Stetcher and Zbyszko Complete Deal
On December 13, 1920, Ed “Strangler” Lewis defeated Joe Stetcher for his World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship. Professional wrestling was a staged exhibition by 1920. However, such was the strong feelings between the men that the match may have been a “shoot” or legitimate match in which Lewis took the belt.
Whether the outcome of the match was real, the feud between the men was real. Stetcher nursed a grudge for five years. In early 1925, Stetcher saw an opportunity to gain revenge but he would need the help of Stanislaus Zbyszko to pull it off.
In January 1925, Lewis and his promotional partners Billy Sandow and Toots Mondt, the Gold Dust Trio, decided to put the World Championship on “Big” Wayne Munn. Munn stood 6’06” and weighed a legitimate 260 pounds. Lewis was a large professional wrestler and weighed a billed 220 pounds. Hoping to cash in on the novelty of an attraction like Munn, “the Strangler” dropped the World Championship to Munn.
Despite his size, Munn was a novice wrestler easily defeated by a legitimate wrestler. Fearing an actual wrestler would decide to take the belt off Munn, the Gold Dust Trio were careful about matching Munn up against anyone who could actually wrestle. Journalist noticed that Munn wasn’t matched up with a true threat and called the Trio on their seeming protection of the new champion.
Not wanting to give away that the matches were staged but concerned about the bad publicity, the Trio decided to call on one of their most trusted wrestlers, the 46-year-old former champion and legitimate wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko. However, when Zbyszko wrestled Munn, the Trio’s nightmare came true. Zbyszko wrestled Munn legitimately and pinned the helpless big man repeatedly until the referee had to award him the title or expose wrestling as fixed.
Stetcher had paid Zbyszko to take the title from Munn and then drop the belt to Stetcher for his third World Title reign. Long-time St. Louis wrestling promoter Tom Packs promoted the match, which occurred in the St. Louis University Field.
Stetcher appeared the aggressor throughout the first fall, which lasted 1 hour, 23 minutes. Wrestlers were still trying to hide the arranged nature of the outcomes, so long matches were generally the rule. Zbyszko appeared groggy to start the second fall, which lasted only 5 minutes. Stetcher won the match with his dreaded scissors hold.
The match was pretty rough because they wanted the fans to believe they were watching a legitimate contest. Zbyszko was legitimately injured when he fell to the mat during the second fall. The force of the fall caused contusions to his chest and a torn ligament in his shoulder. The match ended shortly after this unplanned fall.
Stetcher’s and Zbyszko’s performance was so convincing, Police Chief Gerk had Stetcher arrested for attempted murder. Stetcher had to post $1,000.00 bond to be released. Zbyszko quickly exonerated Stetcher and stated his injuries were his own fault.
Around the same time, the Gold Dust Trio held their own World Title match, where Munn lost to Lewis. How Munn was still the World Champion after losing to Zbyszko was never adequately explained but the World Title would be contested for a number of years. Eventually, Stetcher and Lewis agreed to do business with each other.
St. Louis would host many important wrestling matches. On May 30, 1925, St. Louis was the venue for the culmination of the biggest double cross in professional wrestling. It was a significant chapter in a storied wrestling town.
Sources: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 31, 1925 edition, p. 1 and 9