On the Mat

Time – February 2, 1931

In Madison Square Garden, Jim Londos humped an enormous torso shaped like a single pile of white dough and topped with a tiny spike of head, wrapped his arms around Jim McMillen, U. S. wrestler who once played with Red Grange on Illinois’ football team. For 56 minutes, 54 seconds they grunted, sweated, flopped with terrific thuds on the canvas. Once Londos threw McMillen out of the ring. Then McMillen slipped Londos through the ropes. Then both fell down into the press bench, were helped in again, resumed grappling. At last Londos picked up McMillen, slapped him down, rolled him over with a quick half Nelson that won the match and kept one of the world’s heavyweight wrestling championships safe for Greece. Two nights before the bout, at a dinner in the Madison Square Garden Club, lion-headed, box-chested Londos had been presented with a jeweled gold belt supposed to symbolize the wrestling championship of the world. However, it is not the only belt with this significance. Don George, Michigan graduate, also claims the world’s championship because he beat Gus Sonnenberg two months ago. Not since herculean Frank Gotch retired in 1913, after a career in which he won 154 matches out of 160, has there been an undisputed heavyweight wrestling champion. In the last seven years two main groups of wrestlers have emerged to do business separately, each with its own champion: a group controlled by Promoter Jack Curley in the East, the other by old-time Billy Sandoz in the Midwest and on the Pacific Coast. Curley’s champion is recognized by the National Boxing Association, whose authority over wrestling is vague. Sandoz’ champion is supported mainly in Massachusetts, Michigan and California. To Curley goes credit for having revived wrestling, long discredited by its reputation as an incurably crooked sport, as a big money-maker in eastern cities.* It is still maintained by experts, and borne out in college wrestling, that when wrestlers are sincere they immediately fall to the mat and lie prone, grunting, until one succumbs from fatigue. No matter what can be said for its spirit, such sincerity is exceedingly weak as entertainment.

*Rev. Charley Urban, onetime University of Pennsylvania footballer and 220lb. wrestler, signed a professional wrestling contract with a Philadelphia promoter. “A preacher doesn’t get much money and the little I can make on the side will keep me in a cheerful frame of mind which . . . will be reflected in my sermons,” said he.

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