Facts within a Myth

by Steve Yohe


Toots Mondt enters

Lewis and Sandow then spent a working vacation at Colorado Springs, training for a European tour, that never took place or was very short. More that one historian thinks its possible that Lewis was being trained at the Springs by Joe "Toots" Mondt, who was coaching wrestling 33 miles away at the Colorado Agriculture Collage (later renamed Colorado State University). Mondt was a feared shooter and a willing performer, who had some very good wrestling ideas. It's very likely that a friendship was formed between Toots, Ed, and Sandow, so agreements were made for him to join the group later in the year as talent and as a trainer for Lewis. I don't know how Mrs Ada Scott Friedrich felt about this vacation but my guess is that Billy Sandow wasn't happy with the training Ed was getting in San Jose. Lewis was putting on weight and Billy, who took pride in being a trainer, never liked the added pounds and nagged his wrestler to lose weight.

The group was in Colorado on July 20, 1922 but Lewis wrestled at Madison, Wisconsin on August 21. There was a lot of time off in this period, and I wonder why Ed went back home to Wisconsin.[124a] Perhaps just to visit the family and visit his summer ranch, but the events of the next year makes me think he was unhappy and seeing lawyers. He then went home to San Jose and defeated Renato Gardini in San Francisco on September 26.

Lewis and Sandow then went back to work. On October 10, 1922, Ed defeats Goho Gobar at Eaton, Colorado on a card promoted by Toots Mondt's brother, Ralph Mondt. Many historians, mainly me, think that Toots Mondt joined the Lewis/Sandow group at this time. He becomes a trainer for Lewis and also acts as one of Ed policemen, protecting the champion from trustbuster type wrestlers or anyone undercutting the credibility of the world title. He was also pushed as a contender and major star with the skilled Toots, having no trouble getting over with the fans. Toots, himself, thought he was a better wrestler than Lewis.[125]

Lewis started up full time in November, wrestling threw Missouri, Iowa, and Columbus beating Jatrinda Gobar, Demetrius Tofalos, Anton Borsa, and Cliff Binckley. On November 10, Lewis defeated Toots Mondt in Boston with promoter George Touhey as referee. To get Toots over he was booked to win the first fall, pinning Ed in 30:15. Lewis then came back to beat Mondt in the next two falls (32:15 and 2:05).

At one point in late 1922, Mondt beat Lewis in a handicap match at Kirksville, Kansas. Lewis had agreed to pin two men in 75 minutes, with Mondt the second wrestler in. Ed beat the first wrestler but failed to do anything with Toots for the last 42 minutes. Reports say that Lewis quit the match with five minutes left because boils on his neck and arm were annoying him.[126] Within a few weeks, Sandow had turned Mondt into a major star.

Lewis defended the title against George Kotsonaros in Boston on November 17.

On Nov. 26, Lewis while wrestling in Nashville, released a statement to the national press saying that he was willing to wager $25,000 that he could defeat Jack Dempsey in a mixed match.

On December 14, he defeated ex-champ Stanislaus Zbyszko in St Louis. Zbyszko won the first fall in 41:15 with the use of the flying mare, but dislocated his right shoulder in the second fall. Lewis won the second fall with the headlock (24:25) but used several types of arm and wrist locks to win the third in 14:50. The gate was $16,400 and Lewis' purse was $7,500.[127] By this victory, Lewis, after three wins in three contests with the belt at stake, won permanent possession of the Rickard Belt.

On December 25, Lewis returned to his home on Alum Rock Avenue in San Jose to eat Christmas dinner with Dr. Ada Scott. Lewis was suffering from an infected arm, which he injured in a December 8 match in Kansas City verse Wallace Dugid. As soon as the Christmas festivities were over, Lewis was admitted into a local hospital where Dr. Ada performed an operation. I wonder if she was lancing one of Ed's many boils from which he suffered from through out his career. Ada must have been some Doctor because it was revealed in the report that she had also amputated her 75 year old father's leg, removed her brother's appendices and had operated on 15 other blood relatives.

