December 2, 2016
It was 1925, and pro wrestling was big business. A throng of fans had packed themselves into a Kansas City convention hall, expecting to see champion Ed “Strangler” Lewis easily defeat Wayne “Big” Munn, a noted former NCAA football player. Munn was a newcomer to the wrestling world, and this was his first true test. Surely, fans thought, he would wipe the floor with the novice.
What the fans got instead was an outcome so unthinkable it created a buzz that shot around the arena. The air was electric. After less than 40 minutes, Munn had defeated the great champion, throwing him across the ring and out of it. It was a loss unlike Lewis had ever faced.
The crowd left that night in amazement, with an incredible story to tell: the night Wayne Munn beat Ed Lewis.
But there was a small problem.
“Wayne Munn couldn’t beat Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis to save his life,” says Kyle Klingman, director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa. “There’s just no way he could beat him.”
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Everyone knows pro wrestling today is “a work.” A planned event. A show, no different than a television episode or film.
But it wasn’t always this way. Pro wrestling started in the world of legitimate sport, in the same way boxing did. Legitimate wrestling bouts sold out arenas across the country. In 1911, when Frank Gotch wrestled George Hackenschmidt at the newly-opened Comiskey Park, it was in front of 30,000 people, one of the biggest crowds in sports history at the time.
But professional wrestling began to change in a way unlike anything ever seen in sports history. While boxing had known to be fixed from time to time, and the “Black Sox Scandal” had briefly tarnished Major League Baseball, no legitimate sport had ever made the full transition into what the WWE now calls “sports entertainment”—fully scripted, predetermined matchups, with chosen champions.
That change didn’t happen overnight. But wrestling historians look to one match, which completely altered pro wrestling’s history: Lewis vs. Munn, Kansas City, Miss., Jan. 8, 1925...More?