In Shelton, Nebraska, Pesek beat Chris Londos by disqualification when Londos
repeatedly used the "neck strangle," which had been barred, on Wednesday, April 4,
1917. "Chris Londos" was also known as "Jim Londos."
At a perfect age for the draft, Pesek suffered a fractured ankle during training in
Shelton, Nebraska on October 5, 1917, which likely eliminated him from possible
service. Many of his peers in the business, including Jack Taylor, Joe Stecher, and Earl
Caddock went into the military.
On Friday, March 29, 1918 in Grand Island, Nebraska, John Pesek beat Jack Taylor
with one fall in 2-hours, 20-minutes. The referee, Cy Sherman, awarded the match to
Pesek. Pesek weighed 30 pounds less than his opponent. After the match, Taylor told
the audience that Pesek was the "greatest wrestler of his poundage in the wrestling
Otto Floto of the Denver Post wrote about the heavyweight wrestling division in an
article printed on May 26, 1922, explaining that there was "trouble" on the horizon for
Ed "Strangler" Lewis in the form of John Pesek. Pesek was the guy who "manhandled"
Marin Plestina "in such ruthless manner" and "brushed aside all of Plestina's claims to
wrestle the big fellows." Pesek also "proved [Plestina's] wail about a 'wrestling trust' was
buncomb with a capital 'B'." Floto wrote that Pesek was a potential champion, a wrestler
who needed "schooling and developing," and needed a manager like Lewis had in Billy
Sandow. "If he could by chance get hold of an adviser and manager [like Sandow] ...
there is no telling what a wonder the Nebraska grappler would prove himself to be."
Floto told readers to "Watch him."
It is an interesting fact that most of the Midwestern wrestlers to rise to national
superstardom, gravitated to local managers earlier in their careers. Stecher used
Hetmanck for a time before relying only on his brother. Pesek went through Mart
Slattery and used Larney Lichtenstein to get him to matches in the east - all before
settling on Sandow's brother, Max Baumann. Floto was right, Pesek did need a
higher-profile manager. Baumann got Pesek onto the Lewis circuit.
The Associated Press reported on September 7, 1929 that Pesek had suffered a heart
attack during a tour of Australia. News broke from Ravenna, Nebraska, where apparent
relatives had received a cable with the distressing news. No other news was available.
Toward the latter part of December 1929, John Pesek issued a challenge to Dick Shikat
through the New York State Athletic Commission, and posted a $2,500 forfeit.
A report was printed in the July 11, 1934 edition of the Lincoln Star (Nebraska) stating
that a large structure, in the shape of a steamship and called the "Boat House," being
built by Pesek, had burned in Ravenna, Nebraska. The structure, which was near
completion, had been on the Potash highway, and attracted plenty of attention from
The Sunday, December 17, 1944 edition of the Zanesville (OH) Sunday Times-Signal,
in the promotion for an upcoming show at the City Auditorium, elaborated on John
Pesek's recognition as National Wrestling Association Heavyweight Champion
beginning in 1937. The article stated that he was named titleholder "and he has held
the crown ever since." He had been denied the honor of champion until 1937 and for
many years "had carried the unofficial rating as the greatest wrestler in the world." He
was also known as the uncrowned heavyweight champ because he, for years, scared
off the reigning titleholders. After a year of delaying, the NWA had no choice but to
recognize Pesek because he had issued challenge after challenge, only to have his
potential rivals fail to meet him.
It should be noted that because Pesek was considered such a dangerous wrestler,
none of the major wrestling troupes wanted anything to do with him. Pesek was able to
make his own demands, wrestle when he wanted to, and pretty much beat anyone at
any given time. If he didn't want to play ball with the guy the syndicate wanted to, he
could handle business in the ring and out. Most wrestlers in the 1937 time-period going
forward to present day, were better entertainers than real wrestlers. Dean Detton,
Bronko Nagurski and others were talented athletes, but not in the same league as
Pesek in the wrestling ring.
Pesek wasn't an electrifying performer in the sense that many promoters wanted by the
1930s. The aura of the "Tigerman" was in itself a draw, and his presentation of a
feared warrior of the mat was picturesque. Few did it better. But promoters wanted
more color and personality. They wanted celebrity good looks, gimmicks, and, in many
cases, youth. One of Pesek's longtime rivals, Jim Londos, was facing another
resurrection of his career in the late 1930s. Londos was the veteran "idol" of
depression-era wrestling fans. He was a guy who was steadfast in his popularity and
success from coast-to-coast, and was able to draw aging enthusiasts with their sons or
grandchildren to arenas consistently. Londos was one of a kind.
Pesek and Londos took two different paths to get where they were by 1937. Londos,
bluntly, had no peers when it came to being a wrestling sensation, even after all the
years he'd been active. When his career turned around in 1929 and 1930, and
receiving the push from the Curley-Fabiani-Packs troupe, Londos was an unstoppable
In a letter to Jack Pfefer dated August 22, 1950, Sam Muchnick mentioned that Pesek
was going to start challenging Lou Thesz in conjunction with an Al Haft plan. Muchnick
wrote: "I like Al, but I disagree with him on Pesek. He has been dead for years, now
they are going to revive him. I think that in a showdown, Thesz would meet him and
beat him. But it's silly to even think about it because I think the public will laugh about it
when it is suggested. I know they would here."
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|"Tigerman" John Pesek Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling