A detailed history of Ed "Strangler" Lewis can be found in the book: National Wrestling Alliance: The
Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling.
The way that a "world" heavyweight wrestling champion behaved on the mat really evolved between
the 1910s and around 1922. When Frank Gotch toured the nation as the undisputed titleholder,
he never gave up falls to build drama in two-of-three-fall matches. Gotch and his troupe relied on
other facets of the wrestling drama, including the primary use of the handicap match. Rather than
giving up a fall, Gotch would lose handicap matches that would build the man who beat him into a
potential conqueror. There would be ample hype for the rematch, and then Gotch would pummel
his opponent into defeat in usually a short amount of time.
The wrestling scene called for a different dramatic scenario by 1922. Now wrestling demanded the
roller coaster ride of drama in every single high-profile match, meaning that Ed "Strangler" Lewis
would lose a fall to an opponent in a 2/3 fall bout, only two win the other two and retain his crown.
By the local man taking a fall, fans were whipped up into a frenzy in hopes that their hero could stun
the world and beat Lewis. For example, in Wichita, Kansan Alan Eustace took a fall from Lewis on
July 4, 1922, and drove the crowd wild. In Minneapolis, John Freberg did the same time. These
instances made Lewis appear beatable, and the back-and-forth in-ring drama was a highly
addictive quality for wrestling fans across the nation. Lewis could be on the ropes in a competitive
match, and the result could go either way, keeping the tension high, and strengthening the
popularity of the local man.
This was similar to what Lou Thesz and other NWA champions would do later on. It was important
for the "world" champion to enter a territory and have a successful showing. That meant keeping
the fans enthusiastic about the matches, and bringing them back the next time. Cities had often
been burned out by bad booking practices. Lewis and his manager Billy Sandow were smart to give
a little to take a lot. It was a smart operation.
In situations where the challenger held less importance in a particular city, it was certainly common
for Lewis to win in straight falls.
The building up of challengers in specific cities was another entire structure.
In March 1922, Lewis appeared in Kirksville, Missouri and defeated Antonius Johnson of Canada
and dislocated the latter's neck with his stranglehold. Johnson was said to have been unconscious
for 30 minutes.
In the February 4, 1924 edition of the Kansas City Star, there were comments written by influential
St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer John E. Wray about Lewis. He wrote that Lewis would need around
$30,000 to wrestle Stecher and that Lewis is making good money every week by wrestling "third
raters of the game." He noted that Lewis picks his opponents and cannot be coerced into a
championship match. He can sit back and wait for the right payday to arrive.
Madison, Wisconsin: September 27, 1925
( ) ... World Heavyweight Champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis b. Bill Demetral (1-0) (1:12:00) (Demetral
was unable to continue) (headlock)
Note: Demetral was said to be from Madison.
Memphis, Tennessee: Wednesday, September 30, 1925
( ) ... World Heavyweight Champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis b. Mike Romano (2/3)
Tulsa, Oklahoma: Thursday, October 8, 1925
( ) ... World Heavyweight Champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis b. Wayne Munn (2/3) (Lewis won the first
fall using a headlock, Munn took the second and Lewis annexed the third with a headlock)
The June 20, 1930 edition of the Danville, (VA) Bee stated that "Strangler" Lewis was "Edward Le
Garroter," which is an odd report. It stated that he was a "big stockholder in a flourishing chain
restaurant business in his home town of Glendale, Calif." Lewis believed Marin Plestina "the
strongest wrestler alive today." It included a quote from Lewis: "He [Plestina] is more powerful than I
am and stronger than Steinke or Shikat, and he knows a lot of wrestling too." The article also noted
that "Lewis wrestled Londos half a dozen times and won from him every time."
Lewis weighed 250 pounds and smoked cigarettes while in training for his big match with Londos in
St. Louis in early 1935.
In May 1943, Lewis was appointed sports director at the Arena Gardens in Milwaukee, where he
wanted to strengthen the wrestling business.
A St. Louis wrestling program, "In the Ring," dated January 17, 1946 expressed the sympathies of
Sam Muchnick and his staff to Lewis because he'd lost his mother, Mollie Friedrich on January 10 at
the age of 82 in Nekoosa, Wisconsin.
In November 1948, Lewis was named chairman of the Wrestling Promoters' Association of America
and Allied Countries, a newly organized group. According to the Associated Press, the "aim of the
new group is to return wrestling to the big time."
On June 15, 1954, in a letter to Lou Thesz, Sam Muchnick mentioned that Lewis was going to be on
a TV program on June 22 called "The Big Playback" out of New York City.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Ed "Strangler" Lewis Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling