Name: Evan Lewis
Year Inducted: 2009
Induction Category: Pioneer Era
"The Strangler" Evan Lewis
"Evan Lewis' trademark hold was a form of the headlock that was
literally a strangle-hold; he'd slip his wrist down below his opponent's
ear over the carotid artery and squeeze, shutting off the blood supply
to the brain and putting his opponent to sleep. Today, that hold is
called a sleeper. It was a legitimate hold in Evan Lewis' day, but it
was illegal by the time Ed (Lewis) came along; all the hookers knew the
hold, however, and Ed learned it in Chicago and adopted it as a
performing hold, something to excite the crowds. That's how the
headlock came to be such a standard hold in the wrestling ring as
a cover-up for the strangle-hold or sleeper."
"HOOKER: An Authentic Wrestler's Adventures Inside the Bizarre World of
Pro Wrestling" by Lou Thesz with Kit Bauman, Copyright 1995)
Pro wrestling annals call him "the original" Strangler, to
differentiate him from another Wisconsinite, Robert Friedrich, who
gained enduring fame with the ring name of Ed (Strangler)
Lewis,chosen as homage to his predecessor.
In a 1991 magazine article "The Toughest Madisonian Who Ever
Lived", Pete Ehrmann set about introducing Evan Lewis to an audience far
more attuned to Hulkamania:" A century ago, professional wrestling
was as truly violent a spectacle as its burlesque modern incarnation
intends to be. Now either forgotten or confused with a later popular
Wisconsin-born wrestler who borrowed his name, Evan Lewis, a native of
tiny Ridgeway in Iowa County who moved to Madison in 1885 to pursue his
wrestling career, was one of the most feared and famous figures in 19th
"A cruel and really dangerous athlete," wrote ring historian Nat
Fleischer of the 5-9, 180-lb. Lewis in his book "FROM MILO TO LONDOS".
"Lewis for many years held his own when pitted against the best men ...
and the country grew fairly wild over (him) and his wrestling
Martin "Farmer" Burns, whose legend has long eclipsed that of Evan
Lewis, owed his origins in the mat game,and the rudiments of his
art,to thelatter. Burns wonwhat would forever after bebilled
as the"world" championship from Lewis in 1895. By then,"catch", as
opposed to the previously popular disciplines of collar-and-elbow and
Graeco-Roman, had ascended to primacy in the minds of American pro
This happened, largely, in the wake of two Chicago confrontations
between Lewis and a popular Japanese invader, Matsada Sorakichi. They
had two much-ballyhooed, largely attended Chicago bouts in 1886; in the
first, Lewis roughly strangled Sorakichi into submission. Sorakichi
implored Lewis to wrestle again, but this time with the strangle barred.
Lewis agreed. Sorakichi emphasized how serious he was about the
"You choke me," he told Lewis, "I shoot you."
"I will not choke you this time," Lewis averred. "But I will screw
your leg off." And he darn near did. Sorakichi was never again the same,
describing to people from his hospital bed how Lewis had tried "to
breakee the leg like a stick."
Next was a showdown between Lewis and an Englishman, Joe Acton. In
April 1887, at Chicago, Lewis consolidated his claim to
catch-as-catch-can supremacy by taking three falls from Acton inside a
mere 26 minutes. And thus beganhis eight-year rule over American pro
wrestling until he finally surrendered the laurels to Farmer Burns in
It is, for all of the above, and much more, that
the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame now inducts "the Strangler,"
- J Michael Kenyon