Lorne Corlett, who wrestled under numerous names but was most known as Karl Von Steiger, died on November 8, 2022, of congestive heart failure. But don’t go looking for any references to Corlett in the obituaries in Nevada, where we believed he lived with his wife, Patricia.
And look we did — only confirming his death in February 2023, when a reference was found in The Daily News, a newspaper in Longview, Washington: “VonSteiger- Karl, 80, of Woodland, WA passed away on November 8, 2022. All County Cremation and Burial Services.”
The VonSteiger / Von Steiger part was legit.
On July 27, 1982, Edward Lorne Corlett and his wife, Patricia Caroll Corlett had their names officially changed to Karl Von Steiger and Patricia Von Steiger, the paperwork filed in Hawaii.
Corlett, er, Von Steiger is part of the rich talent that came out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the 1950s and 1960s.
He debuted in June 1960, in Winnipeg, and wrestled often for the Madison Club, where he was a Middleweight tag team champion in 1960, a tag champ in 1963, and the Madison heavyweight champion in 1966. He was often billed as “Butcher Boy” Corlett. He can be seen on early AWA shows as enhancement talent Paul Caruso.
Speaking of title belts, technically, one could argue that Karl Von Steiger and his partner Kurt Von Steiner — another Winnipeger, Arnold Pastrick — are still the AWA World Tag Team champions. The pair of evil Germans beat Mad Dog and Butcher Vachon on February 23, 1971, in Portland, Oregon for the belts. The Vachons dropped the belts without the permission of AWA honcho Verne Gagne before a trip to Japan. On their return swing through Portland, the Vachons regained the titles on March 16th on a technicality.
The phantom title change is now a part of wrestling lore, and brought a laugh from Butcher Vachon in the book, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams. “We got s*** for it too, from Verne,” he said. When we came back, he said, ‘What the f*** did you guys do with the title?’ It was Mad Dog’s idea. Mad Dog and Don Owen were really good friends. Mad Dog said, ‘Why not, for Christsakes?'”
The late Pacific Northwest mainstay Dutch Savage was on both of those cards. “This made the Vons hotter than ever,” he said in The Tag Teams. “Verne never knew what was going on, and to this day he had no idea, but what the heck, it never hurt him, nor the prestige of the AWA belts. Made them even more believable and the Vachons even better.”
Neither of the Von Steigers were monstrous physical specimens, but as a team, they elicited hatred wherever they went, including the Pacific Northwest, Stampede, Tennessee, Australia, the AWA, San Francisco and the Carolinas. They had the respect of their peers. “They were very good, but they never made it to the big time. They were on top in the regional territories,” once said Mad Dog Vachon.
In an interview that was posted to DutchSavage.com, Kurt Von Steiger explained how he and Corlett began teaming: “Karl was up in Canada and I was down in Mexico. I called him and asked him why we were both just spinning our wheels. We decided to form a tag team. We started up in Canada for Stu Hart around 1965. We also worked in Vancouver.” Kurt Steiger had been working for EMLL in the latter part of 1966 — including teaming with El Nazi (Ignacio Gómez Ruiz); the last few recorded matches for Karl in Winnipeg are in early 1967.
Kurt was also asked what it was like working with Karl, and he replied: “It could not have been better. You know when you work night after night with a guy and live with them on the road, you get a sense of what to do and what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes one could have an off night but eventually it would all come together.”
The Calgary Herald noted the arrival of the villains in March 1967: “The newcomers are Kurt and Karl Von Steiger, of German ancestry, who have been carving up opponents with gay abandon in Eastern rings.”
Dutch Savage had nothing but praise for the German duo. “Kurt had the accent because he was a real German, and Karl had the Canadian ‘eh,'” chuckled Savage (Pastrick was actually of Polish descent). “Both gentleman. Both real nice. Both of them ring generals. My hat’s off to them. I made a lot of money with them. Had a lot of fun too. I never had to worry about anything in the ring. I came down originally as a heel into the States out of Canada. Then they turned me babyface one night, and after that I could do no wrong. Me working against these guys as a babyface was like hand in glove because I knew what they were going to do before they did it. They were a lot of fun.”
In his Ring Around the Northwest newsletter, Mike Rodgers placed the Von Steigers as the fourth greatest team ever in the territory, writing: “They held the NW tag titles on 6 occasions. They were a tough team that was on the scene from 1968 to 1971. They at one point won the AWA World Tag Titles from The Vachon Brothers that I don’t believe was recognized anywhere but Portland. They also held the Bay Area version of the World Tag Titles as well as numerous other territory tag titles.”
Years later in the early 1970s, Pastrick promoted the territory surrounding Phoenix, Arizona, and trained Afa The Wild Samoan, Bobby Jaggers, Bill Anderson, among others. He’d return for another run in Portland, Oregon, before getting out of wrestling to run a septic tank business. Corlett didn’t like Phoenix, and split from his long-time partner then. For the record, though, Karl met his wife, Patricia, while in Oregon.
It’s from that point that the story of Karl Von Steiger changes, as he wrestled under a few more names including Karl Steiger and as one of the Masked Superstars in Florida, and traveled.
The Von Steigers tag team had invaded Hawaii in July 1969, and won the promotion’s tag titles from Ed Francis and Pedro Morales in September 1969, and held them for three months, losing to Curtis Iaukea and Ripper Collins. In 1978, Karl returned to Hawaii without his long-time partner. This time, he teamed with Mr. Fuji to win the Hawaiian tag team belts. In 1988, Karl Von Steiger proudly put his name atop a promotional attempt to get things started in Hawaii again, though nothing really ever came of it.
JJ Dillon first met Karl and Pat in the Amarillo, Texas, territory. There, Karl had been a tag team champion with Killer Karl Krupp — bringing the NWA International Tag Team titles back from Japan when the Japan Wrestling Association closed with the duo as champions — and later with Siegfried Stanke. In his memoir, Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls, Dillon recalled a scary incident with Karl Von Steiger that spoke to the passion of the fanbase:
Fans used to throw coins and batteries at the heels. I remember one horrible incident with Karl von Steiger. I was very close to Karl and his wife, Pat. Karl did a run-in on a match in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That town was so hot that we used a series of ramps to get in and out of the ring. The tamp was just a table, about four feet wide and level with the ring apron, and it didn’t feel stable under your feet, but you had to walk down that train of ramps to get into the ring.
This was a particularly hot finish, and someone in the balcony had taken the arm rest from their chair. The arm rests were quite sturdy and made out of metal. Someone had rocked theirs back and forth until it snapped off the frame, threw it from the balcony, and hit Karl on his cheek. The force of the blow shattered his dentures and pierced his cheek. He had to have the wound sutured.
Often, Karl Von Steiger would team with another “German” in a territory, such as with Otto Von Heller in the NWA Mid-America territory, where they were tag champs.
Pat and Karl Von Steiger lived in Amarillo for many years, and also lived in Hawaii in the late in 1970s into the ’80s. They had been in Nevada, and then in Washington State.
Further details were hard to come by. When news of his passing came out, in November 2022, no family or friends would confirm the news, and no funeral or death record could be found.
Numerous attempts were made to contact Karl Von Steiger when The Tag Teams book was in progress, and later, Moose Morowski told this writer that Karl “doesn’t want to have nothing to do with the business.”
— with files from Steve Johnson