Lewis Solves Masked Marvel

When the 1915 New York International Wrestling Tournament restarted in October 1915, a mysterious masked man sat at ringside demanding an entry into the tournament.  Prior to the masked man’s arrival, the tournament had been lightly attended.

The attraction of the masked man sitting at ringside attracted both fan and newspaper interest.  Crowds started showing up for the matches.  After weeks of demanding entry into the tournament, promoter Sam Rachmann allowed “The Masked Marvel” to enter the tournament.  It is the first recorded use of a mask by a professional wrestler in the United States.


Alex Aberg vs. Masked Marvel from December 28, 1915 Evening World

Besides the addition of the Masked Marvel, Rachmann recruited Ed “Strangler” Lewis, who had been wrestling with Joe Stecher, the newly crowned American Heavyweight Wrestling Champion.  Stetcher was associated with the group of wrestlers managed by Martin “Farmer” Burns.

Lewis and Stecher legitimately disliked each other.  After a couple odd matches between the two of them, Lewis was likely looking for a new promotional arrangement.  In an Evansville, Indiana match, Lewis refused to tie up with Stecher.  After being knocked from the ring after two hours, Lewis claimed he couldn’t continue.  The Evansville Mayor was so mad he held up the men’s purse for the match.


Young Ed “Strangler” Lewis from the Public Domain

Ed “Strangler” Lewis primarily took part in staged exhibitions in his professional wrestling career but if pushed or irritated he could beat anyone legitimately.

Rachmann probably intended for “The Masked Marvel” to stay undefeated until he met Alex Aberg in the finale.  However, Ed Lewis wasn’t going to be another notch on the Marvel’s belt.

Lewis had won 7 matches since entering the tournament in November 1915.  If he could win or draw with The Masked Marvel, Lewis would meet Aberg in the finals.

Both men entered the ring at the Manhattan Opera House on Monday, December 20, 1915, looking confident of victory.  The Marvel shouldn’t have been.

From the start, Lewis pushed the pace on the masked wrestler.  The Masked Marvel could not get a grip on Lewis, who continued working towards a hold.

Eventually, Lewis secured a hammerlock and chancery hold from the side.  Lewis turned the Marvel onto his back for the fall at 11 minutes, 50 seconds.

Previously, the Masked Marvel had beaten or drawn with the best men in the tournament.  He wrestled to a 60-minute draw with Wladek Zbyszko.  It seemed impossible to the crowd that Lewis could secure the fall and victory so quickly.

The Marvel explained that he had a heavy cold and couldn’t breathe during the match.  He would have pulled out of the match with Lewis but he didn’t want to disappoint the wrestling fans.  The real truth was he wasn’t as good as he had been portrayed.

The genie was out of the bottle after this match.  The Masked Marvel wouldn’t win another match for the remainder of the tournament.  He would be unmasked in early 1916.

However, it can easily be said that the Masked Marvel saved the 1915 New York International Wrestling Tournament.  Without his participation, fans may have never showed up for the tournament.  Despite the obvious staged nature of his victories, the Marvel gave the tournament the shot in the arm that it needed.

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Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 12, 1915, p. 39 and December 21, 1915, p. 20.

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