Ultimate History of Pro Wrestling - A Time Line of Every Major Event in Pro Wrestling History - 1885

By: Karl Stern (@wiwcool)

Much of the text of this entry comes from issue 82 of the DragonKing Press Newsletter available as a downloadable .pdf in the digital downloads section.


03-20-1885: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle runs the following article - William Muldoon, ex-member of “the finest” and champion Collar & Elbow wrestler who circumvented the wily Matsuda Sorakichi made his first appearance as defendant in any police court before Judge Walsh this morning. Mr. Muldoon is present attached to Thatcher, Primrose & West’s Minstrel Troupe, which is this week filling an engagement at W.A. McConnell’s Brooklyn Theater. Last night after going through his usual performance Mr. Muldoon exchanged his stage clothes for a suit of decorous black and in the company with Mr. Charles Mitchell the ex-medical student, who for the last few years has devoted his knowledge of anatomy to the purpose of finding out vulnerable points of all who ventured to oppose him in the fistic arena, went to the Park Theater to meet a couple of ladies who had been attending the representation of “Falka.”

Looking through the theater door Mr. Muldoon saw that the play was not quite over and returned to his friend Mr. Mitchell who stood in the lobby. They were conversing quietly when Thomas F. Rochford, the doorkeeper of the theater, approached and addressing Mr. Muldoon said, “You will have to go outside. My instructions are to allow no lounging here.” Mr. Muldoon endeavored to explain to him that he was waiting for a lady and had no intention of annoying anybody.

Richford then showed his special officer’s shield and in a very arbitrary manner told Muldoon that if he did not set quietly on his advice he would put him out by force. By this time people were beginning to leave the theater and Mr. Muldoon wishing to avoid any further trouble went outside and waited for the ladies he was expecting. This is his version of the story.

Rochford in the complaint on which the warrant of arrest was issued states that Mr. Muldoon, when requested to leave, said, “he would do as he pleased,” and then struck him in the face. All parties concerned appeared in Judge Walsh’s court this morning and Mr. Muldoon pleaded through his council, Jere A. Wernberg, not guilty.

The case was adjourned till tomorrow at ten o’clock. Mr. Muldoon was accompanied by Manager McConnell and considerable attention on the part of the habitues of the court. Mr. Mitchell, as he appeared this morning, is a “mild and mannered man” as ever punched a head. He was armed according to the strictest code of sporting fashion, wearing a drab coat of abbreviated proportion, and a derby hat of unusual width and brim and height of crown. A three carat diamond sparkled in his white satin scarf, and he twisted carelessly in his head a Malacca cane with a massive silver head.

03-21-1885: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle runs a follow up article to the William Muldoon arrest. The examination of the charge of assault preferred by Thomas F. Rochford, an usher in the New Park Theater, against William Muldoon, the Greco-Roman champion, came up before Justice Walsh today. The court was crowded. Mr. William A. McConnell, the manager of the Brooklyn Theater where Muldoon was engaged this week entered the court in company with Muldoon and Mitchell. Soon after Colonel Sinn and his usher, Rochford entered. Mr. Wernberg appeared for Muldoon and ex-Judge Troy was present. He had been retained in the case but for some reason he withdrew and Assistant District Attorney John U. Shorter prosecuted. Rochford swore that Muldoon and Mitchell on Wednesday night were obstructing the lobby and he told them to move on. Muldoon, he said, called him a loafer. Muldoon continued abusing him and finally struck him.

In cross examination Rochford said, Mr. Muldoon and Mr. Mitchell entered the theater about forty minutes before the play was over. They came out with the audience, they stood some ten feet from the orchestra door. I told them to move on and Muldoon said he was unmovable. I told a young man to get a policeman. After this Muldoon continued to abuse me and he said he would make me apologize the next day.

Mr. Wernberg - Did Mr. Muldoon tell you that he was waiting for his wife?

Witness - No

Mr. Wernberg - Did you know either Muldoon or Mitchell?

Witness - No sir, I never saw them before.

Mr. Wernberg - But forty minutes before the occurrence you passed three men in and they did not pay?

