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The Night Ed White Exposed the Con in Chicago(1915)


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From the Chicago Examiner - Thursday, February 18th 1915



Promoter White, After Masked Man Loses, Tells Fans It Was Only Honest Match in Chicago in 6 Years 

By Sol Plex 


Wrestling was killed deader than the proverbial doornail in Chicago last night. If it ever comes back to life in these parts it will be because suckers are being born faster than they were in P. T Barnum's day, and you know he said they came once a minute.


The death scene was the Casino Theater at Clark and Kinzie streets. The principals were John Friberg, a mediocre south side wrestler who has been press agented from coast to coast as the masked Mystery, a man who won nine straight matches in the east honestly and otherwise; Bill Hokuff a sturdy bohemian, and Ed White well known in Chicago, his home, as a promoter of wrestling shows and manager of boxers, also as a boxing promoter in the old days around this town.


Strange to relate, Mr White, to whose interest one would readily imagine it would be to protect to the best of his ability what little is left of the wrestling game's reputation as an honest sport, did the exposing. 

Yes, Mr. White got up and told the 8oo people in the theater that last night's match - in which the Mystery was solved, unmasked and pinned flat on his back twice in jigtime by second rater Hokuff, was the first honest wrestling match that had been staged in Chicago in six years; admitted that he himself had promoted shady contests in which the better man lost, and, in short, did everything he could to deal the mat sport a punch on the chin that will lay it away in this neck of the woods for all time to come 


After Mr White's speech, which created a sensation in the theater, we were inclined to believe ourselves that Charles Dryden was right when he said that fishing was the only honest sport.




Mr. White was followed on the rostrum by Hokuff himself. The Bohemian in language ungrammatical but forceful backed up every word White said, confessed that he and Friberg had been force to "lay down" often in Chicago to inferior men and asserted that henceforth he was going to be known as Honest Bill Hokuff, that he would never fake again and would try some other means of earning a living if he could not get enough to keep the wolf from the door by wrestling honestly.


After these speeches scribes and spectators began to wonder why. The question, "Why did White expose the game he has been in for years?" was on every one's lips. There is only one answer, and here goes. 

About a year ago White matched Charlie Cutler and Gustav Fristensky, another Bohemian, to wrestle at the Coliseum. Fristensky, we believe, was informed that Cutler would flop. White lost money building Fristensky up as a card. The only way he could get even and perhaps see a profit was for cutler to lose to Fristensky. Cutler may have agreed to lose. We don't know Anyway the match was put on before a good house and Cutler won easily and quickly in straight falls. He simply outclassed the Bohemian.




Shortly after that White was informed that he could stage no more wrestling shows in Chicago. That word was sent to him from the City Hall. That was enough for White. He wanted revenge and last night's exposure of the sport was his means of getting same. The man or men at whom he is hitting are not men tioned by him. But we are told that they were interested in the wrestling game here, and they may still be to a certain extent.


The fans who jammed into the Casino early in the evening little dreamed or what uas in store for them. When the Mystery came on they called him Mahmout, Gotch, Gama, Hack the Russian Lion, and other names of well-known and famous wrestlers. They then set back in their seats expecting, to see a great wrestler do things to Hokuff. They blinked when Hokuff threw him in twelve minutes with a cross body lock. The Mystery was on the defense all the time and showed absolutely nothing. They jeered and hooted him. When he came out again and lost in seven minutes and thirty seconds, again with a cross body lock, they knew something was wrong. Then came Mr. White's startling and astounding speech. 




Here is what he said:


"Gentlemen, before the 'Mystery' unmasks I desire to say a few words. I first want to say that to-night you witnessed the first square wrestling match that has been pulled off in Chicago in six years. You all know that I have been mixed up in the wrestling game, have promoted shows, and should know what i am talking about.


"I picked up a poor boob, a Chicago boy, John Friburg by name. He is the 'Mystery.' For years he has been kicked about Chicago and has been handed many a $2 bill to flop a match. He wasn't even good enough to show in the preliminaries. 


