On Thursday, January 8, 1925, Munn shocked the professional wrestling world by
dethroning Ed "Strangler" Lewis for the World Heavyweight championship - taking
two-of-three-falls. The next day, as news streamed into Sioux City, Iowa, which was one of
several "hometowns" of Munn, thousands of locals celebrated. Munn began his fight
career in that city.
Already owning a nice popularity, Munn was believed by some sportswriters to be the man
to break up the wrestling syndicates. But these same writers were very unfamiliar with the
real complexities behind-the-scenes. They didn't know that Munn was aligned with
Sandow and Lewis, and not working independently to better the entire sport. The
Associated Press (1/10/25, Omaha World Herald) ran an article along these lines, claiming
that Munn "may break trust" that had "dominated for the past few years."
In a syndicated column written by Henry L. Farrell for the United Press in mid-February
1925 (2/19/25, East St. Louis Journal), details of the Munn-combine were exposed by Jack
Curley of New York City. Curley explained: "Billy Sandow, manager for Lewis, is a brother
of Max and Jules Bauman. Max manages John Pesek and Jules is going around the
country arranging matches for Munn. Munn is playing around with Toots Mondt, Stanley
Zbyszko, Mike Romano, Strangler Lewis, Pat McGill, John Pesek and other third raters.
"Munn is not even a good third rater. I know of wrestlers who can beat him. I know of ten
wrestlers who will give Munn $10,000 to meet them and they will donate an extra $5,000 to
charity if they do not throw him twice in 30 minutes. The ten challengers are Jim Londos,
Joe Stecher, Wladek Zbyszko, Hans Steinke, Ivan Zaikin, Charles Hansen, Marin Plestina,
Jack Sherry, Ad Santel, and Nat Pendleton. Not one of these wrestlers can get an
engagement with the new champion. His crowd ask that challengers show the right to a
match by beating Pesek, their stand-off man.
"St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha are tied up. No other wrestler but those in Sandow's
string can be taken into these cities and they are some of the best wrestling towns in the
country. Several of the ten challengers I named are not world beaters, but they are plenty
good enough to throw Munn who is a dub wrestlers, not good enough to win from a fair
middleweight. Munn is running around getting small purses when he could make some
real money by meeting anyone of the ten wrestlers I named.
"I could say a lot more and I will if I am called upon. I can furnish easily a list of the
matches that were pulled off in Kansas City and other places where Sandow and Bauman
are in control."
Munn's manager Gabe Kaufman of Kansas City gave a statement to the United Press,
saying that Munn was not a member of a wrestling trust and wanted Curley to prove his
charges. They were waiting for his license to be approved in New York City, and then
Munn would appear there. Munn also stated that he'd wrestle anyone, any time. Billy
Sandow followed up by saying, "There is no trust so far as I know."
The feud in the press was very important to keeping their interests protected.
Munn's wrestling ability developed a great deal over a short period of time. He developed
his crotch and half-Nelson hold, a maneuver made famous by Frank Gotch, and used his
massive weight and strength to dominate opponents. His skills appeared legitimate
enough to wrestling fans, and the fact that he beat Lewis without losing a fall by pin
created an aura of invincibility that carried with him in his early days as titleholder. Munn
was also very well educated and his intellect helped strengthen his credibility as a
dominating wrestler. It is easy to look back and criticize Munn for being a relative novice
and unprepared for the heavyweight throne, but Munn was taken very seriously by the
press - and by fans who turned out in droves to see him appear.
The fact was that other wrestlers, especially those working for a rival troupe, knew how
green Munn was. Perhaps jealousy also played a part because after all, Munn had
achieved a spot that many workers labored to reach, and never did. He was the top dog
with a huge target on his back. What he needed first and foremost was an extreme
amount of protection from his managers, and if things went according to plan, everyone
involved would make a bus load of money - and the plan to put the title on Munn would still
be celebrated as genius.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Wayne Munn Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling