Special Thanks to our wonderful translator John Krummel for his incredible assistance with this column **Comments made by Mike Lorefice (proprietor of the excellent puroresu/mma emporium quebrada.net) will be preceded by his initials) ** There has been an ominous specter that has lurked within the corridors of pro wrestling since time immemorial. A nefarious presence that no one wishes to encounter, but the possibility of its appearing is forever looming in the minds and hearts of its practitioners. Yes, of course, we are referring to the infamous double-cross. A spirit so troubling that its last significant appearance effectively killed pro wrestling for good when it unraveled any remaining pretense to being a legitimate athletic contest (see the 1997 Montreal Screwjob and its aftermath for more info). While 1997 may have been the last important sighting of this unruly beast, it certainly wasn’t the first. Before Vince McMahon effectively monopolized American pro wrestling, starting with his nationwide expansion in the 80s, its landscape was made up of a series of regional territories. Much like the mafia, there were unwritten rules of conduct and honor that the various promoters of these outfits were expected to show one another, especially when it came to respecting geographical boundaries and not poaching talent. Of course, whenever there is money involved, combined with massive egos, these gentlemen’s agreements are sure to be broken. While an entire book could be written on the subject, here are but a few examples of infamous double-crosses of yesteryear. 1911: Frank Gotch vs. George Hackenschmidt: This match was the grandfather of all double-crosses. This was still in the era of professional wrestling being widely a legit contest, and Gotch had become broadly recognized as the world champion three years prior by beating Hackenschmidt. The best of three falls rematch was expected to do record-breaking business (which it did, doing around $87,000, which would roughly come out to 2.5 million dollars today), and the Gotch camp didn’t want to take any chances on losing the rematch. Reportedly, they hired submission expert Ad Santel for $5,000 to injure Hackenschmidt during one of their sparring sessions as Santel was a regular sparring partner for Hackenschmidt. Santel succeeded in injuring Hackenschmidt’s knee, which left him in no shape to be competitive in his rematch against Gotch. Not wanting to lose out on such a huge payday, the injury was kept secret, and when it came time to perform, Hackenschmidt worked out a deal with Gotch to be allowed a one-fall victory and to be carried the rest of the way to at least look like he was being competitive. Gotch agreed to this, but when the match started, he double-crossed Hackenschmidt and won quickly with two straight falls. 1-30-1920: Earl Caddock vs. Joe Malciewicz: Earl “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Caddock was one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling between 1915 and 1920. On 1-30-1920 he had a match against a young Joe Malciewicz in which he was supposed to win because he was scheduled to lose his “World Championship’’ title to Joe “Scissor King’’ Stecher just a couple of weeks later. Malciewicz agreed to the finish, but instead spent the entire match shooting on Caddok. He was awarded a decision victory and crowned the new World Champion. However, the wrestling promoters held a lot of sway in those days and were able to successfully hush up the press. They simply pretended that this title change never happened, and Caddock proceeded to drop his fictitious title to Stecher as planned. 1925: Wayne Munn vs. Stanislaus Zbyszko: It seems that Eric Bischoff wasn’t the first to pioneer athlete stunt-casting in professional wrestling. Yes, long before Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman were feuding within a wrestling ring, promoters in the 20s were already up to similar shenanigans. Ed “The Strangler” Lewis was world champion at the time, and with his cohort, infamous promoter Billy Sandow, they came up with a brilliant move that foreshadowed the dynamic duo of Hulk Hogan/Vince McMahon by decades. Munn was a giant of a man at 6-feet 8-inches and was a standout college football star. Seeing the potential to draw a cross audience of football fans, Lewis/Sandow got Munn to start a career in pro wrestling, and Strangler even dropped his title to him. Of course, as is the problem with many of these decisions, even to this present day, Munn had no wrestling talent and was too green to effectively work a match. Three months into his title reign he was set to successfully defend his title against Zbyszko when Zbyszko double-crossed Munn, shot on him, and easily pinned him for the win. Kimura, eat your heart out! 1926: Joe Stecher vs. John Pesek: Long before Masahiko Kimura became renowned in BJJ circles as the father of the submission hold named after him, John Pesek was putting anybody and everybody in his painful double-wristlock. He was competing against Joe Stecher for the World Title at the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium in a best of 3-falls contest. The first two falls went as planned, all appropriately worked, but when it came time for the 3rd fall, Pesek shot on Stecher and put him in the double-wristlock. Most bizarrely was that this double-cross didn’t work as the referee simply disqualified Pesek for no reason, thus saving the title for Stecher. This entire fiasco triggered an investigation by the athletic commission, but nothing happened, as they were presumably bribed with enough money by the promoters to stay quiet about everything. Ed Don George 1931: Ed Don George vs. Strangler Lewis: Not to be outdone by Billy Sandow/Wayne Munn, Northeast promoter Paul Bowser decided to fabricate a star out of a different football player in Gus Sonnenberg. Like Munn, Gus couldn’t work a match either, but that didn’t matter as they were making fistfuls of cash with him, that is until Sonnenberg had his butt kicked in a street fight by a much smaller middleweight wrestler. This altercation was presumably set up by some of Bowser’s rival promoters, and it had its intended effect as this effectively killed any credibility that Sonnenberg had. Not to be deterred, Bowser (who had a working agreement with Sandow/Strangler) had Sonnenberg drop the title to upcoming wrestling star, Ed Don George, but without the consent of either Sandow or Ed Lewis. Lewis was infuriated at this but continued to do jobs for Bower until he felt the time was right for him to exact his revenge. Eventually, Lewis got a match with George, in which he was supposed to lose, but before the match started, he told George that he was going to take the title one way or the other and that they could do it the “easy way,” or the “hard way.” George chose the easy way, as he knew that he couldn’t beat Lewis in a shoot. 1931: Strangler Lewis vs. Henri DeGlane: t only took three weeks for Bowser to exact his revenge on Ed “The Strangler” Lewis, in what was probably the most hilariously surreal double-cross in wrestling history. Lewis was scheduled to defeat Henri DeGlane in a best of 3-falls match in Montreal (which apparently is a hotbed city for wrestling screwjobs). Bowser convinced DeGlane to pull off one of the most brazen stunts in combat sports history when after the 2nd fall (with both wrestlers 1-1), an intermission was declared before the match was to resume. This practice was common in those days as the intermission allowed for the selling of concessions to the public. During this break, DeGlane bit himself near his armpit to the point of drawing blood. He then kept his wound concealed until the 3rd fall started, and abruptly started screaming, which shocked the ref. When the ref saw the histrionics, blood, and teeth marks on DeGlane, he disqualified Lewis and awarded the title to DeGlane. Lewis was dumbfounded at first, but then realized that he had been double-crossed by Bowser. Much like Bret Hart after him, he decided to do what Bret did and find Bowser so he could sock him in the face. Unlike Vince McMahon, however, Bowser had planned for this and had a contingency in place. He hired several bodyguards with baseball bats, so when Lewis found him to give him his deserved butt-kicking he was stopped by his army of goons. Lewis had no choice but to play it cool and left the States for a stint in Europe. 1933: Jim Londos vs. Joe Savoldi: It’s hard to fathom just how big a star Londos was in his generation. Easily the Hulk Hogan of the 30s-40s, this Greek megastar was still pulling in large crowds until 1959. However, in the early 30s, he had enraged some New York promoters to the point that they decided to install their own champion in Joe Salvodi. They pulled off their diabolical scheme at a title match in Chicago by not only paying off Salvodi, but also referee Bob Managoff. The match was supposed to have a segment where Salvodi put Londos in a submission, with Londos escaping by crawling into the ropes. All of that happened, however, when Londos got to the ropes Salvodi started applying real pressure onto Salvodi, while the crooked ref pretended to not see Londos tied up in the ropes. The ref then awarded a submission victory to Salvodi, and thus the title. The delicious irony here was that the promoters that set this up started losing money with a significant drop-off in audience attendance once Londos wasn’t around and were forced to beg him back not long thereafter. 1936: Danno O’Mahoney vs. Dick Shikat: This incident was an infamous match that exposed wrestling and killed business in New York for 15 years, at which point Antonio Rocca arrived onto the scene. Danno wasn’t much of a wrestler, but he was a huge draw in the Boston area, as well as other Northeast hotspots. Danno drew tons of money for New York promoter Jack Curley, who was at war with rival promoters Al Hart and Jack Pheffer. This inglorious duo found one of the toughest wrestlers of that era in Shikat, and proceeded to hire him to shoot all over Danno in a pro wrestling setting. Danno was demolished in this fight, and what’s worse, the ref had no clue how to respond to any of this. Shikat took the title, but Danno was still booked as champion in Boston for a while afterward. This fiasco was probably the first major blow that pro wrestling took on a grand scale that exposed its chicanery to the broader public. 1950: Don Eagle vs. Gorgeous George: Weird match that probably is the closest to resembling the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels future disaster. Eagle was recognized as a world champion in the Boston area, but managed to have a title defense slated in the Chicago area against Gorgeous George. In this one, referee Earl Mollohan double-crossed Eagle by intentionally conducting a fast count against him and running out of the ring after committing the dirty deed, all while a livid Eagle chased him. 1985: Wendi Richter vs. Spider Lady: At least Bret Hart doesn’t have to go through life with the heaviness of knowing that he’s the only one to have been screwed by Vince McMahon. Yes, a full twelve years before that incident in Montreal, Vince was taking a stab at talent relations by eliminating a pesky contractor that wanted to be compensated fairly for her work. The explosion of the WWF’s brand in the 80s was due to a number of factors/personalities, and women’s phenom Wendi Richter can rightfully claim to have been an important part of that. Richter was coming into this match on the heels of a super hot program with Cyndi Lauper in her corner as she faced off against the Fabulous Moolah with Capt. Lou Albano in Moolah’s. This culminated in a match that aired on MTV to huge ratings. Richter upset the 28-year reign that Moolah had enjoyed up to that point and this kicked off the “Rock and Wrestling Connection” era of the WWF. One would be forgiven for thinking that helping thrust Vince McMahon’s vision into the national spotlight would garner a reasonable payday, but that assumption would be wrong. Richter was hardly paid anything for her efforts and tried on several occasions to reason with McMahon about getting more pay, but this kind of talk was verboten in Vince’s world, and Richter had to be silenced. Richter was booked to face the mysterious Spider Lady, who unbeknownst to Richter, was in fact Moolah in disguise. Richter figured out what was going on before the match started and knew that she couldn’t trust Moolah. However, she hadn’t figured on the referee being in on the double-cross. Moolah put Richter in a small package and despite Richter kicking out at the count of one, the ref quickly slammed his hand on the mat three times which prompted Howard Finkel to announce Moolah as the New champion. This prompted total confusion and pandemonium in the crowd, and Richter fled the arena in disgust, never to work for Vince McMahon again.