By chance I recently came across this article and photo from the Vancouver News-Herald from 27 July 1944 shortly after reading a web page about the real-life wrestler who was the inspiration for the character of Shrek.
His name was Maurice Tillet, a frenchman with a rare condition called acromegaly that caused his head and jaws to become enlarged. Facing ostracism and discrimination in his native France, Tillet moved to the US and became a pro-wrestler. He was billed as the “freak ogre of the ring” by promoters because of his appearance, but his wrestling persona seems to have gone from villain to hero. By the time he arrived in Vancouver was called “The Angel.”
It’s likely that more than just Tillet’s appearance inspired the Shrek character. He was considered very intelligent, a crack chess player and poet who spoke 14 languages and had a very gentle personality outside of the ring. Maurice Tillet later became a recluse and died in 1955 from heart disease at the age of 51.
According to his Wikipedia entry, Tillet’s bout in Vancouver was less than a week before he reached the pinacle of his career. On 1 August 1944, while zoot suit riots were raging in Vancouver, the French Angel beat Steve “The Crusher” Casey to win the American Wrestling Association’s world championship.