Growing up in Chicago, Ray Gunkel participated in many athletic activities before settling on wrestling as his main sport. While attending Purdue University, Gunkel was a three-year starter on both the football and wrestling teams, and served as captain of the mat team. He was a two-time All-American wrestler for the Boilermakers and also claimed two AAU National championships in the heavyweight class.
Turning professional in 1950, he quickly became a top attraction with legendary ex-heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey serving as his manager for a period of time.
Combining his clean-cut good looks and personality with superb wrestling skills, Ray was a big star all around the nation and particularly in the South, where he held numerous titles. He also was a highly successful promoter with the All-South Wrestling Alliance.
He died of a heart attack on August 1, 1972.