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George Gordienko - mat artist



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George Gordienko

From Winnipeg. Wrestled from 1946 to 1976 and was, according to Lou Thesz and other experts, one of the top legitimate wrestlers in the world. He was also a legitimate member of the communist party and that pretty much killed his career in the U.S. in that era. Interviewed many years later, Gordienko said he never believed in communism. "It was a brief fling after high school. I met some people I liked and I joined the communist party or got put on a mailing list."

Became a weightlifter as a teenager and would become a world-class lifter. Trained as a wrestler with Joe Pazandak early in his career and was initially managed by Tony Stecher out of Minneapolis. Often wrestled as Stu Hart's tag team partner after returning to wrestling in 1953. Challenged Thesz for the NWA title in a 1953 main event in Edmonton and wrestled Thesz to a 90-minute draw in Edmonton in 1955. Won the Alberta Golden Jubilee tournament in 1955, defeating Adrien Baillargeon in the final.

Moved to Britain and was very successful wrestling there -- was rated the best heavyweight wrestler in the UK in 1963. In 1970, won the annual Royal Albert Hall tournament in London. Won the British Commonwealth heavyweight title recognized by Britain's Joint Promotions around that time. Wrestled all over the world and retired in 1976 at age 48 after having his ankle broken by Roland Bock in Germany.

Gordienko had taken art classes at various times through his wrestling career and after his retirement he became a successful artist. Moved to Italy in 1975 and years later returned to Canada, living in Black Creek on Vancouver Island. His online gallery displays many of his paintings -- most with price tags over $10,000. Gordienko died in 2002.

"One night when I was training at the "Y," Wally Karbo and Joe Pazandak made a visit. Joe worked out with me and didnít take me off my feet for six minutes, when Wally called out that Joe should conserve his energy for his coming bout. Not bad for an 18-year-old. I was very strong but lacked knowledge." (GEORGE GORDIENKO, Cauliflower Alley Club, October 19, 2000)

"An 18-year-old "wonder" who answers to the name George Gordienko. This youngster, who tips the beams at 215 pounds, has one of the most beautifully developed bodies we have ever seen. His favorite hold is the head-lock." (From THE RING, June 1947)

"Gordienko, a giant figure of a man, must surely be one of the strongest wrestlers in the world. Very few of our English wrestlers have been able to defeat this heavyweight from Canada." (From WRESTLING REVIEW, August 1970)

"Gordy's an artist, you know. He does very well. He does oils and has a business manager in Italy. If you can sell art in Italy, you know what you're doing. He said about a year ago, "I don't know if I'm going to stay here, or if I'm going to go back to Italy to die, I don't know which." He's talking about dying?! Hell, he's only a kid!" (LOU THESZ, interviewed by J Michael Kenyon, 1997)

"My work is based on traditional art. I am interested in humour and satire. I think there's too much misery in life today, and I believe we need to free ourselves. I don't follow trends, and just enjoy doing my own thing. Artwork speaks for itself." (GEORGE GORDIENKO, from the George Gordienko Collection website)

Prominent Titles:

  • Canadian champion (Alberta), 1957
  • Commonwealth champion (New Zealand), 1968
  • Commonwealth champion (Britain), 1970
  • Stampede International tag title, with Super Hawk, 1972
  • NWA Pacific Coast champion (Vancouver), as Flash Gordon, 1974


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