A Study of Danno O’Mahoney
The (Almost) Undisputed World Champion
Research by Steve Yohe
Daniel (Danno) O’Mahony was born September 29, 1912, at Dereenlomane Ireland, to Daniel and Susan O’Mahony. Dereenlomane is a small town located three miles from the township of Ballydehob, which is located on the Mizen Head Peninsula in the extreme southwest of Ireland’s largest county, Cork. It was a rocky mountainous area known for its mines that shipped raw materials (copper) to the English industries. In its valleys were many small farms that served to feed the area’s population.1
The Irish think of themselves as a friendly people, but their history is filled with stories of warriors, feuds, and war. The O’Mahony family had been known for its feuds with the O’Sullivans of Beare in the Northern peninsula and for wars with neighboring McCarthy and O’Driscoll tribes. Later, they all would unite during wars with invading armies. The O’Mahony tribe was respected because it never joined an invader to fight against its countrymen. The map of Danno’s homeland was dotted with the ruins of many castles left over from these battles.
Danno’s father, Big Dan, was a 6’5" giant known for his athletic prowess. He excelled in every form of athletic contest and held many records in track and field, the major sport of the time in Ireland. He inherited the family farm in Dereenlomane and married Danno’s mother, Susan O’Driscoll. Danno was the fourth born in a family of seven children—six boys, John Will, Daniel, Florence (Flor), Pat, and Dermot, and one girl. At his baptism, the local priest commented that Danno was "the strongest child I have ever seen."
At age five, Danno attended the Dereenlomane National School, whose principal was his uncle John. He left school at 13 to work on the family farm. Soon after, he took a job with the local priest, a Father Murphy, for two years. During his stay, he learned much from the contact he made with many different types of people. At 16, he returned to the farm, but found little to do, so he hired himself and his brothers out to neighboring farms and to other local projects, such as road maintenance. The brothers were all highly skill workers and their standard of living was good in an area considered poor to the rest of the world.
In 1933, Danno’s mother died, and that led Danno and his younger brother, Flor, to enlist in the National Army. As recruits at the Army Training Camp at Curragh, they quickly made their presence known by the area’s sports enthusiasts. Their abnormal strength and athletic prowess stood out in track and field events, and many of Danno’s military records in the hammer and 56 lb weight throw were still unbroken as late as 1990. It didn’t take long for Danno to become the first All-Army champion in the hammer event. He also boxed and wrestled as part of his training. It is likely that O’Mahony wrestled in the Irish-Cornish style, which consisted mostly of stand up and throws. Danno didn’t like boxing, but was unbeaten while winning some local amateur boxing tournaments.2
Former Middleweight wrestling champion3 Paul Bowser had moved from grappling to promotion in Boston around 1922 and became the sport’s most successful promoter of the late 1920’s and 1930’s. He reached the top level of his profession in 1929 when he bought the world wrestling title from the Billy Sandow/Ed Lewis/Max Bauman group. His talents were many, but he was at his best when creating new wrestling stars. George Calza, Stanley Stasiak, Cora Livingston (Mrs. Bowser), Joe Malcewicz, Gus Sonnenberg, Henri DeGlane, and Ed Don George were some of his most successful early creations. In Boston, he had a stable of lesser name wrestlers, such as George McLeod, Bibber McCoy, Ned McGuire, Pat McGill, and Karl Sarpolis that he booked, along with his major stars, to other promotions as far away as California.
Bowser had been at war with rival promoters, but in early 1932, had formed a working relationship with the other dominant promoter of his time, Jack Curley, of New York City. Curley teamed with Toots Mondt, an old friend of Bowser. This truce between hated rivals Curley and Bowser, and the storyline of Ed Lewis and Jim Browning as champions in New York, hadn’t worked, so in December of 1933, agreements were made to end all the promotional wars. Bowser, Curley, Mondt, Tom Pack (St. Louis), Ed White, Lou Daro (Los Angeles), Ray Fabiani (Philadelphia), Rudy Dusek (the south), and all the smaller promoters, signed a agreement that formed a profit-sharing Trust4 that would use wrestling box office king, Jim Londos, as its main world champion. The only thorn threading this balloon of peaceful cooperation was an outlaw promoter named Jack Pfeffer, who was excluded from the pact because of a history of promotional backstabbing and double-crossing. Pfeffer was somebody the Trust couldn’t control, and the little thief would haunt them during the mid-1930’s by writing nasty letters to sportswriters, spelling out the secrets of pro wrestling and exposing other promoters storylines and results before they happened.
These agreements brought forth an era of great profits. Bowser and the others were able to share talent, so fans could see wrestlers and matchups not available previously. 1934 was a great year for pro wrestling, everywhere but at its center—New York City. The driving out of the city of star wrestler Jim Londos in 1932, and the breaking of kayfabe, had damaged its box office, and even the return of Londos in 1934 couldn’t push the city back to its former glory.
Champion Londos also bothered promoters such as Bowser. Because of his universal box office appeal, Londos held a position that outranked even the most powerful promoter. Through the Trust agreement, he also held a $50,000 deposit5 that would be his if he ever lost a match. This power by a worker over them was resented, but all the Trust members knew he could not be replaced by just any wrestler. They wanted someone of equal box office potential, and that person didn’t exist in 1933. Removing Londos had been tried before, and they knew the next attempt would cost them a lot of money, so they would have to be sure of who they put in the position of power as the world champion. Bowser also felt that the next champion had to be someone that was just an employee that he and the other Trust members, could control.
Bowser knew that Boston, New York City, and the rest of New England had a large Irish population so he had been attempting to create an Irish wrestling star for years without success. Many of the biggest stars in boxing and baseball had Irish names, but wrestling hadn’t had a major Irish champion since William Muldoon.6 Bowser felt that a real, honest-to-goodness Irishman might be the answer to everyone’s problem. Bowser also knew that the pro wrestler of the 1930’s didn’t need to be a true wrestler. What he needed was a good-looking athlete who could perform. Bowser had been making wrestling stars out of footballers like Gus Sonnenberg and felt he could pull the same trick with an Irishman. The ability to actually wrestle meant very little.
Bowser’s attention turned to a Dr. Patrick O’Callaghan of Kanturk, Ireland, who had won the hammer event at the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. Unable to travel himself, Bowser sent his friend and front man, Worcester promoter Jack McGrath, to Ireland with an offer for O’Callaghan. Once in country, McGrath found out that Doctor O’Callaghan had a well paying practice and wasn’t interested in the foolishness of American wrestling. But the Doctor did direct McGrath to a man who could "fill the bill", a private in the Irish Free State Army named Danno O’Mahony.7
McGrath traveled to the Army camp at Kildare and watched the young O’Mahony work out. A short time later, the young lad was called to the camp office to meet McGrath and listen to his plans. Offers of good pay and fame in America to an Irish private making $15 a month was too good of a deal to pass on, so Danno agreed. McGrath contacted Bowser with the news that he had found his man. Ex-Lieutenant Governor Edward P. Barry served as attorney for Bowser in bringing Danno to America. Barry contacted another Boston politician who was a personal friend of Mr. Frank Aiken, the Minister of Defense in Ireland. Within days, O’Mahony had his release from the Irish army.
O’Mahony and McGrath stayed in Ireland for at least four weeks, training, because the American Consul in Dublin refused to issue Danno a visa.8 Danno may even have had a few minor wrestling matches during those few weeks, although no results are known today. This issue was solved by an order issued on Nov. 12, 1934 from Edward P. McGrady, assistant Secretary of Immigration in the USA.
The two then moved to London, England, where Danno received more training. In early December 1934, a wrestler named Charles A. Young9 later claimed to have worked out with O’Mahony at the Stadium Club, London. After watching Ed Lewis spar with Bert Assirati, Young was told by Lewis to go into the ring with a young wrestler, who later turned out to be Danno, and beat him as fast as he could. It took him two minutes to pin Danno.
On December 6, 1934, O’Mahony had his first official pro match versus Ed "Strangler" Lewis at London’s Stadium Club. Lewis, a four-time undisputed world champion, and one of the most famous true wrestlers in history, was supposed to carry the young athlete to a draw, but found the task impossible, so he just pinned Danno after five minutes10. O’Mahony did not return for the second fall, so under the English round system, it was ruled a draw. This setback made for a bad night, but after considering the boy’s inexperience with the pro game, and the ability and ego of the man he wrestled, they felt he had stood up well in a difficult situation and, in fact, had shown rare pose. McGrath and Bowser decided to bring their new star to America.11
Danno and McGrath arrived in New York City around December 14, 1934 after a rough trip threw a fierce winter storm on the steamship Bremen. They were then flown by plane to Boston and put to bed in one of the city’s best hotels. The next day, Danno was given a tryout in front of Paul Bowser, his new boss, who had already publicized his arrival with the Irish population. On January 2, 1935, O’Mahony signed a five-year contract with Bowser worth $100,000.12 It was agreed that Jack McGrath would act as his manager.
In North America, O’Mahony was billed as Danno O’Mahoney, with an "e." In the 1940’s, he went back to his real name O’Mahony. (At times, you will catch me using both versions.)
Bowser assigned Danno to his chief trainer, Frederick (Fred) Joseph Moran, who had already made pro wrestling stars out of Gus Sonnenberg, Henry de Glane, and Ed Don George. All major wrestlers used unique finishing holds or moves. Danno was good standing up, so a move was created for him called "The Irish Whip." It resembled a flying mare. O’Mahony would either catch his opponent coming off the ropes, or spin him around, then using the man’s right arm, throw him over his back, crashing onto the mat. When applied to a good worker who could produce a good bump, it was a spectacular move, and it worked well for O’Mahoney throughout his career. Moran and McGrath had their finishing move. They then only needed to worry about the body of the match. Danno was a hard worker, and it was felt that with the right worker, they could come up with a match they could sell to the public.
The right opponent turned out to be Ernie Dusek. The Duseks brothers, Ernie and Rudy, were, to the 30’s and 40’s, what the Funk family was to the 70’s and 80’s. They were two of the first straight-out heels in wrestling and they headlined in every territory in the country, being responsible for "putting over" every major wrestler created during this period. They started as singles, but the development of tag team wrestling in the 1940’s, and the addition of Emil and Joe Dusek, gave their careers longevity few could match. They were also powerful front office talent, eventually promoting and booking wrestling throughout the south, on the east coast and the mid-west of the United States. Ernie Dusek was such a good worker that he bragged of never having a bad match. His skills were such that he could lose a match one week and draw a bigger crowd the next. He was the perfect match for O’Mahony.
Bowser promoted O’Mahoney as an Irish champion who was touring the country looking for a title match with AWA world champion Ed Don George, or NWA world champion Jim Londos, after beating the great Ed Lewis in London. It was also claimed that Danno was the strongest man on the planet.
On January 4, 1935, in the huge Boston Garden, Danno O’Mahony had his first American match versus Ernie Dusek with 14,000 screaming Irishmen showing up to support their young countryman.12 It must have been frightening for a young boy, in a strange country, to walk into a wrestling ring, having only seen one card in his life, but O’Mahoney made the trip and did the assigned match without any major problem.
Danno seemed to freeze up in the first fall as Dusek used rough tactics and outright fouls to push the boy around the ring. Then, urged on by the crowd and his corner men, Danno woke up and began a 1935 version of "Hulking out" on the villain. Using boxing skills, Danno punched Dusek all over the ring, until two "Irish Whips" finished the fall in 10:17. They returned for the second fall with more fouling by Dusek, followed by an Irish comeback. After eye gouging, Ernie hit O’Mahony with a flying tackle, the famous finishing hold brought into wrestling by Gus Sonnenberg, and laid Danno out. But Danno got up and met a second flying tackle with a stiff right to Dusek’s jaw. The Irish whip finished Dusek in 16:50.
Rudy Dusek, corner man to his brother, rushed into the ring and attacked O’Mahoney. Ernie then joined in. Danno began punching everything moving. Rudy fell, and then Ernie fell. When the referee, Sam Smith, attempted to help, he got punched, too. Danno even threw punches at the police who attempted to break up the fight … as the crowd roared its approval. The match was a success and the Boston fans had found their hero.
Two weeks later [January 18, 1935], O’Mahoney’s second Boston Garden match, a two-straight-fall victory over Rudy Dusek, drew 16,000.
It’s interesting that research shows that THE BOSTON GLOBE exposed the whole O’Mahoney gimmick while it was happening. It seems the reporter, a James C. Leary, was either wrestling smart or briefed by outlaw promoter Jack Pfeffer, and he loved showing off his knowledge by predicting match results and storylines. Before O’Mahoney’s first match, he predicted another wrestling boom with Danno as champion, and described the first match, as it later happened, blow for blow. The funny thing is that it didn’t hurt Bowser. The fans bought the gimmick and filled Boston Garden. I would guess what saved Bowser was that Leary was a huge fan who seemed to love the matches, so he didn’t show the cynicism that would characterize the reporting that followed the events of 1936.
During January and February of 1935, Danno stayed in Boston, training with Fred Moran. Most reports claimed that he showed improvement from match to match. At night, Danno visited every Irish club or organization around Boston. So many banquets were held in his honor that McGrath had to put the Irish hero on a diet.
The boy became so popular that he had to be moved out of his hotel to a home on Reservoir Street which was populated by the Burke family. The father, John Burke, had five daughters and a son. Danno was living in the house for less than a month when he gave one of the daughters, Esther Burke, a diamond ring. Esther, a graduate nurse working at Cambridge Hospital, sat ringside at O’Mahony’s matches and traveled with him. Their romance and later marriage became part of O’Mahony’s storyline and got nationwide press. Esther was Danno’s first and last love.13
O’Mahony’s first road trip was to Philadelphia for another win over Ernie Dusek. He then returned to Boston and beat one of wrestling most popular good guys, Nick Lutze.14
He then traveled to New York for a match with the other major promoter in wrestling, Jack Curley. His fourth match in America was to be a main event in Madison Square Garden against Ray Steele. Steele was one of the top three true hookers in pro wrestling and a major star. He was Jim Londos’ favorite opponent (and friend) and the two of them had engaged in one of wrestling’s biggest rivalries. The two had drawn sellouts in every major city in North America. Unlike some shooters, like John Pesek and Dick Shikat, Steele had no ego and was willing to work with anyone.15
On February 18, 1935, Danno O’Mahony dominated Steele. Steele tried hold after hold, but the Irishman broke them all using strength alone. Steele, in frustration, resorted to "rough stuff," which Danno tolerated until he got his "Irish" up and started raining forearms down on Steele. At one point, Steele was in a full nelson having his head driven into the mat. Two "Irish Whips" and Ray was left lying in the ring. The time was 17:02. The match drew 4,000.16
A story is that at the post-match party, held by Jack Curley at Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant, Dempsey offered to promote O’Mahony if he wanted to turn to pro boxing. Danno refused. I bet more Irish showed up at the party than at the arena.
O’Mahoney began touring in late February 1935. He was shown in Toronto, Philadelphia, Buffalo, and in Bowser territory, always against Bowser wrestlers. On March 18, he met another major shooter, ex-champ Jim Browning, in Madison Square Garden. Browning had lost his New York world title to Jim Londos on June 25, 1934 in front of 25,000 people, but on this night, he drew only 7,000. Danno, using strength alone, broke every hold Browning had, and after being fouled, pinned him using two Irish Whips. The time was 22:31.17
On March 25, he beat Gino Garibaldi in Chicago, drawing 1,426. In St. Louis on March 26, he drew 7,747 in beating Ernie Dusek. On March 29, he return to Boston to beat hated heel George Zaharias in front of a sold out Boston Garden.18
Jack Curley booked Danno back into Madison Square Garden against Dick Shikat. Shikat was another former world champion who was a major legitimate wrestler. He was very strong and other worker-type wrestlers didn’t like being in the ring with him because he worked "stiff." This type of worker is called a "crowbar" by wrestlers. Shikat was also not happy at the time. Since 1928, he had been the number two wrestler in Curley’s promotion, but when the Trust was formed, he lost power and had been forced to do more jobs in 1934 than he had ever done in his whole career. Some believe that Shikat had been promised the title by the trust, but Ed Lewis refused to drop the belt to him, giving it to Jim Browning instead. He especially resented doing one to his rival Jim Londos in Madison Square Garden on December 10, 1934 (att: 14,000).19 Shikat had also been swindled out of a lot of money by people in the Curley promotion, led by his former manager, Toots Mondt. There is also a story that has Shikat getting beaten up by Mondt and Ed Lewis20 in Toots’ apartment. Shikat had wrestled on O’Mahony’s debut card in Boston and had been ringside for Danno’s victory over Ernie Dusek. It wouldn’t take much imagination to understand that wrestler Shikat’s resented the push given to the rookie, O’Mahoney.
On April 1, 6,000 fans watched Shikat dominate O’Mahoney in the early part of the match. Danno looked bewildered and pained. At one point, Shikat threw O’Mahoney into a corner and blocked his escape with elbows, arms, and hands. Danno, who did have boxing experience, lashed out with a punch that caught Shikat squarely on the nose. The Irishman looked apologetic as blood spurted from Dick’s nose. Shikat then applied a series of strangle holds which had the crowd in an uproar, while referee George Bothner labored frantically to break the holds. Shikit then seemed to calm down as O’Mahoney when on the offense. Headlocks, hammerlocks and a flying mare followed. O’Mahoney then hit Shikat twice with feared "Irish whip." After the second, Shikat stood up, shook his head, and kicked O’Mahoney twice in the chest. O’Mahoney sank to the canvas, crying that his ribs wer broken. With the kid unable to continue, Bothner disqualified Shikat and awarded the match to Danno. Standing, O’Mahoney looked unsatisfied, and feebly waved at Shikat to continue, something Shikat seemed more than willing to do. Bothner blocked his path, and Shikat was escorted from the ring by two policemen for safety’s sake.21
April 1 was soon forgotten, as O’Mahoney was next matched with the greatest shooter since Gotch (well I am leaving out Joe Stecher.) … his old friend from London, five-time world champion, Ed "Strangler" Lewis. The storyline was that Ed was in Boston asking for a match because he was upset with O’Mahoney and his promoters for saying he beat Lewis in Europe. This match took place in Boston Garden on April 26, 1935 and it drew 20,000 fans. Danno won the first fall in 21:27 with the Irish Whip. After being pinned, Lewis attacked Danno, sending him through the ropes. O’Mahoney reentered the ring with blood in his eyes. Throwing policemen aside, he nailed Lewis in an exchange so hard that the Strangler was laid out unconscious. With Lewis unable to continue in the second fall, O’Mahoney was announced as winner and Lewis was carried to the dressing room. The newspaper called the match "thrilling" and praised it for having a "great climax."22
A few days later, THE BOSTON GLOBE reported that Danno had admitted in an interview that he had not beaten Lewis in London, but had actually lost the match to Ed. The story also exposed the storyline and results of Danno’s upcoming tour of the west coast.23
O’Mahoney was not the only new wrestler being groomed to replace Jim Londos around the year 1935. Every major promoter in the Trust seemed to be developing new talent in 1935 and 1936. Toots Mondt had Chief Little Wolf, and later, Dean Detton. Lou Daro had Vincent Lopez. Tom Packs was looking at Orville Brown and a very young Lou Thesz, while Tony Stecher was already working on All-Pro footballer Bronko Nagurski. Morris Sigel of Houston was drawing big crowds to watch a hillbilly gimmick performer called Daniel Boone Savage. Non-trust member Billy Sandow was working overtime pushing Everett Marshall in the Midwest.
So I’m not sure that everyone in the Trust was in agreement on the idea of O’Mahoney as world champion when Bowser’s gimmick started in January 1935. Early in the year, it seems that the plan was for Londos to drop the title to AWA champion Ed Don George in New York City, but I believe either Londos refused or Bowser changed Jack Curley’s mind.24 It’s hard to explain why the promoters of 1935 would want to change champions after Londos drew five crowds of over 20,000 and broke the all-time pro wrestling gate record in 1934,25 but all the backstabbing in New York City had hurt Londos as a draw in that major city to the extent that it made Curley think he could do better.
On January 28, 1935, less than 4,000 fans turned out for a Londos match with Dr. Harry Fields in Madison Square Garden.26 A conference of the Trust promoters followed and a plan was made to put pressure on Londos to drop the title. On March 1, 1935, the California Athletic Commission suspended Londos after Londos refused to wrestle Chief Little Wolf in Lou Daro’s Olympic Auditorium on February 27. The New York Commission had an agreement to back all suspensions by fellow commissions, so Jim Londos was once again banned from wrestling in New York City. Little Wolf, managed by Toots Mondt,26.1 was not given the California world title, as Lou Daro was planning a huge International Tournament in Los Angeles starting in late April 1935. The Tournament rules committee consisted of Trust members Paul Bowser, Jack Curley, Ray Fabiani, Tom Packs, and Lou Daro. First prize for winning the double elimination tournament was $35,000 and the Ed Lewis world championship belt, which up to that time had been worn by AWA world champions, like the current titleholder Ed Don George. Bowser presented the belt to Daro himself on April 23 in Los Angeles. Seventy internationally-known wrestler were entered and the names were some of biggest in the world—Ed Lewis, Vincent Lopez, Joe Savoldi, Man Mountain Dean, Jim Browning, Nick Lutze, Dean Detton, Hans Steinke, Sandor Szabo, Joe Malcewicz, Marin Plestina, Felix Miquet, Ernie Dusek, Earl McCready, Jugat Singh, and Juan Humberto were entered, but the favorites to win were both listed at 8 to 5. They were Toots Mondt’s Chief Little Wolf and Paul Bowser’s Danno O’Mahoney. There was also an open invitation to Jim Londos to join the tournament, but he was busy defending his title in places like Chicago and Detroit.
Danno’s first stop in California was San Francisco, where he defeated Bowser’s world champion of 1926, Joe Malcewicz.26.2 His first appearance in Los Angeles was on May 1 in a tournament match against Howard Cantonwine. He won after 7 minutes and 6 seconds in front of 8,500. The newspapers in Los Angeles all let it be known that O’Mahoney was destined to be the next world champion.27
O’Mahoney’s biggest match in Los Angeles took place on May 8, 1935 at the Olympic Auditorium versus Man Mountain Dean. Dean had the same birthday as Ed Lewis and had wrestled almost as long. For most of his career, he had performed under the name Soldier Frank Leavitt with very little success, but had started using a hillbilly gimmick in Georgia. In 1934, he came to Los Angeles and hit pay dirt as the 317-pound Man Mountain Dean. He sold out the Olympic Auditorium many times that year and lost three times to champion Londos in events that drew huge numbers. His popularity had little to do with great matches or big wins. All of his matches were short and he won by simply jumping on his opponents. He was booked over and over, but his push, win-wise, by Daro, wasn’t major. He rarely beat anyone noteworthy clean and was booked to do many jobs, but from day one, the Los Angeles fans saw great fun in him. He would later (1935) be called the biggest draw in the history of Los Angeles sports.28 Yes, not just wrestling. Sports. I, for one, can’t completely understand it. He was a fun villain who proved, more than any other wrestler or event, that wrestling fans in 1935 were paying money, not for true wrestling, but for entertainment.
The Mountain slugged, kneed, and strangled O’Mahoney for the first five minutes of their match. Danno was forced to grab the ropes for a break, but under the tournament rules, he was then required to take a down position in the middle of the ring. This had been the finish in other Dean tournament matches, because Dean’s opponents were then wide open to be jumped on by the 312-pound monster. But as Dean did his running jump, Danno moved, and the fat man splattered with a boom that echoed throughout the arena. The Irish boy then pounded Dean with a barrage of rights and lefts to the head. With Dean hanging helplessly on the ropes, Danno hit the Irish Whip, followed by a huge body slam and a pin. The time was six minutes and 18 seconds. The match drew 10,000.29
Danno’s last match in the tournament was on the undercard of a Vincent Lopez victory over Joe Malcewicz on May 11. He defeated Dr. Freddie Meyer in eight minutes.
O’Mahoney flew to St. Louis on May 17 for a victory over George Zaharias in front of 8,233. On May 27, Daro was telegraphed that O’Mahoney was withdrawing from his tournament and would be unable to wrestle a match with Ed Lewis. The O’Mahoney people in Boston claimed that their man was injured, so Lewis was awarded a default tournament win over O’Mahoney, something never reflected in Danno’s record.
It seems that it was always the plan for O’Mahoney to leave the tournament after two weeks, but it’s also possible that Danno was going to win it if Paul Bowser hadn’t convinced Londos to agree to a match with Danno in Boston during June. Why else would Bowser take the Lewis belt off his AWA champion, Ed Don George, and let Lou Daro give it to his tournament winner?
It seems that the Trust members withdrew their support of Daro’s tournament around this time, and outside of Los Angeles, the tournament publicity stopped. Also, Jack Curley announced a Londos title defense versus Toots Mondt’s Chief Little Wolf to be held in Yankee Stadium on July 8. During this time, Londos started giving interviews with the main topic being retirement.
O’Mahoney’s next major match in Boston was against Gus Sonnenberg on May 24. Sonnenberg was Bowser’s first world champion marketed nationally. During 1929 and 1930, Sonnenberg’s only box office rival was Jim Londos, and even after dropping the title to Ed Don George in Los Angeles on December 10, 1930, he remained someone who the fans would pay to see. From 1928 to 1943, he was one of wrestling’s biggest draws. Bowser promoted many successful cards during the 1930’s, but Boston’s gate record always remained the Sonnenberg world title win over Ed Lewis on January 5, 1929, which pulled in a pre-Depression $72,000.
Gus was not a true wrestler, but his working style influenced the sport more that any other until Buddy Rogers appeared in the ‘40s. He brought the football move called the flying tackle into wrestling, and within a few months, there were wrestlers copying it and creating many other stand up moves. Wrestling changed from a lay-on-the-mat, hold style, to a more exciting stand-up style with wrestlers bouncing off the ropes to create collisions. No man, even a Toots Mondt, can change styles by giving orders, but a successful money-making worker can, and in 1929, all the wrestlers were watching Gus Sonnenberg.
Sonnenberg’s vices were drink, a poor driving record, and bad marriages. His partying and womanizing led to a leading role in the scandal sheets of his time, which made him even more of a crossover star, until he killed a policeman named Richard I. Morrissey in an auto accident. At the trial in March 1935, the local District Attorney asked Sonnenberg if he was afraid of the testimony of a certain witness. Gus leaned very close to the D.A. and said, "Listen, I’m not afraid of anything." The spectators perked up and Gus was found not guilty.30
The O’Mahoney/Sonnenberg match drew 17,000 to Boston Garden. Danno showed great improvement and dominated the match from start to finish, winning in two straight falls. At 27:17 of the first fall, Sonnenberg attempted a tackle, but O’Mahoney fell on his back. As Gus flew over, he was kicked into the ropes. Gus draped around the top rope, saving him a fall onto the floor, but he took a terrible bump as he landed back in the ring. Danno jumped on him for the first fall pin. Sonnenberg was granted an extra 5 minutes rest period, but he was still groggy on his return. The referee and fans asked him to default, but Gus wanted to continue. Danno shoved the dazed Sonnenber to the mat twice, and then pinned him in 38 seconds.
