Michael Kirchner (born Michael Penzel; September 7, 1957) is an American semi-retired professional wrestler and former United States Army paratrooper. He is best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation under the ring name Corporal Kirchner in the mid-1980s. He is also known for his appearances in Japan under the ring name Leatherface.
|Birth name||Michael Penzel|
|Born||September 7, 1957|
|Professional wrestling career|
Super Leather Face
|Billed height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Billed weight||263 lb (119 kg)|
|Billed from||Fort Bragg, North Carolina|
(as Corporal Kirchner)
(as Leatherface / Super Leather)
|Trained by||Verne Gagne|
Professional wrestling careerEdit
While working as a mechanic and bouncer in Minnesota, Kirchner met professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in a gym. Hogan introduced Kirchner to American Wrestling Association promoter Verne Gagne and helped him enroll in a professional wrestling school operated by Gagne.
World Wrestling FederationEdit
After working as a preliminary wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation under the name "RT Reynolds", Kirchner was eventually given the character of a military hero after WWF owner/promoter Vince McMahon discovered that he had been in the 82nd Airborne. Kirchner then adopted the ring name Corporal Kirchner and used a militaristic character with several vignettes airing showing him in typical army survival training exercises to help build his character as a patriotic American. He is known for his feud with Nikolai Volkoff in the World Wrestling Federation in 1986 and into 1987 which included a victory over Volkoff at WrestleMania 2 in a Flag Match; they would trade victories, with Kirchner winning many of the early matches, but Volkoff coming up victorious in most of the matches near the end of the feud. During a pre-Wrestlemania 2 interview with Jesse "The Body" Ventura in Ventura's "Body Shop" segment, he talked about his time in the U.S. Army, and even made a reference to Ventura's time as a Navy SEAL, causing Ventura to momentarily break character and agree with him.
He was a member of the WWF's Australian tour in mid-1986 (the WWF's first tour to Australia under Vince McMahon's ownership), wrestling in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, and was considered one of the toughest men in the WWF at the time. He was also considered one of the stiffest wrestlers in the WWF and his career suffered because many wrestlers were reluctant to work with him, and he was subsequently used as enhancement talent. He was suspended by the WWF for testing positive for drug use in 1987 and when his suspension ended, he declined to return and left the company. Kirchner followed his WWF run with a brief run in the Harts' Stampede Wrestling promotion based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. While there he was known as "Col. Kirchner".
In 2001, Kirchner was announced as a participant in the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven. The WWF went as far as to picture him in a graphic on WWF.com promoting the match, though he was removed weeks before the event.
Following his dismissal from the WWF, he had some short stints with New Japan Pro-Wrestling in June 1989 and March 1990. Then he started what would be a successful wrestling career for himself in Japan as he created the ring name and gimmick of "Leatherface" and tied it in with the villain of the same name from the movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He originally wrestled for Víctor Quiñones' W*ING promotion and was considered by many to be the toughest hardcore wrestler in W*ING. However, Kirchner was later arrested and jailed for six months following an attempted assault by a fan, which left the fan with severe facial injuries. During his brief time in jail, the Leatherface character that Kirchner created was given to another wrestler, Rick Patterson, who eventually left W*ING and went to International Wrestling Association of Japan. During a subsequent match in the IWA that the new Leatherface competed in, the original Leatherface (Kirchner) appeared in the crowd.
This set up the team of the Leatherfaces, which lasted for only one match and was intended as a transition of the character away from Patterson. On December 13, 1994, the Leatherfaces faced two popular wrestlers, Shoji Nakamaki and Hiroshi Ono, in a Double Hell Deathmatch. In a match that would become a classic within hardcore wrestling, Kirchner broke kayfabe after the match and ripped off a piece of the bed of nails, placed it on Ono's throat and then executed a leg drop onto the patch of nails. He then powerbombed Ono onto the bed of nails. Kirchner afterward left the IWA, with the promotion claiming that he was fired in an attempt to salvage Ono's destroyed reputation.
Kirchner then left for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling. Using a modified version of his Leatherface gimmick, he debuted for the promotion under the name "Super Leather" and later formed a tag team with Chris Romero. The team proved to be successful, as they managed to score wins over popular and well-known tag teams including Jado and Gedo, and Masato Tanaka and Iko Kuroda. Kirchner remained with FMW until its closure in 2002 and by 2004, he retired from wrestling full-time.
In 2007, Kirchner revived his Leatherface character for his first match since 2004. In his return match, he teamed with Jayson Voorhees as The Serial Killers in a losing effort to Mad Man Pondo and Necro Butcher on February 25, 2007 during the Insane Clown Posse's Tempest Release Party. On March 2, the Serial Killers defeated KJ Hellfire and Ricky during the Tempest Release Party.
Kirchner was reportedly announced dead on October 15, 2006 by a former employer World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation). On October 21, it was announced that he was still alive. This came as a result of confusion over Kirchner's actual name, which was believed to be Thomas Spear at the time. There, in fact, was a Thomas Spear who died in White Marsh, Maryland, but he is completely unconnected to Kirchner.
Kirchner's mother heard about the WWE's announcement of her son's death and immediately called her son to inform him. Kirchner and his mom then contacted the WWE to tell that Kirchner was still alive and in good health, leading to the WWE's announcement on October 21. Kirchner, who was working as a truck driver at the time, later remarked that he was honored and surprised that people still remembered him 20 years after his brief rise to fame in WWF/E.
Championships and accomplishmentsEdit
- Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling
- Wrestling International New Generations
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #287 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1991
- Oliver, Greg (2006-10-21). "Cpl. Kirchner speaks: "I'm not dead!"". SLAM! Sports. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
- "Cagematch profile". Cagematch.de. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- "OWOW profile". Onlineworldofwrestling.com. Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- Murphy, Ryan (February 3, 1999). "Where Are They Now? Corporal Kirchner". WWE.com. Retrieved 2013-07-18.
- The Wrestlecrap Book of Lists! R. D. Reynolds, Blade Braxton - 2007- Page 160
- Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore Terry Funk, Scott Williams, Mick Foley - 2006 - Page 166
- The Body Shop - Cpl. Kirchner (3-29-86)
- "Cagematch match listings". Cagematch.de. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- "FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship history". Fmwrestling.us. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- "FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship history". Fmwrestling.us. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- "FMW World Street Fight 6-Man Tag Team Championship history". Fmwrestling.us. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- "W*ING World Tag Team Championship history". Wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
- "Awards « Leatherface « Wrestlers Database « CAGEMATCH - The Internet Wrestling Database". Cagematch.net. Retrieved 2015-08-12.