Richard I. Schikat was born on January 11, 1897 in Ragnitz, Tilsit, East Prussia, and
began wrestling as early as 15 years old. During World War I, he served with the
German Navy, and continued competing as a grappler in the Graeco-Roman style.
Legend has it that he was even proclaimed the Naval wrestling champion. While in
Germany, Schikat formed a bond with a fellow grappler, the 6’6” Johannes Steinke. The
two toured Germany and Europe, and each claimed to be a champion, Schikat and best
in Germany, and Steinke the heavyweight titleholder of Europe. On October 9, 1923,
Schikat and Steinke arrived in the United States from Dresden at Ellis Island.
Steinke and Schikat were well received by American promoters, providing an
international flavor many were searching for. On Thursday, November 29, 1923, Steinke
and Schikat appeared in Boston for George Tuohey, and wrestled at the Mechanics
Building. In the main event, Steinke competed and lost to Wladek Zbyszko in 1:18:30.
He was locked in a toe hold at the end of the first fall, and was unable to continue for the
second. Schikat, on the other hand, was still adapting himself to the quicker catch-as-
catch-can style, and wrestled Dr. Stajker in a 10-minute exhibition of wrestling holds.
The friends went their own ways, and Schikat joined the Ed “Strangler” Lewis-Billy
Sandow national circuit, while Steinke settled in Chicago. On the West Coast in 1924,
Dick found a high level of success, defeating both William Demetral and Stanislaus
Zbyszko in San Francisco. Schikat signed a … year contract with Rudy Miller, a
prominent German manager.
In 1925, Schikat returned to his homeland and married Ereka Dain. Later in the year, he
again sailed for the U.S., this time accompanied by his young bride and his brother Joe,
who was a middleweight wrestler. Dick and Ereka settled in Philadelphia. The San
Francisco area still held an opening for Schikat, and he returned to the territory in 1926.
During his time in that city, he wrestled a man who would have a major impact on his
career, Joe “Toots” Mondt.
As Steinke was having success in New York in a high powered position for Jack Curley in
1928, Schikat would perform a similar role in Philadelphia for Ray Fabiani. By early
1928, Mondt was settled in as a partner in the New York office, and was a major player in
local promotions. Schikat, who shorted his name to Shikat, was still under contract to
Rudy Miller, but Miller was also a member of the Curley-Mondt combine, and promoted
steadily in Brooklyn. When Mondt decided to take Shikat under his wing, and become his
“manager,” Miller saw no problem. After all, he was going to benefit financially either
way. A finely tutored Shikat would do better at the box office, in all actuality, and Mondt
had big plans for his new protégé.
The wrestling scene in Philadelphia in 1929 saw regular programs at the Arena promoted
by Fabiani and the Philadelphia Inquirer printed “probable winners” in the newspaper the
day of the show. Among the stars appearing besides Steinke and Shikat were Jim
Londos, Kola Kwariani,
Fabiani worked in a Shikat-Steinke bout for July 12, 1929 with both men getting $4,000.
That night, Shikat beat his pal in 1:04:29 an outdoor arena. Around two weeks later,
Fabiani announced that he had signed Shikat and Londos for a highly important match in
Phildadelphia. His inbility to bring World Champion Gus Sonnenberg to the city to wrestle
any of his top liners, gave him incredible leverage with the State Athletic Commission.
Fabiani “outbid” several cities for the match including New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.
He also had to break a contract with the corporation behind the Arena that forbid him
from promoting in other Philadelphia venues.
Working with Londos’ manager Ed White, Fabiani filled in the blanks and guaranteed a
total purse of $35,000 for the bout. To give credibility to the match, promoters stated
that Londos and Shikat were finalists in a make-shift tournament to determine a
champion to replace Sonnenberg. On August 7, the Pennyslvania State Athletic
Commission decided that they would officially recognize the winner as the new World
Titleholder. Shikat trained at Lillian-on-the-Lake in Hammonton, New Jersey with Mondt,
while Londos worked out at a gym in Philadelphia with Steinke and Jack Washburn.
