Corporal Kirchner (Photo by WWE.com)
Sgt. Slaughter left the WWF in late 1984 over merchandising disputes. Since he was arguably the number two good guy in the company at the time behind Hulk Hogan, it was a pretty big deal.
Vince McMahon being Vince McMahon, he tried to replace Slaughter several months later. Enhancement wrestler (or jobber if you want to be less kind) R.T. Reynolds disappeared for a while before resurfacing as Corporal Kirchner, who was sort of a cross between Slaughter and Rambo.
Kirchner was decent, but he was far from a worthy replacement for Slaughter, who's an all-time great wrestler. He stuck around through 1987 and stuck around the business on and off for several years.
He hadn't been around in a while when WWE.com posted this on October 19, 2006:
"Former WWE Superstar Thomas Spear, professionally known as Corporal Kirchner, passed away of natural causes Sunday in his home in White Marsh, Md. He is survived by his two sons, daughter and step-daughter, as well as two grandchildren.
A Vietnam veteran, Kirchner is known for defending his country in the ring as well as out. He is not only revered as one of sports-entertainment's toughest competitors, but also one of its greatest patriots.
In the early 1980s, Kirchner was a close protégé of another patriot, former WWE Champion and Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter. Perhaps one of Kirchner's most celebrated victories took place at WrestleMania 2 where he defeated WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff in a Flag Match."
It was generally believed that his name was Mike Kirchner, but the discrepancy didn't strike anyone as odd since there have been plenty of wrestlers whose real names weren't well known. A few days later, it made a lot more sense when Mike Kirchner contacted Greg Oliver of Sun Media's Slam Wrestling to say that he was alive and had no idea who Thomas Spear was.
Nobody is aware of a Thomas Spear who was ever a pro wrestler. It looks like he was just one of those guys who conned his family into thinking he was a big-name wrestler.
As for WWE.com, the original post was quickly pulled (though the content was pasted at many message boards, including The Burning Hammer), but no retraction was ever issued. WWE has a huge database of formerly contracted wrestlers with their last known contact information, so the website staff (overseen by Michael Cole at the time) could've easily looked Kirchner up.
Now, let's fast-forward to June 29th of this year. WWE.com posted a "Where Are They Now?" article about Kirchner that contains the following passage:
"Living the full life he does, Kirchner has remained out of the public eye for much of the past decade — except for a regrettable incident in 2006 when false reports of his demise surfaced on the internet."
Yes, they "surfaced on the internet." It's not like WWE.com had anything to do with these terrible lies, right?
The chutzpah of these people...