenings, mats would be pulled out to wrestle on. The trainees would work out with weights for an hour, then learn holds. On weekends, the gym was too crowded with regular folks for much training. Among the others that the 21-year-old Nurnberg trained with were Billy Red Lyons, Big Al Bell and Sailor Jim Clark.
Starting on small clubs and towns around Ontario as Wally “The Skull” Nurnberg — he’d been balding anyway, and part-time barber/wrestler Frank “Scotty” Thompson finished the scalping — he soon shortened it to Skull Nurnberg. His first big break came under that name in Detroit for Bert Ruby.
It was in Detroit where he first met Kurt Rutkowsky, his future regular partner Kurt Von Stroheim. The left the Motor City for Nashville, where their team started.
“Kurt and I could really turn it on,” Nurnberg told Scott Teal in an interview in a 2001 edition of Whatever Happened To … ? “They called us the Bullies from Berlin. We had the original gimmick and we both spoke German. Kurt was a true German, but I’m only half. My mom and dad were originally from Germany.”
The Von Stroheims then seriously hit the road: Texas, Japan, Hawaii, California, the Carolinas, Australia. The team split in 1967, after a tour of Australia.
Nurnberg admitted to Teal that he was apprehensive at first about the German gimmick. “Yeah, I gave that a thought, but it wasn’t a very big thought. I loved the publicity and the baloney that went along with it.”
As a singles wrestler, Nurnberg worked Atlanta, Detroit and Oklahoma before going to New York, where Vince McMahon Sr. made him “Dynamite” Joe Cox in 1969. The claw was one of his pet moves.
He’d be back in a tag team in 1971 in Tennessee under masks with Frank Martinez. They were known as Dr. Death #1 and #2. When Martinez left, Nurnberg went again as Karl Von Stroheim.
“He was a good athlete, trained hard,” recalled Danny Hodge. “He worked in the gym almost every day, probably four days a week.”
In the early ’80s, he promoted shows in Florida under the IWWA banner for about a year. Based out of Tampa, the promotion was putting on four shows a week at times, running small towns and nightclubs. The promotion was resurrected in 2001 to help get work for Nurnberg’s son, Leo, who had begun wrestling as Leo Von Stroheim.
Nurnberg retired for good from wrestling in 1985, settling in Oldsmar, Florida, where he owned a motel and was on the police force. Karl’s Wrestling Academy was a gym that he owned as well, and Nurnberg helped school Barry Horowitz and the Cuban Assassin (Dave Sierra).
The aches and pains of hockey and wrestling haunted him for years. Nurnberg had two knee replacements, and had a pacemaker installed. His ankle, which originally got him into wrestling, eventually got so bad after multiple surgeries, that the foot below the calf was amputated and he was fitted with a prosthesis.
“I always loved my profession. I always loved it,” Nurnberg told Teal. “I always gave it all I could in order to put the match over. I wanted to give the people their money’s worth. If there was only five people there, I made five people believe it.”
He died in Tampa from a heart attack.