With a height and weight advantage, Shikat was the favorite to win. On Friday, August
23, 1929, a crowd estimated at 30,000 turned out at the Municipal Stadium to see the
match. After 1:15:12, Shikat pinned Londos and captured championship. Shikat was
more popular than his opponent, and the audience expressed their favorable opinions
following the decision. Fabiani presented Shikat with a brand new, 18 karat gold
championship belt with 19-diamonds worth $5,000.
After the win, Shikat was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer (August 24, 1929): “I am
happier tonight than I have ever been in my life and I want to get out of here as soon as
possible and cable my wife, who is in Germany visiting relatives. I am grateful to the
people of Philadelphia and to the commission of the State of Pennsylvania, for it was
here that I was first recognized as of wrestling championship calibre, and it was here that
I was given this opportunity of realizing my ambition. The title will not be nursed by me. I
stand ready tonight if necessary to sign a contract to defend it against any man in the
world nominated by either the public or the State Commissions, which are the voice of the
public, as a worthy challenger. The championship will not be placed in moth balls.”
The New York State Athletic Commission followed Pennsylvania in recognizing Dick
Shikat as World Champion. Fabiani and his wife went to Montreal for a vacation following
the match, while Shikat planned to venture to New York, where he was going to meet a
director for a motion picture taping. Then Shikat and Fabiani would meet before Ray
returned home. Shikat arrived at Pennsylvania Station in New York City on Friday,
August 30, 1929, carrying his newly awarded and costly championship belt with him in a
protective case. He got into a taxi and rode to his destination. At that point, he escaped
the vehicle without a problem, and went about his business. He soon realized that he
was no longer carrying the belt, and that it was most likely driven off into the sunset by a
mysterious driver never to be seen or heard from again. Needless to say, Fabiani was
not thrilled by the news, thinking and hoping at first it was a prank. There was no hoax,
and a $5,000 belt representing the World Heavyweight Title was missing.
When most think back to the greatest wrestlers in the history of wrestling, not many come
up with the name Dick Shikat. It is not because he was not talented because he was. It’s
not because Shikat was this or that…it is because he was simply overlooked by most
publications. Shikat was a former two-time World Heavyweight Champion during a time in
which Jim Londos and Ed Lewis were running the country’s landscape. Often the
underdog, Shikat performed at a high level of expertise in the ring. He developed his
game and was often in top contention when he was not ruling the ring’s heavyweights.
Shikat was born on January 11, 1898 in Libait, East Prussia. He was a sailor in the
German Navy. Shikat turned professional wrestler in 1924. Billed as the underdog,
Shikat received a chance of a life-time. A match held in Philadelphia to determine a new
World Heavyweight Champion in Pennsylvania and in the state of New York. The bout
was held on August 23, 1929 at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia. Over an hour went by
before Shikat scored a decisive victory over Jim Londos and captured a rival claim to the
World Title then what Gus Sonnenberg was holding. In the weeks and months that
followed, Shikat was guaranteed $1,000 and all expenses if he defeated newcomer
Everette Marshall in Seattle by F.A. Musgrave. Musgrave telegraphed the “winner-take-
all” offer to Shikat on January 14, 1930. The champ did not take it.
Shikat was brought to Miami, Florida by promoter Lou Magnolia, and defeated Rudy
Dusek in two-falls on February 18, 1930, a day before rival champion Gus Sonnenberg
appeared in a southern Miami coliseum. With two champions in the same city, it brought
talk of a unification bout there. The controversy continued as both left with title’s intact.
He pinned Gino Garibaldi on April 29, 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Jim Londos
beat Shikat in Philadelphia on June 6th and took the World Title. Despite the loss, Shikat
followed the champion all over the country demanding shots. He received plenty of
them. Shikat won a decision over the famous “Strangler” Ed Lewis in St. Louis, Missouri
on March 1, 1934. Lewis was disqualified by the official in charge of the bout for slugging
and for brawling with the referee. The incident drew a fine and suspension.
