Name: Robert Friedrich
Year Inducted: 2002
Induction Category: Pioneer Era
Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Born in Nekoosa, Wisconsin on June 30, 1891, Robert Friedrich began wrestling at carnivals and on small farms throughout the mid-western
United States when he was only fourteen years old. Freidrich assumed the ring name Ed "Strangler" Lewis based on the 19th century wrestler Evan "Strangler" Lewis because of their various similarities. Freidrich also adopted the name because his parent's held disdain for professional wrestling. He is considered to have been one of the finest submission wrestlers of the era with his famous headlock
Lewis garnered quick success in professional wrestling and earned a title shot against World Champion Joe Stecher on December 13, 1920. Lewis won his first championship from Stecher and started a long feud that quickly spanned beyond the wrestling ring. Stecher would become Lewis' greatest rival throughout the next decade not only athletically but also in business. Lewis was the core of the wrestling promotional group called the "Gold Dust Trio" which consisted of Lewis, Toots Mondt, and Billy Sandow. The trio would begin promoting wrestling shows from town to town and are credited for being the very first group to add story lines and other angles making professional wrestling into a complete spectacle. Stecher himself would have his own promotion compete against the "Gold Dust Trio" perhaps creating the earliest of wrestling promotional wars. Lewis and Stecher reportedly wrestled one of the longest matches in history. Their bout lasted five and a half hours and ended in a draw which only enhanced their rivalry.
After his feud with Stecher, Lewis won several other championships in his career. He would hold the undisputed World's Heavyweight Championship on four separate occasions between 1920 and 1931. Lewis would go on to win the American Wrestling Association (Boston) World Heavyweight Championship, the New York State Athletic Commission World Heavyweight Championship in 1932, and his final championship came in 1942 by winning the Midwest Wrestling Association World Heavyweight title in Kansas City, Kansas. Lewis also battled Jim Londos at Wrigley Field in front of an audience of 35,265 on September 20, 1934. This match set a gross revenue record, which stood until 1952, of over $96,000.
Ed "Strangler" Lewis retired from active in-ring competition in 1948. He defeated some of the top wrestlers of his time including Ed Don George, Stanslaus Zybyszko, and Joe Malcewicz. Upon retirement from the ring, Lewis would still make his powerful presence known in wrestling. Lewis managed one of the most decorated wrestlers of the next era - Lou Thesz. Ed "Strangler" Lewis' name is so synonymous with professional wrestling that it was mentioned in the hit movie "The Music Man" in 1962. Lewis passed away on August 8, 1966 in New York City at the age of seventy-six.
A true champion and athletic icon, it is an honor to induct Ed "Strangler" Lewis into the 2002 Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum inaugural class.