Ed “Strangler” Lewis vs Stanislaus Zbyszko (lost radio coverage of professional wrestling match; 1922)

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Newspaper clipping promoting the match and the radio broadcast.

Status: Lost

On 3rd March 1922, Stanislaus Zbyszko defended his World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship against Ed "Strangler" Lewis in Wichita, Kansas. Lewis defeated Zbyszko by two falls to one to capture the belt for the second time. The encounter has radio significance, as it was the first professional wrestling match to receive live radio coverage.


Heading into the match, Zbyszko was in his second run with the World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship, having won it from Lewis on 6th May 1921 in New York.[1][2] The 6th May match was booked by promoter Jack Curley, with rumours apparent that he was seeking a face world champion to avoid the negative reception he had received from politicians, officials, and wrestling arena management during Lewis' reign.[1] Back then, Lewis' heel persona was uncommon, receiving significant disdain for utilising dishonourable tactics as a defending champion.[3][4] However, Curley temporarily left the professional wrestling business later that same year, while boxing manager Tex Rickard, who was also in charge of Madison Square Garden, began to grow his influence in pro wrestling by bringing in his own talent not held under contract.[1] On 28th November 1921, he had Zbyszko defend the gold against Lewis at Madison Square Garden.[1] Zbyszko won the two-out-of-three falls match to retain not only the "Lewis Belt" held during the Strangler's reign, but also to capture the new "Rickard Belt" introduced by the promoter.[1]

However, another match between the pair was inevitable.[1][3][4] This was because Zbyszko had allegedly won by rolling falls, a controversial ruling by the New York Athletic Commission where a wrestler could be pinned simply by having their shoulders touch the mat.[1] Behind the curtain, both Lewis and his manager Billy Sandow were sharp businessmen and continually attempted to increase their bottom lines.[4][3] Hence, when another Lewis challenge was made for 3rd March 1922, it occurred in Wichita, Kansas, which ruled that a wrestler required a traditional three-count to successfully pin their opponent.[1] A year prior, new ground had been broken when the Johnny Ray-Johnny Dundee boxing match on 11th April 1921 became the first ever sporting event to receive live radio coverage.[5][6] Other sports such as baseball quickly followed, and professional wrestling would also swiftly adopt the fledging media platform.[6][1][5] According to one newspaper clipping, a play-by-play account of the match would be transmitted to members of the Okeene, Oklahoma Radio Club, as invited by the newspaper Wichita Eagle.

The Match

The match took place in front of around 4,928.[6][1] This was actually a financial disappointment, generating less than $17,000 in revenue, with Zbyszko and Lewis taking $7,000 and $5,000 of it respectively.[1][6] Sandow believed Lewis had no excuses if he lost. Meanwhile, Zbyszko's manager Jack Herman was confident his wrestler would win, bragging he could achieve straight falls. This looked possibly the case when Zbyszko achieved the first fall 41:30 in, courtesy of locking in a body scissors and arm lock.[6][1] Zbyszko then worked on Lewis' arm and was preparing a winglock hold.[1] Suddenly, the Strangler punched the defending champion, causing the latter to become dazed and enabling Lewis to perform a headlock that led to a pinfall.[1][6] Some accounts stated Zbyszko possibly cost himself the second fall by becoming overconfident.[1] Despite Herman's protests regarding Lewis' punch, the referee continued the match.[1][6] From then on, Lewis gained the upper hand on a struggling Zbyszko, and three minutes later applied another headlock to win the match.[1][6][4] He gained both his original and the Rickard belts in doing so.[1][2]

In what was Lewis' second official reign with World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship (he had two other runs not universally recognised), the Strangler managed a near-three-year run.[2] This included a second two-out-of-three falls win over Zbyszko on 14th December 1922.[7] He would ultimately drop it to Wayne Munn on 8th January 1925, also in Wichita.[4][2] Prior to losing to Munn, Lewis and Sandow wrestled control from a returning Curley and held a three-year stranglehold over North East wrestling.[4] However, Zbyszko achieved his final reign by beating Munn on 15th April 1925, in a famous double-cross which enabled Curley and co. to regain control.[8][4] He ultimately would lose it to Joe Stecher on 30th May.[4][2] Lewis held the gold two more times, including on 13th April 1931.[4][2] His final reign ended with a loss to Jim Browning on 20th February 1933.[2][4] It is believed that the growing radio coverage of professional wrestling contributed to Stranger's reputation and legacy being cemented, even more so than other top names of the era.[1]


The radio coverage itself, aside from being exclusively reached from a club, also occurred in an era where recordings of radio programmes was exceptionally rare.[9][10][11] Acetate or lacquer discs were needed to record sound, but these were especially impractical out of studio, meaning most early outdoor sporting events were never recorded. A President Warren Harding speech on 24th May 1922 is deemed to be the earliest surviving broadcast, with the National Archives claiming the oldest regular broadcast is Woodrow Wilson's Armistice Day Speech in 1923.[10][11] Based on this information, it means that all radio broadcasts beforehand, including the Lewis-Zbyszko coverage, is most likely permanently missing.[9][10][11] Nevertheless, a newspaper clipping helps confirm the radio broadcast's existence.

See Also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Wrestling-Titles detailing the build-up to the match, the event itself, and its radio significance. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 NWA Wrestle listing the reigns of the World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Capitol Revolution summarising the match and Lewis' persona. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 National Wrestling Alliance book detailing Lewis and Sandow's growing control and influence in wrestling, which intensified following the title switch. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  5. 5.0 5.1 History noting the Johnny Ray-Johnny Dundee boxing match was the first sporting event to receive live radio coverage. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Play-by-Play summarising the match and its radio significance. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  7. The New York Times reporting on Lewis defeating Zbyszko on 14th December 1922. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  8. WhenItWasCool summarising the Munn-Zbyszko double-cross. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  9. 9.0 9.1 Ngā Taonga noting most early-1920s airings were never recorded. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Benjamin S. Beck detailing various examples claiming to be the earliest surviving radio broadcast. Retrieved 17th Dec '22
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 National Archives stating the oldest surviving radio broadcast is Woodrow Wilson's Armistice Day Speech from 1923. Retrieved 17th Dec '22