He was known as the Golden Greek, and he was one of the finest wrestlers during an era of great change for professional wrestling. Not only a fine wrestler but a real draw for female wrestling fans, he filled arenas across the United States.
Real Name: Chris Theophelos
Stats: 5′ 8″ 215 lbs.
Born: January 2, 1897
“The Golden Greek” Jim Londos was one of the premier wrestlers during the lean years during and after the Great Depression. Londos one of the few workers that kept the fans coming out to the matches, despite the lack of available spending money. The former World Champion, who paid his dues on the rough carnie circuit, was also one of the last champions to have competed during the “legitimate” era of the sport, when “shoot fights” were still a common — although far from predominant — occurrence in the “sport”. But Londos was a performer, not a shooter, and he was known more for his good looks and well-muscled physique than his wrestling ability. Still, Londos was a more-than-capable grappler, and was generally considered by his peers as one of the best “workers” of his era. His ability, good looks, and popularity enabled him to establish himself as a top draw (mainly on the East Coast) and one of the most recognized wrestling names in the country for over 15 years. As the inaugural NWA World Heavyweight champion, he helped set a standard for champions born decades after he was gone, and truly left an imprint that has lasted throughout the history of the sport in the 20th century…
At 5`8 and 200 pounds, Londos was often smaller than his opponent. However, his low center of gravity, his formidable strength, and powerful legs made up for any lack of height. He originally competed in the Pacific Northwest as Chris Theophelus, the Wrestling Plasterer, one of wrestlings early “gimmicks”. Theophelus would come to the ring wearing the work clothes of a construction worker, wearing his wearing gear underneath. After several years on the West Coast, Theophelus dropped the “carpenter” gimmick in favor of a less cartoonish persona, and then headed East.
Jim Londos became known for his strong work ethic, as he worked as many dates as he could manage, often wrestling nearly every night of the week. Capitalizing on his handsome features and strong physique, Londos developed a practice of matching himself against the ugliest opponents he could find. Then fans responded to the booking scheme exactly as “The Golden Greek” planned…by backing Londos even more. This “Beauty vs. the Beast” idea served Londos well, and helped build himself into the most popular wrestler/biggest draw on the East Coast throughout the 1930’s and early 1940’s. From New York to Boston to Philadelphia and everywhere in between, Jim Londos was professional wrestling…
But there was always one man who Londos and the promoters (as well as many fans) knew Londos could never beat — at least not without that man’s cooperation. Perennial World Champion Ed “Strangler” Lewis (pictured) had Londos’ number — along with everyone else’s. Simply put, Lewis’ wrestling skill was such that virtually no one could beat him in a legitimate encounter — he was just that much better than his competition. During an era when warring promoters would settle their differences in the ring, with selected combatants fighting legitimate contests, Ed Lewis was the ace up the powerful Chicago syndicate’s sleeve. Meanwhile, the East Coast promoters had the popular, much younger Londos, a man for whom Lewis reportedly had little respect. The two engaged in several legitimate and “worked” matches, with Lewis allowing Londos to win only when he and his Chicago promoters felt it helped business.
But Londos’ admitted “Achilles Heel” of Ed Lewis never affected his popularity or box-office appeal, since fans were under the impression that all (not just some) of the Lewis-Londos matches were “real”. Having won a few, he kept his reputation intact and continued to draw record crowds across the world. In addition to his work in the U.S. and Canada, Londos competed in his native Greece, France, Britain, Rhodesia, and many other countries during his 15+ year long career. He once drew a crowd of nearly 100,000 in his native country of Greece, and became a national hero overseas as well as in America. Londos finally retired in 1946 as one of the greatest champions in history. He engaged in, by his own estimate, over 2,500 matches (some of which were brutally legitimate) and lost only a few. He spent much of his retirement working for charitable organizations, particularly for Greek World War II orphans, and was honored by both President Richard Nixon and King Paul of Greece for his various noble efforts outside the ring.