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The World Title and Contenders of 1915 to 1920

Research by Steve Yohe


*) February 20, 1915
Charles Cutler, the American champion, walks into the office of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE and claims World title due to the retirement of Frank Gotch. His manager posts a bond to meet all contenders.

1) Omaha, Nebraska: July 4, 1915
Joe Stecher beat Charlie Cutler
Stecher defeats Cutler in straight falls to take his World title claim. Won both falls in 18:04 and 10:00 using his deadly leg scissors. Many believe Frank Gotch is still champion and the retired superstar sits ringside during contest. Negotiations for a super match start.

*) Evansville, Indiana: October 20, 1915
Joe Stecher beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
After wrestling for 2 hours and 3 minutes in a boring defensive match, Lewis fell from the ring and hit his head on the rim of a chair seat. Lewis and his manager claims he's injured and can't continue, but the ringside doctor says he's fine. Ed refuses to continue and is declared the loser by the referee. The Mayor of Evansville holds up the receipts. Lewis always called this loss a draw.

*) Madison Square Garden, New York City: October 25, 1915
Alex Aberg beat Wladek Zbyszko
In a match for the Graeco-Roman World title, pinned Zbyszko with a head chancery and body hold in 1:04:00. Match was under Graeco-Roman rules using the round system.

*) New York City, Opera House: December 2, 1915
Alex Aberg drew Charlie Cutler
In an International Tournament match, Aberg defeats Cutler when they both fall off matt and Cutler is knocked out and unable to continue. Aberg, the Greco-Roman World champion, refuses the win.

*) New York City: December 4, 1915
Alex Aberg drew Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Lewis wrestled a 20-minute draw with the Greco-Roman World champion during International Tournament.

*) New York City: December 4, 1915
Wladek Zbyszko beat Charlie Cutler via UTC
On same card as above Zbyszko beats Cutler in 12½ minutes due to the injury Cutler suffered vs Aberg.

*) New York City: December 8, 1915
Alex Aberg beat Charlie Cutler
In a Greco-Roman tournament match, the champ Aberg pinned Cutler with an inside arm lock in 43:36.

*) New York City: December 9, 1915
Alex Aberg drew Ed "Strangler" Lewis
A Greco-Roman tournament match, was stopped at 1 hour and 4 minutes by police due to New York City curfew.

*) New York City: December 10, 1915
Ed "Strangler" Lewis drew Wladek Zbyszko
A 20-minute tournament match.

*) New York City: December 15, 1915
Wladek Zbyszko drew The Masked Marvel
In a 20-minute tournament draw, the unknown masked wrestler breaks all of Wladek's holds and seems the stronger of the two. The next day THE BROOKLYN DAILY EAGLE reports that The Masked Marvel is Mort Henderson. Through history it has been believed that Henderson was the first American masked wrestler, but that probably isn't true. He was the first major star with a mask.

*) New York City: December 16, 1915
Alex Aberg drew The Masked Marvel

*) New York City: December 17, 1915
Wladek Zbyszko drew The Masked Marvel
Match lasted 1 hour and 58 minutes until stopped by curfew. Marvel dominated match, almost pinning Wladek four times. Said to be a great match.

*) New York City: December 20, 1915
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat The Masked Marvel
Lewis pins the masked man in 11 minutes and 50 seconds using a wrist and body hold.

*) New York City: December 22, 1915
Ed "Strangler" Lewis drew The Masked Marvel
The two wrestled 1 hour and 59 minutes to the curfew. Wrestled in rounds.

*) New York City: December 29, 1915
Alex Aberg beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
After a body lock and throw, Aberg used a inside arm lock to beat Lewis. After match, Lewis being helped off the stage said Aberg was not human and that he was "the strongest man before the public today," This was a Greco-Roman style match. Aberg refused to wrestle in the catch-as-catch-can style that the Americans used.

*) New York City: December 30, 1915
The Masked Marvel drew Wladek Zbyszko
A 1 hour, 56-minute draw stopped by curfew. It's reported that The Masked Marvel had lost 18 lbs. since entering the tournament.

*) New York City: January 7, 1916
Ed "Strangler" Lewis drew Wladek Zbyszko
Tournament match went 1 hour and 3 minutes before being stopped by curfew.

*) New York City: January 10, 1916
The Masked Marvel drew Wladek Zbyszko
Wladek and Masked Marvel wrestled 2 hours and 23 minutes before tournament match was called a draw.

*) New York City: January 15, 1916
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Dr. B. F. Roller
Lewis defeats Roller in International Tournament at New York Opera House. Manager Sandow claims World title.

*) New York City: January 17, 1916
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko
Lewis used a body and inside arm lock to pin Wladek in 1:21:07. A tournament match.

*) New York City: January 24, 1916
Alex Aberg beat Wladek Zbyszko
Aberg defeated Zbyszko by default when Wladek quit the match at 25:52. Seems Zbyszko was sick. The tournament continued until the end of the month, but this victory assured Aberg the championship of the Graeco-Roman portion of the tournament. It seems Ed Lewis won the catch-as-catch-can championship and was claiming the World title. Wladek's poor showing cost him a title shot vs Stecher at MSG January 27, and he was replaced after a court battle by The Masked Marvel.

*) New York City, Madison Square Garden: January 27, 1916
Joe Stecher beat The Masked Marvel
Stecher made his first appearance in New York City defending his World title vs The Masked Marvel (Mort Henderson). He won the 1st fall in 9 minutes and 50 seconds and the 2nd fall in 5 minutes and 51 seconds using his scissors and arm holds. Henderson claimed he had lost 25 lbs. since joining the tournament and was in poor condition.

*) Omaha, Nebraska: July 4, 1916
Joe Stecher drew Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Famed 4 hour and 52-minute draw that had Lewis wrestling on the defensive the whole time.

*) July 18, 1916
Frank Gotch breaks ankle in training and all hope for a super bout end. Gotch claim to title also ends. Gotch dies of kidney failure on 12-17-17.

A) Springfield, Massachusetts: December 11, 1916
John Olin beat Joe Stecher
After 2 hours and 40 minutes without a fall, the match ended with both men brawling outside the ring. Stecher (without brother Tony) refused to continue and John Olin was declared the winner. It is later revealed that Stecher had a attack of neuritis in his shoulder. Not accepted as a title change by most of the general public. Olin, non-English speaking and mild mannered, didn't press his claim. Reasons are unclear: perhaps fans considered Olin an inferior wrestler and not able to truly beat Stecher, or perhaps people still thought of Gotch as the true champion. This did start a title line called the Olin line.

2) Omaha, Nebraska: April 9, 1917
Earl Caddock beat Joe Stecher
Earl Caddock won World title afrer Stecher failed to appear for 3nd fall of match (3:02:00). Stecher won first fall in 1:22:00 with a body scissors and wrist lock. Caddock won the 2nd fall in 1:40:00) with a reverse nelson and a head hold. This was the first pin fall loss in Stecher in his career. (No one outside of Lewis and Olin had lasted more than a few minutes.) Upset, Stecher refused to come out for final fall and Caddock became new Champion of the World.

B) Chicago, Illinois: May 2, 1917
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat John Olin
After 2 hours and 37 minutes, John Olin concedes match due to a shoulder injury. Referee was Frank Gotch and he praised Lewis as the best. Not as mild mannered as Olin. Lewis proclaimed himself Champion of the World. He is 2nd champion in the Olin line.

*) Louisville, Kentucky: May 11, 1917
Wladek Zbyszko beat John Olin via UTC
Olin injured right shoulder again.

C) San Francisco, California: June 5, 1917
Wladek Zbyszko beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis by winning only fall
Zbyszko defeats Lewis by winning the only fall (via rolling pin) in a 2/3 fall match that lasted 2½ hours. Match is almost cancelled when promoter realizes his guarantees were more than his gate.

D) Boston, Massachusetts: July 4, 1917
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko
Lewis wins back his title when Wladek is unable to continue during the 3rd fall. Zbyszko won 1st fall after a body roll into a pin (57:45). Lewis then pinned Zbyszko using a half-nelson in 24:44 after Wladek had injured his right elbow and leg. Zbyszko gamely started the 3rd fall, but was thrown to the mat and submitted in 45 seconds. Lewis is announced as new World champion.