December 28, saw the recovered Lewis beat Jack Turner (Joe Zigmund) in San Francisco. The attendance was said to be "fair, though by no means large".[128]

Boxing champion Jack Dempsey had spend most of 1922 making minor films in Hollywood, appearing on vaudeville shows, and touring England, France and Germany. When Dempsey and Doc Kearns returned to New York City on May 19, they were ready for a title defense, but found Tex Rickard tied up in his scandal. With their big money promoter tied up, they may have returned to the idea of fooling around with the wrestler, Strangler Lewis. These strange matches were not new to Dempsey, who had done exhibition fights against both Douglas Fairbanks and Al Jolson, for a lot less money.

The storyline at this time was that Dr. Ada was training Lewis at the home gym for the match with Jack Dempsey. He did make a short trip to Los Angeles to visit with Dempsey and arrange for a wrestling match in Hollywood. On December 30, Lewis announced to the press that arrangements had been completed for a mixed match with the boxing champion to be held at Wichita. In Los Angeles, Dempsey said that nothing had been signed but he was ready for the match. Tom Law, wrestling promoter in Wichita, claimed to know nothing about the match or the purse of $300,000, but on January 7 stated the bout was on and the rules were agreed on. No date was even revealed and the match never happened.

In the early part of 1923, Dempsey and manager Doc Kearns accepted an offer of $300,000 to defend his title verses Tommy Gibbons on July 4, by Shelby, Montana a small oil town, desperate to make a name for itself. I don't know if the offer was serious or just a PR stunt, but it backfired as Kearns had them sign a contract before they could think twice. The fight has been called "The Sack of Shelby" in boxing books. Tommy Gibbons had been a good fighter but was considered washed up by 1923. He ended up giving Dempsey a hard fight and lasting 15 rounds making the champion look bad in his first title defense in two years. Some of the banks of Shelby ended up going bankrupted at a result, but Doc Kearns didn't care as he made $272,000.

When that fight was over, Tex Rickard was back at work in Madison Square Garden and offered Dempsey and Kearns $500,000 to fight Luis Angel Firpo, the "Wild Bull of the Pampas". So Dempsey didn't need a Lewis match and Rickard probably knew it was a bad idea. Over the years, as they both grew older, Dempsey and Lewis would continue their talk of a mix match, but it never happened, and Billy Sandow never got his big payday.


In 1923, Los Angeles, a few years into the producing of Hollywood films, was becoming world famous as a hip place to live. Frank Gotch had spent a little time, late in his career, in Los Angeles but the town had a very limited history as far as pro wrestling was concerned. Lewis defended the title in Los Angeles at the Hollywood American Legion Stadium on January 10, 1923 against Demetrius Tofalos. Tofalos was a famous Greek wrestler/strongman, who probably was the manager of Jimmy Londos at the time. Londos was on the undercard beating a Angelo Taramascki. The card drew 7,000 and became the largest crowd ever see a wrestling match in Los Angeles.[128]

Nat Pendleton, was a major amateur wrestler who had made a national name for himself by winning the Silver medial at the 1920 Olympics, was being developed as a pro wrestler by Jack Curley. Curley was laying low in New York City but he was engaged in a Boston wrestling war with promoter George E. Tuohey and wrestler Paul Bowser. It was a funny kind of war that had cross promotional cards at one point. A lot of noise was going on about a match between Nat Pendleton and Bowser. At one point (November 21, 1922), Pendleton's manager, Stuart Robson, made a claim that Nat could beat Bowser, George Calza (a big star in Boston) and Ed Lewis in one night. Billy Sandow probably didn't care about any of the names but Lewis, but he couldn't have been too happy with Curley's new star throwing Ed's name around. Paul Bowser became the major Boston promoter by 1923, and after a lot of talk he got Nat Pendleton to come to Boston to wrestle an "unknown" on January 25, 1923. Pendleton wanted to meet Bowser, but the "unknown" turn out to be none other than Lewis' policeman, John Pesek. The "shoot" handicap match needed Pesek to take two falls in 75 minutes to win, but Pesek made short work of the Olympic medallist by breaking his ankle (actually a torn ligament) in the first fall and winning the second fall in a total time (both falls) of 41 minutes. Pendleton never made it as a major pro wrestling star, but did become a big time supporting actor in Hollywood films. Paul Bowser went on to become a Lewis/Sandow ally and one of the major promoters in the history of the sport.[128a]

Lewis returned to Missouri and met Toots Mondt on a Gabe Kaufman card in Kansas City on January 23. The match was two out three falls with a two hour time limit. During the two hours, Mondt showed he had a defense against the head lock and broke the hold at least 15 times. Every time Lewis hooked Toots head, he was crotched by the challenger and slammed. Mondt carried the match to Lewis but Ed beat him with a toe hold to win the first fall in 1:25:15. For the rest of the match, the two went after each other like a pair of bulldogs in a pit fight. They rolled, tumbled, kicked, and broke holds with lightning rapidity. When the time limit expired, Lewis was ruled the winner by taking the only fall but Lewis looked tired at the end while Mondt looked fresh. Most of those present fell that Mondt would win in a finish match. The attendance was around 8,000. The idea was for Lewis to meet John Pesek next in the city, but Mondt's showing made promoter change his plans.[128b]

So the rematch took place on February 15 with Lewis winning two out three falls from Mondt in a finish match. Mondt won the first fall in almost two hours but the strenuous wrestling wore him out, and he was only a toy in the hands of Lewis while losing the next two falls. The Kansas City attendance was more than 10,000. (This is the first time that I have a report of Lewis reaching the 10,000 mark during his second title run.) It should be noted that the only two arenas capable of holding that amount of people were Madison Square Garden and Kansas City's Convention Hall. Kansas City was an old cow town and a major connecting point for all the mid-west rail lines. It wasn't hard for fans all through the connecting states to use the trains to come to Kansa City for a major match. It was a major wrestling city during this period going back to Frank Gotch's title reign. Gotch claimed that, for him, only Chicago was a better city.

Jim Londos had become a sensation in St. Louis and a title rematch with Ed Lewis was booked for the St. Louis Coliseum for the night of February 20, 1923. Both Lewis and Londos had spent much of the preceding week in town training at the National Athletic Association gym. Both men were bigger. Londos claimed he had gained eight pounds of muscle and was much more confident. Lewis weight in at 235 pounds.[129]

Lewis won the first fall in 1:46:34 after using ten headlocks to ware down and pin Londos. In most of Ed's matches his opponent's would play dead and a quick finishing fall would follow but Londos wasn't a normal opponent. The second fall saw Londos surprise Lewis by reverse an attempt at a headock into a jiu-jitsu wrist and then armbar. With painful and punishing twists, Londos forced the 35 pound heavier Strangler's shoulders to the mat. The pin came at 13:15. After headlock's failed him, Lewis captured the third fall with a hammerlock in 19:10.[130] The card seemed to have been a sellout, but no numbers were released.

In 1923, Lewis returned to Chicago. On March 6, Lewis defended the title against Alan Eustace at the Chicago Coliseum on a Joe Coffey promotion which drew 6,500 in his first appearance in the city during his second reign as undisputed world champion. On the same night, a John Krone promotion drew 2,100 using George Calza in the main event and long time locals, like Charley Cutler, Bill Demetral, and Bob Managoff on the undercard.[131]

On March 7, Lewis returned to St Louis to get an easy win over Dan Koloff.[132] April 3 saw Ed back in Chicago in front of 7,000 beating Renato Gardini. On April 15, he defeated and injured Wallace Duguid at Nashville. The report had Duguid suffering through nineteen headlock and a hospital stay after sustaining a concussion with a neck strain. He had been unconscious for 30 minutes after the match was stopped.[133]

On April 12, John Pesek defeated ex-champ Stanislaus Zbyszko in Kansas City As a result, Pesek won himself a title match with Lewis on May 2.[134] Lewis trained in Kansas City leading up to the match, while Pesek worked out on his Ravenna Nebraska farm. The match was billed as a "shoot" match and some may have been thinking "title change" because it was known that Lewis was planning on touring Europe in mid-June.

