122 years ago yesterday, on June 30th 1890, one of the most important figures in Professional Wrestling was born. Robert Friedrich of Nekoosa, Wisconsin, was the son of German immigrants and went on to help fully change — for better or worse — the competitive style of Catch As Catch Can Wrestling into the more familiar acrobatic choreography of “Slam Bang Western Style Wrestling”. Through his influence, along with cohorts Billy Sandow and Toots Mondt, Professional Wrestling became more profitable through the increase of worked fights, controversial outcomes, and an element of celebrity as stars from other sports like American Football made their way into the squared circle.
By most accounts, Ed Lewis was a skilled grappler who could handle himself if needed, though it was thought he could never get the best of rival Joe Stecher. Due to the mat blindness disease Trachoma, Lewis retired from in-ring action and went on to manage and promote Lou Thesz, one of the most legendary Pro Wrestling workers in American history.
Lewis also helped train ‘Judo’ Gene LeBell who helped found the Hayastan martial arts gym along with Gokor Chivichyan, offering a Judo-Sambo-Catch Wrestling hybrid that has been adopted by the likes of Karo Parisyan, Manny Gamburyan, and Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.