*) Omaha, Nebraska: September 3, 1917
Ed "Strangler" Lewis drew Wladek Zbyszko
Ed Lewis, billed as champion, goes to a no-contest with Zbyszko. On same card, Stecher defeats Marin Plestina via DQ.

*) New York City: December 15, 1917
Ed "Strangler" Lewis drew Wladek Zbyszko
A 20-minute draw in a tournament match.

*) New York City: December 17, 1917
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko
In a finish match during the International tournament to crown new champion, Lewis made Wladek submit to his headlock in 1:21:33. Eleven headlocks had worn down Zbyszko and forced him to quit. Reported to be a good match.

I) New York City: December 22, 1917
Wladek Zbyszko beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
In a NYC tournament final for the World title, Zbyszko pins Lewis using a body hold combined with a scissors in 1:47:37. Lewis had heard his manager arguing with Zbyszko's camp, and turned his head and got trapped in Wladek's finishing hold. Zbyszko is proclaimed World champion not from beating Lewis, but from winning tournament. The Olin claim was not on the line and Lewis' head holds were not allowed to be used in match.

*) During 1918, promoters (Jack Curley) attempted to make wrestling more like boxing by placing time limits on matches and introducing referee decisions. The idea was to make pin falls and submissions seem like KO's. This was supposedly done in order to make defensive wrestlers like Ed Lewis more aggressive, have fewer draws, and to avoid long matches that lasted into the AM. The public never accepted decisions, and the use lessened through time, but the rule remained, used only when promoters needed a new type of screw finish.

II) Des Moines, Iowa: February 8, 1918
Earl Caddock beat Wladek Zbyszko via decision
Earl Caddock defeated Zbyszko via referee's decision after 2 hours. Don't know if Zbyszko continued to claim title, but it would seem he lost it as a result of this match.

*) New York City, Madison Square Garden: March 1, 1918
Wladek Zbyszko drew Joe Stecher
Before a sellout MSG crowd, Stecher and Wladek wrestle a two-hour draw.

*) New York City, Madison Square Garden: March 19, 1918
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko via DQ
Wladek is dq'ed for head butting and KO'ing Lewis after 37 minutes and 25 seconds.

*) Des Moines, Iowa: April 12, 1918
Earl Caddock beat John Olin
Caddock won 2 straight falls beat Olin. 1st fall with a toe hold in 54:10 and the 2nd fall with head scissors and an arm hold in 10:10.

*) New York City, Madison Square Garden: April 26, 1918
Ed "Strangler" Lewis drew Joe Stecher
A two-hour draw. Said to be a good match.

*) Chicago, Illinois: May 8, 1918
Earl Caddock beat Wladek Zbyszko via decision
On military pass, Caddock wins a two-hour decision from Wladek.

*) Louisville, Kentucky: May 10, 1918
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko via decision
Zbyszko won 1st fall with a double hammerlock in 1:34:00. Lewis's headlock won 2nd fall in 35 minutes. The 3rd fall lasted 21 minutes with Lewis the aggressor and he was awarded the decision.

*) Omaha, Nebraska: June 12, 1918
Joe Stecher beat Wladek Zbyszko via decision

*) Des Moines, Iowa: June 21, 1918
Earl Caddock beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis via decision
Caddock won a referee's decision to beat Lewis after 2 hours and 30 minutes. It was said Caddock outclassed the Strangler, but was unable to pin him. Lewis and manager Billy Sandow continued to claim the World title via the Olin Line.

*) New York City, Madison Square Garden: Nov. 26, 1918
Joe Stecher drew Wladek Zbyszko
A hour draw. Said to be boring and drew a small crowd.

