Born Ken Kilpatrick in Macon, Ga., Shamrock had an extremely troubled childhood. From the time he was five years old, he was getting into fights with other children every day.
“I fought all the time,” he told WWEClassics.com.
The young boy couldn’t avoid it. Even after moving to California with his mother and stepfather, things only got worse.
“I had gotten stabbed, I ran away from home,” he recalled. “I lived in an abandoned car for a couple months.”
Shamrock turned to a life of crime soon thereafter. He joked that his record was probably “thicker than a Bible.”
He was given several chances to shape up, but failed to do so. The troubled teenager was one misstep away from prison before he ended up at the Shamrock Boys’ Home.
“Once I got there, my life changed,” Shamrock said of his time at the facility for wayward youths. “I met somebody that understood that I wasn’t just a number.”
That somebody was Bob Shamrock, the founder of the Boys’ Home. Bob took in problematic young men on the verge of jail time and gave them a place to work through whatever problems they had and make them productive members of society.
“He took the time to get to know us,” Ken said.
Bob Shamrock and Ken grew very close over Ken’s time at the home. When he turned 18, Ken was adopted by Bob and changed his last name to Shamrock. Already a professional wrestling fan, Bob arranged for his son to enter the business under the tutelage of the unpredictable “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer. Shamrock was quick to admit that the infamous brawler wasn’t focused on teaching him the finer points of grappling.
“He was bringing me in to beat guys up and take their tryout money,” Shamrock said. “I wasn’t really learning anything.”
Ken’s father looked up some more reputable schools and found one operated by Nelson Royal and Gene Anderson in North Carolina. Shamrock passed their tryout with flying colors, though the double-tough youngster would be surprised by the rigors of the business.
“After six months, I was like, ‘This stuff is not as easy as people think,’ “ he said. “You have to be coordinated, athletic and intelligent to figure this out. I earned a new respect for it.”
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