"The wrestling game in Chicago has been one grand fake; no match was complete without its frameup. This man, Bill Hokuff, who won to-night on his merits has tossed off many a match. He, like the rest of them, played the public for a good thing.


"My 'Mystery' had nine matches prior to to-night but at no time did he meet a good man. Sll of his matches were with inferior men. I made up my mind several weeks ago to put over this thing, and I promised that my man should unmask when he lost his first match. I wanted to show the public how easy it is to fake along."




The wrestling game here has been in bad odor since Gotch and Hackenschmidt wrestled the second time at the White Sox park. On that occasion Hack was in no condition to wrestle. Eight days before the match he was injured in a training camp bout. A blood hemorrhage in the left knee resulted. He was to receive $10,000 to wrestle with $1,000 for expenses. When hurt he refused to go on until the promoters offered him $2,500 more. The story goes that Gotch also agreed to let him win one fall.


When the men took grips in the arena just in front of the new Sox grandstand the gate receipts totaled $87,000, the largest house in the history of wrestling. Gotch went out and made a show of poor Hack, who was helpless the minute the champion took him by the left leg. The foreigner was called "yellow" by the spectators, who expected to see a great match that would last most of the afternoon. None of them knew that Hack was helpless when he went onto the mat and wrestled solely to make that money for himself and the thousands for the promoters. 


That was one awful jolt to the game in this city which "fell" for the wrestlers harder than any other town in America. Promoter White put on the finishing touches last night .


There were two preliminaries to the "big match." Emil Bruglio won two straight falls from Fred Holmes and Carl Schulz won in straight falls from Emil Gustavson

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I'm using my library's resources to look up really old wrestling articles. This looks like the earliest Worked Shoot Angles ever. Complete with the birth of a new character name "Honest Bill Hokuff"


"It was all fake before, but it's going to be for real now."

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Also, I didn't know much about the Gotch/Hack fight but I'm looking at the papers leading up to it and the build is fucking intense. "Hack is on a boat as we speak" "Hack is taking on two matches to prepare for the fight." "Hack says Gotch may get one fall."


There's also an article that even foreshadows the travesty of that match saying they need a clean bout or else it would ruin wrestling. Apparently there was a wrestler who took a dive a few months previous. 


Ed White was just cleaning this mess up, shootin' from the hip like a WWE cast-off in TNA.

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We'll settle this with a 'key to the city on a pole' melee! The winner gets the glory, the title of True Bully, and an extended line of credit at O'Bailey's Sundries and Fine Goods! He runs a fine establishment, despite his cursed Irish blood. Any grappler this side of the mountains would consider himself a rich man with such a purse!

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Wrestling was killed deader than the proverbial doornail in Chicago last night. If it ever comes back to life in these parts it will be because suckers are being born faster than they were in P. T Barnum's day, and you know he said they came once a minute.



Oh, man, Jae, what a fun find.That first sentence is so awesome in its wrongness. That Chicago rasslin' crowds are among the most passionate and vociferous adds to the awesome


Funny how even in 1989, some freaked out when Vince admitted to the Joisey State Senate that it was all a work to get out of taxes. HE'S EXPOSING THE BUSINESS. I remember being taken back because it was just accepted that one didn't admit it was staged. Terry Funk talked on Austin's podcast about being gung-ho to protect the business, but how he eventually came around


Never cease to laugh when folks badmouth rasslin' because it's "fake" and "no one could survive that beating" while spending $$$$ at the theater to see Bruce Willis or Jason Statham action flicks

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There's some good stuff in the Time magazine archives from the '20s and '30s.  It used to be publicly available, but it's gone subscriber-only in recent years.  If your library has a sub it's well worth looking through.  I don't recall any lengthy pieces but the wry prose style is such a pleasure.  And where else are you going to go to read about Dick Shikat and Danno O'Mahoney?

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