*) New York City: December 8, 1918
Joe Stecher beat Wladek Zbyszko

*) Sioux City, Iowa: February 24(23-25), 1919
Wladek Zbyszko beat Joe Stecher via decision
A two-hour match that was so unpopular that the fans, yelling "Fake, Fake", and rioting. The wrestlers and promoter Jack Curley needed police protection to get to their dressing rooms. Zbyszko is awarded the decision the next day, and "all bets are off" was announced.. The idea of decision verdicts, in big matches, seems to fade after this match.

*) Chicago, Illinois: March 3, 1919
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Joe Stecher
Lewis defeated Stecher with a headlock in 2:12:37. Rules were that it was a finish match, 2/3 falls, but would revert to a one-fall match if it lasted more than 1½ hours. Probably Stecher's first clean loss.

a) March 5: Word from Europe is that Caddock has retired. Jack Curley claims World title for Wladek Zbyszko

*) Norfolk, Virginia: March 7, 1919
Wladek Zbyszko drew Ed "Strangler" Lewis
A 2½ hour draw in front of a soldout crowd of 1,100.

*) Kansas City, Missouri: March 10, 1919
Wladek Zbyszko beat Joe Stecher
World champion Zbyszko defeats Stecher in 2/3 fall match clean. Stecher won 1st fall with body scissors and arm hold in 22:25, Wladek won 2nd fall with a reverse body hold in 2:14:25, and Zbyszko pinned Stecher in 3rd in 14:03. Around 2 hours and 51 minutes of wrestling.

E) New York City, Madison Square Garden: March 21, 1919
Wladek Zbyszko beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Wladek picked up Lewis in a body hold and threw him to the canvas, to be pinned in 1:34:36. Match sold out MSG with 5,000 turned away. Promoter Curley promised to refund admission money if there was no winner. Lewis lost claim to Olin line World title.

*) Chicago, Illinois: April 28, 1919
Wladek Zbyszko beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
In a 2/3 fall match where one fall would win match after 2 hours, Wladek pinned Lewis using a side roll into a body scissors in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 9 seconds. Report says lots of Lewis supporters lost their money. Lewis tired during match and Zbyszko's physical condition won match for him.

F) Louisville, Kentucky: May 9, 1919
Joe Stecher beat Wladek Zbyszko
Ex-sailor Stecher defeats Wladek in 1:45:15 with body scissors and arm lock in a World title match that follows the Olin Line. An upset at the time.

*) Chicago, Illinois: May 19, 1919
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko
In a match described as "one of the greatest exhibitions of grit and determination ever seen", Lewis loses the 1st fall, a victim of a reverse body lock, in 1:36:52, and then comes back to win the next two using his headlock in 48:35 and 12:56. Reported to be a great match and one of Lewis's biggest victories. Ed claimed World title because of this match and his March, 3, 1919 win over Stecher. Lewis was presented with a $2,250 championship belt by the Coliseum Club of Chicago. It was claimed that many of the American wrestling promoters helped pay for it. The belt was to become the private property of the holder if he defended it five times.

*) Omaha, Nebraska: June 11, 1919
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Jim Londos
Lewis beat Londos with a headlock in 1:34:45. Reports were that Londos, outweighed by 40 lbs., gave Lewis "one of the hardest matches of his career."

*) Gordon, Nebraska: June 14, 1919
John Pesek beat Wladek Zbyszko
Pesek used a head scissors and a wrist lock to beat Wladek in 2:03:15.

*) Omaha, Nebraka: July 4, 1919
Joe Stecher beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Stecher won two straight falls beat Lewis. The first in 1 hour and 47 minutes and the 2nd in 14 minutes, both using the body scissors and arm lock. One of Stecher's greatest victories. Lewis was on the defensive throughout. Referee was Earl Caddock.

*) Lincoln, Nebraska: July 14, 1919
Joe Stecher beat Wladek Zbyszko

*) New York City: Nov. 3, 1919
Joe Stecher beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
In a tournament match designed to crown a undisputed World champion, Stecher pins Lewis in 1:31:25 using double wrist lock and body scissors.

*) Boston, Massachusetts: Nov. 27, 1919
Wladek Zbyszko beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Wladek eliminated Lewis from tournament by countering Ed's headlock into a body hold and a head chancery with a pin. Time was 38 minutes. Sold out with 6,500. Match conducted under new American Wrestling Association rules.