Witness - Yes.

Mr. Robert F. Gillen, sworn, said he was in the lobby on the night in question, saw Muldoon and Mitchell, did not hear the conversation, except that Muldoon said if it were not for ladies being in the lobby he would give Rochford a beating and saw the blow struck by Muldoon. To Mr. Wernberg witness said he did some work for the theater and had the entree there. He heard Muldoon say he was waiting for some ladies. William A. Shaw, the advertising agent of the Park Theater, said he was present when the occurrence happened. Rochford told some gentlemen to move on. Muldoon said, “Who are you talking to?” “To you,” answered Rochford. Muldoon asked him by what authority and Rochford showed him his shield. Muldoon called him “a dirty loafer” and struck him in the face with about three of his fingers.

Muldoon was called by Mr. Wernberg. After being sworn he said, My name is William Muldoon, I reside in New York. I am now engaged giving exhibitions with the Thatcher, Primrose, and West Minstrols. I went to Park Theater on Wednesday night about a quarter to eight. I had a pass for my wife and two ladies. I saw them in their seats and then left as I had to appear at the Brooklyn Theater. When I was through, Mr. Mitchell and myself went to the Park Theater. The act was on and we did not go to where the ladies were sitting because we would have annoyed the audience. When the people were coming out Mitchell and I waited for the ladies. We were in the center of a line of a dozen gentlemen who were waiting. Rochford appeared to single me out and said, ‘get out, you can’t stand here.” I told him I was waiting for some ladies. He said he didn’t care that I shouldn’t stand there. But I said I am waiting for my wife and there she is. She was about ten feet from me. He then called for a policeman and attracted everybody’s attention to me. By this time my wife and lady friends had reached where I was standing. I shook my fingers at Rochford and said ‘You are a loafer and were it not for these ladies I would make an example of you.’ I did not strike him, my fingers were at least six inches from his face. Charles Mitchell corroborated Muldoon’s testimony and said that Rochford spoke to Muldoon in a loud voice and in a very insulting manner.

Mr. Shorter - Did you think there would be any trouble there?

Mitchell (giving a contemptuous glance at Rochford) - with him? No. I took it as more of a joke than anything else. I didn’t notice him because I didn’t think he was worth noticing.

The case was submitted by both lawyers. The defendant is acquitted, Judge Walsh answered as he penned his decision. Applause greeted this result and Muldoon, Mitchell, and Manager McConnell left the courtroom with their friends.

06-01-1885: Evan “Strangler” Lewis defeats James Faulkner billed as “Champion of the World” in Milwaukee, WI. The only other match Faulkner is supposed to have lost since his stay in the states was to Andre Christol.

08-21-1885: Evan “Strangler” Lewis defeated Andre Christol in Madison, WI.

09-09-1885: The Wisconsin State Journal gives a scathing review of a wrestling show with an attendance of around 1,000 where it appears Evan “Strangler” Lewis legitimacy is being called into question and the matches are highly suspect. It is interesting to note that one of the trainers, Greek George, later called Lewis out in the papers for working matching and basically having never won an honest match.

09-26-1885: What is reported to be the first Australian professional wrestling match is held in Melbourne with Clarence “The Kansas Demon” Whistler defeating William Miller. Whistler died following the match after performing a glass eating stunt which caused internal bleeding. Whistler had been William Muldoon’s most significant rival in the United States. The National Police Gazette said that “Whistler has passed away at the heyday of his powers.”

1885 (unspecified): George Decker defeats George William Flagg for the Vermont Collar & Elbow title. Flagg stands a reported 6’4” tall and weighs 220 pounds while Decker is only 5’4” tall and 160 pounds but Decker is 22 years younger than Flagg.


George William Flagg

If you found this article interesting consider becoming a Patreon supporter.  That is how When It Was Cool keeps our website and podcasts online, plus you get lots of bonus content including extra and extended podcasts, articles, digital comics, ebooks, and much more.  Check out our Patreon Page to see what's up!

If you don't want to use Patreon but still want to support When It Was Cool then how about a one time $5 PayPal donation? Thank you!