Terrible Turk’s Horrible Foul of Roeber

     Ernest Roeber was an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler.  William Muldoon, the World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion from 1880 to 1889, wanted Roeber to take over from him as World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion.  However, the world title would continue to be disputed until George Hackenschmidt won several Greco-Roman Tournaments in Europe during 1901.

     Yusuf Ismail, the Terrible Turk, was considered one of the strongest, most vicious wrestlers in the 1890s.  After winning several tournaments in Europe, Ismail traveled to the United States in 1898 to stake his own claim to the World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship.

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Yusuf Ismail, the Terrible Turk from the Public Domain

     Based on Roeber’s skills and reputation, Ismail’s manager William Brady secured a match between the Turk and Roeber.  The match itself proved to be anti-climatic.

     The wrestling card included a few matches other than the main event.  The wrestler competed on mats on an elevated stage.  William Johnson, American Collar and Elbow Wrestling Champion, took on Harry Reed in best two-out-of-three-falls match.

     The whole match lasted about 6 minutes.  Johnson won the first fall in two minutes.  Reed won the second fall in two minutes, 25 seconds.  Johnson won the final fall and match at 2 minutes, 5 seconds.

     Frank Idore of New York wrestled Leo Pardello of Chicago, Illinois.  Pardello would gain a small bit of fame, when he pulled Frank Gotch’s hair years later.  Gotch was enraged and injured Pardello’s leg with a toehold.

    In this match, Pardello won the first fall in 3 minutes, 45 seconds.  Idore won the second fall in 5 minutes, 5 seconds.  Pardello won the final fall and match in 4 minutes, 10 seconds.  Barely 20 minutes had passed in the first two matches.

     Yusuf Ismail ascended the platform first.  The Terrible Turk was roundly booed by the crowd.  Ernest Roeber entered next and was cheered robustly.  The Terrible Turk stood 6’02” tall and weighed around 300 pounds.  Ismail outweighed Roeber by at least 50 pounds.

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Sorakichi Matsuda and Ernst Roeber demonstrating wrestling in the late 1880s

     Most of the publicity around the Turk was about how vicious and horrible he could be in the ring.  In a match with Ibrahim Mahmut, the future Terrible Turk, Yusuf Ismail gouged his eyes, broke his ribs and choked him unconscious after being fouled.

     Ismail would soon prove his reputation was deserved.  As Roeber and Ismail circled each other, Roeber got near the edge of the mat, which was almost at the edge of the stage.  The stage was 6 to 8 feet above the floor.

     The Terrible Turk suddenly ran at Roeber and knocked him off the mat and stage.  Fortunately, Roeber didn’t land on his head but his back and shoulders appeared to be injured.  As several ringside officials attended to Roeber, Martin Julian jumped on the mat and declared the match for Roeber due to a foul.  The referee agreed.

     Ismail accepted the loss and the loser’s share of the purse but asked to wrestle a second fall with Roeber.  The ringside doctor stated he would have to examine Roeber to determine if he could continue.  After another preliminary match occurred in the intermission, the doctor said Roeber could not continue.  Roeber was considered the winner by foul.

     While Ismail lost this bout, his performance led to match with the most vicious American wrestler of the 19th Century, Evan “Strangler” Lewis.  Which vicious wrestler would meet his match?

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Sources: Kansas City Journal, March 27, 1898 edition, p. 5

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Evan “The Strangler” Lewis in Paperback

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