After an apology and loss of $100 bucks, a second Lewis-Shikat match was signed by
Promoter, Tom Packs and the state athletic commission chairman, Seneca C. Taylor, for
March 15th. He won the rematch by countout in 34:36. Shikat immediately elevated to
the top challenger spot in Missouri and earned an important World Title Match with
Londos upon the latter’s next tour stop in St. Louis. Londos defended his title against
Shikat on April 11th at the Arena drawing more then eleven-thousand fans. After an
hour and ten minutes, Shikat suffered an arm injury after falling from the ring. He
forfeited the rest of the match. Londos retained, but it had been a good showing. He
traveled south to Memphis along I-55 and wrestled George Zaharias on April 16th. The
two went to a 90-minute draw.
Shikat faced a sincere challenge in Everette Marshall in St. Louis on April 26, 1934, and
overcame him in 44-minutes. His weak arm was worked on by the Coloradoan, but it
hadn’t been enough. Looking at Marshall’s national status at the time, Shikat’s victory
put him close to the top of the charts. It earned him a second title match against
Londos. On May 16th, Shikat wrestled Londos in front of over 10,100 fans at the St.
Louis Arena. He was pinned in 45:09. Shikat wrestled on April 1, 1935 in New York
against Danno O’Mahoney. He lost by disqualification after the referee found his
consistent kicking illegal. He lost to Chief Little Wolf in New York on May 6, 1935. Shikat
teamed with renegade promoter Jack Pfefer to pull off a heist that would give him his
second World Heavyweight Title and dethrone the man who had unified all of the
different American claims to the belt.
On March 2, 1936 in Madison Square Garden, Shikat dethroned Danno O’Mahoney for
his claim to the Unified World Title. The match’s ended was not planned as many
thought it would have been, and if it was, Shikat had not gone along with the script. O’
Mahoney’s career had gone from headliner on his way down, and Shikat was riding
again. The NWA did not recognize Shikat, but in the state of New York, he was the
champion. He lost a disputed claim to Ali Baba in April 1936 at Detroit. Later in the
month, Shikat was sued by Joe Alvarez, who was in the corner of Paul Bowser of Boston.
Alvarez stated that he was the manager of the champion, but Shikat denied any of the
man’s words. Shikat, instead, signed with Al Haft of Columbus and of the Midwest
Wrestling Association. He traveled back to New York and lost to Baba on May 5th, giving
him New York recognition. Shikat wrestled into the 1950s. He appeared on a April 6,
1953 Card in Washington D.C. at Turner’s Arena, where he wrestled Jack Dillon.
Shikat was a legendary grappler and in terms of pro-wrestling history, his name ranks
right up there with all of the other greats.
Copyright 2010 by Tim Hornbaker
Other Career Notes:
Lucy Jeanne Price wrote, in an article dated February 6, 1925, that a man named
"Richard Schikat" had arrived in New York City from Breman, telling immigration officials
that he was an artist. After additionally questioning, it was found that he was a wrestler.
Schikat told them: "But I am quite right in calling myself an artist because I throw my
opponents in a most artistic manner."
On Saturday, December 28, 1929, New York City promoter Jack Curley made a $25,000
offer to World Heavyweight Title claimant Gus Sonnenberg to wrestle his rival, title
claimant Dick Shikat, in a 30-minute match. Knowing that Sonnenberg was in a lesser
class as a legitimate wrestler, Curley wanted to get him into a match in which Shikat could
shoot on Sonnenberg, and take his title. Although the challenge was good publicity, the
bout was never going to happen.
Based on the claim that Joe Alvarez of Boston (of Paul Bowser's employees) held a
contract with Shikat and that there was a breach of contract, the Missouri State Athletic
Commission suspended Shikat on March 23, 1936. There was also the claim that Shikat
was backing out of a scheduled match against Ed "Strangler" Lewis on April 3.
More retaliation against Shikat's double-cross came in the form of another suspension by
the Tennessee State Athletic Commission on March 24, 1936. This time, he was banned
for failing to appear in Memphis on March 23.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Dick Shikat Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling