Sam Tenenbaum

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Sam Tenenbaum. 2009 photo by Brad Daly

Sam "The Great Kaiser" Tenenbaum Jr (born c. 1945) is a former professional wrestler.

Tenenbaum grew up in Mountain Brook and attended Shades Valley High School for two years before he was sent to Marion Military Institute. He returned to Birmingham after his junior year and graduated from Phillips High School, where he lettered in wrestling. At the University of Montevallo he studied vocal performance and trained as an operatic tenor, landing roles in opera productions at the Temple Theater.

"The Great Kaiser"

At the same time, Tenenbaum began training with Joseph "Steel Dawson" Honeycutt to learn the art of professional wrestling. He made his debut taking a beating from Nick Carter in Oneonta. He spent five years as a "break-in" wrestler, billed as "Bob Kaiser".

As a member of the city's bodybuilding community, Tenenbaum worked as a crew member on the feature film "Stay Hungry" starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar. It was Schwarzeneggar who encouraged Tenenbaum to adopt a more exotic wrestling persona, suggesting modifying his name to "The Great Kaiser" and adding a mask and a feigned Austrian background. Aspiring promoter Johnny Peebles took up the suggestion and signed Tenenbaum to a National Wrestling Association contract.

With Peebles as his manger, Tenenbaum began wearing a black and white mask in nationally-televised bouts, and also in commercials. He appeared regularly at Monday-night matches at Boutwell Auditorium, and participated in numerous stunts, including a staged fight with broadcaster Herb Winches. Tenenbaum claimed the NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship belt from Bullet Bob Armstrong during a bout at the Birmingham International Raceway on June 16, 1990.

The 59-year-old Tenenbaum announced his retirement from the ring after defeating The Destroyer at Boutwell Auditorium in 2003. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame in October 2005.

Tenenbaum published his memoir, The Unmasked Tenor, in 2015.


  • Tenenbaum, Sam & T. J. Beitelman (2015) The Unmasked Tenor: The Life and Times of a Singing Wrestler. Birmingham: GreenCup Books ISBN 0996354573


  • Thomson, Kieth (July 20, 2009) "Your friendly neighborhood pro wrestler – The Great Kaiser, Sam Tenenbaum." Birmingham Weekly
  • Davis, Lee (August 6, 2013) "Wrestling Legend Lives in Mountain Brook." Over The Mountain Journal
  • Garrison, Greg (August 5, 2016) "Wrestling manager, movie set builder, psychic kept Birmingham entertained." The Birmingham News

External links