Ed Lewis (wrestler)
Lewis applies a headlock to Ivan Linow, 1920
|Birth name||Robert Herman Julius Friedrich|
June 30, 1891|
|Died||August 8, 1966
New York City
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Ed Lewis|
|Billed height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Billed weight||265 lb (120 kg)|
Professional wrestling career
Born in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, Friedrich began wrestling at the age of 14, using the ring name Ed "Strangler" Lewis, in tribute of 1890s star Evan "Strangler" Lewis. It was also stated in the A&E documentary The Unreal Story of Professional Wrestling that he was dubbed the Strangler after a match in France where he applied a sleeper hold, and the French, who were unfamiliar with the hold, thought he was strangling his opponent.
He was the pivotal figure in the "Gold Dust Trio", along with promoters Toots Mondt and Big Billy Sandow, a travelling road show that was the precursor to wrestling tours, and which revolutionized professional wrestling by creating undercards, promoting full events instead of one match shows. They also developed the first professional wrestling storylines, creating worked feuds between wrestlers. Because of the legit skills Lewis possessed, the Trio could put the title on who ever they wanted, because Lewis had the ability to defeat anyone who would not follow the script.
Lewis captured his first recognized World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship on December 13, 1920, defeating Joe Stecher. Stecher would prove to be Lewis' biggest rival, both in and out of the ring, with Stecher running his own shows against the Gold Dust Trio, beginning quite possibly the first promotional rivalry. Lewis and Stecher wrestled one of the longest matches in professional wrestling history, where they battled for five and a half hours, ending in a draw. The climax of their feud came on April 15, 1925, when Gold Dust Trio star and former champion Stanislaus Zbyszko was asked to lose to the Gold Dust Trio's own handpicked champion, Wayne Munn, a former football star, in an effort to give Munn credibility. Zbyszko balked at the idea of losing to an unskilled wrestler, and secretly jumped to the Joe Stecher camp. Zbyszko double-crossed the Gold Dust Trio, using his knowledge of holds to legit defeat and, in the process, humiliate Munn. Eventually, Lewis and Stecher settled their differences, and agreed to do business with each other, with Stecher dropping the world title back to Lewis on February 20, 1928.
In 1931, Lewis and partner, Billy Sandow, signed former Notre Dame All-American running back "Jumping Joe" Savoldi to his first professional wrestling contract. Lewis was credited with training Savoldi in Los Angeles during the first half of 1931.
In 1933, one of the Strangler's most infamous matches took place in Madison Square Garden. He was fighting Ray Steele for the title. The two men began circling each other, but no fighting happened, which made the fans bored. Steele finally ended the match by punching Lewis, causing the referee to disqualify him twenty minutes into the match.
In 1937, the Strangler had six contests in New Zealand. He beat Floyd Marshall, John Spellman, Glen Wade, and Rusty Wescoatt, and lost twice to the Canadian champion Earl McCready, who was then established as the top wrestler in New Zealand.
Lewis excelled in the art of hooking (the ability to inflict pain on a person using various holds). He is considered to be the creator of the sleeper hold, though it was actually a cross between the modern day sleeper and a side headlock. Later in his career, Lewis befriended a young Lou Thesz, to whom he taught his hooking knowledge. Thesz and Verne Gagne deemed Lewis the greatest professional wrestler ever, who could only be beat when he allowed himself to be beat to further a worked angle.
Lewis went into semi-retirement in 1935, but came out of retirement in 1942, at the age of 51, despite being legally blind. He retired from professional wrestling for good in 1948, at 57 years old. At the November 1949 NWA Convention in St. Louis, Lewis was named the ambassador of good will for the NWA. In later years, he would become the manager of his good friend and reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Lou Thesz.
Lewis went blind from trachoma. He was destitute and relied on his wife and acquaintances to survive. He died in New York on August 8, 1966 at the age of 75. In 1999, Lewis was inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame. Today, a Wisconsin state historical marker commemorates his achievements in his hometown of Nekoosa on Prospect Avenue. In 2002, Lewis was voted in by professional wrestlers, historians and writers and inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, New York.
Championships and accomplishments
- American Wrestling Association (Boston)
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- Midwest Wrestling Association (Kansas City)
- Midwest Wrestling Association (Ohio)
- New York State Athletic Commission
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Other titles
- National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 61, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6.
- National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 73, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6.
- Dave Cameron (October 1, 2005). "World Champions in New Zealand". fighttimes.com. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 75, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6.
- National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 76, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6.
- Ellison, Lillian (2003). The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle. ReaganBooks. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-06-001258-8.
- "Ed "Strangler" Lewis Marker". hmdb.org. Retrieved November 20, 2016.