Considered by many the greatest wrestler of his time, he relied on tremendous ring skill and intelligence to become one of the greatest champions in the history of professional wrestling.
Real Name: Lou Thesz
Stats: 6′ 1″ 225 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Lou Thesz is considered by many to be the single greatest wrestling champion of all time. Certainly his championship history, superior skills and knowledge of wrestling, the overwhelming fame he enjoyed throughout his prime, and his dedication to always learning, would back that claim up. Take a look at the facts…
Thesz was born on April 24, 1916 and he made his pro wrestling debut at the age of 16 in East St. Louis, Il. Trained, and for a time managed, by Ed “Strangler” Lewis among others (including George Tragos and Ad Santel), he was instantly a standout on the various pro wrestling circuits and won his first title in 1937. Throughout his incredible career, Thesz went on to win literally dozens of championships…
He won the Mid West Wrestling Association World Title in 1937, over Everett Marshall; the American Wrestling Association World Title (Boston) in 1938, awarded the title. Next was the National Wrestling Association World Title which he won on three seperate occasions in 1939, 1947, and 1948.
Later he won the American Wrestling Association World Title (Montreal) which he also captured on three seperate occasions in 1940, 1946, and 1947. He also won the Texas Heavweight Title in 1946, over Buddy Rogers. And finally, the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Title (again) won on three seperate occasions in 1949, 1956, and 1963.
It was during his reigns as NWA World Champion between 1949-1964 that Thesz went on a quest to unify the different World titles being recognized at the time, with the goal of making the National Wrestling Alliance title into pro wrestling’s only World Championship. He succeeded by unifying the AWA (Boston) title, the W.W.A. (Los Angeles) version of the World Title, and the AWA World (Ohio) title. Lou Thesz is credited as being the final truly undisputed World Champion of the 1900’s.
In addition to that, Thesz was probably the most respected man in wrestling during his career…inside, and especially outside, of the ring. Thesz was a hooker…and that doesn’t refer to what you’re thinking! Hooks were extremely painful, potentially crippling wrestling moves that dated back to the origins of pro wrestling. Very few wrestlers ever had the skill and wrestling knowledge to attain the status of “hooker”…and the ones who did were treated with extra respect in the dressing room. Thesz has admitted that knowing an array of hooks saved him many times in the ring against wrestlers who wanted to test him or simply refused to lose. Today, with the complete disposal of true wrestling competition (shoots) in pro wrestling, Thesz has sadly stated in interviews that hooking is all but a lost art.
Lou Thesz (pictured on the right with NWA President/promoter Sam Muschnick) was also indirectly involved in the creation of the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). When promoters refused to recognize Thesz’s 1-fall victory over Buddy Rogers, they formed the WWWF and named Rogers the first champion. Of course, that’s only one side of the story about how the WWF was formed. Years later, Thesz went on record stating that, in reality, the match with Rogers never even took place! Yet another example of the frequent duality (and deception) of professional wrestling history…
However, despite being credited as the first 6-time NWA Champion, unifying all of the WOrld titles, and holding the NWA belt for over 13 combined years, there were still more championships to be won by the great Lou Thesz…such as the N.W.A. International Heavyweight title, two N.W.A. Southern titles in 1973 and 1978, the U.S. Junior Heavyweight Title in 1973, the U.W.A. (Mexico) World Heavyweight title in 1977 and the U.S. Heavyweight Title (MS.) in 1978.
There are more, but for the sake of space we can’t list them all. Needless to say, Thesz won virtually every title he ever tried to gain. He was a true celebrity, famous all over the world (he once received a citation from the President of the United States), and a genuine legend in Japan. Thesz had his first Japanese match in 1957, wrestling to a one hour draw with the Japanese wrestling God, Rikidozan. From then on, the Japanese revered Thesz as a living legend. In fact, Thesz wrestled his last match in Japan on 12/26/1990 at the age of 74, losing to Japanese superstar Masa Chono.
The Ring Chronicle honors the record-holding champion, statesman, teacher, and pro wrestling legend Lou Thesz with his deserved place in The Ring Chronicle’s Hall of Fame…