George Gordienko

Canadian Wrestler, Artist and Renaissance Man


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About the Book

George Gordienko (1928–2002) may be the greatest wrestler you’ve never heard of. From humble, Ukrainian/Cossack immigrant roots in the Canadian Prairies, he endured a tough childhood during the Great Depression to emerge as a leading “shooter” and one-of-a-kind artist on the mat. Excluded from wrestling in the United States during the McCarthy era because of his association with the Communist Party as a young man, he was deprived of a run for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, for which he was hand-picked by the great Lou Thesz. After retirement, Gordienko transitioned to a different sort of canvas and became a successful painter. This first full-length biography traces his remarkable career.

About the Author(s)

Steven Verrier has previously written works of short drama, fiction, and nonfiction published in the United States, Canada, and Japan. He lives in Bonney Lake, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

Steven Verrier

Forewords by Bret Hart and Greg Oliver

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 252
Bibliographic Info: 65 photos (11 in color), bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8769-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4563-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by Bret Hart 1
Foreword: A Memory by Greg Oliver 2
Preface 3
Introduction 5
1. The World into Which He Came 7
2. The View from Winnipeg 13
3. Coming Into His Own 20
4. The Norseman Plunger 23
5. World Class Amateur 29
6. An Auspicious Start 35
7. Earning a Buick in San Francisco 42
8. Looking Like He Couldn’t Miss 45
9. Hiatus 52
10. Back in the Saddle 60
11. Trip Around the World 66
12. Alberta Gold 69
13. If Thesz Had His Way… 76
14. Gordienko–Nelson: Returning the Favor 79
15. 1957–1958: Here and There 84
16. Back on the Treadmill 90
17. A Few Memorable Meetings 96
18. Back to Europe 100
19. Life at 4 Conyers Road 104
Between pages 110 and 111 are 8 color plates containing 11 photographs
20. Hottest Wrestler on the Continent 111
21. Friends Get Together in New Zealand 117
22. Autumn in Japan 121
23. Closing Out a Remarkable Decade 125
24. Adventure with Adnan 129
25. The Marchesa 133
26. More Tours and Travels 139
27. From One Butcher to Another 148
28. Flash Gordon 151
29. Crossing the Border 155
30. Looking Like the End 159
31. A Little More in the Tank 163
32. Father-Son Reunion—Part One 168
33. Dutiful Son Returns 172
34. ­­Father-Son Reunion—Part Two 176
35. Tranquility and Tension 178
36. Decision to Downsize 183
37. Black Creek 188
38. Adding to His Legacy 196
39. Summing Up an Amazing Life 199
40. End of the Journey 203
41. Fulfilling George’s Wishes 207
42. Looking Up the Marchesa 210
43. Filling In Blanks at the CAC 214
44. A Few More Honors 217
45. Final Thoughts 220
Bibliography 223
Index 229

Book Reviews & Awards

• “George Gordienko may never be truly celebrated for his achievements as his life and career fail to fit into a single box that so often defines one’s greatness. Yes, he was a phenomenal wrestler, but also an accomplished artist, world traveler and a gentleman. At so many points in this book, you feel like George had reached the pinnacle—arrived at success to which so many aspire—only to be surprised with the next pursuit and complete mastery that resulted in further successes. There is no single honor high enough to acknowledge the lifetime contribution of George to sports, arts and culture.”—Vance Nevada, author, Wrestling in the Canadian West

• “George Gordienko’s name is spoken in awed whispers among veteran professional wrestlers and those familiar with the history of ‘shooting,’ or the competitive side of the professional art. Until now, however, most of his life was a mystery. Finally, Steve Verrier lifts the veil on Gordienko in a way that deftly illuminates both the man and the world he lived in.”—C. Nathan Hatton, PhD, author, Thrashing Seasons: Sporting Culture in Manitoba and the Genesis of Prairie Wrestling

• “I always knew there was more to the [Gordienko] story, more to explore; I wanted to do a proper biography on him …. Fortunately, Steve Verrier has capably taken up that task.”—Greg Oliver, Producer, Slam Wrestling, and coauthor of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series

• “Verrier expertly weaves these unique stories into the narrative, providing an excellent entryway for casual fans to dive deeper into the world of international wrestling…A nuanced, balanced, and thoroughly-researched picture of a complicated man…An essential read for anyone who loves Canadian, British, or European wrestling history.”—Slam Wrestling