Walter Paul Sieber 1933-2009

‘The madder the wrestling fans got, the more satisfied he was’

Walter Paul Sieber 1933-2009Walter Paul Sieber was born on Oct. 2, 1933, in Toronto, an only child. His father Paul, who was from Germany, worked as a painter and decorator. He used to balance a ladder on his bicycle as he rode from job to job. His Romanian mother, Anna Yost, was spirited and strong-willed. For years, the couple was at odds. By the time Walter was seven, they had divorced. Walter lived with Anna until his early teens, and then joined his father in nearby Holland Marsh on a farm Paul had bought after he and Anna parted. Each of his parents remarried.

Walter’s strong body was fit for farming, but he preferred weightlifting. He spent hours at the YMCA with a brood of hulking young men. He could bench press-495 lb., just less than the quarter-tonne world record. Red Garner, a local wrestling promoter, divined Walter’s future in the ring, and trained him. At 17, he turned pro, initially wrestling under the name Waldo von Sieber.

One night, Walter was wrestling in the sleepy suburb of Richmond Hill, Ont. A petite, pretty brunette named Anne Elizabeth “Betty” Jones went to the match with her father, who then beelined to the bar. From inside the ring, Walter spotted Betty in the third row. Later, he asked if she had a ride home. Betty said no, so he drove her. By then he was successful and attractive, with bleach-blond hair and powerful legs. Waldo, as she called him, drove a limousine that had belonged to Lady Flora Eaton. Their driveway chat started a long relationship. In 1959, as Waldo ascended to wrestling royalty, they married, and soon had three daughters: Anne Elizabeth, Mary Jane and Barbara Jo.

As the family grew, so did Waldo’s notoriety. At six feet and 265 lb., his menacing stature made him the ideal villain, a role he relished. He wrestled under personas such as the Great Zimm, El Tigre, the Great Hornet and Mr. M, and held more than a dozen titles including heavyweight champion. As Waldo von Erich he won tag team championships with the renowned von Erich brothers, a wrestling dynasty popular in the ’60s and ’70s.

But it was his German Nazi persona that propelled Waldo von Erich into superstardom. With his monocle, helmet, armband and whip, Waldo incited rage among fans still reeling from the Second World War. They’d curse, throw beer bottles and shoot nail guns at Waldo, who’d flee the stadium in a car trunk. “The madder the fans got, the more satisfied he was,” says Betty. The few times his daughters were allowed to attend a match, they sat in a separate room for fear they’d be kidnapped or hurt.

This mean wrestler was the opposite of who Waldo was to his family. Loving, kind and fun, he’d take his daughters fishing and coach them on how to protect themselves. He enjoyed making stews and soups and restoring old cars. To Betty, he was faithful. “Number one, I knew he loved me,” she recalls. But wrestling often took him away from their home in Elmira, Ont.—once for six months. The neighbours thought Betty had a “gentleman caller” because Waldo showed up irregularly. Their independent ways led to a divorce in 1988, but they remained good friends, and neither remarried.

After Waldo retired in 1979, he focused on his inventions. His Inverchair, favoured by pro athletes, allowed him to hang upside down to alleviate back pain after years of performing his signature move, the Blitzkrieg, which was a knee-drop off the top rope. His daughters remember him dangling from it in the basement. He worked with Don Ranney, an orthopaedic surgeon in Waterloo, Ont., treating patients. Lately they were finalizing a stretching machine called ThePost. “He was a perfectionist,” says Ranney, and he was a caregiver. “This was supposed to be the bad guy, but in fact he was a pussycat.”

After he retired, Waldo trained young pros, many who say they owe him their careers. It was perhaps his way of staying connected to that world. About six months ago, Waldo and his old wrestling comrade, Billy Snip, known as Billy Red Lyons, visited Betty. They were using canes, and she had a walker. “We had a great laugh,” she says. “I said I could outrun them because I had wheels.”

Recently, Waldo was having a geriatric assessment at Freeport Health Centre in Kitchener, Ont. There, he ran into Billy, who had cancer. They spent time reminiscing before Billy died on June 22. One day soon after, Waldo took “a nasty fall” at Freeport, says Mary Jane. He never recovered. Walter Paul Sieber, 75, died from complications on July 5. Mary Jane remembers what he’d tell his daughters when they’d ask if wrestling was fake. It didn’t matter, Waldo would say, “It hurts when you fall.”




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Walter Paul Sieber 1933-2009

  1. Waldo was my Dad and he was a wonderful Man I will miss him every minute for the rest of my Life I want to thank Cathy for the wonderful , well written article she put together about him and his memories will live on forever in more then just my eyes.

    Thank you again Cathy and GOD please take as good as care of my Dad as he did of me.

    Love forever DAD
    Mary Jane

    • Waldo was a great guy and someone i grew to admire during my couple of years in the wrestling business. Ill always be greatful for the little tidbits of information that he passed on that made me a better wrestler. His fun loving attitude and willingness to help a lonely guy like me out on a few occasions always stuck with me. i think the few times i went grocery shopping with Waldo were my favorites. He could always fun a great nutrious alternative and the man knew his yogert. Thanks for the great memories and my best wishes to his family, he will be missed
      "Precise" Paul Wright

    • It's Aug 12th and I just heard about your Dad Waldo . I only met him the last 6 or 7 years,i used to watch him on tv as a kid . AS a former wrestler and current promoter I was fortunate to visit him at his home a couple of times. Last saw him at the hall of fame dinner in Toronto. Your Dad was truly a legend and a gentleman who gave me inspiration for our great sport and for life . My prayers are with You and your family. Waldo will be missed by all who were blessed enough to know Him.
      Regards Chuck Simpson (Pretty Boy Chuck Simms)

    • he was a gentle giant mj i think of him often too!! steve reiner

    • Mary Jane,
      I just came across this article about your father that my mother…Laurie…came across. I am very sorry to hear about your father. Ever since I was a young wrestling fan, I always wanted to meet this man you and my mother talked so very highly of. I remember all the wonderful stories you always shared with me about your Dad. He is greatly missed, I am sure of that, because even though I never did get to meet him, I felt I knew him enough through your stories, that I miss him a lot as well.

      Melissa J

      "the other daughter"
      email me if you get this please

  2. Just saw the Macleans article today. Seiber's were our friends and neighbours in Elmira while I was growing up. Remember going with them to see my first movie "Jaws" in Kitchener and up to their cottage on occasion. He was always tinkering. That was long ago, but will always remember the family's generosity.

    Jasper Battjes
    Lethbridge, Alberta

  3. I met your Dad back at the Ymca where I was training for the next MR Toronto contest(which i won in 1955) anyway he came in the the gym with stawberry colored hair, nobody made any comment as he was much bigger than us, over the years i lost contact with those good ole days , very sorry to hear about his passing away, make me think how fragile life is.
    Jerry Richard

  4. It's about maintenance Andrew. The scale to use is one of depreciation.

  5. My late brother knew Wally Sieber when Wally drove a radiator shop delivery truck in Toronto and my brother worked at my Dad's service station. During the early-mid 50s, the Farmers Market on Yonge Street in Thornhill hosted weekly wrestling matches and that was where I first saw Wally wrestling and my brother told me about knowing him. Lot of memories of those long-ago days. Over the years I often wondered about Wally. I knew he had become Waldo Von Erich and had done well in the wrestling world, however, I always wondered where he lived, etc.

  6. We'd always been taught to respect the veterans, the guys that made our way. Without them, we would never even be able to dream about wrestling or anything like that.

  7. I don’t know how it happened but tonight (6/14/13) while watching pro wrestling on TV I thought of the name Wally Sieber. In 1959 my family moved north to Niagara Falls, NY for a one year stay and one night a week my father and I would cross the border into Ontario for the sparsely attended wrestling matches. The wrestlers then were readily accessible to the fans, especially one Wally Sieber. I never hesitated to climb on the ring apron prior to his match for his autograph and he not only accommodated this 12 year old’s request but also had a kind word to say. I remember him as a clean, “scientific” wrestler and even though its been many years since I thought of those days, I’ll always have good memories of the man named Wally Sieber and Cathy’s article went a long way to that journey.

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