The legendary Greek veteran wrestler, Manoli Savvenas, known as Mike Pappas, died in his home on December 31, 2022 in Springfield, Missouri, of colorectal cancer.
Born on the island of Rhodes, Greece in 1941, he became a world-famous professional wrestler after he moved to the United States in 1967 and was eventually recognized as a true legend of wrestling.
Known to his fans as “The Flying Greek” for his trailblazing aerial moves, such as his signature drop kick and flying head scissors, Pappas began his wrestling career in Mexico before entering the Tennessee territory shortly thereafter. The local press saw him as the successor of Jim Londos at the time.
Pappas was on the first Madison Square Garden ticket of over one hundred thousand dollars in sales, according to his website.
International wrestling legend
On September 9, 1970, Mike Pappas won the WWA Light-Heavyweight Title with a win over Steve Clements at the Convention Hall in Gadsden, Alabama.
As his fame in wrestling kept rising, Pappas lived in Australia, Canada, and Fiji before settling in Missouri. He retired from wrestling in 1978 in Kansas City and moved with the family to Springfield, opening a wholesale jewelry business which evolved into a storefront of his namesake.
Last September, Pappas had received the “Crowbar Award” at the Tennessee Wrestling Legends reunion in Gallentin, Tennessee, in recognition of “his integrity, exceptional skills, aggressive wrestling style and contributions to professional wrestling.”
In 2018, he was recognized by the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame with the Wrestling Living Legend Award.
Mike Pappas’s Amazing Wrestling Records
Pappas fought in 104 World Wrestling Foundation (WWF) matches in three years, between 1971 and 1974, which ranked him at number thirty-three in appearances for the WWF during that time frame.
According to wrestlingdata.com, the World’s largest wrestling database, “The Flying Greek” holds a 3-0 record with one draw over the legendary Randy “Macho Man” Savage, who won twenty-nine titles in thirty-two years and was named greatest Intercontinental Champion of all-time by WWE.
As pointed out in his bio, the life of Mike Pappas was one of true success both in and out of the ring.
Besides his successful career on the ring, he enjoyed a happy family life; he had one daughter and two sons with his wife Valerie, and another two daughters—one of whom sadly passed shortly after birth—before he met Valerie.
Mike and Valerie were part of a group of founders of an Orthodox church in the Ozarks, St. Thomas in Springfield, Missouri.
A documentary about Mike Pappas, The Flying Greek, will soon become available online and on DVD.