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WILLIAM MULDOON
A VETERAN OF THE CIVIL WAR
by Jack Welsh

Wrestling Revue, June, 1975


   From the horrors and tragedy of The Civil War, one of the darkest and most pathetic periods in American history, emerged a man who was destined to become non pareil in the world of professional wrestling.
   William Muldoon was just 16 years old when America was sliced into two in 1861 as the North and the South took up arms in the country's most senseless war ever, perhaps even surpassing Viet Nam one hundred years later.
   Muldoon's parents had migrated from Ireland in the early 1830's and settled in Belfast, N.Y. where he was born on May 25, 1845.
   William liked all sports from an early age, particularly wrestling which he read about whenever he could find the material.
   When the Civil War broke out, Muldoon enlisted as a private and he served admirably until the conclusion of the conflict in 1865. There was no time for an official tournament but I William participated in so many matches with the boys in blue that he was considered champion of his regiment.
   Muldoon was just 20 when he was discharged but the ravages and the catastrophe that is war had matured him beyond his years just as World War I and II, Korea and Viet Nam were to do to other generations.
   With death as a daily companion, Muldoon learned a lesson that was to stay with him until his death at 88 in 1933 - physical fitness was important to a soldier as the weapon he carried and good condition could sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
   Like any ex-soldier of any era, Muldoon had trouble settling down to the comparatively quiet life in Belfast.
   In the spring of 1866 he found himself in New York city - the big town where he took a shot at fame and fortune. It was an inauspicious beginning as William worked as a bouncer in restaurants and cheap dance halls and later drove a livery cart 12 hours a day.
   Actually Muldoon sort of drifted into wrestling by chance. One night he met a man with a black eye and inquired how it happened.
   "At a club on Houston street," was the reply. Muldoon made tracks to smooth-talk the club's matchmaker into staging some wrestling matches. William won his debut and was paid $15.00 for his efforts.
   The Irish lad started running up a winning streak and the local newspapers began dropping items on Muldoon's triumphs on the sports pages.
   Muldoon gradually worked his way up until he was invited to compete at Harry Hill's Club, one of the most famous sport clubs of the gaslight era, catering to the finest of New York's society.
   Harry Hill's place excelled in entertainment, food and drink... it was a superb supper club which offered wrestling and boxing matches as part of its policy and Muldoon became one of its biggest stars.
   Williams was doing alright a solid backup security wise and in 1876, he won an appointment to New York's police department. Shortly after joining the force, William was instrumental in forming the first Police Athletic Club in the city's history which is still in existence today with a reputation that has become national.
   Muldoon's shift was 12 hours a day but it didn't deter him from his daily workouts at the PAL gym. He was always a stickler for top flight condition and taking care of his body was something akin to a fetish with the big Irishman.
   And who could blame him... his beat was the waterfront... the Bowery where the toughest bums, hoodlums and cutthroats in the world assembled at one time or another.
   Muldoon was more than equal to the task primarily because his training period lasted anywhere from three to four hours a day.


   William was a God-fearing man although he never wore religion on his sleeve. He didn't drink or smoke and his biggest fault was his temper, uncontrollable explosions which sometimes got the better of him and dated back to his childhood.
   Muldoon managed to get his temper under control as he grew older but back in 1878 a situation developed where he really went bananas.
   Edwin Bibby, an Englishman, came to America, hoping to get a match with Muldoon whose reputation had spilled far beyond these shores.
   Muldoon feared no man and quickly accepted Bibby's challenge. However, on the day of the match, William was required to work a full tour of duty. And the Superintendent of Police wouldn't even let Muldoon off early to fulfill his commitment.
   When he returned to the station that night, Muldoon was fit to be tied. And to add insult to injury, one of his fellow officers unwittingly told him Bibby was saying Muldoon wouldn't even show up for the match.
   Fuming, Muldoon raced to the site of the match which was New York's old vacant Post Office building. Since there was no Madison Square Garden in that era, the building was used for many boxing and wrestling events.
   When Muldoon arrived at the building, he was still wearing his policeman's uniform, having been too riled up to bother to change into street clothes.
   When William jumped into the ring still wearing his police uniform, Bibby was struck with terror. For all practical purposes the match was over right there and then.
   Speed as well as power was among Muldoon's trademarks. Bibby was pinned twice in lightning succession and then for the coup de grace, Muldoon held him high over his head and slammed him viciously to the mat.
   The smashing victory over the Englishman was big news far and wide and enhanced Muldoon's reputation even further.
   Following up the Bibby match, Muldoon defeated Sebastian Miller and John Gaffney and these accomplishments prompted Richard K. Fox, then the publisher of the world-famed Police Gazette, to hail William as the first world champion in modern day Greco-Roman style wrestling.
   To make it official, the Police Gazette presented Muldoon with gold pin which symbolized the honor.
   Muldoon was proud of the 1 acclaim but he also knew he had to prove it - or should we say, defend it. One of William's arch rivals was Clarence Whistler, billed as the Omaha Demon.
   Muldoon and Whistler met three times during their careers, the first coming in New York city in 1881. Using the Greco-Roman style, these giants of the mat battled eight hours and 10 minutes to a draw, an all-time record for this style of wrestling.
   The pair tried it again a year later in St. Louis, using the Collar and Elbow style, which was something of a takeoff on American jujitsu. This time it was a draw again but no longer than two hours.
   In 1883 Muldoon and Whistler squared off for the final time and William finally got a decision but not the way he wanted it.
   Muldoon had been tossed out of the ring but he came roaring back and slammed Whistler to the canvas so hard it broke Clarence's shoulder.
   Muldoon was not pleased with the victory because he had not pinned his man and he never got another chance. Whistler died in 1885, ending one of the greatest rivalries in mat history.
   William returned to New York in the fall of'83, heralded as a national hero with fans in all walks of life from seven to seventy. Muldoon kept his world crown until 1887 when he privileged himself the honor of handing it over to Earnest Robert of Brooklyn, who he had trained for two years.
   Muldoon had defended the title with honor and never refused a challenge. He never lost a match in his career and one of his greatest victories was over the great German champion, Carl Sandow.
   Though he retired from all forms of competition in 1892, Muldoon continued his rigorous training methods until he was 85 and his health began to deteriorate.


[ William Muldoon ]

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