Corporal Kirchner, Former WWE Star, Dead at 64

Corporal Kirchner, a former WWE star who competed in the 1980s, died on Wednesday, WWE announced, He was 64 years old. According to Wrestling Inc., Kirchner died from a heart attack while at his home in Siler, City North Carolina. He also competed in Stampede, NJPW, the UWF, W*ING and other promotions.

In a statement, WWE said: "After serving as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, Kirchner would meet Hulk Hogan while working in a gym and begin paving the trail for an incredible career in sports-entertainment. After debuting as RT Reynolds, Penzel began competing as Corporal Kirchner and engaged in a memorable rivalry with Nikolai Volkoff. The battle culminated with a Flag Match victory for Kirchner at WrestleMania 2."

Kirchner (real name Michael James Penze) joined WWE (then known as WWF at the time) in 1984 first as RT Reynolds. He then became Corporal Kirchner, and while he never won a championship during his four years with the company, Kirchner had his WrestleMania moment. After his time in WWE, Kirchner would create the character "Leatherface" while in Jampa's W*ING promotion. But the character was given to Rick Patterson after Kirchner was arrested and jailed for six months for attack fan, as mentioned by Wrestling Inc.

Kirchner was set to return to WWE in 2001 for the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven but was pulled from the match a week before the event. In 2006, WWE announced Kirchner had died due to confusion over his real name. WWE believed his name was Thomas Spear but corrected the mistake in 2011. 

"When I left back then in '87, I was going through a divorce, personal problems, the cost of success. It's just everybody wanted everything at the same time," Kirchner told SLAM! Wrestling about his time in WWE in a 2006 interview. "My wife's lawyers were going, 'Well, you should have a 20-year career, and you should make this much money, for a lump-sum alimony.'"  


And when talking about the Leatherface character, Kirchner said: "It was a good idea. When the [Texas Chainsaw Massacre]came out, in its time, back in '72, it was a terrifying movie just because it was so brutal. Shock value now, it's not that, but back in the day, here's a brutal movie. So working on that character with the chainsaw was a shock appeal in itself."