O’Mahoney’s next major Boston opponent was Henri DeGlane on June 7, 1935. DeGlane was a Gold Medal winner at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games in Greco-Roman wrestling and a former AWA world champion, having beaten Ed Lewis on May 4, 1931 in Montreal. He kept the title for 22 months, losing it to Ed Don George on February 10, 1933 when his collarbone was broken. At the time of his match with Danno, he was the reigning European Heavyweight Champion, working out of Paris, France. Most of Danno’s matches were short due to his inexperience, but this match lasted 65 minutes, and the press, once again, commented that he was developing into a better wrestler. DeGlane, who had legitimate wrestling credentials, had promised to stay away from O’Mahoney’s whip and take him off his feet. It didn’t work, however, as DeGlane was pinned after a poorly executed Irish Whip. The newspaper felt that this match proved that Danno had become an accomplished wrestler.31
In late May, Londos signed to meet O’Mahoney on June 27 in Boston’s Fenway Park. Londos seemed to be under great pressure to drop the title in 1935. He had been driven out of two of his biggest territories, Los Angeles and New York, but he had also been wrestling’s hardest worker and a major star since wrestling a 2½ hour draw with Ed "Strangler" Lewis on January 1, 1918. On interviews, he talked about rest and retirement, and wanting to raise a family on a farm in southern California.
As part of the agreement with the wrestling Trust when it was formed in 1933, Londos was promised $50,000 in return for any loss, title or not. This was an incredible amount of money in the Depression of 1935. I believe that the promotional pressure put on Londos during that year was an effort by the Trust to get Londos to lower his price, but Jimmy was too street smart and wouldn’t be cheated. Bowser’s agreement with Londos also promised him another $20,000, or the privilege of accepting 37½% of a Fenway Park gate.32 Londos was already a millionaire (at least in the press) and hated the idea of jobbing, but no one could pass up that big of a payday.
On June 13, 1935, James J. Braddock upset World Heavyweight Boxing champion Max Baer at Long Island’s Madison Square Garden Bowl. A lot of theories have been thrown around over the years about wrestling creating an Irish champion because of the popularity of Braddock, but the boxer’s fame didn’t really begin until May 1935 during training for the Baer fight, when it was revealed that he was on welfare. Bowser was working on his O’Mahoney idea in 1934, and Braddock’s national popularity now seems to have been a result of the Depression more that anything else.33
Londos and O’Mahoney trained for over a week in the city and both attended luncheons and banquets as honored guests to build the publicity for the event. The night of the event saw fans brought in by train from around the country. Albany filled two B and A cars with ringside customers, and promoter Ray Fabiani brought a train-car load of fans from Philadelphia. Press row was filled with representatives from all over North America and every major wrestling promoter was present. O’Mahoney was a 5-4 favorite with the bettors and everyone was ready to see a new king crowned. The gates were opened early and 20,000 fans were in there seats before the ballpark lights were turned on.
For over an hour, Danno threw Londos all over the ring. Whenever Londos applied a hold, O’Mahoney broke it using superior strength. At one hour and ten minutes, Londos went on the offensive, as he always did, hitting Danno with a series of super fast moves followed by body slams, but this time, the Irishman countered with flying moves of his own. Not using the Irish Whip, Danno threw Londos into the ropes and caught the Greek with three flying mares. Londos was whipped into the ropes a fourth time, but O’Mahoney hit him on the rebound with a flying body scissors. After he fell to the mat under the full weight of Danno, Londos was straddled and pinned. Danno had defeated the great Londos to become the NBA and New York State World champion. It was Londos’ first true job in six years and it was also the last one of his career. The time was one hour, 16 minutes, and 50 seconds. The attendance was 25,000.34
In the dressing room following the match, Londos claimed that Danno was the strongest man he had ever faced. His published quote was, "I knew after the first five minutes I would have to be lucky to win. The Kid is green, but with his strength, I believe he can beat any man in the world. And when I took the bout, the New York people told me I had nothing to fear! I wish I knew as much before I signed … and this bout would have never taken place."
Londos, having carried the kid to a good match, and dropped his world title clean in the middle of the ring, only to praise the winner as the better man, took his fortune and when home.
Danno’s statements were that Londos was "a really great wrestler," but not big enough. He then challenged Ed Don George, the AWA World Champion, and the real champion in Boston.
On July 8, 1935, O’Mahoney wrestled Chief Little Wolf at a Milk Fund show for Jack Curley and Mrs. William Randolph Hearst in Yankee Stadium, New York. This card had been announced before the O’Mahoney/Londos match, but had been in trouble from day one. The angle had been based on Londos running out on a Little Wolf match in California, which led to Londos being suspended by the New York Athletic Commission. The only way Londos could get the suspension lifted was to agree to meet the Indian in New York City. This, and the fact it was to be in Yankee Stadium (and Little Wolf being managed by major New York promoter Toots Mondt), made many fans think that Londos had agree to drop the title on that card. Once Londos lost the title, the whole storyline fell apart in the eyes of the fans. Then Little Wolf lost twice to Vincent Lopez in Lou Daro’s International Tournament in Los Angeles, and the national press began wondering if the wrestling trust was going back to war after Daro screwed up Curley’s big card. The match went on with O’Mahoney defending his new title in place of Londos. Danno pinned Chief Little Wolf in 28 minute and 23 seconds, using the same flying body scissors he beat Londos with. The match drew less that 10,000 to the huge Yankee Stadium ball park. Mrs. Hearst’s babies didn’t get much milk from old Jack Curley that night.35
On July 24, 1935, Vincent Lopez defeated Man Mountain Dean to win Lou Daro’s International Tournament and the California World Title. Danno career was still being covered in Los Angeles newspapers, so it appeared that the storyline would eventually involve a title unification match in Los Angeles.36 It should be noted that Everett Marshall won a small version of the world title after a win over Young Gotch in Denver on June 27, 1935. The governor of Colorado gave him a championship belt (that was made from the same mold as the belt Lou Thesz wore as NWA champion during the 1950s) and was recognized in the state as world champion. I’m going to ignore these titles in the rest of my story because I like using the term "Undisputed."
In early July, the title unification match between Danno and AWA champion Ed Don George was announced to be held July 30, 1935 at Braves Field in Boston. It also was announced that the new Heavyweight boxing champion, James J. Braddock, had been signed to referee the match.
Before this took place, Danno made his first tour as champion and appeared in Indianapolis (Charley Strack), St. Louis (Ray Steele—7,443 and $6,711), Detroit (Gino Garibaldi—2,548 and $3,936), Chicago (George Zaharias—5,700), Minneapolis (Lou Plummer), Philadelphia (Jim Browning), and Worcester (Floyd Marshall).
The Danno O’Mahoney/Ed Don George title unification match drew 40,000 (including the governor James M. Curley) to Braves Field on July 30, 1945. The gate was estimated as around $60,000. For their money, the crowd got one of the worst "screw finishes" in wrestling history. After introduction, the wrestlers were briefed by the referee James J. Braddock. In hindsight, maybe the wrestlers should have briefed Braddock. The first 30 minutes was all straight wrestling, with George avoiding Danno’s Irish Whip, but neither man had an advantage. As time went on, the action opened up to the new style with flying moves being used. At one point, George hit a tackle that almost ended the match. After an hour, the match, under Boston rules, switched from a 2/3 fall match to a one fall affair. One reporter, our favorite James C. Leary, claimed the match was the most scientific exhibition of wrestling ever seen in Boston. A few minutes short of an hour and a half, O’Mahoney was thrown twice from the ring. The second fall had referee Braddock count to 20, but he made no ruling and didn’t seem to understand why everyone was yelling at him. George then explained to him the count-out rule in wrestling. George then started to leave the ring, thinking he had won, but Danno jumped back into the action and threw George out of the ring. Thinking he had already won, George took his time getting up, but he returned to the ring to find out that Braddock had counted 20 over him and raised O’Mahoney’s hand in victory.
Riots followed. George’s attendants rushed into the ring. One of them attacked Braddock, who knocked the guy through the ropes. Attendants from both sides started fighting and the Boston polices soon followed. A woman admirer, probably Esther Burke, jumped into the ring and was all over Danno. It took 15 minutes to calm everything down and announce O’Mahoney as the winner and The (almost) Undisputed Champion Of The World. Part of the storyline was George’s protest and refusal to give Danno the AWA "Ed Lewis" belt. It was a good thing, too, because Bowser had lent it to Lou Daro and it was around the waist of Vincent Lopez in California (a person I don’t want to talk about at this point of the story).37
Some historians, such as I, question some of the high attendance figures reported by newspapers at ballpark cards over the years. It should be said that it was reported in the BOSTON GLOBE, on non-sports pages, that the streets surrounding Braves Field were tied up in a traffic jam until 2:30 in the morning, and it took 100 police to untangle them. Many people who drove to the match couldn’t get near the stadium, and when the time of the main event [10:00 p.m.] came near, they just abandoned their cars in the middle of the road. This, and the fact that the Boston press was smart, makes me believe the Boston attendance figures. Everything about the O’Mahoney push was revealed in the Boston papers. Why hide the true attendance figures to protect Bowser, when you’ve been taking pressure in exposing his storylines and other wrestling secrets for years? It should also be noted that those Depression gates were smaller than the pre-Depression figures. Stecher and Lewis drew only 7,500 customers in 1928’s St. Louis, but ringside was $25 and they drew a $65,000 gate. Tickets from Danno/Londos were $1 and $2, with a $3 ringside. The box-office king in Boston remained the Lewis/Sonnenberg title change of January 4, 1929 at $72,000.
I hate the "screw finish" of the O’Mahoney/George title change, but the reporters the next day, who were smart, liked it. They thought it was a good performance and that it created an (almost) undisputed world champion, while still creating controversy and a major rematch. I see that point, but in the long run, I think they would later agree that it was a mistake. Bowser’s booking style was to always have "screw finishes" in title changes. Lewis/Sonnenberg, Lewis/DeGlane, and DeGlane/George were all screw finishes of one type or another.
In later interviews, O’Mahoney claimed he was loved by fans as an underdog and contender, but once he became champion, he was booed. He blamed it on the fans love for the underdog, but I believe it was this finish, and I believe it was the beginning on the unraveling of the Danno O’Mahoney gimmick. Ed Don George was not just another wrestler in Boston. He had been pushed by Bowser as a babyface (hero) for over five years and was given the AWA championship twice. Cheating the old hero to create a new baby face champion wasn’t an ideal way to gain support for O’Mahoney. Later pictures of Danno laughing back stage with Braddock didn’t seem like a sportsman like gesture, even to the Irish.
The WWWF of the 1970’s and 1980’s never let their babyface world champions lose to other baby faces. They always used a short-term heel (villain) in-between the faces. I think this booking rule is in some way related to the O’Mahoney/George title change.
The Danno O’Mahoney/Ed Don George rematch was scheduled for September 9, 1935 at Fenway Park, but rain caused the match to be moved back two days to September 11. Danno prove his first victory was no fluke by pinning the ex-champ after an Irish Whip in two hours and five seconds. A missed tackle by George that bounced him off a ring post set up the finishing move. Ed Lewis, who surprised the crowd by not starting another riot, was in George’s corner. The match was described as even, but not spectacular. It drew another 25,000 fans to the ballpark. Following the match, Danno and George shook hands in the middle of the ring, but once again, no belt was awarded to the Irish (almost) undisputed champion. A reason wasn’t given.38
This match was Danno’s 70th straight win and 100th straight fall in America.
Danno had planed on a return trip to Ireland, but instead, the champion toured the nation, beating the same great wrestlers. In Chicago on September 16, he drew 7,242 in beating Joe Savoldi. He beat Jim Browning in Madison Square Garden on September 23 to celebrate Jack Curley’s 42nd anniversary as a promoter. That drew 7,000. He drew 8,000 at the Garden on October 7 with another win over Joe Savoldi.
The tour wasn’t without an incident. On September 27 in Philadelphia, a Russian named Serge Kalmikoff roughed up Danno. It’s hard to say if Serge was pulling a double-cross, since the match only lasted three minute and six seconds before Kalmikoff was disqualified by a thoughtful referee. Serge’s manager, Stanka Zelesnick, interfered in the match, only to be arrested by police. At a hearing in front of the State Athletic Commission, Zelesnick claimed a conspiracy to protect O’Mahoney, but Kalmikoff admitted that the incident was his manager’s idea. Kalmikoff was fined $100. Zelesnick (or Zelesniak) was suspended for one year.39 Promoters in Philadelphia wanted a rematch, but O’Mahoney’s people refused, fearing a double-cross. For this, the Pennsylvania commission suspended Danno.
O’Mahoney married Esther Burke on October 7, 1935. After photos of the two were shown in newspapers all over North America, manager Jack McGrath dismissed the report as rumor. It seems the marriage needed to be kept secret due to visa problems.
O’Mahony’s next big match in Boston was a rematch against the only man with a win over him: Ed Lewis. In Boston Garden on October 11, he pinned Lewis using his whip after one hour, four minutes and 57 seconds. Reporters thought that Lewis must have lost 30 pounds during the match because perspiration poured from his body as O’Mahoney wore him down. This time, the match only drew 8,000.
Touring the nation, Danno twice (October 21 and November 25) defeated Chief Little Wolf in Chicago. The first match drew 8,727 and $15,315, but the rematch following the O’Mahoney win drew only 3,806 and $6,712 for another victory by the champion. Worse was the fact that the fans booed Danno following each match.40
On October 28, 1935, Danno met Ed Don George for a third time in Madison Square Garden. On this night, Danno beat the ex-champ in five minutes and eight seconds in front of only 4,000 people. George was dominated in every way before being kayoed and pinned following a Danno punch as he was attempting a flying tackle. I can’t explain the booking of this match, but the night seemed to be a disaster.41 Somehow, it set up a MSG rematch.
O’Mahoney’s biggest card outside of Boston took place on November 7, 1935 in St. Louis when a Danno/Gus Sonnenberg match drew 14,742 and $14,742. Gus was pinned in 25:20 after a tackle missed the Irishman and hit the referee Charley Rentrop. The card was helped by a Man Mountain Dean versus Ed Lewis semi-final. Also, much can be said of Sonnenberg’s ability to draw.42
In November, rumors were printed in newspapers saying that many promoters were tired of the mono-champion concept. One champion wasn’t filling all the dates needed, and O’Mahoney had even been suspended in Pennsylvania for not defending. Many saw this as setting the stage for a return to the good old multi-champ idea.
O’Mahoney was also being hounded by Everett Marshall’s group. On November 19, Everett Marshall, under manager Billy Sandow and promoter Max Bauman, posted $5,000 with the St. Louis Commission for a match with O’Mahoney. Sandow got a lot of newspaper space making fun of Danno and his lack of wrestling ability. Bowser responded by having Ed Lewis and Jim Browning post money to meet Marshall. This helped shut Sandow up. Bowser’s champion may have not been a true wrestler, but no one could laugh off his policemen.
November 13 in Cleveland saw Danno’s first non-winning effort when Ernie Dusek held him to a draw. It’s said that Dusek twice held him to a draw, but I’ve only found one match. Perhaps the other was January 6, 1936 in Pittsburgh … but I’m guessing.
After a match with Lou Plummer in Toronto on November 28, Danno, due to visa problems, was refused admittance back into the USA by immigration authorities. His passport was good until December 13, but his 1934 visa wouldn’t allow him to leave and reenter the country. His marriage to Esther Burke also raised question about his intended permanent residents.
Danno had to return to Toronto where the American consul solved the problem. O’Mahoney was able to reach Detroit in time to defend his title with a win over Orville Brown. Beside his marriage being acknowledged, this incident revealed that Danno’s visa expired on December 13, but he was awaiting an extension of six months, which had been granted. Some fans were counting days and guessing how long the Irishman would remain champion. One writer printed that he was going to be replaced by Ernie Dusek.
Boss Paul Bowser had other ideas. Already thinking a move ahead, he brought a French-Canadian named Yvon Robert (managed by Eddie Quinn, Bowser’s promoter in Montreal) to Boston for an O’Mahoney/Ray Steele card. The semi-final that night was to be a Leo Numa/Hans Steinke match, which was a contender’s contest, with the winner getting a match with the champion O’Mahoney. Numa showed up with an infected finger and couldn’t wrestle, so Robert substituted, thinking he would get the title match if he won. To everyone’s surprise, Robert did win, pinning the giant Steinke in 7:45. The next surprise that night took place after Danno defeated Steele in one hour and four minutes, when Danno’s manager, Jack McGrath, said their agreement was to meet Steinke or Numa. He refused to allow his champion O’Mahoney to meet the young Robert until he had earned a reputation.43
Two other big title defenses for Danno in December were a December 16 win over Ed Don George in Madison Squire Garden (this time punching and throwing the other wrestler out of the ring was banned by the NY Commission), which drew 9,000 and lasted 1:28:39, plus a December 27 victory over Man Mountain Dean in Chicago (att: 7,049). At the Chicago match, Jim Londos made an appearance and challenged O’Mahoney. It should also be noted that Danno was booed following the match.
On January 8, 1936, O’Mahoney defended his title versus Frank Judson at Holyoke, Mass. Before the bout, the persistent Yvon Robert was introduced from the ring, but instead of leaving, he removed his street clothes, and in wrestling trunks, challenged Danno to meet him that night. Robert was removed, but continued to heckle Danno from a ringside seat. The Irishman defeated Judson two straight falls in 34 minutes and then yelled back at Robert. The two ran at each other. Robert collared O’Mahoney and threw him to the mat. He then pinned Danno for 30 seconds. The Irishman then freed himself and floored Robert twice, but Yvon got the last punch in. Danno fell from the ring, kayoed. Robert loudly claimed the title, as Danno was carried unconscious to his dressing room, still the champion.44
The wisdom of this angle is suspect and it may have been the first and most humiliating stunt ever pulled on a willing world champion. I can’t believe it helped O’Mahoney’s image in the national press, but it did serve Bowser’s plan of making a star out of Robert. The wrestling world must have loved the angle because it’s been repeated over and over for 70 years.
A disastrous tour of the South followed in February 1936. Three times opponents tried to hook O’Mahoney and only Bowser’s precautions saved the title. The story told is that Rudy Dusek had once controlled most of the south, but had lost territory and control after the creation of the wrestling trust. Using Julius and Morris Sigel, the major promoters in Houston and Shreveport, Leon Balkin, his chief lieutenant, and the local booker Doctor Karl Sarpolis, he made up a plan to outsmart Bowser and steal the title.
The first two double-crosses took place on February 7 versus Ellis Bashara in New Orleans and on February 7 in Houston versus Daniel Boone Savage (Ed Civil). Danno was saved both times by the Bowser referee, Paul Jones. The finish of the Daniel Boone Savage match had Danno throwing the hillbilly over the top rope onto the floor. This was a violation of Texas wrestling rules, but the referee Jones didn’t call for a disqualification. The Texas Commission later ruled that a rematch had to take place within 90 days or Danno would be striped of the title.45
On February 8, Danno, manager McGrath, and Paul Jones were present at the Galveston City Auditorium and had been examined by a commission doctor. Someone then told them that Danno’s opponent, Juan Humberto, had plans to hook O’Mahoney. The group felt they had enough, so they left the arena during the preliminaries, in front of the local fans and the state inspector of boxing and wrestling. On February 11, 1936, Galveston promoter, Ralph Hammonds, sued O’Mahoney and manager for $15,216.40 due to the run out. Danno was stripped of the title in Texas and the National Wrestling Association soon followed by stripping O’Mahoney of their title. With this, the idea of an (almost) Undisputed World Title was over. When O’Mahoney was unable to return for a title match, a new Texas title line was started on May 8, 1936 with Leo "Whiskers" Savage as world champion. But by that time, there were so many champions that no one noticed.46
The first match with Yvon Robert took place in the Boston Garden on February 28, 1936. The headline in the Boston Globe the day of the match read, "UNSATISFACTORY ENDING," and the article predicted the storyline of the rivalry. It said that Danno would win the match, but it would have an "unsatisfactory ending" that would set up a series of three more matches between the two, and the end result would be Yvon being the new champion. The author, a Victor O. Jones, wrote a lesson in booking practices that would make Dave Meltzer jealous. He also wrote that the AWA world title was copyrighted and owned by Paul Bowser. It also included a nice bio and history of Robert’s past matches. He claimed he didn’t know whether Robert could wrestle a lick, but that it didn’t matter anyway, because wrestling skill wasn’t important in a champion. What counted was gate appeal and Yvon had it in "gobs."47
That night, 19,000 Boston wrestling fans turned out to see the big wrestling match. A new rule had been passed that fall by the AWA in Boston, stating that no match could last longer than two hours. The first fall lasted only one minute and 57 seconds. O’Mahoney won it by using an unethical move. Robert had backed Danno into a corner and both were throwing punches. The referee broke the two, but Danno pushed him aside and attacked Yvon from the back. Danno hit him with an elbow under the heart and then jumped on the downed Canadian for the pin. Robert protested as his manager, Eddie Quinn, jumped into the ring and punched the referee, after which he began battling O’Mahoney’s chief second, Freddy Morgan. Jack McGrath pulled Danno to his corner and protected him from Robert. Between falls, Robert stayed in the ring, still protesting, until Danno returned for the second fall. Of course, everyone booed the Irishman … maybe even some of the Irish booed the Irishman. The fall was filled with close calls and the pace was said to be exciting. Yvon had pins on Danno many times, but the referee was either out of position or the champion kicked out at two. At one hour and 55 minutes, it was announced that Yvon had five minutes to score a fall or lose. He didn’t and O’Mahoney was proclaimed the winner as everyone booed some more. It could be said that the match had a very "unsatisfactory ending."48
I don’t know if Bowser’s plan was to turn O’Mahoney heel, but he sure did it. It seems strange after building up Danno as a good, old Irish boy. Maybe fans were turning on his babyface out of resentment, and he turned him heel to save face, or make it seem like he was in control. It was a similar situation to WCW turning Hulk Hogan heel after their fans tired of being sold vitamins.
Two days later (March 2, 1936), history was made in Madison Squire Garden when Danno was matched with his old friend, Dick Shikat. Why Jack Curley and Bowser would allow Shikat back into the ring with O’Mahoney after the April 1, 1935 mess is hard to explain. Ever major wrestler that had met Danno had wrestled him in many rematches all over the country. The major exception to this pattern was Dick Shikat. My guess is that Danno had run through every major contender and Shikat was the only fresh name that could draw in New York, so Curley took a chance that Shikat would be happy with a good payday. They were wrong.
In the Garden ring, Shikat was the aggressor from the moment the bell sounded. In the first minute, he took O’Mahoney to the mat with a wristlock and kept him down for the rest of the match, punishing the Irishman with hold after hold. At no time was Shikat in any danger from Danno and he seemed to enjoy breaking out of any hold attempted by the champion. Hold after hold was applied, with Danno getting free by crawling to the ropes, or by Shikat releasing the lock to go to another. Danno looked to be in agony. The bout saw Danno attempt a wristlock, which Shikat countered with a flying mare followed by a headlock. This was followed by a Japanese arm-lock, but Danno broke free, and fell into a hammerlock that the German gave up for a leg lock. Danno went to the ropes for a break, only to have Shikat move him to the center of the ring, and with a sudden twist, took him back to the mat. A body scissors and a grueling toehold followed, which were broke only by Danno reaching the ropes. All of those moves hurt O’Mahoney and he looked to be in complete agony.
Shikat then secured a vicious hammerlock. The more Danno tried to break out of it, the more pressure the German applied. The referee, George Bothner, a New York commission appointee and one of the most respected men in the sport, twice asked Danno if he wanted to quit. Twice Danno said "Yes," but Bothner did nothing. Shikat then appealed to Bothner, stating that if he didn’t stop it, he would break O’Mahoney’s arm. Bothner got on his knees and asked Danno in a voice everyone could hear. Danno cried, "Yes, he’s killing me! Stop it, I tell you!" Bothner slapped Shikat on the back and raised the hand of the new champion." (Time: 18:57)49
In the ring and later in the dressing room, O’Mahoney and McGrath gave no indication that there was any doubt in their minds who the champion was. They even praised Shikat, but as the night went on, they first said that Danno was still tired and sick from the Yvon Robert match two days before. Then Danno claimed, probably after some coaching from Curley or Mondt, he didn’t submit, that Bothner had just misread his Irish brogue, which just made him look bad to the 7,000 fans and reporters who heard him cry out in pain.
The next edition of every major newspaper in the nation carried the story of Shikat’s shoot on the phony champion and the breaking up of the Wrestling Trust. The Boston Globe told the story, but its version had Danno and McGrath claiming they had been robbed of the title. Later editions had Bowser saying that O’Mahoney was sick and had simply collapsed in the ring.50 On March 4, Bowser announced that the AWA still recognized Danno O’Mahoney as world champion. His first justification was that the match was non-title because the state of New York ruled all matches as exhibitions.51 That didn’t sound right, so the story they settled on was that the AWA title could only change in a 2/3 fall match (under Boston rules). So Danno was still a World champion, but he was no longer a national champion. He became one of the regional champions that were multiplying by the day. The Boston newspapers took note of the hypocrisy involved and went out of their way to explain who the real champion was … and it wasn’t Danno.
It seems the idea of hooking Danno was Dick Shikat’s alone and done out of hate for Toots Mondt, Ed Lewis, and Jack Curley. Rudy Miller, Florida agent for the trust, Al Haft of Columbus, Adam Weismuller of Detroit, and former mat czar Billy Sandow, were told of Shikat’s intentions beforehand. Jack Pfeffer wasn’t part of the deal, but added Shikat in bookings following the match. The dirty deed was mainly Shikat’s idea. After the match, Shikat announced that the title was up for sale and just about everyone bid on it. Lou Daro and Toots Mondt offered Shikat $50,000 for two matches versus Vincent Lopez in Los Angeles. Bowser agreed to pay $25,000 for Dick to return the title to Danno or lose to Yvon Robert.52 The surprise was an offer from Jim Londos, who was returning to action and wanted his title back.
Shikat ended up making a deal with the Sandow/Haft group. What was left of the Trust started playing tricks with Shikat. Bowser owned a management contract with Shikat’s name on it and he began booking Shikat into arenas without his permission. This got Shikat suspended in most states and the whole mess ended up in a Columbus courtroom with every major promoter being called in to testify.
The spectacle destroyed the public’s idea of what pro wrestling was. Wrestling fans always understood that the art form was worked, and like today, they enjoyed it, but the general public couldn’t understand the concept as anything but "fake." The court case came to an end when Shikat was allowed to drop the title to a unknown gimmick performer named Ali Baba … which everyone thought was funny. Baba was later double-crossed by a light heavyweight named Dave Levin in an unconvincing way, and before long, the wrestling world had at least five champions. Soon, every major promoter had their own world champion.
To the public, wrestling was a joke, and when major newspapers stopped covering it, attendance dropped. Promoters knew the public thought its product was a joke, so they promoted it like a joke. By 1940, the sport was filled with match gimmicks like mud matches, or Jell-O matches, or dead fish matches. Wrestling freaks became wrestling’s biggest draws.
Before 1936 and the O’Mahoney/Shikat match, wrestling’s storylines were national. There may have been more that one champion, but everyone in the country knew who they were and the storylines involving them. After 1936, the whole sport became regionalized, with every territory’s storyline walled in from all the others. Promoter’s no longer wanted intelligent fans who understood the whole picture. They wanted ignorant fans who didn’t know they were being lied to. Facts and knowledge were something promoters found hard to deal with.
All these changes took place because Dick Shikat shot on Danno O’Mahoney on March 2, 1936.
On March 13, 1936, Danno returned to Boston to defend his AWA world title and pinned Nick Lutze. Local fans booed him for the whole hour and 16 minutes.53
He filled dates in Cleveland, Chicago, and defended the title in Oregon and Washington for the rest of March.
Ed Don George got another title match in Boston on April 3. After George dominated the match for most of one hour and eight minutes, he was pinned by Danno, who used a reverse body press. No attendance was announced.54
On April 17, Danno had his next match with Yvon Robert in Boston Garden. It ended up a two-hour draw and the attendance was 13,000. Danno won the first fall in 47:46, but Robert won the second fall with a body slam in 54:14. No falls were recorded in the last 18:20. This was the first time that Danno had been pinned in America.55
Besides Boston, Toronto, and the East Coast, O’Mahoney was still appearing in Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and in some cities in the south. In Atlanta, he wrestled two draws with Orville Brown (April 22 and May 12), the second one lasting two hours.
Danno defeated Ernie Dusek in Boston on May 15. The BOSTON GLOBE called the AWA Title an "illegal title" in its write up. It’s also the first time I can find a report of Danno carrying the AWA "Ed Lewis" Championship belt, so either Lou Daro/Vincent Lopez had returned the belt, or there were two AWA belts. Another point is that Mahoney was now being spelled Mahony in Boston. The "e" remained for the rest of the wrestling world.
On May 18 in Philadelphia, O’Mahoney defeated Rudy Dusek via disqualification, but the next day, the local commission reversed the decision because McGrath had come into to the ring during the match. Rudy claimed the title as a result. This title line ended on July 30 in Washington DC when Rudy lost to Ivan Managoff. Rudy also lost matches to Danno over the next year.56
Two or three times during 1936, plans for Danno’s return to Ireland had been announced, only to be later cancelled. In early June, word came from Ballydehob that Danno’s younger brother, Patrick O’Mahoney, had died from an illness. The Bowser organization then put out the word that the champion’s return to Ireland would take place in July.
O’Mahony’s next match with rival Yvon Robert was on June 23. The BOSTON GOBE headline that night was "EXPECT DANNO TO LOSE HIS CROWN AT GARDEN TONIGHT." The reporter figured that Danno’s Ireland trip meant that he had to lose the title before he left the country in July. Bowser fooled him.57
In front of 11,000 fans, Danno defeated Robert in a 2/3 fall match. The champ won the first fall in 27 minutes with the Irish whip. Robert then floored O’Mahoney in the second fall with punches, and pinned him in 2:03. At eight minutes of the third fall, Danno used an airplane spin. Dropped and hurt, Robert was in a bad spot, but Danno seemed to be having trouble finding Yvon’s arm for the whip, so the newspaper reported that the Canadian had to extend his right arm so Danno could apply the winning Irish Whip. The Boston crowd cheered Danno’s surprise win.
After the match, Danno was awarded the $10,000 belt (I think the Ed Lewis Belt) and a new AWA belt. At the end of the night, O’Mahoney had two AWA championship belts.58 Perhaps the Lopez belt had arrived from California at this time…Perhaps they needed two belts … one to use in North America and another for the trip to Ireland.
Everyone had thought that the Boston match was Danno’s last match before returning home, but another O’Mahony/Robert title match was arranged for July 16 in Yvon’s home town, Montreal.
Yvon won 2/3 falls from Mahony and the AWA World Title. The match drew a crowd of 10,000 fans, the greatest in Montreal since 1910. Yvon Robert was the first Canadian to ever win a world wrestling title.
On July 18, 1936, two days after the title loss, Danno with his wife, Esther, along with manager Jack McGrath, sailed from America on the liner Scythia for Ireland. During the trip, he told Irish reporters that Robert had won the title in Montreal with the use of an illegal kick to the head. He claimed that after he had protested the defeat to the AWA, the loss had been reversed and Yvon disqualified. To prove his point, his showed off his AWA world title belt. This doesn’t match any report I’ve found in North America, but the story kept him billed as world champion while touring his homeland.59
The Scythia docked at Cobh, Ireland, on July 25. Danno and Esther were met on deck by his entire family and the Lord Mayor of Cork. Going down the plank, he found thousands of his friends and admirers waiting for him. The 50-mile drive to his hometown Ballydehob became a procession of motorcars, bicycles, and buses. In every town and village he passed through, he was hailed as the returning champion. He arrived in Ballydehob late that night.
All of O’Mahony’s matches had been reported in the Irish press, and film of the George title win had played in theaters, but very few had seen American pro wrestling. I don’t know if many of the Irish knew that it was a worked sport, or if they even cared. Danno, the poor boy from the Irish Free Army, had returned from America as World Wrestling Champion, and to them, he was legitimate as Joe Louis. If you think about it … it was a great thing that Danno had done.
This was his honeymoon, and the next day, Danno and his wife went on a motor tour of the local area. On July 28, he was honored in front of the Cork County Board. July 30 saw a banquet in Cork for Danno. Esther was given a Tara brooch and a silver tea set. He also visited his old army camp at Curragh.
In early August, Danno tied his old world record by throwing a 56-pound weight over a bar 15’9" at a local track meet.
O’Mahony’s people also set up a wrestling tour. On August 9, he defended his world title in a win over Rube Wright in front of 20,000 at Dalymount Park, Dublin. On August 26, he beat Charley Strack at Killarney Race Course and drew 10,000. On September 2, he drew another 9,000 in beating Carl Hansen in Belfast. He also had matches at Galway, Daymount Park, Dublin, and Victoria Cross, Cork. It’s believed he also wrestled in England and Scotland.
Around September 30, Danno and Esther left for America on the liner Samaria. He told his people that he planned to wrestle for two more years before returning to Ireland forever. He later made it back to the shores of the USA to find out that he wasn’t the AWA champion or champion of anything. The storyline, to set up more big matches with Robert, was that he was a "title claimant."
Bowser had plans for many title rematches in Boston, Montreal, and the East Coast, but on November 12, 1936 in Washington DC, Robert broke his left leg in a match with Clif Olson. All plans were put on hold.60
On December 14, Danno defeated Rudy Dusek in New York City in front of 3,500. On the undercard, an Irish wrestler name Steve Casey made his local debut, beating Mike Mazurki.61
Steve Casey was a member of a family of athletes, coming from Sneem Ireland, a seaside village on the Ring of Kerry, sixty miles from Ballydehob. In the family were three girls and seven boys (Steve, Pat, Jack, Jim, Tom, Michael and Dan). They were known as the best Oarsmen in Ireland. Different combinations of the brothers had won races all along the south coast and they won the Salter Challenge Cup from 1931 to 1933. They moved to London, England, in late 1933, and rowed for the Hammersmith Club. They were kingpins of the four-oar sweep with the Ace Rowing Club, winning 38 out of 38 races.
Steve worked as a doorman and bouncer at the club. One night, he was seen by the local wrestling promoters, Mike Hawley and Harold Angies, throwing a troublemaker over a taxi. They took Steve to the gym, and before long, Casey had his first match, beating Black Eagle Bob Adams. Brothers Jim and Pat also took up the sport. Paul Bowser, always in the market for an Irish wrestler, brought Steve to Boston in October 1936. His plan was to make Casey his next big star, and Steve began an unbeatable win streak, similar to how O’Mahoney was promoted in 1935.
O’Mahony’s was still being pushed, but on January 8, 1937, he lost to the Scotchman, George Clark, in Boston. This set up a feud with Clark to give Danno someone to wrestle while Yvon Robert was injured. Danno beat Clark twice in two Boston rematches.
On May 20, 1937, O’Mahoney wrestled Toots Mondt’s world champion, Dean Detton, to a draw in Toronto.
On July 20, Danno met Steve Casey on an outdoor show in Boston’s Fenway Park. The battle of Irish contenders drew only 8,000. Casey won the only fall with his Killarney flip in 50:56. When the 90-minute time limit expired, Casey was ruled the winner. Yvon Robert was ringside.
Paul Bowser had a working agreement with old friend Billy Sandow and Tom Pack in St. Louis, so O’Mahoney worked in that territory in 1937. On October 28, Danno defeated former world champion Ali Baba (att: 7,618), and that set up a rematch with MWA world champion Everett Marshall on November 28. Danno did the job and drew 8,022.
With Yvon Robert back in action from the broken leg, Danno began getting the big paydays he missed early in the year. On October 14, he lost to Robert in Toronto. On December 22, the two drew 7,000 to Boston Garden, only to see Danno lose after a referee bump that cost him a pin fall win.
December 29 saw Danno defeat Paul Jones in the semi-final to Lou Thesz’s MWA title win over Marshall. O’Mahoney was Thesz’s opponent in his first title defense in St. Louis. Thesz defeated Danno with an airplane spin in 15:45. The match was called "ridiculous" by the St. Louis press, but it was a big win for Thesz in front of 9,091. Danno remained friends with Lou in the following years.
