Dreams die hard. Even at age 55, Mantaur Mike Halac never lost the desire to return to the ring. He was contemplating just that before he abruptly, tragically passed away.
This is the story of a mild-mannered powerhouse from Omaha, Nebraska, who faced challenges in and outside the ring. He went through life the “Mantaur Way,” and he was a man I was fortunate enough to call a friend.
Mantaur Memoirs: Fighting the “Mantaur Way”
“Faster than a speeding caterpillar!”
(Speed wasn’t his forte.)
“More powerful than all of his opponents!”
(Strength definitely was.)
“Able to leap (and squash!) enhancement talent in a single bound!”
“Yes, it’s Mantaur! Strange visitor from the Isle of Crete who came to professional wrestling with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal mid-carders!”
“Mantaur! Who can change the course of buffet tables and bend turnbuckles with his bare hands!”
“And who, disguised as Michael Halac, fights the never-ending battle for titles, payoffs, and the “Mantaur Way!”
Mantaur Mike Halac: The Early Years
Born May 14th, 1968, in Omaha, Nebraska, Mike Halac was a decorated amateur athlete who excelled at football, wrestling, and golf in high school, leading to 12 varsity letters.
The adopted son of Bob and Marjorie Halac, Mike was the beloved father of a vivacious 14-year-old named Demi.
His first love was not the mat but the ice. While the idea of a man the size of Mike Halac skating on a breakaway would seem less than plausible and, in fact, scary, hockey was initially Halac’s passion.
As Mantaur explained in a November 2022 interview on Hannibal TV, “All my friends in school, they played Little League football. I was always one hundred pounds over the weight limit, so I had no chance of playing football.
“A friend of ours said [to his father], ‘Bob, why don’t you get your son into playing some ice hockey?’
“I was five; I tried it, fell down, boom, hit the ice, got up, fell, got up, fell, and then one time I stood up, I just took off like a rocket ship. I played hockey until I was 16 years old”.
Halac’s introduction to professional wrestling was serendipitous, as it was for so many greats.
After the young Mantaur retaliated against several bullies at his Catholic Junior High School, Bob Halac removed his son when the principal informed him that she was considering suspending young Mike.
Ironically, just the day before, the senior Halac told Mike that if the bullies accosted him, to call out the largest one and ‘blast him.’
As young Halac had dutifully carried out his father’s instructions, Bob informed the principal that the school just lost $2,000 in tuition.
From Amateur to Pro: The Journey
After being in public school for just a few weeks, Halac’s Wood Shop teacher James Nye, who doubled as the Junior High School Wrestling Coach, told Mike the school needed a heavyweight wrestler.
As Halac told Mike Monte in an extensive interview on the Mantaur Memoirs podcast, “I went to practice that night, and I remember that the first time I wrapped my hands around somebody and chucked him into next week, I was hooked. I said to myself, this is fantastic. This is right up my alley.”
Halac excelled at his newfound passion throughout high school, winning two state championships (qualifying all four years) and placing third in the Junior Nationals. Mike was such an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler that he was seriously considered for a berth on the 1986 United States Olympic Wrestling Team.
Halac’s prowess as an amateur wrestler extraordinaire did not go unnoticed. The University of Oklahoma offered the young grappler a full athletic scholarship, which he promptly turned down. As he told Monte, “I hated school. The reason I went to school was to play sports.”
After trying his hand at semi-pro football, Halac decided to see if he could parlay his amateur wrestling skills into a career in the pro ranks.
The Influence of Mad Dog Vachon on Mantaur’s Life
As Serendipity (she makes a few appearances in Mantaur’s life) would have it, one of his neighbors in Omaha was Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, a multiple-time American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Heavyweight Champion.
Vachon referred Halac to legendary trainer Eddie Sharkey in Minneapolis. Although Sharkey had trained a legion of successful professional wrestlers, including Rick Rude and The Road Warriors, young Mike felt that his training was not adequately preparing him for a professional mat career due to already having an extensive amateur background.
He again turned to the Mad Dog, who pointed him due South to another professional wrestling legend and noted trainer named Larry Simon. You might know Mr. Simon by his wrestling name, “The Great” Boris Malenko.
Halac spent ten-plus months in Tampa, Florida, training under the watchful eye of Simon and his sons Dean and Jody.
An Opportunity Arises
While drinking at a bar one day, Mike noticed someone staring at him. Anticipating a confrontation, he was surprised to learn that his faux stalker was none other than Johnny Neu, brother of then WCW wrestling star Paul “P. N. News” Neu.
Halac so resembled Neu that Johnny stared at him, wondering why his brother ignored him.
The two initiated a conversation, leading to a meeting between Paul Neu and Halac. Paul knew the Austria/Germany-based Catch Wrestling Association owner/promoter and former AWA World Heavyweight Champion Otto Wanz.
As Halac related to Hannibal, Neu told him, “Whatever you do, tell him you’ve been wrestling for two years.”
“So, that was the story I went with,” Halac reflected.
“I went there and wrestled my first match in Dortmund, Germany, in front of about 10,000 people, and made $6,000 for a championship match. The place was sold out; it was my very first match. Ever.”
Halac continued, “After the match, Otto Wanz asked, ‘How long you been wrestling, kid? Mike, I’m your boss. You can tell me the truth.’
“I answered, ‘Well, I’ve had two matches at wrestling camp and this one here.’
“He said, ‘I could tell you were green. You did a pretty good job, though. If you really want to learn the business, I’ll keep you on for the next tournament, 38 days; I’ll give you 335 dollars per day.’
“I was sold. And he kept bringing me back, and that’s how my wrestling career started.”
Germany: The Bruiser Mastino Days
Wrestling in Germany for the better part of the next two years, Mike Halac, wrestling as Bruiser Mastino, faced many European greats such as William Regal, Dave Taylor, and Tony St. Clair, in addition to North American stalwarts Rip Rogers, Owen Hart, and Lance Storm.