The promoter Gabe Kaufman and Billy Sandow went out of their way to discourage betting on the match. No odds were posted by bookmakers, who as a rule quoted odds on any sport and one report said "The wrestling game has so many knocks and so often has the finger of suspicion pointed at it, that bookmakers will not quote odds or make bets on wrestling matches."[135] I think wrestling promoters had abandon the gambling world and, as a "worked sport", worried about the law exposing what little legitimacy it had left.

The May 2, 1923 match in Kansas City ended with Lewis destroying Pesek in two straight falls. Lewis, trained down to 218 pounds, had the skills of a ring general and took no chances. He evaded Pesek's wristlock and out roughed Pesek while matching the Nebraskan's speed. Lewis won both falls with the toehold, the first in one hour and two minute and the second in two minutes and 30 seconds.[136]

The crowd was estimated at 15,000. They filled Convention Hall with every seat occupied with hundreds standing. It seemed to be the largest crowd in Kansas City history, but everyone didn't come out of the match in better shape. John Pesek's reputation was destroyed by his showing. Quote from the Kansas City Star: "John Pesek fooled the folks around here. A lot of them, anyway. They thought he was a great wrestler, but his showing against Lewis was a thing of sorrow to those who liked the Nebraskan. He had been called the "Tiger Man". For Lewis he was a tame tiger. Pitted against other wrestlers Pesek had been a real demon at wrestling with strength, skill, and fury. Matched against the champion he presented a sorry plight…..He may be able to go elsewhere and stage a "come back", but it will have to be in Boston or some other favored city. It will not be Kansas City."[137] So in one night, Sandow/Lewis took one of their best contenders and a match capable of drawing 15,000 and destroyed any chance of it making money again.

On May 22, Lewis again beat Stan Zbyszko. This time it was a one fall 1:39:00 victory in Minneapolis.[138] Lewis then return to Nekoosa and stayed for some time with his parents.

On June 21, 1923, the Associated Press issued an announcement stating that wrestling champion Strangler Lewis had obtained a divorce from his wife at Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The degree was signed by Judge Byron B. Parks of the circuit court of Wisconsin and the divorce charge was "cruelty." Lewis then left for the East Coast.

Dr Ada Scott Morton Friedrich learned of her divorce from reporters. She stated that she didn't believe "Bobby" was gone for good. He was. On July 2, the divorce was listed in TIME MAGAZINE.[139] A few years later, on Feb. 22, 1926, Dr. Ada Scott Morton announced she had married a Wells Clark, wealthy real estate operator working out of San Francisco and Washington D.C. They met and were married on the East Coast.[140] No one has any knowledge of what happened to Lewis' daughter Bobada, although she does seems to make an appearance in Tulsa, late in Lewis' life.

Before air conditioned arenas, pro wrestling was seasonal, usually the time off took place during the Summer and the baseball season. In mid-June, Lewis and Sandow took a tour of Europe. It was mainly a vacation for both, but Lewis did wrestle in six minor matches. He seemed to have started in England and then moved on to France. In Paris on July 27, his trip to Germany was delayed 24 hours when his laundry failed to show up at his hotel. There were no shirt collars in Paris over a size 17 and none of the others fit Ed's neck. He left for Berlin the next day. The two then traveled through Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland. Seems they return to American around September 1, 1923.[141]

Toots Mondt, who had spent the summer hunting and fishing in the Ozarks near Springfield Missouri, met up with them and they settled into a training camp. Lewis had put on more weight drinking beer and having a good time in Germany, so he needed a lot of training.

At varied times in October, Lewis announced an engagement to a member of the Russian nobility, a Princess Maria Traivaska (or Trawaski). She claimed to have fled Russia during the Bolshevik uprising and was living at Wiesbaden Germany when she met Ed. The report was that the two would be married around Christmas and the honeymoon would be in Europe. Another report said the site would be Chicago. Nothing comes from this and I don't think the wedding took place. I've read reports that said the relationship was broke up by Billy Sandow. After a couple of months, Lewis never mentions the Princess again. Whenever I read about the Princess Traivaska/Strangler Lewis romance, I think of Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in Preston Sturges' 1941 movie "The Lady Eve".[142]

Around November 16, Lewis returned to San Jose to effect a property settlement with the divorced Ada Scott and he took most of the month off.

Ada wasn't the only trouble Ed would have at the end of 1923, Joe Stecher had taken off most of 1922 and 1923 in an attempt to start up a baseball career,[142a] but he had come to his senses, and was becoming more active and aggressive as a wrestler, seeming wanting his title back. He had become a featured main eventer for the new St Louis promoter, Tom Packs, and headlined Packs' first three cards in late 1923.

On December 7, Lewis returned to Kansas City to win another big rematch with Stanislaus Zbyszko. Ed and Sandow then traveled to St Louis for a title defense against Josef Gurkeweick on December 13.

Lewis was out wrestled by the young Pole, Gurkeweick, like he was in most matches, but still won two straight falls. The story of the night was Joe and Tony Stecher's appearance at ringside. Before the match would start, Billy Sandow refused to wrestle if the Stechers were allowed to enter the ring to challenge the champion. This resulted in an argument, resolved by having Joe enter his public challenge to Lewis during the break between falls, when Ed and Sandow were in the dressing room. The conflict with the Stechers resulted in Lewis and Billy being booed the whole match. After the Lewis' win, Sandow said that he would be glad to meet Stecher, if Joe, the ex-world champion, would first prove himself by beating Stan Zbyszko, Toots Mondt and then John Pesek. Tony Stecher then offered $15,000 for a title match, but he had been given his answer.[143]

Joe Stecher and the Lewis Policemen

I've often wondered why Lewis and Sandow needed the use of Policemen. Gotch had used one or two policemen, but why did the great shooter, Strangler Lewis, use a whole stable of them in Zbyszko, Toots, and Pesek. You would think Ed could handle his own problems, but then you remember Joe Stecher was still around. Ed may have had an idea that he was better, but he wasn't sure, and it was far from a sure thing with everyone else. Stecher had no doubt that he could beat Lewis. He always had, and was coming off a decision win over Lewis in his hometown of San Francisco (October 1, 1921).

Telling someone to meet your policemen, is the standard line a weak or non-wrestler type champion does when he's challenged by someone he knows he can't beat. It was a tool used by wrestlers like Munn, Sonnenberg or O'Mahoney later on in wrestling history. The idea is to direct the challenger to a stronger shooter, so the guy will disappear…and it usually works. But this was Joe Stecher and he wouldn't back off. Following the statement by Sandow, Stecher challenged all three policemen. He then had trouble getting them in the ring, so he guaranteed Zbyszko $10,000 to meet him in St Louis. That was a lot of money, so Stan agreed and the match was booked for January 22.

On December 15, 1923, Stecher traveled to Kansas City to repeats his $15,000 challenge to Lewis and say he was ready to meet anyone to get to the champion. It seem odd, but in the cities like Kansas City and St Louis, which were two of the strongest cities for the Lewis/Sandow group during his second reign, Stecher was portrayed as the face by the reporters and fans, while Lewis played heel.[144]

Also on December 15, Lewis beat Taro Miyake at Wichita in a wrestling world title verses a Jiu-Jitsu world title match. Lewis was named the new Jiu-Jitsu world champion after the victory.[145] Then everyone forgot about it.

On December 28, Lewis was back in Wichita winning a match over Dick Daviscourt. The challenger won the first fall using Lewis' headlock in 1:06:00. Lewis came back to win the next two falls in four minutes and then one minute. After the match, Lewis was arrested by police on charges of assault and battery on a William Goodman. Seems that after the first fall lost, by his own headlock, he was booed by just about everyone. On the way to the dressing room between falls, someone hooted in Ed's face, and he punched Goodman. Later at the police station, Goodman said he wasn't the guy and Ed punched the wrong guy. Ed said he was sorry for picking the wrong fan to batter, and everything was fine with the police. Charges were dropped.[146]

In late December, Toots Mondt was in the Kansas City newspaper saying that he should get the title match with Lewis, not Stecher, and he was willing to beat the former champion to prove his point. The argument resulted in Lewis signing to wrestle Mondt in Kansas City on January 10.[147]

On December 31, 1923, the NEW YORK HERALD printed a story that said, of all the pro sports, wrestling attracted the least attention in 1923. It said the sport was dead in New York and this condition was the same through out the country with little activity of major importance. It said Strangler Lewis was a champion that defended his title only infrequently because of the death of suitable opposition and lukewarm interest. It said fans were waiting for a match to renew their enthusiasm.[148] This report goes against everything that was printed about the period in the book FALLS GUYS: THE BARNUMS OF BOUNCE in 1937, which portrayed the time as a golden age run by a "Gold Dust Trio" (Sandow, Mondt and Lewis).

Toots Mondt had always given Lewis a hard time in title matches in Kansas City but, on January 10, 1924, it was different. Ed won the first fall in 1:44:02 and the second in 28:30, both with the use of a toe hold. So Toots lost two straight falls. The result probably had something to do with Toots' coming matches with Stecher.

On January 18 in Wichita, Joe Stecher and Toots Mondt wrestled a handicap match in which no fall was recorded in 90 minutes. Stecher had agreed to pin Mondt twice before the time limit ran out, so Mondt was ruled the winner. Handicap matches were considered exhibitions, so the result wasn't looked upon like a real loss by fans. They were just a way to build up to a bigger match and give credibility to lesser wrestlers, without a star actually getting beat. Kansas City promoter, Gabe Kaufman was present and said the match was great, so he signed a rematch for a February 11 match with no time limit. Stecher being in with Lewis' policeman made "smarts" think it was going to be a "shoot" with the winner getting a title match with Lewis.[149]

On January 25, Stecher wrestled a draw with Dick Daviscourt in Rochester, NY. This was a card promoted by Julies Bauman, brother of Billy Sandow, and Ed Lewis sat ringside for the match. This would make it seem like Lewis was helping in the promotion of a match with Stecher.

On January 27, Stecher met Stan Zbyszko in St Louis. As was the condition of the match, Zbyszko was presented his purse of $10,000 before the match. The attendance was 6,500 and the gate was $11,000. The wrestlers cut was $6,600, so Stecher ended up giving Zbyszko $3,400 for the match and a chance to wrestle Lewis, if he won.[150]

After losing the first fall to Stan in 22:55, Stecher took the next two using the scissor in 13:40 and 35:15. Lewis later agreed to wrestle Stecher, but he wanted $30,000 to step into the ring. That was way too much money and match didn't happen.[151]

The Stecher/Mondt match took place in Kansas City on February 11. The report in the following day's newspaper was slim. All we know is that Mondt, after wining the first fall, punch Stecher with a closed fist and lost the match on a disqualification. Bare knuckled fights were against the law under state rules and the reporter thought that Mondt would be banned in Kansas City (he wasn't).[152]

So, if you believe in "shoots", it should be noted that the guy who gets disqualified for punching is always the guy who thinks he's losing and has to save face. Jenkins punched Gotch in a "shoot" when he was losing and Ray Steele will later bale out in a Lewis shoot by punching Ed. If Toots was kicking Stecher's ass, why would Mondt blow the victory by fouling out and getting himself banned. Why? It doesn't add up.

If you do believe there was heat between Mondt and Stecher, it sure seems like Stecher is not afraid of Lewis or his army of policemen. He wrestles Zbyszko and then Mondt twice, and is stepping into traps left and right. Joe also was pushing for a John Pesek match as part of the storyline in St Louis.

Lewis defended the title in St Louis on February 5 beating Renato Gardini in two straight falls. Gardini had earned his shot by beating Jim Londos. The crowd was called "fair".

On February 13, Ed Lewis returned to New York City to beat Pat McGill in front of 3,000 in 1:15:36. The card was at the 71st Armory and called a wrestling revival. No mention was made of Jack Curley or who the promoter was, but Mc Gill was a Paul Bowser wrestler. On the undercard, Wayne Munn defeated Big Beth in 7:10. Munn was a former collage football player, who had great size with good proportions and muscular development. He had already failed as a pro boxer, but Billy Sandow was in the process of pushing him like he was Hulk Hogan.[153]

Lewis was spending more time in Boston working for promoter Paul Bowser. On February 14 Ed beat Greek wrestler George Kotsonaros in the city. This was the third match of the year, in Boston and the fans were very upset over Billy Sandow's coaching of Lewis, so Bowser ruled that the manager could no longer stay ringside during the match.

