WWE Hall of Fame: Missing from the Hall: Georg Hackenschmidt

Monday, April 16, 2012

 
Feed Source: WWE Bleacher Report

A lot of kids grow up wanting to be President, but Theodore Roosevelt once said, “If I weren’t President of the United States, I’d want to be Georg Hackenschmidt.”

Known as “the Russian Lion” and often credited with the invention of the Bearhug, Hackenschmidt became the first World heavyweight champion of wrestling in 1905.

 

Early Career

Born in Tartu, Estonia on August 1, 1877, Hackenschmidt devoted himself to physical fitness at a young age and excelled at cycling, gymnastics, swimming, running, jumping and weightlifting.

An accomplished cyclist, he developed an interest in wrestling and began his professional career by defeating famous French wrestler Paul Pons in April 1988 and won the Russian championship in 1899.

In 1900, Hackenschmidt captured both the Moscow and St. Petersburg championships and won “championship of the world” tournaments in Vienna and Paris in 1901.

In 1903, he began touring England, taking on all challengers under the newly popular catch-as-catch-can rules, becoming a major star in the process and unifying various regional “world” titles after defeating various champions‚—including four Englishmen named Tom (Cannon, Connors, MacInerney and Clayton) and a pair of wins against both Italian Antonio Pieri and the “Terrible Turk” Ahmed Madrali with little, if any, trouble.

Hackenschmidt found his toughest opponent in American champion Tom Jenkins at Royal Albert Hall on July 2, 1904 under Greco-Roman rules.



 

First World Champ

After touring Australia, the Russian Lion sailed to America for a rematch at Madison Square Garden on May 4, 1905 against Jenkins under catch rules and defeated him in two straight falls for the right to be called the first World heavyweight champion.

The new champ wrestled in Canada and returned to wrestle in England before returning to America to take on challenger Frank Gotch in Chicago on August 3, 1908.

Hackenschmidt lost his championship to Gotch and the subsequent rematch at Comiskey Park on September 4, 1911. He was in training for a match with future World champion Stanislaus Zbyszko the following June but decided to retire when pain in his right knee necessitated surgery.

After his wrestling career ended, Hackenschmidt became a pioneer in the sport of weightlifting, maintaining his physique and athletic ability well into his 80s. He died in London on February 19, 1968 at the age of 90.

Because the NWA can trace its lineage all the way back to the championship worn by Hackenschmidt, any promotion that can trace its origins to the NWA owes a great deal to the "Russian Lion" and his contemporaries.

They set the ground stage for over a century of competition and entertainment.

In the next part of this "Missing from the Hall" series, we will take a look at the man who defeated Hackenschmidt for the World Heavyweight Championship, Frank Gotch.

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