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The school of hard knocks - Kowalski Wrestling School is the doorway to the WWF
- By CHRISTOPHER HURLEY - Churley@cnc.com

Matt Bloom is the latest in a string of wrestling success stories whose local roots can be directly traced back to the Kowalski Wrestling School in Malden.

For over 13 years, Killer Kowalski’s Pleasant Street studio has been a stepping stone into the world of professional wrestling, from the local circuit, to the World Wrestling Federation. Currently known in the WWF as ‘Albert,’ Bloom is the latest graduate to take that giant step towards super stardom, and his proud teacher couldn’t be more happier.

" Right now, I think he’s becoming one of the best wrestlers they have there, " said Walter ‘Killer’ Kowalski. " He’s a big guy that moves very, very well. He tremendous. I think he’s going to become the next WWF champion. I firmly believe that. "

Bloom trained at Killer Kowalski’s Professional Wrestling School for a year and a half. His relentless training regiment along with his muscular physique, quickly established the Peabody native as a force to be reckoned with within the local club circuit.

" He was an enormous guy that came in with a tremendous look, " said Richard Byrne, a Tang Soo Do Grandmaster, and veteran of both the independent and international wrestling circuit. According to Byrne, Bloom had what the professional scouts were looking for in terms of raw talent and physical strength. It was only a matter of fine tuning his craft inside the ring.

" He really hasn’t changed much from the time he came to the WWF to when he walked in here, " said Byrne, whose shares his Korean Karate Studio with Kowalski’s Wrestling School. " Because of the look and the size that he had, the door was already partially open. All he had to do is learn how to wrestle, and the door would open the rest of the way. He was the type that they were looking for. I told him that, and I’ve said it to maybe three people out of all the people that have walked through the door here. "

Bloom quickly drew the attention of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), who offered the Peabody native a contract. But at the advice of his teacher, Bloom balked at the WCW bid, holding out hope for a shot at the World Wrestling Federation.

" He became so good that WCW wanted to hire him, but I told him not to go, " admits Kowalski. " He was good enough to the point where if he went to WCW they might have tried to demean him a little bit. I told him to stay here, that the WWF will find out that WCW is interested, and they would come calling. "

As it turned out, Kowalski was right. The WWF hired Bloom soon after, allowing him train at Kowalski’s School for 7 more months, to perfect his craft, before finally taking him out on the road - and the rest was wrestling history.

The legend of Killer Kowalski

Walter ‘Killer’ Kowalski, the founder and owner of Killer Kowalski’s Professional Wrestling School, was born on Oct. 13, 1926 in Windsor, Ontario, the son of Polish immigrants. For a time, he worked in an auto plant with his father before getting the call to go into professional wrestling.

Kowalski began wrestling professionally in 1947 and continued to wrestle for 26 years in over 6,000 bouts. Throughout his storied career, Kowalski won numerous titles beginning in the early 1950’s. But it was during his 1954 match against Yukon Eric in the Montreal Forum, where Kowalski earned his most infamous nickname. Kowalski knee dropped Yukon Eric, severing a piece of his ear in the process - and ‘Killer’ Kowalski was born.

Indeed, many of the high points of Kowalski's career involved spontaneous and often gory altercations which combined to make him the most hated man in his era of wrestling. His unapologetic stance outside of the ring and his brutality within it are the hallmarks of a lauded career that continues to fascinate each new generation of wrestling fan.

Kowalski is regarded as one of the greatest all around wrestlers in the history of the sport. His achievements in the squared circle have been compared to those of baseballs' Ted Williams and hockey's Bobby Orr. In 1977, he retired and opened Killer Kowalski’s Professional Wrestling School, which is located at 170 Pleasant Street in Malden.

" He still gives me a call, says I’m coming up on my day off, and he’ll come to the school, " said Kowalski. " He goes into the ring and he shows the guys what he’s been taught. "

Bloom is living proof that with a little hard work and perseverance, one can accomplish anything.

" Matt doesn’t mind getting into the ring and trying to help the boys, " said Byrne. " He’s is a big WWF star, he doesn’t need to do that, but he remembers where he came from. He not only gives his opinion, but works with them, running across the ring and doing spots with him. Most of these guys don’t even want to walk up the stairs, let alone get in the ring and actually sweat. "

" Matt was never about being a big star, " Byrne added. " He really kept his head on straight. I think that’s commendable in that type of atmosphere, because it’s very easy for you to lose your head over it. "

Killer Kowalski’s Professional Wrestling School is located at 170 Pleasant Street in Malden. For more information, call 781-324-6142, or write to P.O. Box 67, Reading, MA. 01867.