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Dr. B.F. Roller (1876-1933)

Real NameBenjamin Franklin Roller

Lifespan - 7/1/1876 - 4/19/1933

6’ 200 lbs. - Newman, IL

Athletic Background - Wrestling; Football

Teacher(s) - n/a

AliasesDr. Benjamin Roller, Doc Roller

Peak Years`08-`13

Place in HistoryBen Roller was an Illinois farm boy whose athletic skills across several sports allowed him to become not only a top wrestler, but funded his academic pursuits.  While at Du Pauw University, he was a strong student and excelled at both football and track and field (especially the hammer and discus) before heading the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school.  In those early days of football, Roller found himself playing in championship games with UPenn and teams at the “World Series of Football.” He continued with athletics with in school and accepted positions as a physiology professor and athletic director at the University of Washington and later opened his own practice.  While still involved with athletics, Roller decided to try wrestling professionally. He paired up with Frank Gotch’s former management and although he built up his resume, he did not care for tricking fans and taking their money. Roller and Gotch squared off in an exhibition and he faired well enough to change his career trajectory.  Roller used wrestling as a means for making money and traveling, so he could continue his medical studies. The papers loved to talk him up as a leading medical scholar, but that is an overstatement. Due to his air of legitimacy, willingness to accept any challenge and overall likeability, Dr. Roller was able to get matches anywhere. While touring the country, Roller met a narrowly defeated a Midwestern farmboy, who went on to fame as Joe Stecher.  He accepted the challenge of the Great Gama, who made quick work of him, probably convincing Frank Gotch and Georg Hackenschmidt to avoid him. The American heavyweight championship that Roller was billed as the holder of for the rest of his career, actually came to him for the first time in 1911 when he defeated Charlie Cutler in Chicago. This was just months ahead of the “Match of Century” between Gotch and Hackenschmidt and Roller was one of Hack’s key training partners.  Roller defeated Cutler for the title again in 1913 and dropped it to a very young Ed “Strangler” Lewis. Dr. Roller continued to wrestle off and on for the rest of the decade while pursuing his career in medicine. He did end up leaving and opening a surgery. Despite being a lifelong athlete and proponent of physical culture, Dr. Roller died at the age of 57 from pneumonia. While he was not the best of the best, Dr. Benjamin Roller created a useful place for himself in the emerging world of professional wrestling.  He was an endearing person with undeniable skill, but also a determination that fans could get behind. He met many of the greatest wrestlers ever - Frank Gotch, George Hackenschmidt, “Strangler” Lewis, Joe Stecher, Jim Londos, Earl Caddock, Stanislaus and Wladek Zbyszko, the Great Gama and many others. While he defeated few of those great names, the fact that he carried enough name value that he had the opportunity to work with them speaks to his legacy.