In the Golden Years of pro wrestling in the 1950’s, the name Karl Von Hess sparked an incredible amount of hatred. Coming to the ring in full Nazi gear (keep in mind this was right after World War II), Von Hess would turn to the crowd and give the German “Seig Heil” salute to the audience. His mere presence at pro wrestling shows was enough to incite the crowd to near riot.
His real name was Frank Faketty, and while he used the Nazi gimmick to enhance his character, he was actually a great patriot, having served aboard the USS Montpelier in World War II, where he was a part of the Underwater Demolition Corps, the forerunner of the Navy SEALs.
After the war, he tried his hand at pro wrestling, and after trying a few different characters that just didn’t get him over as a villain, Faketty came up with the Karl Von Hess persona, and the rest is history. Karl became an immediate sensation as an out-and-out Nazi, and was a key player in the talent movement between the Carolinas and Vincent J. McMahon’s Washington office on the East Coast.
The Karl Von Hess that The Wrestling Guys interviewed was completely different than the character that most fans of the 50’s were familiar with. He was a family man, a gentle man who could flip the switch and get tough if need be, but a man who LOVED his wife Lenore, who was at Karl’s side until her death in 2005 (they were married for 53 years.)
We were fortunate to get this interview, which we believe was the only one he granted, as he’d become increasingly wary of the business in his later years. Von Hess went into seclusion after the death of his wife, ultimately moving in with his son and daughter in law, and passed on in 2009 due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.
This is a must listen, for anyone who wants to understand or learn about the legacy of pro wrestling, but more important, a study of the character of a great man. The Wrestling Guys proudly present to you, Karl Von Hess, who was in our studio along with former WWF star Wolfgang Von Heller and the great Les Morgan.