Ray Steele was a two-time World Heavyweight Champion. He was a top draw all over
the nation between 1930 and 1945. He had legendary matches against Jim Londos for
the belt, and although he never beat the man for the belt, he came close many times.
Fans knew that he probably should have had several more title reigns in his career.
Steele made his debut in the late 1920s. He wrestled the World Champion, Londos to a
two-hour draw on August 3, 1933. Steele was awarded a bout against George Zaharias
on August 24th after his opponent threw referee Ray Bortaick out of the ring in
Washington. In a Baltimore rematch against Zaharias on September 5, 1933 and there
was another odd ending. During the match, Steele and Zaharias collided heads and the
latter fell from the ring and failed to return, giving Steele the win.
Ray tossed Gino Garibaldi in St. Louis on October 10th. He wrestled Dr. Karl Sarpolis to
a 30-minute draw on October 25th in Chicago. He lost to Everette Marshall in
Philadelphia on November 10th. Steele captured a victory over a wrestler who was
banned in New York in the 1920’s for his brutal style on November 23rd, John Pesek, in
St. Louis. It was a 47-minute contest. Steele beat Jim McMillen in St. Louis, MO on
December 7, 1933. He wrestled Jim Londos and lost in a title affair in Chicago on
December 13, 1933. Steele beat Joe Malcewicz in Philadelphia on January 5, 1934 after
two hours, seventeen-minutes and 18 seconds of wrestling. He earned a Detroit World
Title Bout against Londos on March 9, 1934 with a victory over Milo Steinborn of St.
Louis. Steele received the match on March 23rd, and wrestled Londos to a 60-minute
time-limit draw. The challenger lost on a decision.
Steele beat George Zaharias after 70-minutes of wrestling in St. Louis on March 29,
1934. He was one of a few national stars to compete sixty plus minute matches, Ray
Steele fought Everette Marshall to a two-hour draw on April 2nd in Kansas City,
Missouri. He drew with Orville Brown on May 16th in St. Louis after 30-minutes. Steele
lost to Londos again in Detroit, this time on June 1, 1934. Midwest Wrestling Association
Officials awarded Steele the World Title on February 5, 1937 in Cleveland. He wrestled
a week later in Cincinnati against John-Paul Jones. The two battled to a double-
countout. In March, he was seriously injured in a car accident and stripped of his title.
Steele was able to return. On January 23, 1940, Steele defeated former undisputed
World Champion, Danno O'Mahoney in St. Louis.
In one of the biggest news stories of the decade, Steele beat Bronko Nagurski in St.
Louis on March 7, 1940 to capture the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He
used a reverse toehold to score the win. Ray held the title for a year before losing it
back to Nagurski in Minneapolis on March 11, 1941. Steele helped train a young Lou
Thesz along with Ed Lewis and George Tragos. He eventually began promoting.
Ray Steele died at the age of 49 of a heart attack in Boise, Idaho on September 11,
Other Historical Information:
Real Name: Peter Sauer
Wife: Moiselle Sauer
Nephew: George Sauer (head football coach at Annapolis)
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Pete Sauer was a pupil of Farmer Burns, and reportedly
trained for two years before taking his first professional match. Sauer also learned from
his middleweight brother, "George Barnes." Sometime prior to 1923, Sauer engaged a
bout with the legendary Joe Stecher, and it may have been in a gymnasium somewhere.
Sauer was the victim of eight straight body scissors, and reportedly broke a number of
the holds before succumbing to the more experienced grappler.
Steele was a renown practical joker and known as the "Clown Prince of Wrestling,"
according to The All-Sports News (11/4/1953). Muchnick told several stories about his
antics including about the time he took Leon Balkin's shoes and threw them from a
moving train, and a story about Jim Londos and his bright pink tie. Londos appeared in
the St. Louis office wearing this pink tie, and explained that it had been sent from
relatives in Greece and that it was his most prized possession in the world. Steele,
without hesitation, grabbed a pair of scissors, walked up to Londos and cut the tie off at
the knot. Londos was not happy, but there was little he could do about it. That was the
way Steele did things. Ray was also known for nailing the suitcases of fellow wrestlers to
The October 28, 1947 edition of Sports Facts (Minneapolis arena program) stated that
Steele's wrestling career was over because of ulcers. Steele was in Jackson Hole,
Steele died on September 11, 1949 while training for his wrestling comeback in Warm
Lake, Idaho. He was said to be 45 years of age. Tony Catalano of Boise was a lifelong
friend of Steele's, and revealed that the latter had been conditioning for his ring return.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Ray Steele Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling