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Wladek Zbyszko (1891 - 1968)

    

Real NameLadislaus Cyganiewicz
Lifespan11/20/1891 - 6/10/1968
6’1” 235 lbs. - Jodlow, Austria-Hungary

Athletic Background - Greco-Roman Wrestling, Weightlifting

Teacher(s) - n/a

AliasesThe Great Apollo

Peak Years - 1920s

Place in HistorySiblings in pro-wrestling are often inseparably tied together in history for the obvious reasons.  Wladek Zbyszko, the younger brother of the equally legendary Stanislaus Zbyszko, was initially hyped as the bigger and better younger brother of the European grappler.  Eleven years younger than Stanislaus, Wladek enjoyed many benefits from his brother’s experiences and successes.  He studied catch-as-catch-can wrestling as opposed to Greco-Roman as was the predominant style in the States.  He took his brother’s fake last name (from a legendary Polish character) when he came over and was able to get a big push with top billing from the outset.  Wladek also did not have to spend a decade building a name for himself in Europe, he came to US for the first time as a twenty year old and with probably fictitious background of big wins in Europe.  An up-and-coming Ed “Strangler” Lewis came to national fame by bad-mouthing Wladek and shooting on him in their first match.  Wladek Zbyszko was also pushed in a legendary tournament in 1915, which featured both catch and Greco-Roman wrestling.  It marked the end of Greco-Roman’s years as the premier professional wrestling style, although Wladek had several poor showings against its champion Alex Aberg.  Coming out of the tournament, the rivalry between Zbyszko and Lewis had reached a peak and they became key figures, along with Joe Stecher and Earl Caddock battling each other to determine who was the rightful heir to Frank Gotch.  These matches were big box office, especially his wild battles with Lewis.  They only traded wins and losses with each other, so when John Pesek defeated Zbyszko in 1919, it catapulted him into the top tier.  In the 1920s, Zbyszko was still a credible performer, but he was no longer pushed as the top guy by Jack Curley.  By the 1930s, he was past-his-prime and putting over the main stars.  Looking for new opportunities, Zbyszko began touring around and living off his legacy as a former world champion.  He did a few movies, battled a retiredI Italian boxer in Argentina, went to a draw with Helio Gracie in Brazil, put over Olympic gold medalist Henri DeGlane in Europe and ran into some surreal (and perhaps unreal) situations before returning to the US.  He and his brother retired to a farm in St. Joseph, Missouri, which saw young Harley Race and Johnny Valentine work there over the next few decades.  Wladek continued to wrestle, often under a pseudonym, until 1950.

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