While in Germany, Mike met fellow SOB (South Omaha Boy) Ted ‘Million Dollar Man’ DiBiase.
DiBiase told the future Mantaur, “Listen, you’ve got some athletic ability. I’m sure Vince will love you. He loves big guys. I’ll see what I can do for you.”
Mastino Becomes Mantaur: A Half Man, Half Minotaur!
Still wrestling as Bruiser Mastino, Halac defeated WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff at a house show in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, on August 25, 1994.
After a several-month re-packaging break, the wrestling world was introduced to Mantaur on December 13, 1994, when he defeated Buck Quartermain during an episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge.
It was off to the proverbial races for “Mantaur” Mike Halac.
Billed from the Isle of Crete, a creature that was half Man and half Minotaur, Mantaur initially wreaked havoc through the Federation, quickly and soundly thrashing talent such as Aldo Montoya.
The future looked bright for Michael Halac, that is, until February 21st, 1995, in Augusta, Georgia.
The Future Was Bright for Mantaur, Until That One Fateful Night in 1995
On that fateful February night in 1995, Mantaur, hailed by commentator Vince McMahon as undefeated, and accompanied for the first time by Jim Cornette, wrestled “Razor Ramon” Scott Hall, who had recently lost the Intercontinental Championship to Jeff Jarrett.
Here is Mike’s account of that evening, as explained on an episode of Mantaur Memoirs:
“[Hall] just called a spot and took a cheap shot, tried to open-hand smack me and knock me out.
“I just shook it off, charged him, gave him the forklift, put him in a corner, and started punching him.
“[At this point], Vince gets on the microphone to the referee’s ear and says, ‘Tell those two to knock that **** off; they’re on National TV!’
“So, the referee came over and said, ‘Vince said you guys better get back to work and save that **** for the back.
“After that incident happened, I knew that my days were numbered. Scott was part of The Kliq, and if someone in The Kliq doesn’t want you around, then you’re not gonna be around. I don’t care who you are or what you’re doing; you’re gone.”
Any chance for Halac’s ascent to the top of the WWF food chain was quickly dashed after he dared to stand up to a member of The Kliq.
Losing His Job at WWE
After a pinfall loss to Sparkplug Bob Holly, Mantaur packed his gear bag (or whatever a half Man and half Minotaur would use) and went home.
After a brief stint as Bruiser Mastino in ECW, Halac returned to familiar grounds in Germany, once again wrestling the CWA tournament circuit, which entailed working in the same town for days without a break.
Halac was brought back to the WWF in early 1997 as Tank of the Truth Commission faction.
Halac scored the most significant victory of his professional wrestling career when he defeated Jerry Lawler on March 15, 1997, to win the coveted USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship. He lost a return match to Lawler the following week.
As with his previous WWF stint, Halac’s run was short, and after a one-shot deal with World Championship Wrestling, Bruiser Mastino once again headed to Deutschland, where he wrestled for another year plus before dramatically cutting down on his wrestling soon after.
Mike Halac Opens Up About Regrets About His Mantaur Gimmick
When asked if he regrets being given the Mantaur gimmick, Halac commented:
“I was kind of hoping that Vince would use my gangster character that I was over with in Europe for so many years.”
He continued, “I was 375 pounds, and I was [doing great]. I was wearing a gangster suit and amateur wrestling tights and just eating up people, suplexing them all over the place. But they put this half-man, half-beast bull on me.
“It’s not easy making chicken salad out of chicken ****.”
The Final Days of Mantaur Mike Halac
Mike Halac posted his final TikTok video on Friday, July 8th, 2023.
Mike seemed quite happy about the release of his Mantaur action figure, the completion of his documentary, and the commencement of his book.
He started the video by saying, “It’s a great day to be alive,” and ended the recording with his customary, “You only die once, but you live every day. Mantaur loves you.”
Mike issued his last Facebook post at 9:59 PM from Health Park Hospital in Fort Myers, Florida, two days later.
The post read, “I’m in the ER!!! I fell today and broke my back, T 6-7. Waiting to find out if they are doing surgery or sending me home with a back brace. Please say some prayers for me. Thanks.”
Shockingly, Mike “Mantaur” Halac soon after passed away.
A Friend Remembered
In a story update on Mike Halac’s Facebook page, his daughter Demi broke the sad news.
“It’s Michael’s daughter Demi. I’m sorry to break the bad news that my dad has passed away. He went peacefully in his sleep. He’s no longer in pain.
She added, “This really hit home to lose my father. He will forever be in my heart and many others. I love you, Dad. Make the skies beautiful for me.”
To know Mike Halac was to love him. The term “gentle giant” has been used many times over the years, but it never fits anyone better.
He was always available for a chat. And he was far more comfortable giving someone a comforting hug than locking them up and suplexing them into next week (although he enjoyed this immensely as well).
Mike had a ten-year relationship with Jane Stecker, who he called “Mrs. Dunkin’ Donuts” for reasons unknown to this writer.
He told Mike Monte (during the initial episode of Mantaur Memoirs), “I will get down on one knee and put a ring on that finger before the end of the year.”
Shortly after Mike’s mother’s passing, he moved his 83-year-old father from Nebraska to his home in Cape Coral, Florida. He also was raising his teenage daughter, Demi.
He never stopped trying to live his best life.
RIP, My Friend
In his final video on TikTok, he stated, “If you ever need someone to talk to, just reach out to me. I’ll be there for you.”
While never a world champion or Hall of Famer, “Mantaur” Mike Halac was both those rolled into one in “real life.”
Rest in peace, my friend.
“Mantaur loves you.”
We love you back, my friend.
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