Coming to up with a title for this obituary is more difficult than you think because the man in question had a definitive two-part career as two totally different characters, in two totally different wrestling styles, for two polar opposite wrestling cultures and as fondly remember as he is in one, he is revered as a legend in the other. Such was the range of the man who developed from an 80’s WWF Cartoon Character to a W*ING/IWA/FMW Deathmatch Legend.

Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1957, he would graduate High School in the early ’70s and his first career would be with the 82nd Airborne as a Paratrooper. After finishing his enlistment he moved to Minnesota, as so many of these stories begin, where he was a mechanic and bouncer. Bouncing bars in Minnesota was essentially the NFL Draft for Pro Wrestling. The Road Warriors, Rick Rude and Barry Darsow all got their starts the same way. Penzel met the AWA main eventer Hulk Hogan whilst on the job, who in turn sent him to see AWA Promoter and lead trainer of the AWA at the time, Verne Gagne. Upon completing his training he caught on as an enhancement talent in the WWF. A regular gig moved on to a full-time job as Vince McMahon Jnr liked his size, presence and military background. Also according to Bret Hart’s biography, he was looking to phase out long-time WWF veteran Sergeant Slaughter who had done the unthinkable and negotiated a separate toy line.  

Corporal Kirchner was thrust into the limelight, but still, with only four years in the business, he was somewhat green and incredibly stiff. Which many speculate hampered his long term prospects, people just didn’t want to work with him. He would enter a long term feud with Nikolai Volkoff from 1986 until 1987, winning the long term feud, however, he would fail a drugs test in 1987 and not return after a suspension. 

A short run for the revived Stampede wrestling where he was promoted to Colonel, presumably for copyright issues, Stu Hart still had a close relationship with the WWF and would get WWF talent on occasion, he would feud with local top villains Makhan Singh (Mike Shaw who would later become Noman the Lunatic in WCW and even later Bastion Booger in the WWF), Zodiac (Randy Orton’s Uncle Randall Orton) and rather tellingly for his future endeavours Jason the Terrible a hulking monster based on Jason Vorhees from the Friday the 13th movies.

After a short run in New Japan Pro wrestling, another long time Stampede association, he would develop a character that would change his career trajectory; Leatherface. Based on the lead antagonist of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Víctor Quiñones, Puerto Rican promoter, was booking talent for the new hardcore promotion W*ING and had developed a strong monster wrestling division around Freddy Kruger, actually Doug Gilbert, brother of Eddie and son of the original wrestling Kruger impersonator Tommy. Leatherface would fit right in, and so would start an eventful to say the least, ten year run in the Japanese Deathmatch scene. Picking a fight with Kruger, they had some memorable matches, this run was interrupted firstly by his infamous stiffness, he broke Johnnie Stewart’s jaw, and his short fuse. After attacking a fan who needed serious medical attention he served six months in jail for assault. While he was away Rick Patterson took over the Leatherface gimmick and W*ING then run by founders Kazuyoshi Osako and Kiyoshi “Mickey” Ibaragi began to fall apart as booker Quiñones started the International Wrestling Association. Out of prison and ready to wrestle, Penzel sat in the crowd at an IWA show watching the new Leatherface. They would be brought together as the tag team of The Leatherfaces which would last exactly one match as they took on popular babyfaces and legendary bump takers Shoji Nakamaki and Hiroshi Ono. Having lost his temper once again, Penzel ripped a strip of a bed of nails away from the full bed and then proceeded to leg drop it into Ono’s neck. Despite this, he would stay with the promotion into 1995 and take part in the King of Deathmatches Tournament at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium losing to Terry Funk in the opening round. 

After that loss he would jump ship to FMW now as Superleather, the gimmick’s original name stayed with the IWA. He would remain a mainstay for the company up until its closure in 2002. He would return to IWA for a few shows including his last Tokyo show but would retire from full-time wrestling in 2004 and have his final match in 2010.  

While was never a great needle mover in the WWF, his defining career moments led him to Japan where he helped define the subgenre of Monster wrestling and truly was a main-event star. 


Video courtesy of & IANdrewDiceClay

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