Zbyszko Double Crosses Trio
Rarely does one fundamentally alter their profession but Stanislaus Zbyszko did just that on April 15, 1925 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Zbyszko defeated Wayne Munn in one of the last shoot (not staged) professional wrestling matches in the United States. It was a shoot or legitimate match because Zbyszko double crossed the “Goldust Trio” wrestling promotion and beat Munn for the title.
“Big” Wayne Munn was a star football player at the University of Nebraska, where his 260 pound frame was unusual prior to the steroid era. Wrestling promoters James “Toots” Mondt and Billy Sandow, along with the World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Ed “Strangler” Lewis, saw money in the big athlete despite his lack of wrestling ability.
Billed as a 6’06” giant, the Trio carefully matched him with a bunch of less skilled wrestlers, where Munn would use his size and strength to “defeat” the men. A typical move would see Munn pick up a wrestler, hold him across the front of his torso and then drop the man to the floor with Munn on top of him. Munn’s size would “crush” the man, who would be easily pinned.
In January 1925, Ed “Strangler” Lewis dropped the title to Munn. However, many wrestling commentators suspected funny business. Munn defeating the great Lewis after less than a year wrestling struck many observers as unlikely, if not impossible.
The Trio then refused to match Munn with any known legitimate wrestlers like Joe Stetcher arousing further suspicion. The Trio made one exception to the legitimate wrestler ban. 46-year-old Stanislaus Zbyszko, “the Old Man of Wrestling” who was billed as 50-years-old, dropped an early title try to Munn in February 1925.
Aware of the public doubts about Munn’s legitimacy, the Trio scheduled a second match between Zbyszko and Munn. Despite Zbyszko’s advanced age, he held the World Heavyweight Championship for about 18 months in 1921 and 1922. In his youth, “Zibby” was one of the few legitimate challenges to Frank Gotch’s World Title.
Facing the end of his career and desiring another good pay-day, Zbyszko did something the Trio never expected. Approached by Lewis’ enemy Joe Stetcher, Zbyszko made a deal with Stetcher to double cross Munn and beat him in the ring.
While Munn defeated Zbyszko in less than 30 minutes in February, Zbyszko dominated Munn in the rematch. Munn must have realized his predicament, when he attempted a hold, which Zbyszko easily shook off.
Eight minutes into the match, Zbyszko picked up the 40 pounds heavier Munn and slammed him to the mat. Zbyszko used a forearm and English half hold to score the first fall. The referee, who was in on the planned outcome, was as shocked as Munn.
Munn returned to the dressing room for the break but Zbyszko remained in the ring. At the start of the second fall, Zbyszko again slammed Munn. Zbyszko worked Munn over on the ground before pinning Munn with a forearm and hammer lock. After less than 14 minutes, Munn was no longer World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion.
St. Louis promoter Tom Packs quickly matched Zbyszko and Stetcher for World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship, which Zbyszko dropped to Stetcher. Munn remained the Michigan-Illinois World Champion, which he dropped to Ed “Strangler” Lewis.
Stetcher and Lewis, who genuinely detested each other, eventually made peace. Stetcher dropped his belt back to Lewis, which reunified the title on February 21, 1928. By this time Zbyszko was retired. He would come out of retirement one more time in 1930 to face long time foe, the Great Ghama.
Wayne Munn never overcame the embarrassment of his defeat to Zbyszko. The Trio tried to say Munn had a fever and tonsilitis to explain his loss to Zbyszko but the wrestling public weren’t buying it. After dropping the title to Lewis, Munn wrestled for a few more months before retiring in 1926.
Due to Zbyszko’s double cross, wrestling promoters would no longer put the title on a performer or unskilled wrestler. Promoters always put the belt on a shooter or legitimate wrestler, who could legitimately win, if an opponent went against the prearranged outcome. Stanislaus Zbyszko changed professional wrestling for almost 60 years.
Sources: The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, January 13, 1925 p. 20, April 16, 1925, p. 35, and April 20, 1925, p. 21.