Masked Marvel Throws Berner

Wrestling promoter Samuel Rachman created the International Wrestling Tournament in Spring 1915 to highlight the abilities of Aleksander “Alex” Aberg.  Aberg was the Russian Greco-Roman Wrestling Champion.  Rachman believed Aberg could beat any wrestler.

Rachman also wanted to lure Frank Gotch, the last undisputed World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, out of retirement to wrestle with Aberg.  Gotch wrestled George Lurich in his last wrestling match before retiring.  However, Rachman couldn’t entice Gotch with his offer of $20,000 for the winner.


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

Despite inviting some of the greatest international professional wrestlers to the tournament, Rachman could not attract the attention of wrestling fans.  The fans largely stayed home and newspaper coverage was sparse.  By the time of the summer break in June 1915, the lack of ticket buying fans forced Rachman to consider shutting down the tournament.

Instead of shutting it down, Rachman struck upon an idea which both saved his tournament and fundamentally changed professional wrestling.  Rachman knew he needed an attraction to bring fans into the arena.  When the tournament resumed in October 1915, a mysterious masked man sat on the front row.

The masked man attracted attention but initially just watched the matches.  As his ringside appearneces continued, the masked man began demanding a spot in the tournament.  Soon to be known as the Masked Marvel, the masked man claimed to he a high level wrestler blacklisted from the tournament.

Eventually, Rachman tired of the Masked Marvel’s accusations and let him enter the ring.  His first match would be against German wrestling champin Wilhelm Berner.  Berner won some matches and lost some matches during the tournament.  Berner was not considered a contender to win the tournament.  He was considered the favorite though against the unknown newcomer, when they wrestled on December 9, 1915.

The Masked Marvel and Berner tied up and tried to get a hold for the next ten minutes.  The Masked Marvel finally broke the stalemate by picking Berner up and slamming him to the ground at 12 minutes, 40 seconds.  The impact of the slam knocked Berner unconcious.  Several attendants helped Berner back to the dressing room.

The Masked Marvel’s victory sent the already interested crowd into wild cheers.  For the remainder of the tournament, crowds were large.  Most fans came to see the mysterious stranger, who took the tournament by storm.  Future developments would cast doubt on the legitimacy of these contests but for the moment Rachman saved his tournament.

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Source: The New York Sun, December 10, 1915 edition, p. 11

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