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Robert Herman Julius Friedrich (June 30, 1890 - August 8, 1966), was a professional wrestler best known by his ring name Ed "Strangler" Lewis", whose career spanned four decades. He was a ten time World Heavyweight Champion, including six reigns under the original undisputed version of the belt, and wrestled in 6200 matches and was defeated only 33 times.
Born in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, Fredrich began wrestling at the age of 14, using the stage name Ed "Strangler" Lewis, in tribute of 1890s star Evan "Strangler" Lewis. It was also stated in the A&E documentary "The Unreal Story of Professional Wrestling" that he was dubbed the Strangler after a match in France where he applied a sleeper hold, and the French, who were unfamiliar with the hold, thought he was strangling his opponent.
He was the pivotal figure in the "Gold Dust Trio", along with promoters Toots Mondt and Billy Sandow, a travelling road show that was the precursor to wrestling tours, and which revolutionized wrestling by creating undercards, promoting full events instead of one match shows. They also developed the first wrestling storylines, creating "worked" feuds between wrestlers.
Lewis captured his first world heavyweight championship recognized on December 13, 1920, defeating Joe Stecher. Stecher would prove to be Lewis' biggest rival, both in and out of the ring, with Stecher running his own shows against the Gold Dust Trio, beginning quite possibly the first promotional rivalry. Lewis and Stecher wrestled one of the longest matches in pro wrestling history, where they battled for five and a half hours, earning only "a draw". The climax of their feud came on April 15, 1925 when Gold Dust Trio star, and former champion, Stanislaus Zbyszko, was asked to lose to the Gold Dust Trio's own handpicked champion, Wayne Munn, a former football star, in an effort to give Munn credibility. Zbyszko balked at the idea of losing to an unskilled wrestler, and secretly jumped to the Joe Stecher camp. Zbyszko double-crossed the Gold Dust Trio, using his knowledge of holds to legitimately defeat and, in the process, humiliate Munn. Eventually Lewis and Stecher settled their differences, and agreed to do business with each other, with Stecher dropping the World Championship back to Lewis on February 20, 1928.
In 1933, one of The Strangler's greatest matches took place in Madison Square Garden. He was fighting Ray Steele for the title. The two men began circling each other, but no fighting happened, which made the fans bored. Steele finally ended the match by punching Lewis, causing the referee to disqualify him twenty minutes into the match.
On September 20, 1934, Lewis wrestled Jim Londos in front of an audience of 35,275 at Wrigley Field, and drawing a record gate of $96,302, which would stand until 1952. Later in his career, Lewis befriended a young Lou Thesz, who he taught the art of "hooking" (the ability to inflict pain on a person using various holds). Lewis himself was one of the greatest hookers of his day and passed his knowledge onto Thesz.
In 1937 The Strangler had six contests in New Zealand. He beat Floyd Marshall, John Spellman, Glen Wade, and Rusty Westcoatt, and lost twice to the great Canadian Champion, Earl McCready, who was then established as the top wrestler in New Zealand.
Ed "Strangler" Lewis is considered to be the creator of the sleeper hold, though it was actually a cross between the modern day sleeper and a side headlock.
Wrestling greats like Lou Thesz and Verne Gagne have stated that Ed Lewis was the greatest wrestler ever and could only be beat when he allowed himself to be beat to further a worker angle.
Lewis went into semi-retirement in 1935, but came out of retirement, at the age of 51, in 1942 despite being legally blind. He retired from wrestling for good in 1948, at 57 years old. At the November 1949 NWA Convention in St. Louis, Lewis was named the ambassador of good will for the NWA. In later years, he would become the manager of his good friend, and reigning NWA Champion, Lou Thesz.
Lewis went blind from trachoma. He was destitute and relied on his wife and acquaintances to survive. He died in New York on August 8, 1966 at the age of 75. In 1999, Lewis was inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame. Today, a Wisconsin state historical marker commemorates his achievements in his hometown of Nekoosa on Prospect Avenue.
- Finishing moves
- Strangle Hold (Sleeper hold)
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- American Wrestling Association (Boston)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- Other titles