Name: Mikhail (Mike) Mazuruski

PWHF New York State Award, 2005

"Iron" Mike Mazurki

On Christmas day in 1907, Mike Mazurki was born in the part of Austria-Hungary which is now known as the Ukraine. His birth name was Mikhail Mazuruski. Besides being a top-flight professional wrestler, he simultaneously was also an accomplished movie and television actor.

Perhaps best known to the general public as an actor, Mazurki appeared in over one hundred movies from the 1930Õs until shortly before his death in Glendale, California in 1990. He appeared in the 1945 version of "Dick Tracy" and then appeared in the 1990 version of the same movie title! He worked with Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot" and with John Wayne in "DonovanÕs Reef." Boxer Jake Kilrain was portrayed by Mazurki in "Gentleman Jim." He was the grappling technical advisor for Richard WidmarkÕs 1950 "Night and the City" film, which featured both a wrestling theme as well as former world champion and now PWHF 'er, Stanislaus Zbyszko. His television career was equally prolific with appearances on such shows as "Fantasy Island," "Mannix," "Gunsmoke," "Love, American Style," "The Beverly Hillbillies," and "Charlie's Angels," amongst many other titles.

Although Mazurki was known for his 6'5" broad-shouldered frame and rugged facial features, he was actually quite a scholar. He graduated near the top of his class from Manhattan College in 1930 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was also a talented football player having played with the minor league New Jersey Red Devils. Another relatively little-known fact is that Mike helped introduce wrestler Henry Kulki into the screen acting profession. Kulki gave up the mat and became a frequent face in many movies. Kulki's most famous role may have been that of Otto Schmidlap, the neighbor of the 1950s TV hit "The Life of Riley."

In the wrestling world, perhaps Mike's greatest achievement outside of his world-class ring battles, was the founding of the Cauliflower Alley Club (CAC) approximately forty years ago. This large not-for-profit organization helps award scholarships to deserving wrestlers and also gives financial support to retired wrestlers who may need assistance. The CAC gives its highest award each year in the memory of Mazurki. The "Iron Mike Award" is one of the most coveted recognitions obtainable in the world of professional wrestling.

When my father, a New York State Ringside Physician, examined Mike in the early 1960's, he couldn't resist acting him why he bothered to wrestle when he had such a successful movie career. Mazurki responded by saying that when he was making a film, he only had a few people nearby to see his performance and there could be no crowd reaction. Mazurki said that he needed to experience that live audience response and therefore tried to make movies for six months and then wrestle for the following six months.

- Bob Bryla

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