Stecher traveled to Tulsa to lose a handicap match to Cliff Binckley on February 14, winning only one fall after promising two with in two hours. He then returned to Kansas City and wrestled an exhibition at an athletic show. The report said that Joe would return the next month for a match. The next day, both Tony and Joe Stecher, had a conference with promoter Gabe Kaufman. Topic was "the match". Kaufman also talked with Billy Sandow the same day.

Nothing mentioning Stecher or the "match" follows. Lewis wrestles Taro Mayake on March 3 in Kansas City with both Wayne Munn and Mondt on the undercard.

Reports said that the finish to the Stecher/Mondt match was unfortunate and Toots was sorry and regretted it deeply. They also promised that a foul in an early fall wouldn't end a match in the future. The offended wrestler would be given a rest and then have to continue. It's funny how this set up the finish of the Lewis/Munn title change the next year.

Stecher never got his title match with Ed Lewis in 1924, and he may have tried out with the Philadelphia Nationals baseball and went south for spring training for a period of time, before realizing the money in pro wrestling was too good to pass up…or maybe he just got cut.

I think the whole storyline was a work and that both sides were willing to do a match in March 1914 in Kansas City. I don't know if Billy Sandow realized that Stecher had been promise the title and expected Lewis to job it back….at least for a short period. Lewis had blown off all his major contenders and liked the idea of a big money match with Stecher, but Sandow would never let Lewis drop the title because there was no way to get it back, if Joe didn't keep his word.

I think Sandow got the idea to push Wayne Munn in the middle of the Stecher storyline and decided to go in that direction. Munn would be under his control, something he couldn't count on with Stecher. The title was the power and he felt safer with a football player.

The Stecher/Mondt bout, of February 11, seemed to be a worked first fall, followed by a potato to the ex-champ. Kind of a wake-up call and Sandow's way of telling Tony and Joe the deal was off.[154]

>> Continue to CHAPTER 18


  • 124a Lewis did own a large summer home or ranch in Wisconsin. Most city arenas were very hot or used by the public or out of school children during the summer. The St Louis Arena was build over a public swimming pool, so the city had very few wrestling shows during the summer, unless an outdoor stadium could be found. Most of the ballparks were being used by the different levels of pro baseball, so promoters needed to book their cards around the local baseball teams home games. It wasn't easy. So pro wrestling was seasonal in most places and Lewis took most of the summers off.
  • 125 In a "smart" wrestling book published in 1938, FALLS GUYS: THE BARNUMS OF BOUNCE, author Marcus Griffin named the group of Billy Sandow/Ed Lewis/Joe "Toots" Mondt the "Gold Dust Trio". I will not be using the name Gold Dust Trio in this paper because it was a term created by Griffin and used only for his book and was not used by fans or insiders before the book was published. You cannot find the name in print before 1938. Griffin used a writing style that created a number of names in Fall Guys for groups and individuals. The book is filled with them (Fall Guys (wrestlers), The Peerless Champion (Frank Gotch) The Big Four (Curley, Tony Stecher, Stan Zbyszko, & Caddock) The Trust (different people at different times in the book), The Brain (Billy Sandow), Trimmer Jim (Londos), Halitosis Kid (Jack Pfefer), The Royal Family of Pugilism (The Johnson Brothers), The Wild Irish Rose (Danno O'Mahoney) and many more ), but it is only the "Gold Dust Trio" title that has stuck through time. Today it's constantly used by people, who base their knowledge on something other than research. Fall Guys was a bias and a flawed book with mountains of errors.

    Griffin states in the book that Toots Mondt was a partner with Sandow and Lewis. I can't see how that can be true. Lewis, Sandow, and the other Bauman brothers had been together sense 1913. They wouldn't let a young wrestler just step into the company as a partner. Not possible in my mind. Mondt may have had a great mind for wrestling, which he proved later, but in 1922 he was hired as wrestler and coach, and he wouldn't have had as much input as Sandow's brothers Max and Jules.

