â€œI was leaping off the rope, and Yukon Eric, who had a cauliflower ear, moved at the last second,â€ Kowalski told The Chicago Tribune in 1989. â€œI thought I missed, but all of a sudden, something went rolling across the ring. It was his ear.â€
Yukon Eric was taken to a hospital, and the promoter asked Kowalski to visit him and apologize for severing his ear. Reporters were listening to their chat from a corridor.
â€œThere was this 6-foot-5, 280-pound guy, his head wrapped like a mummy, dwarfing his bed,â€ Kowalski said. â€œI looked at him and grinned. He grinned back. I laughed, and he laughed back. Then I laughed harder and left.
â€œThe next day the headlines read, â€˜Kowalski Visits Yukon in the Hospital and Laughs.â€™ And when I climbed into the ring that night, the crowd called out, â€˜You animal, you killer.â€™ And the name stuck.â€
Kowalski came to incur the wrath of the fans. As he told Esquire magazine in 2007: â€œSomeone once threw a pigâ€™s ear at me. A woman once came up to me after a match and said, â€˜Iâ€™m glad you didnâ€™t get hurt.â€™ Then she stabbed me in the back with a knife.