Nick Kiniski Speaks Out on Proposition by WWF Official

Originally published at Nick Kiniski Speaks Out on Proposition by WWF Official

Former wrestler Nick Kiniski says he was propositioned by a WWF official during his tenure with the company in the ‘80s and he alerted Vince McMahon.

Appearing on Pollock & Thurston, Kiniski spoke publicly for the first time about an incident while wrestling for the World Wrestling Federation and encountering the unwanted advancements of official Terry Garvin.

He would come up to me and hit on me … I won’t say what he said, but you’ll understand the meaning behind it. He says ‘Hey Nick, let me perform oral sex on you, you can read a Playboy and you’ll have it made for life.’ And, you know, he is my boss, he controls my boss. This is my livelihood, what I want to do, I kind of joked with him, I said ‘Hey Terry, you know, I’m not that way. But if I ever change, you’ll be the first. I’ll let you be the first.’ We just kinda laughed it off. But he was always kind of coming up and joking, and one time he came to my hotel room late at night and I told him to leave. Knocked at the door. So, it put me in a very awkward position, you know?

Kiniski, the son of former NWA Heavyweight Champion Gene Kiniski, came into the business against the wishes of his famous father. He worked his way through various territories in the U.S. and toured for New Japan Pro Wrestling. His career included stints with World Class, Texas All-Star Wrestling, and the Pacific Northwest for promoter Don Owen.

He arrived in the WWF in the summer of 1986 as a regular and started to develop a good reputation among those in the company and observers.

My career was going good, I was travelling, I was enjoying it, that’s all I ever wanted to do in life. You go out there on a card with Hulk Hogan, so they were sellouts. It’s an unbelievable adrenaline rush.

Kiniski was informed to lose a bit of weight by road agent Rene Goulet (Robert Bédard) with the expectation that the company would be getting behind him.

Standing in the way of career advancement was Garvin, Kiniski reflects, noting how the official would frequently hit on the wrestler and is sure that his failure to acquiesce impacted his trajectory to the next level.

There’s no doubt about it. ‘Hey, if you let me do this, you’ll have it made for life financially.’ I mean, there’s no other way to take that.

Kiniski took his concerns regarding Garvin straight to the top by contacting company head Vince McMahon after a show in Portland, Oregon:

I remember where it was, it was in Milwaukie, Oregon, we wrestled in Portland. I called Vince, and I said ‘Hey, Vince, I don’t think this is right. Terry’s hitting on me. I don’t appreciate that and I would like it to stop.’ And Vince said ‘Oh, ok. I’ll deal with it.’ And that was it.

Kiniski is listed as having wrestled in the city on Feb. 10, 1987, per the History of WWE website.

Not only did McMahon not act on the knowledge of a complaint levied at one of his officials for propositioning a talent, but Kiniski continued to deal with the problems from Garvin.

Nothing changed. [Garvin would] still say ‘Hey, have you thought about your proposition?’ as he walks by in the dressing room.

Garvin’s roles during his tenure with the company included vice president of operations and was among the personnel who resigned in 1992 amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The late Barry Orton spoke of a 1978 incident involving Garvin, who was the booker in Amarillo during this period. The two were in a car with Garvin repeatedly harassing Orton and trying to perform oral sex on him. Orton spoke about the incident in 2006 with SLAM Wrestling:

I didn’t feel threatened or anything. Maybe a little uncomfortable because he was being so persistent because he did it every 30 miles and this was a six-hour trip. When we got there, it was over. I wasn’t traumatized. He was so hurt or whatever that he didn’t even ride back with me.

Former ring boy Tom Cole accused Garvin of harassment in two instances when he was sixteen years old, and another when was nineteen. After turning down the advance from Garvin in February 1990, he was fired and was informed it was a decision made by Garvin.

The breaking point for Kiniski was when he sensed he was being punished for issuing the complaint. On a weekend loop, Kiniski recalls that he worked a live event on a Friday night and was set to wrestle the following evening when the company opted to give him the night off and therefore, would not receive a payoff for the missed show.

I talked to Vince, I said ‘This isn’t right, Vince. I complain, and now you guys are punishing me. I’ll finish my bookings, but I’m not putting any guys over. Put me in the ring we’ll see what happens.’ Vince knows I could take care of myself, so he said ‘No.’ I said, ‘I’m done.’ I said,‘I’ll finish my matches,’ ‘Nope, you’re done now.’ ‘Thank you very much.’

When speaking with Kiniski, he believed the Saturday night card was in California. We cross-referenced his account with WWF results from 1987 on the History of WWE website. Kiniski wrestled The Iron Sheik on Friday, May 16 in Landover, Maryland. The following night, Kiniski was advertised for a match against Iron Mike Sharpe at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, but it didn’t take place. Four days later, Kiniski wrestled his last match that we are aware of with WWF against Ron Bass in Nashville, Tennessee. Kiniski was advertised for a May 23 match against Pete Doherty in Hartford, Connecticut, which did not take place as advertised.

Kiniski acknowledged in a follow-up with us that his dates could be off given that these events occurred thirty-seven years ago but remembers the conversations very clearly.

In March 1992, McMahon appeared on Larry King Live and denied any knowledge of inappropriate conduct among his officials.

Larry King: Have you ever heard rumors of it?

Vince McMahon: No, I mean these are things – you don’t hear rumors of sexual harassment. If in fact you have someone that may be gay, then sure, you’re going to hear locker room horseplay, that’s going to happen but just that. Anyone can always come to me, they’ve always been able to come to me and tell me if anything is out of line.

King: So, any of your wrestlers could have come to you and said, that the guy in the office is coming on with me…

McMahon: Absolutely. Notwithstanding the fact, I wouldn’t have wanted to be that guy because any of my wrestlers would have broken his neck. I mean, you just don’t do things like that.

In 2020, David Bixenspan wrote a feature for Business Insider and discovered contemporaneous reporting from columnist Phil Mushnick and Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that former ring announcer Mel Phillips was fired by the company in 1988. McMahon spoke on the record to both reporters in 1992 and shared that Phillips was fired for taking an “unnatural” interest in young boys, yet was re-hired, with the provision that he “steer clear from kids.”

After Garvin resigned from the company in 1992, he never returned to the WWF and died of stomach cancer in August 1998.

With the recent stories involving the WWE and other past performers speaking publicly, Kiniski felt compelled to share his own experience

I could’ve talked about it before but I don’t think it would have gotten any traction. And I just don’t want any young people who are in, especially the wrestling business, or any business work where they get a pro-quo, or this happens to them. I think it shouldn’t be in the workplace.

After I got out of wrestling, I didn’t even follow it. Just in the last few years … It was out in the scuttlebutt [about] what happened to me. People would want to call and interview me and stuff, but I didn’t want to be like ‘Hey I have sour grapes and I’m just mad.’ I just moved on with my life.

Kiniski would join the AWA immediately after leaving the WWF and would wind down his career in 1988. In his post-wrestling life, Kiniski has had several careers and has tried to stay positive despite this cloud over his WWF experience.

I was probably lucky to get out of the industry. It’s a hard lifestyle. I’m very successful, I got to be a fire chief, I’ve got to be an owner of bars, life’s been very good for me. I’ve got a place in Palm Springs, Arizona, I get to travel. So, I was probably lucky I got out of the business because I’d probably be beat up in a wheelchair. Just not a good lifestyle.

They didn’t take my pride from me. I felt I never did anything wrong and it worked out very well for me. I just feel very sorry for the people that it didn’t work out for and hopefully, it never happens again.

NOTE: The full interview with Nick Kiniski will air today at 1 p.m. ET on a special edition of Pollock & Thurston

Special thanks to Brandon Thurston, Neal Flanagan & Jack Wannan for assistance with this story.