Michael “Mike” Kirchner was born on September 7 in 1957 and is best known for a short stint in the WWE in the 1980s and a spell working in Japan. He is the focus of today’s piece as we ask Whatever Happened to Corporal Kirchner?.
As a teenager, Kirchner joined the army and was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division but left when he was in his early twenties.
After leaving the army, he spent several years working as a bouncer and a mechanic. While there he bumped into Hulk Hogan at a gym and Hogan introduced him to Verne Gagne who as well as running American Wrestling Association, ran a wrestling school as well.
He then began working as an enhancement talent for the then WWF under the name RT Reynolds. While in the promotion, Vince McMahon discovered that he had been in the 82nd Airborne and was given a miltar gimmick and the ring name Corporal Kirchner.
With his military background and with the abundance of foreign heels on the roster, unsurprisingly he was thrown into a feud with one. Namely Nikolai Volkoff. They feuded for a prolonged period during the mid-80s, including a win over the Russian at WrestleMania 2 in a flag match.
He was known for his stiffness in the ring, an attribute that hurt his career due to a number of other wrestlers being unwilling to work with him. In early 1987 he was suspended by the WWF after failing a drugs test and refused to return once his suspension was up. Upon his departure, he wrestled in Canada for Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling under the ring name Colonel Kirchner.
Kirchner was able to forge a successful career after leaving the WWF in Japan. He was known as “Leatherface” in Japan and tied his look into the villain of the same name from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. He was regarded as one of the toughest hardcore wrestlers in Japan however an incident with a fan resulted in him being jailed for 6 months.
During his time off screen his gimmick was given to another wrestler: Rick Patterson, who eventually left W*ING and went to International Wrestling Association of Japan. During a subsequent match the original Leatherface (Kirchner) appeared in the crowd.
On December 13, 1994, the Leatherfaces faced two popular wrestlers, Shoji Nakamaki and Hiroshi Ono, in a Double Hell Deathmatch. In a match that would become a classic within hardcore wrestling, Kirchner broke kayfabe after the match and ripped off a piece of the bed of nails, placed it on Ono’s throat and then executed a leg drop onto nails. He proceeded to powerbomb him onto the bed of nails.
Kirchner then left for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling. Using a modified version of his Leatherface gimmick, he debuted for the promotion under the name “Super Leather” and later formed a tag team with Chris Romero. The team proved to be successful and Kirchner remained with promotion until its closure in 2002.
He was billed to return to the WWE in 2001 for the gimmick battle royal at WrestleMania X-seven.The company went as far as to picture him in a graphic on WWF.com promoting the match. In the end his return didn’t transpire and he was removed weeks before the event.By 2004, he retired from wrestling full-time.
In mid October 2006 he was announced dead by a former WWE employer. However, within a week it was announced that he was in fact alive. This resulted from confusion over Kirchner’s actual name.
It was Kirchner’s mum that had heard about the WWE’s announcement and contacted her son before the pair confirmed to the promotion that he was still alive. At the time of his non-passing he was working full-time as a truck driver, his occupation to this day
After a spell of semi-retirement, in 2007, Kirchner revived his Leatherface character for his first match since 2004. He teamed with Jayson Voorhees as The Serial Killers in a losing effort to Mad Man Pondo and Necro Butcher before the pair then defeated KJ Hellfire and Ricky.
When not on the road, Kirchner restores military weapons and raises bloodhounds. He also cares for two horses on his three-acre property where he lives with his wife, Tina. The two have been married since 1996 and have four adult children and four grandchildren.
You can read all previous ‘Whatever Happened to?’ pieces here.