Thursday, August 13, 2009
Karl Von Hess, the American professional wrestler whose wrestling persona was that of a Nazi sympathiser has died at the age of 90. The cause of death was linked to a battle with Alzheimer’s disease which he had battled in recent years.
Born as Francis Faketty he first trained as a lifeguard and began to teach swimming. He joined the U.S Navy and served in World War II. After completing his service he began to train as a wrestler. He tried several gimmicks before coming up with the Von Hess gimmick. He took his idea off of Kurt Von Poppenheim who has a less sinister German gimmick.
Fakerry legally changed his name to Karl Von Hess and was signed by the WWWF, later the WWF. He was so convincing as a heel that people tried to stab and attack him. His gimmick became so controversial that promoter Vince McMahon had to calm matters by doing an interview with the Washington Post. He said that “Von Hess is no Nazi. He uses that silly salute to point up the act that he is the villain”.
Von Hess defended his choice of gimmick saying, “It was right after the war and I had tried everything. I played different characters, and then I came up with this gimmick of Von Hess and I played it right to the hilt.” Von Hess began to draw big crowds until the early 1960s when his gimmick began to wear thin; he was phased out of the WWWF in the late 60’s.
WWE Hall of Fame member Johnny Rodz called Von Hess his favourite heel saying that “He was the meanest. Who the heck comes to the ring and breaks the steps before you get in the ring? What gives a guy that reason?”
After leaving the WWWF he had several stints with other promotions but then retired. He opened several trailer parks and other businesses with his wife who died in 2005.