Cincinnati was a major hub for professional wrestling during the 19th Century.
On June 26, 1884 in Cincinnati, WIlliam Muldoon beat Duncan C. Ross at the Grand
Opera House and won a $500 side bet. 2,000 people saw Muldoon won the first,
second, and fifth falls. The first two falls were held under Greco-Roman rules, the
third and fourth under side hold with harness, and the fifth was catch-as-catch-can.
In Cincinnati on July 15, 1886, Tom Cannon defeated Evan Lewis in only six
minutes. Lewis was not up to his usual standard, it was noted.
Cannon beat Anton Pierre in Cincinnati on August 17, 1886. Pierre won the initial
fall (catch), Cannon took the second (G-R), and then Pierre suffered an injury in
the Greco-Roman third, and was unable to continue. Cannon was declared the
winner. The show was held at the People's Theatre.
On May 24, 1889 in Cincinnati, William Muldoon defeated Cannon and won a $400
Around November 25, 1893, in Cincinnati, Evan Lewis beat Charles Wittmer of
Cincinnati in a mixed-style match.
On April 21, 1894, Wittmer beat "Strangler" Evan Lewis in a Greco-Roman style
bout, winning 2-1. Wittmer was angling for a match with Ernest Roeber for the
World championship. He was 31 years of age, and was born in Cincinnati. He'd
previously wrestled Roeber's mentor, William Muldoon, and the latter was unable to
throw him in two separate matches. Wittmer had victories over Duncan McMillan,
Martin Muldoon, Tom McInerny, Sebastian Miller, Jack Carkeek, and Tom Cannon.
It was announced on October 14, 1897 that Wittmer was going to wrestle Roeber in
either Cincinnati or New York the following April for the Greco-Roman World Title.
Both men were going to be forced to deposit $250 with Harry Weldon of the
Enquirer by February 15 - plus another $250 within two weeks of the match.
Roeber, who claimed the G-R World Title, was in Cincinnati at the time touring with
Fitzsimmons. Wittmer disputed Roeber's claims.
In January 1902, Wittmer claimed the American Greco-Roman championship. He
worked at the Cincinnati Traction Company when he wasn't on the mat. He sought
matches with Tom Jenkins or Dan McLeod in the Greco-Roman style.
On November 27, 1902 in Cincinnati, Wittmer beat Leo Pardello in a Greco-Roman
match. Wittmer won the first and third falls.
On January 1, 1935, World Welterweight champion Jack Reynolds beat Bulldog
Jackson at the Music Hall, winning the match by countout. Jackson was said to be
from Nome, Alaska.
The Associated Press reported (4/10/37, Miami Herald) that on April 9, 1937, a
Cincinnati Councilman named Nicholas Klein spoke out against professional
wrestling, saying that it had "degenerated into sadistic spectacles." Klein said that
Graeco-Roman grappling was "bona fide wrestling and not comparable with modern
grunt and groan exhibitions." He called modern wrestlers "athletic tumblers," who
got fans to "scream in a frenzy." The wrestlers in the ring were "really the best of
friends," and "their game is to make the audience believe they are bitter enemies."
An investigation may be initiated.
In 1949, wrestling was staged at the Parkway Arena with Ross Leader as the
The July 25, 1950 edition of the Washington Post in an article by Tex McCrary and
Jinx Falkenburg, talked about the Wrestling TV Studio matches going on in
Cincinnati on WLW-TV. According to the article, and the word from officials in
Cincinnati explained how things were progressing smoothly: "We put on our own
wrestling matches, through professional promoters, for an invited studio audience -
lighting and camera position are perfect, sponsors are happy, promoters and
wrestlers are happy."
The article stated that WLW was the "most prosperous independent" station in
America, and was started by Powell Crosley, who owned the Cincinnati Reds.
WLW, however, had previously been sold to AVCO (American Aviation Corporation
of New York).
The Cincinnati Boxing and Wrestling Commission demonstrated its fury on January
18, 1951 against a trio of wrestlers who acted inappropriately at a recent wrestling
show. Apparently, wrestlers June Byers, Joe Christie and Kola Kwariani violated city
rules, and were banned for six months for their actions on January 17. The
Associated Press also reported that the commission wanted to discuss banning
women's wrestling in Cincinnati altogether with promoter Ross Leader.
Jim Barnett was credited with revitalizing professional wrestling in Cincinnati.
According to Wrestling Life magazine (January 1961), professional wrestling
outdrew the Cincinnati Royals NBA professional basketball team in 1959 by around
59,000 paid admissions. That year, wrestling drew about 100,000 fans paying
$185,000 for 17 programs run by Barnett and his syndicate partner, Johnny Doyle.
Applying the same techniques used to achieve success in Detroit, Barnett first ran
television locally in Cincinnati from the WCPO-TV Studios building up to his first
arena program on January 23, 1959.
Reportedly, all of this good fortune and success came after Barnett met with
Cincinnati Gardens General Manager and Executive Vice President, Alex Sinclair
and Tom Grace, respectively. Barnett sold the two executives on his promotional
ideas and explained the success he was having elsewhere with the format. Sinclair
and Grace agreed to give him a shot, and Barnett didn't let them down. Once in the
mist of the eternal rain of cash, Sinclair had to thank Barnett, but also
acknowledged the importance of the WCPO wrestling show, telling Wrestling Life,
"we have to thank the televised studio wrestling every week for the big wrestling
boom in the Gardens."
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Cincinnati Wrestling History