Ultimate History of Pro Wrestling - A Time Line of Every Major Event in Pro Wrestling History - 1916

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.


01-03-1916: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle prints a picture of Mort Henderson with the caption “The Masked Marvel without his hood.”

01-04-1916: Greco-Roman champion Alexander Aberg talks with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Aberg, who is one of the top wrestlers of the day and described by every source as one of the top wrestlers in the world, inexplicably lapses into being a mid-card worker by the 1920’s. Aberg is described as being about 6 feet tall and weighing 235 pounds and 33 years old. He claims he has been Greco-Roman champion since winning a London tournament in 1903. He states he was born in Reval, Estonia and is multilingual speaking Estonian, German, and some English. Wrestling historian Steve Yohe points out several things from his research of the International Tournament at the Manhattan Opera House: Wrestling was using a three second count in 1915, there was a Catch-As-Catch-Can tournament going on at the same time as the Greco-Roman tournament. The Greco-Roman wrestling tournament was won by Alexander Aberg who was promoted throughout the whole thing as World Greco-Roman champion. It appears Ed “Strangler” Lewis won the Catch portion, although the tournament is very confusing and must have been on some sort of point system. Both Ed “Strangler” Lewis and Billy Sandow were calling themselves “World champion” even when the linear champion Joe Stecher came to town.

01-11-1916: George Bayley again uses his “hypnosis” gimmick in a match against Sula Hevonpaa. Though Hevonpaa won, he claimed Bayley had “mesmerized” him into breaking several holds.

01-13-1916: Frank Gotch responds to a challenge by Joe Stecher. The newspaper states that Gotch, “replied yesterday to the offer of a $15,000 purse… by Joe Stecher… Gotch replied in effect that he would come out of his retirement and wrestle Stecher provided he was assured that the public demanded such a match.” Also Gotch, “will not consider a $15,000 purse.” He says the bout between he and Stecher would draw between $75,000 and $100,000 in Omaha or some other mid-west city.

01-15-1916: Ed “Strangler” Lewis defeats Dr. Benjamin F. Roller in New York City.

01-17-1916: Ed “Strangler” Lewis and his manager Billy Sandow claim to the newspapers that Strangler Lewis is now the American Catch-As-Catch-Can champion. The claim is based on Lewis defeats of Dr. Benjamin F. Roller. Lewis and Sandow say the match relates directly back to Hackenschmidt’s loss to Frank Gotch in Chicago saying that when Gotch retired he gave the championship to the winner of Henry Ordmann and Jess Westergaard which was won by Ordmann. Ordmann then lost to Charlie Cutler and Cutler lost to Benjamin Roller. Later that night Lewis defeats Wladek Zbyszko in the International Tournament.

01-19-1916: Ed “Strangler” Lewis goes to a no contest with Dr. Benjamin F. Roller when Roller is knocked out at the Opera House tournament.

01-26-1916: A big legal blow up takes place in New York. World champion Joe Stecher had been slated to face the winner of Wladek Zbyszko vs. Ed “Strangler” Lewis. However, Lewis defeated Wladek but Wladek came back and defeated Lewis. Ed Lewis then left the International Tournament to go on tour. Wladek then lost convincingly to Alexander Aberg but Aberg would not wrestle a catch as catch can style match. This left the door open for the Masked Marvel (Mort Henderson), however, tournament promoters refused to let the Marvel wrestle Stecher. An injunction is granted by the court to prevent “The Masked Marvel Mort Henderson” or Ed “Strangler” Lewis from leaving the Sam Rachman promoted International Tournament to face Joe Stecher at the Jack Curley promoted Madison Square Garden show.

01-27-1916: An agreement is reached between Jack Curley and Sam Rachman to allow the Masked Marvel (Mort Henderson) to wrestle World champion Joe Stecher. Stecher defeats the Masked Marvel in two straight falls.

01-29-1916: The International Tournament at the Manhattan Opera House ends with a $5000 check given to Alexander Aberg for winning the Greco-Roman tournament.

02-03-1916: The Milwaukee Free Press recounts the story of Joe Stecher’s supposed first match which was said to have taken place “three years earlier”. Stecher met then amateur Earl Caddock in a barn and won $3.80, the entire gate of 38 onlookers who paid a dime each.

03-10-1916: Frank Gotch defeats William Demetral in front of a turn away crowd in Los Angeles. The referee for the match is Dan McLeod.

03-12-1916: Frank Gotch defeats Herman Strech, Sam Chapham, and Jack White in San Diego, CA.

06-13-1916: Frank Gotch signs a contract with the owners of the Sells-Floto circus which includes a scheduled autumn match against Joe Stecher to be held in either Omaha, Kansas City, or Chicago for which Gotch will receive $15,000, an amount he earlier turned down flat.

07-04-1916: Joe Stecher wrestles Ed “Strangler” Lewis to a four hour and fifty-two minute draw in Omaha, NE in front of 18,000 fans in what was described as one of the most boring matches ever with Lewis stalling for most of the match trying to wear out Stecher.

07-12-1916: Billy Sandow, manager of Ed “Strangler” Lewis puts up $1000 bond to bind a match with Frank Gotch. The match never takes place.

07-18-1916: Frank Gotch faces Bob Managoff, Sr. in an exhibition match in Kenosha, WI. During the match Frank Gotch breaks his leg. The newspapers say, “Frank Gotch… suffered a fractured leg today during an exhibition bout… he caught his left foot between two mats and as he hurled himself upon Managoff for a hip hold, he twisted the leg, breaking the bone just above the ankle.”

07-25-1916: The Milwaukee Journal says this about Ed “Strangler” Lewis, “Lewis… who with Joe Stecher is the logical claimant of worlds wrestling honors now that Frank Gotch has come out with a statement that he is through with the mat game… he [Lewis] will appear in motion pictures, taking the part of Hector in a movie play called The Iliad… If Gotch retires, as he says he will, and Stecher makes good on his statement that he will not wrestle Lewis again then Lewis will lay claim to the heavyweight wrestling title.”

09-1916: Gus Sonnenberg enters college at Dartmouth where he would become a standout football player.

12-11-1916: In a match considered a major upset, John Olin defeats World champion Joe Stecher after Stecher injures his shoulder and is unable to continue. Olin doesn’t claim to be world champion, though Ed “Strangler” Lewis later defeats Olin and claims to be the world champion based on this match.


Alexander Aberg

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