The French Angel

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The French Angel
Maurice Tillet.png
Tillet in 1940
Birth nameMaurice Tillet
Born(1903-10-23)October 23, 1903
Ural Mountains, Russian Empire
DiedSeptember 4, 1954(1954-09-04) (aged 50)
Chicago, Illinois, United States[1]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)The French Angel
World's Ugliest Man[2]
Billed height1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)[1]
Billed weight122 kg (270 lb)[1]
Trained byKarl Pojello

Maurice Tillet (October 23, 1903 – September 4, 1954) was a French professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, The French Angel. Tillet was a leading box office draw in the early 1940s and was twice contracted to act as World Heavyweight Champion by the American Wrestling Association run by Paul Bowser in Boston.

Early life[edit]

Tillet was born in 1903 in the Ural Mountains in Russia to French parents.[1] His mother was a teacher and his father was a railroad engineer. Tillet's father died when he was young. As a child he had a completely normal appearance and Tillet was nicknamed "The Angel" due to his angelic face. In 1917, Tillet and his mother left Russia due to the Revolution and moved to France, where they settled in Reims. When Tillet was 20, he noticed swelling in his feet, hands, and head, and after visiting a doctor was diagnosed with acromegaly—a condition usually caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland, resulting in bone overgrowth and thickening.[1]

He had wanted to become a lawyer, but his acromegaly prevented him from doing so. Tillet served in the French Navy for five years as an engineer.[1]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

The French Angel against Lou Thesz in the ring, 1940
Tillet being interviewed in Montreal, 1940.

In February 1937, Tillet met Karl Pojello (Lithuanian Karolis Požėla) in Singapore. Pojello was a professional wrestler, and convinced Tillet to enter the business. Tillet and Pojello moved to Paris for training, and Tillet wrestled for two years in France and England until World War II forced them to leave for the United States in 1939.[1]

In Boston, Massachusetts, in 1940, promoter Paul Bowser pushed Tillet, who was wrestling as The French Angel, as a main eventer, and he became a large draw in the area. As a result of his popularity, Tillet was booked as unstoppable, scripted to win for a span of 19 consecutive months. Tillet acted as the AWA World Heavyweight Champion from May 1940 until May 1942. In early 1942, he also worked as the Montreal-based world heavyweight champion.[citation needed] He re-appeared with the Boston-based title for a short time in 1944.[1]

As a result of his success, several Angel imitators emerged, including Paul Olaffsen (Swedish Angel), who also had acromegaly; Tony Angelo (Russian Angel), Tor Johnson (Super Swedish Angel), Jack Rush (Canadian Angel), Wladislaw Tulin (Polish Angel), Stan Pinto (Czech Angel), Clive Welsh (Irish Angel), Jack Falk (Golden Angel), Gil Guerrero (Black Angel), and Jean Noble (Lady Angel). Tillet competed against Tor Johnson, who was billed as The Swedish Angel on those occasions.[1]

Maurice Tillet in 1953

By 1945, Tillet's health began to fail and he was no longer advertised as unstoppable. In his final wrestling match, in Singapore on February 14, 1953, working The National Wrestling Alliance Mid South Area then known as Tri-State and owned by Leroy McGuirk he agreed to lose to Bert Assirati.[1]

In 1950, Chicago sculptor Louis Linck befriended Tillet and made a series of plaster busts commemorating him for his wrestling career. One of the busts is in Chicago’s International Museum of Surgical Science.


Tillet died on September 4, 1954, in Chicago, from cardiovascular disease after hearing of his trainers passing.[1] Tillet is buried at the Lithuanian National Cemetery in Justice, Illinois, Cook County, 20 miles (32 km) south of Chicago.


Some have speculated that Maurice's likeness was used as an influence in the DreamWorks film Shrek (2001) for the main character of the same name, but this rumor hasn't been confirmed.[3]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Oliver, Greg (December 14, 2011). "The French Angel was more man than monster". Slam! Sports. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
  2. ^ "Maurice Tillet". IMDb.
  3. ^ Grenoble, Ryan (December 29, 2014). "Meet Maurice Tillet, The Man Rumored To Have Inspired Shrek". HuffPost. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  4. ^ "American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Title [Boston]".
  5. ^ "Title Lineages: AWA (Boston) World Heavyweight Championship".


External links[edit]