*) New York City: December 8, 1919
Joe Stecher beat Wladek Zbyszko

*) Springfield, Massachusetts: December 15, 1919
Joe Stecher beat John Olin via UTC
Stecher defeated John Olin when Olin was unable to continue after Stecher won 1st fall in 2:02:30 with an arm scissors.

*) Omaha, Nebraska: January 17 (16), 1920
Joe Stecher beat John Pesek
Stecher retained World title. Joe won 1st fall in 2 hours and 3 minutes, Pesek won 2nd in 13 minutes, and Stecher won 3rd in 8 minutes.

3) New York City: January 30, 1920
Joe Stecher beat Earl Caddock
In tournament finial, Stecher pinned Caddock using a body scissors and wrist lock in 2:05:30. Stecher is undisputed World Champ.

*) Boston, Massachusetts: February 12, 1920
Joe Stecher beat Wladek Zbyszko

*) Utica, New York: February 11, 1920
Joe Stecher beat Joe Malcewicz

*) Kansas City: February 16, 1920
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko
Zbyszko won 1st fall with an arm scissors and half Nelson in 45:40. Lewis won 2nd in 11:50 and the 3rd in 8:15, both using headlocks.

*) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: February 24
Wladek Zbyszko drew Jim Londos

*) New York City: February 20, 1920
Joe Stecher beat Jim Londos
Undisputed World champion Stecher defeated Londos with a wrist lock in 2:13:34. Londos won the crowd with his gameness and stubborn defensive work.

*) Des Moines, Iowa: March 1, 1920
Wladek Zbyszko beat John Pesek
Wladek won first fall with a body scissors and arm barr in 41:30, lost the second via crotch hold and half nelson to Pesek in 17:30, and won the 3rd fall and match in 46:56 half-nelson and and crotch hold.

*) New York City, Madison Square Garden: March 2, 1920
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Jim Londos
Londos loses to the 40 lb. heavier Lewis in 2:04:30. Loss adds to his popularity with the wrestling public.

*) Kansas City: March 13, 1920
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko

*) New York City, Madison Square Garden: March 15, 1920
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Earl Caddock
Lewis defeats Caddock in 1:35:45 with the headlock.

*) Louisville, Kentucky: April 12, 1920
Earl Caddock beat Wladek Zbyszko
Caddock won 2 straight falls from Wladek.

*) New York City: April 16, 1920
Joe Stecher beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Undisputed World Champ Stecher pinned Lewis with a head scissors and arm lock in 3:04:15. Said to be one of the most spectacular matches in history.

*) Boston, Massachusetts: April 19, 1920
Joe Stecher beat Jim Londos
Undisputed World champion defeated Londos with his scissors in a hard fought 1:58:45. Londos is said to have given a remarkable exhibition against the best in the world.

*) Des Moines, Iowa: June 8, 1920
Earl Caddock beat Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Caddock beat Lewis clean in a 2/3 fall match. Caddock won 1st fall in 43:30 with a head scissors, but lost the 2nd in 27:00 to Lewis's headlock. Earl then used a toe hold and a wrist lock that forced Lewis's shoulders to the matt in 7 minutes. Reported to be a great match. Attendance: 6,500.

*) Montreal, Quebec: September 16, 1920
Joe Stecher drew Wladek Zbyszko
YOHE: I've seen a result of Stecher beating Wladek on September 11, but I can't get Canada newspapers to make a check.

*) San Francisco, California: October 10, 1920
Jim Londos drew Wladek Zbyszko

*) Kansas City, Missouri: October 15, 1920
Wladek Zbyszko beat John Pesek via DQ

*) Montreal, Quebec: October 27, 1920
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko

*) New York City: November 23, 1920
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Wladek Zbyszko
Lewis pinned Wladek using his head lock in 1:25:45. Attendance: 10,000

4) New York City: December 13, 1920
Ed "Strangler" Lewis beat Joe Stecher
Ed Lewis became Undisputed World champion by pinning Stecher after 7 head locks in 1:41:56.

 
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