It has been confirmed on Twitter that Juan Kachamanian, better known to wrestling fans of the past as “The Wild Bull of the Pampas” Pampero Firpo, has passed away today in San Jose, California. He was 89.
Kachamanian was born in Argentina to immigrants from Turkey who were able to escape the genocide. His father, in fact, was raised in a Greek orphanage by the British Red Cross. His family eventually became involved in the boxing business, but Kachamanian chose wrestling, getting trained by Rudy Dusek and debuting in 1953.
He had several identities, such as Ivan the Terrible, The Missing Link (long before Dewey Robertson took that moniker), and Ervan the Armenian. He received the Pampero Firpo moniker after a suggestion from none other than heavyweight boxing all-timer Jack Dempsey, who said he should consider himself the legacy of Argentine boxing superstar Luis Angel Firpo.
He was one of the first wrestlers to use the style commonly called “Hardcore Wrestling” in the modern era, known for his brawls with men such as Bobo Brazil, Johnny Valentine, The Crusher, and The Sheik. Long before the Von Erich legacy made it famous, Firpo used the Claw (or as he called it, El Garfio) to render his opponents unconscious. Although not an imposing figure, standing a mere 5’8 and a stocky 230, his wild hair and mannerisms made him a feared opponent for many.
In 1972, he received a gift from an Ecuadorian tribesman that would add to his mystique. The tribesman was so impressed with Firpo’s ferocity and spirit that he gave him a shrunken head, purportedly belonging to a defeated tribal leader. Nicknamed “Chimu”, the head would make Firpo seem even more uncivilized as the Wildman would talk to the head (long before Al Snow did the same) during interviews where he promised destruction of his opponents. Later that same year, he’d make appearances for the WWWF, challenging Pedro Morales for the title unsuccessfully.
Firpo’s home territory was Detroit’s Big Time Wrestling, where on three occasions he would hold their variation of the NWA United States Title. The first two were in 1972 as he scored upset wins over Bobo Brazil. Each time, Brazil would regain the title in the mandatory rematch. In 1976, he beat The Sheik to win the title and held it for three months. This time, Don Kent was the one to end his reign.
Perhaps the most famous thing Firpo did was a product of seemingly too wild to speak full English. In every interview, he would be at a loss for words and simply intimidate the interviewer with a drawn out “Ohhhh yeah.” Randy Savage stole this mannerism and made it his own.
Firpo went into semi-retirement in 1981 and full retirement in 1986, having fought by his own estimation close to 9,000 times. He went on to work for the US Postal Service in California. He was honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club in 2001 and entered the Professional Wrestling Hall Of Fame in 2018. His heavyweight championships included the All-California Championship Wrestling title, the NWA Hawaii Heavyweight Title, the NWA Americans Heavyweight Title on three occasions, the WWC Heavyweight Title, the NWA Texas Heavyweight title, and the NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight title.