Where Are They Now?: Snitsky

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January 22, 2014

Snitsky

Gene Snitsky’s time in WWE was anything but normal. He made his mark punting baby dolls into crowds and bellowing that anything “wasn’t his fault” before transforming into a grotesque psychopath with dirty, yellow teeth. That makes his pleasant life in Pennsylvania’s coal region, where he does lots of charitable work, all the more surprising.

Snitsky’s road to the squared circle began in Nesquehoning, Pa. Like many kids of his era, he grew up a huge wrestling fan, enamored by the spectacle of it all.

“The larger-than-life characters, the entertainment aspect of it, it sucks you in,” he told WWE.com. “I loved watching it every Saturday.”

Unlike many youngsters, Snitsky didn’t dream of becoming a Superstar at first. A standout high school football player, he wanted to pursue a career on the gridiron. Snitsky’s all-state credentials in Pennsylvania brought him to the University of Missouri, where he had the opportunity to learn from Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, two of the top coaches in the NFL today.

Classic Snitsky photos | Current photos of Snitsky

“I was very fortunate to have a good collegiate career and be coached by a lot of really good coaches,” Snitsky said.

Still, he always told his Tiger teammates that they might see him between the ropes in the future.

“I’d tell them if they didn’t see me on Sunday in the NFL, they’d be watching me on Raw on Monday. They told me I was crazy,” he said with a laugh.

After his time at Missouri came to an end, Snitsky took part in the NFL Scouting Combine, showing his skills for every team in the league. He ended up signing with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent, though a shoulder injury put an end to his football career for nearly two years. He came back during the Canadian Football League’s expansion into America, playing with the Birmingham Barracudas until he re-injured his shoulder. Despite his setback, the big man kept a positive attitude while he pursued other avenues.

“When one door closes, another opens,” he told WWE.com. “That’s when the light went off in my head that I was going to pursue wrestling. I was going to make it happen.”

Snitsky spent time training with WWE Hall of Famer Dory Funk Jr. at his camp in Florida, before he was introduced to Headshrinker Samu, who worked out with him and booked him on a series of shows on military bases across the Middle East and Asia. Wrestling every night against Samu, he got a crash course in the ways of the business from someone who grew up in it.

“I had so much fun,” he said. “I wanted more and more and more.”

He got more back home in Pennsylvania, where he trained with Samu’s father, WWE Hall of Famer Afa of The Wild Samoans. Snitsky spent a great deal of time learning the ins and outs of wrestling with the man he affectionately refers to as “Pops.”

Through Afa’s connections, Snitsky received a tryout match with WWE in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in October 2003. He felt the bout didn’t go quite as well as it could have, but soon got a huge surprise.

“I wouldn’t say it was great, but it went well enough to get me signed,” he said. 

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