Ivan Putski, Killer Kowalski and the Wrestling Bear Rib

We love a good rib story here at Pro Wrestling Stories and this one involving Ivan Putski and a hungry bear was just too good not to pass on. Enjoy!

A wrestling bear pulls down a wrestler's wrestling trunks in the ring
This isn’t Ivan Putski pictured above, but we felt this photo gave the perfect visual to go along with this story!

“I took the top off the jar of honey, scooped my hand into it, slapped Ivan Putski on his ass and told the bear to go get ’em!”

Bears have long been a part of professional wrestling. Usually declawed and muzzled, they often wrestled shoot (or real) matches against audience members where a cash reward would be offered if they could pin the bear. They also wrestled professionals in worked, often battle royal or handicap, matches (usually booked so the bear won). Terrible Ted is one of the more well-known wrestling bears who was used many times for Stampede Wrestling and briefly lived at Stu Hart’s home in Calgary while working for Stampede, where Stu’s son Bret Hart and his other children would sometimes play with him. Bret shares a really great story about this in our piece entitled, The Wrestling Bear: The Story of “TERRIBLE TED”.

As days on the road get long and wearisome, wrestlers enjoy pulling pranks, or ribs, on one another to keep the mood light and offer entertainment for the guys in the back. Wrestling legend, the late-great Killer Kowalski shared many great stories from his time on the road in his column for our dear friend and ProWrestlingStories.com writer Evan Ginzburg’s Wrestling Then & Now annual — many of those pieces are available here for the very first time in digital format.

Related: Ribs and Practical Jokes in Professional Wrestling – The Very Best Stories!

Killer Kowalski tells the story of the time a wrestling bear overpowered and showed a bit of love to "The Polish Powerhouse" Ivan Putski
Killer Kowalski tells the story of the time a wrestling bear overpowered and showed a bit of love to “The Polish Powerhouse” Ivan Putski (pictured above)

“That bear loves me!”

This particular story is one Kowalski shared with the Wrestling Observer on September 12, 2001, of the time he played a sweet rib on Ivan Putski (H/T WrestlingClassics.com):

“I was wrestling in Austin one night and the next morning left for Corpus Christi. I always arrived early, and when I got there, I saw a big poster for the matches. It was Killer Kowalski vs. Johnny Valentine in the main event.

“But there also was a special handicap match involving two guys and Ivan Putski vs a 600-pound bear.

“I had a jar of honey because I would take a tablespoon before my matches because it energizes your body. I closed my wrestling bag when everyone walked in. I told the promoter I needed a favor because the bear slobbers in the ring and sheds hair. I asked if he could put the bear on last after my match. He said that would be no problem.

“When I finished my match, there was an intermission and they got the bear out. He was in the ring slouched down with his paws in front and his head bowed down and he was slobbering. He was hungry.

“Any animal after you feed them are going to take a nap. It’s the same with the bear. He knows that if he performs well he’s gonna get fed after. Ivan let the two others go in the ring first. While they were standing in corner shaking because they were frightened of the bear, I took the top off the jar of honey, scooped my hand into it, [slapped Putski] on his ass and told him to go get ’em!

“The bear could smell the honey two blocks away.

“While Ivan was walking down the hallway flexing his muscles, the bear had reared up on his hind legs and started clawing at the air in Putski’s direction. When he was going into the ring with one leg over the second rope, the bear lunges straight out and grabbed him by the leg. He turned him on his stomach and started licking him with his tongue. The other two guys were frightened to death because they thought the bear was tasting him before he ate him. They ran out of the building.

“Putski finally got away. The people were cheering for it all.

“He came back to the dressing room and said, ‘That bear loves me!'”

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