Kulka joins mat pack
By DON BRENNAN -- Sun Sports
WELCOME back to RAW is WAR, ladies and gentlemen.
Tonight, the World Wrestling Federation takes great pride in introducing its newest sensation. Though making his WWF debut, this man is no stranger to war.
He has spent the last 11 years tanglin' with the fiercest of Canadian Football League offensive linemen, five as an Ottawa Rough Rider, with whom, as you all know, meant withstanding continuous punishment the abuse and agony of defeat as well as the constant fight for a paycheque that wouldn't bounce.
You may remember one of his more celebrated and bloodier bouts, versus fellow Rider Andrew Stewart following a team meeting, which almost cost him a finger and did, in fact, spell the end of a plate glass window in the Frank Clair Stadium coaches' building.
This evening, however, he begins with a clean slate, shedding the equipment and stepping into the world's most prestigious squared circle for the first time, right here, in his adopted home town, in front of you, his family, his friends, his fans.
So without further ado, here he is, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 270 lbs., former No. 68 himself, the one, the only ...
"I just don't have the handle yet," Glenn Kulka says over the phone from Calgary. "It's the last ingredient. I just haven't stumbled onto something that has stuck yet."
What he does have, sure enough, is a contract with the WWF. Indeed, after more than a decade in the CFL, Kulka has finally made it.
The former all-star nosetackle is tentatively scheduled to begin his new career at the Corel Centre, Nov. 10, on the hit TV show RAW is WAR. He can't wait for the day to arrive.
"That will be fun. There is not a place in Canada where I'd rather make my debut," says Kulka. "I figure until some people see me in the ring, they won't believe it."
Maybe so. Yet others have no trouble imagining him between the ropes with the likes of Faarooq, the British Bulldog and the Undertaker.
During his football days, Kulka always did have a certain amount of showbiz in him. His on-field gestures made him as popular with the paying customers as he was with reporters looking for a colorful post-game quote in an otherwise dreary dressing room.
"Glenn was great playing to the crowd," says former Rider teammate Irv Daymond. "I'm excited for him. I'm sure he's going to experience fortune and success in his new career.
"Hey, I want to see what his move is."
When he was with the Argos in the late '80s, Kulka's mannerisms and sculpted physique drew him comparisons to the then-popular Hulk Hogan in a story written by the Toronto Sun's WWF/CFL reporter.
"I look back on that and, in hindsight, either he knew something I didn't or it was a complete fluke," Kulka says. "The Kulkster, Kulkamania stuff, I guess, just naturally went with Hulkster and Hulkamania. But really, at that point I had no clue that this would be what I'd wind up doing."
From Toronto Kulka moved to Ottawa, where he signed as a free agent with the Riders in 1990. He managed to jump that ship before it sank, signing with Saskatchewan in 1995.
There he was reunited with his former defensive line coach in Ottawa, Jim Daly, and he developed a whole new following.
"He was an instant hit, they loved Glenn Kulka in Saskatchewan," says Daly, now the Roughriders coach. "He broke bones in his back last year and he came back to finish the season, and the fans loved it, they saw him as a gutsy guy."
Even though Daly says Kulka would have been on his team again this season, he wasn't going to stand in his way when Kulka told of his wrestling plans in November.
"It was the right time for him," says Daly. "You only have so many years to do something like this. I'm happy for him. He's a natural."
Kulka's introduction to turnbuckles and leg locks was in 1995, when he stepped into the ring during a fundraiser for the Roughriders. He hooked up with Brett `The Hitman' Hart in a tag-team win over Ted DiBiase and Sycho Sid.
"He liked what he saw," Kulka says of Hart, merely one of the WWF's most prized performers, "and he's been after me ever since."
Okay, so it hasn't been quite that simple. His road to the WWF has been long and dusty. Kulka's been paying his dues on humbling "circuits" throughout Canada in order to learn the craft. He estimates the travel has at times been between 15,000-18,000 miles per week. Every night a different show in a different town. A similar stretch around the Winnipeg area, another near Regina. A recent run of 41 shows in 40 nights, earning $550 a week before expenses.
He is reminded of his junior hockey days in the Western Hockey League.
"We stay in the cheapest places, four guys in two bedrooms, pull the mattress off the boxspring and flip to see who sleeps where," he says. "You've got to get the experience. I'm constantly learning."
While he still has deep ties to Ottawa, Kulka's camp is in Calgary, where he's trained by former wrestler Leo Burke
and, when he's in town, the Hitman himself.
When he does get to unpack his bags for a few days, life doesn't necessarily become less gruelling. Training consists of three hours a day in the ring, working on moves and a `repertoire,' another hour of lifting weights ... but it's all about to become very much "worth it."
WWFers make considerably more money than CFLers.
"(The income) is just what the doctor ordered after 11 years of grinding it out on the field," says Kulka, 33. "It's a change of life, that's for sure. I figured I had another year or two left of playing the quality level of football that I wanted to be at. But now, I have another 10 year career ahead of me."
As for what role he'll play -- good guy or heel -- Kulka is unsure. He's worked as both, but he prefers being the villain because "you get more response from the crowd."
While on the East Coast, Kulka was called `The CFL Legend.' He entered the ring wearing a black Ottawa Rough Riders sideline jacket that had the sleeves cut off.
"My induction into the Hall of Fame," he says with a laugh. "It's as close as I'll get."
Kulka does have his goals set high in his second career.
"I can do very well at this," he says. "I will be good at it. I just want to be in the top 25% of the stars in the WWF. I want to be able to wrestle with any one of them. To be able to compete with them, and beat them."
He has a new game. Glenn Kulka just needs a name.
PHOTO: WORTH THE WEIGHT: The timing was right for Glenn Kulka to leave behind the CFL and begin what he hopes is a prosperous wrestling career.
- JIM WELLS, SUN