Real Name: George Hackenschmidt
Stats: 6' 0" 230 lbs.
Born: July 20, 1878
"The Russian Lion" George Hackenschmidt is one of wrestling's original great champions, and his story took place at the dawn of what has become modern professional wrestling era. His turn of the century, marathon battles with Frank Gotch over the World Heavyweight Title have become nearly as legendary as the man himself. As one of the sport's early superstars, he was a celebrity worldwide and a huge box office draw for the early pro wrestling promoters. As a shootfighter/wrestler, the heavily muscled champion was vulnerable...but only if you could get past his extreme power advantage and effective wrestling skills. Not many wrestlers of the day could, and "The Russian Lion" was one of wrestling's most successful men in the sport during his era, while at the same time firmly entrenched himself in wrestling history...
After establishing himself as a champion weightlifter, he began his professional wrestling career in the late 1890's, and quickly became a major wrestling celebrity in Europe. By the turn of the century, he was the premier wrestler in Europe and is credited for selling out the London Opera House -- a highly prestigious venue -- in 1904. His muscular physique was quite an attention grabber, and his massive body was easily the most developed specimen in the sport at the time. As a result, people flocked to arenas throughout Europe to see him wrestle. His massive physique would, years later, be cited as a model for many muscular wrestlers to come. But in addition to being a genetic wonder, Hackenschmidt was a formidable opponent for anyone he was matched against, and he possessed a painful and effective finisher in a version of the contemporary Bearhug maneuver. Realizing the value of showmanship, despite having to deal with bouts that were often true, legitimate contests, Hackenschmidt would often play up to the crowd, making him even more popular. He was known to perform elaborate exhibitions of strength before his matches, creating yet another reason for people to attend his matches.
According to many wrestling historians, a pre-bout arrangement was made wherein Gotch would drop one fall to Hackkenschmidt, allowing him to appear strong in defeat, but still win the other two falls, thus retaining the World title. Both agreed, but, according to legend, only one man intended on keeping his word -- and it wasn't Frank Gotch. The 30,000 on hand in Chicago witnessed a truly historic title match, one that was simultaneously a work and a shoot, which saw Gotch go over (the unsuspecting and highly vulnerable) Hackenschmidt in two straight falls.
who had been the crowd favorite, was well compensated monetarily, but the
loss was still nevertheless a bitter defeat for "The Russian Lion" to accept.
Not long after his second loss to Gotch, Hackenschmidt retired from the
sport he had been so instrumental in popularizing. However, the heights
of fame and popularity he achieved during his nearly 15-year long career,
and his admirable role as a fighting champion, set a standard for future
champions which can not be denied. With this in mind, we proudly induct
the pioneering World Champion, the world-famous "Russian Lion" George Hackenschmidt
into the T.R.C. Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame...
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