Former WWE star Corporal Kirchner (real name Michael James Penze) passed away at the age of 64 on Wednesday. The cause of death is unknown.

A former United States Army paratrooper, Kirchner got his start in the pro wrestling business in Verne Gagne’s AWA. He would eventually join WWE and wrestle under the name “RT Reynolds” before being repackaged with the military gimmick based on his real-life past. The Kirchner character was reportedly created by WWE to replace Sgt. Slaughter, who left the company to join the AWA in 1985.

After spending several years in WWE, Kirchner had a brief run in the Harts’ Stampede Wrestling where he wrestled under the name “Col. Kirchner.” Thereafter, Kirchner had short stints in Japan with NJPW.

During his years in Japan’s W*ING promotion, Kirchner created the character “Leatherface” which was inspired by the villian of the same name from the movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. However, Kirchner was arrested and jailed for six months following an attempted assault by a fan, which left the fan with severe facial injuries. With Kirchner in jail, the Leatherface character was given to another wrestler, Rick Patterson.

In 2001, Kirchner was announced as a participant in the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven. The WWE went as far as to include Kirchner’s photo in a graphic to promote the match. However, he was removed from the match a week before the big event at the Houston Astrodome.

In 2006, WWE erroneously announced Kirchner’s passing because of confusion over his real name, which was believed to be Thomas Spear at the time. This was later corrected by WWE. In 2011, WWE.com published a two-part feature on Corporal Kirchner as part of its “Where Are They Know?” series. You can click here to read the same.

Wrestling Inc. sends our condolences to Corporal Kirchner’s friends and family.

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