    Fall Guys also says that during Lewis' second reign (1922 to 1925), Mondt created a new style of wrestling and that business prospered. The facts are that 1922 to 1925 was a bad time for pro wrestling in most of the country and most areas hadn't even developed as territories. New York City was dead. The South, Texas, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles, St Louis were dead or just developing. Most of the network of strong promoters came into the sport around 1925, when new arenas were build all over the country. The Lewis/Sandow group's major areas were Chicago, Kansas City, Wichita, Boston, Tulsa, and cities promoted by the Bauman group. They helped open Los Angeles and St Louis, and some spots were hit for short periods until the money dried up. For Lewis himself and his contenders, they did great, but you can't see the rest of the country doing much at all.

    Fall Guys also claims that there were 500 people in the Sandow company and all the wrestlers were under contract. There wasn't any where near that number of people working with them and I will give the names in this project. Just about all of the major wrestlers jump to the Stecher group after Lewis losses the world title, so if the contract existed, they weren't written very well.

    Fall Guys is about ten years behind on most things talked about in the book, including the five hour draw between Lewis and Stecher. What Griffin claims happening in 1923, describes 1932 better. The period from 1928 to 1935, is the great period for wrestling in America.
  • 126 THE KANSAS CITY STAR January 3, 1923, January 7, 1923 and January 19, 1923
  • 127 NEW YORK TIMES December 15, 1922
  • 128 LOS ANGELES TIMES January 11, 1923
  • 128a CATCH WRESTLING by Mark Hewitt Page 164 to 166—The only other interesting match in Nat Pendleton's career was a rematch with the man who beat him in the controversial final of the 1920 Olympics, Robert Roth of Switzerland. The pro match took place July 26, 1924 in Paris France. After 30 minutes with no pinfalls the judges first awarded the decision to Pendleton, then changed it to a draw.
  • 128b THE KANSAS CITY STAR December 30, 1923
  • 129 ST LOUIS GLOBE Febuary 19, 1923
  • 130 ST LOUIS GLOBE Febuary 21, 1923
  • 131 CHICAGO TRIBUNE March 7, 1923
  • 132 ST LOUIS GLOBE March 8, 1923
  • 133 SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE April 17, 1923
  • 134 ST LOUIS GLOBE April 13, 1923
  • 135 THE KANSAS CITY STAR April 23, 1923—The quote comes from the star.
  • 136 ST LOUIS GLOBE May 3, 1923
  • 137 THE KANSAS CITY STAR May 3, 1923
  • 138 NEW YORK HERALD May 23, 1923
  • 139 ASSOCIATED PRESS June 21, 1923
  • 140 SAN FRANCISCO February 22, 1926
  • 141 WISCONSIN RAPIDS DAILY TRIBUNE October 1, 1923 and October 3, 1923
  • 142 FRESNO CA BEE October 22, 1923
  • 142a The NEW YORK TIMES reported that Joe Stecher played first base for the Salt Lake Bee against the Oakland baseball team on September 30, 1923. Joe went one for four but drove in two runs with a single in the 5th. He made 9 putouts at first base without an error. I believe Stecher stayed with the team for a week or two replacing an injured star first baseman. Joe Stecher also owned a minor league team in Dodge and would spend money to bring in ringer type pitchers, catchers and hitters to support local players.
  • 143 ST LOUIS DAILY GLOBE- DEMOCRAT December 14, 1923
  • 144 THE KANSAS CITY STAR December 16, 1923
  • 145 THE KANSAS CITY STAR December 16, 1923
  • 146 ASSOCIATED PRESS December 29, 1923
  • 147 THE KANSAS CITY STAR December 19, 1923
  • 148 NEW YORY HERALD December 31, 1923
  • 149 THE KANSAS CITY STAR January 20, 1924
  • 150 ST LOUIS DAILY GLOBE- DEMOCRAT January 27, 1924
  • 151 THE KANSAS CITY STAR February 4, 1924
  • 152 THE KANSAS CITY STAR February 11, 1924
  • 153 THE KANSAS CITY STAR February 14, 1924
  • 154 Most of the info on Boston comes from historian and major researcher Mark Hewitt.