On January 21, 1938, Yvon Robert defeated O’Mahony in Boston in a match that lasted one hour, 14 minutes, and 15 seconds. On January 26, Robert was striped of the AWA Title for refusing to meet Lou Thesz. Thesz then lost both of his titles to Steve Casey in a famous match on February 11, 1938. Robert remained champion in Canada, a title I refer to as the Montreal World title.
Danno went from being an unbeatable champion in 1935, a regional champion in 1936, a major contender in 1937, to end up just a main evener in 1938, doing jobs for the major people. On February 4, he even did a job for Ed Don George in Buffalo. He lost other matches to Robert, Casey, Thesz, Marshall, Vic Christy, Bob Wagner, Montreal’s Masked Marvel, Iron Talun, Ali Baba, and even one to his very first opponent, Ernie Dusek.
By this time, wrestling was well into an economic hole. On April 8, 1938, Danno wrestled a draw with Everett Marshall on a Casey/George card in Chicago Stadium that drew 3,443 and $3,909. On March 30, Danno lost a match to Steve Casey in Madison Squire Garden that drew 6,000. It would be the last match in the MSG arena until March 2, 1949, when Gorgeous George met old Ernie Dusek.
O’Mahoney returned to Ireland in August 1938 with the idea of promoting pro wrestling in the country. On August 26, AWA champion Steve Casey wrestled Danno O’Mahony to a draw at Milltown Dublin after ten 5-minute rounds under the European style of wrestling. The fans cheered Danno, who was still the hero to his Irish countrymen. The card drew 16,000.
On September 11, at a track meet held in his honor at Ballydehob, Danno threw a 56-pound weight over a bar 16 feet high. This was a world record and observed by track officials.
Steve Casey defeated O’Mahony on September 18 at Mallow Racecourse, Munster, in a finish match. It took 18 rounds and 97 minutes. Reports were that it was a thrilling match, which turned in Casey’s favor after Danno fell out of the ring onto his head. The bad news was that the card only drew 3,500 at low prices. With the idea of Irish wrestling gone, Danno returned to America, bringing his father and brother, Florence, on the liner Britannic.
In 1939, Danno’s career slipped lower. He came out on the losing side in a series of matches with both Ed Don George and Bill Longson. At the end of the year, the record showed a period where he lost 17 out of 19 matches. Some of the losses were to respectable people, but there also were names like Young Joe Stecher and Elmer Slagel on the list. Funny, in the middle of it, he defeated Juan Humberto, the man who cost him the NWA Title in Texas. The highlight of the year may have been an NWA title loss to Bronko Nagurski on November 9 in Toronto that drew 4,200.
In the late 30’s and 1940, an arm infection limited O’Mahony in the ring and out.62 The number of matches on his record are much fewer than in previous years, and he just seemed to be playing out the last part of his contract that he signed with Bowser in January 1935.
In January 1941, O’Mahony left Boston and Bowser, and moved to Santa Monica, California. He opened a Restaurant/Bar at 2029 Main Street, a half mile from Ocean Park and the Santa Monica Pier, and named it O’Mahoney’s Irish Whip.
His wife, Esther, had been busy in the first few years of marriage and Danno now had a family of four children: Dan, Eileen, Bill, and John.
The restaurant seemed to be his main interest, but he still wrestled in the small clubs in the Los Angeles territory. Looking at his record, it looks like he wasn’t pushed, but he wasn’t abused, either.63 I think he was wrestling because he liked being a part of the business, and thought it helped promote his bar, so he filled in holes on wrestling cards. He wrestled many draws and only put over major stars, like Bill Longson, Frank Sexton, Sandor Szabo, and even Vincent Lopez. During this period, he didn’t have many matches at the Olympic Auditorium. The only main event he had in the building was against Paul Bowser’s new star, The French Angel (Maurice Tillet). On June 25, 1941, he did the job for the box-office king and wrestling freak. He was probably used in the match because of his size, and the fact that he was Bowser’s trusted friend.
Many of Danno’s old opponents got their wins back in the later years of his career when the Irishman was out of power. He did jobs for Ed Lewis, Ray Steele, Joe Savoldi, Rube Wright, Ed Don George, and even Ernie Dusek.
Jim Londos returned to wrestling in 1936 and continued as one of wrestling biggest draws until WWII. He re-won the world title from Bronko Nagurski in 1938 and never lost another match. With the sport becoming more regionalized, his career centered in Los Angeles and Philadelphia in the early 1940’s. It seems interesting that no one tried to match Londos with Danno, a match-up that once drew 25,000 fans. Londos was still rich and powerful, while O’Mahoney was in the area, just filling out cards. You would think that Londos would have wanted his win back … but it never happened. I wonder who’s decision it was—Danno’s or Londos’. Maybe no one cared.
With the start of World War II, Danno joined the U.S. Army. Some newspaper reported that he served four years64. If that is true, he continued to wrestle through his services and was living in Santa Monica.
In early 1943, he left Los Angeles to work in Toronto, Montreal and Buffalo, doing jobs for old friends Longson, Robert, and a new guy, Billy Watson, who used Danno’s Irish Whip as a finisher. He also wrestled old Ed Lewis twice in Detroit (April 5 and April 19), losing both. He returned to Los Angeles in July 1943.
He had no matches after August 26, 1943, so he must have been on active duty. He was attached to the military’s Special Services in France and Germany. On September 22, 1945, Danno wrestled and lost to Henri DeGlane in Paris, France. No details are known.
Danno was discharged from the Army in late 1945, and found that his restaurant/bar business had flourished under the management of wife, Esther, while he was gone.
After 2½ years away from American rings, O’Mahoney toured Texas in March and April of 1946. On March 22, he dropped two straight falls to NWA champ Bill Longson in Houston. My guess is that he was on the tour to provide friend Longson with some company on a long trip.
In October, he lost twice to MWA champion Orville Brown at Kansas City, and late in the year, did two Memphis jobs to Buddy Rogers.
In February 1947, Danno returned to his old home, Boston, and he was pushed again by Paul Bowser. He came out ahead in a series of match with Don Lee, defeated Babe Sharkey, and on June 12, beat his Santa Monica neighbor, Sandor Szabo, in front of 3,500 fans. This big win led to a match for his old AWA world title with the present holder, Frank Sexton. Danno lost by disqualification, but drew 5,000. On June 16, Danno drew 6,000 for a rematch with Sexton, but lost again.65
In August 1947, Danno returned home again to Ireland. He was present at the Kilcrohane Spots Meet on August 17 and watched his brother Florence compete at the National Sports Meet on August 21.
On January 30, 1948, he had his last match in St. Louis, losing to Mike Mazurki, and then lost to Lou Thesz at Indianapolis on February 3, before returning to Boston. On March 17, he beat Bull Curry on St. Patrick’s Day, which gave him another AWA title match with Sexton … that he lost one fall to two.
Danno O’Mahony’s last recorded match was a loss to Lou Thesz in Montreal on April 21, 1948. Some claims were made that he worked a few matches around Los Angeles in 1950, but no records verifying that have been found.
On September 28, 1950, Danno returned to Ireland on the liner Britannic. On shore, he was met by a reporter and he consented to an interview. He said that second raters today, who wouldn’t be allowed to work preliminaries in the 1930’s, were making bigger money at that time due to TV. He complained that the standards in pro wrestling had dropped. He responded that his most difficult match was against Steve Casey. Danno said he loved his home country and he had great pleasure in returning to the scenes of his childhood. He claimed that Ballydehob was "the one place on earth he felt assured would bring peace and comfort to his very being."
On November 2, 1950, a Laurence O’Brien parked his truck at the top of a small hill near Kilminchy, a mile and a half from Portlaoise,, and was checking for a puncture. Danno was driving home from Dublin with brothers John and Dermot, his first cousin John O’Driscoll, and a friend, Miss Mary Hamilton. Coming to the top of the hill, Danno had to pull right to miss hitting oncoming traffic. Not seeing parking lights in the dark, the O’Mahony car crashed into the back of the stationary vehicle. No one in the car had been drinking and the speed was described as modest. Three of the men had minor injuries and Miss Hamilton was just shaken, but Danno had two broken legs, an injured hip, and broken ribs. The driver of the parked truck, Mr. O’Brien, was injury free.
Danno was dragged out of the wreck and taken to Portaaoise County Hospital in serious condition. Internal injuries were found and surgery was performed. Danno became weaker and weaker until his death at 9:15 p.m. the night of November 3, 1950. It later was ruled an accidental death due to shock and hemorrhage from limb injuries and a rupture of the liver.
A large group of people met Danno’s hearse when it arrived after midnight on November 4. They followed the coffin to the church overlooking the village. After a funeral mass on November 6, Danno was carried four miles to the cemetery at Schull, followed by his family and representatives of every village in Cork County. His headstone can be visited today.
Very few wrestlers can claim to be as big a draw as O’Mahony in 1935 and 1936. Has any wrestler in history drawn a crowd of 13,000 in his wrestling debut? The large crowds came at a time when most major sports were suffering from the Depression. In 1935, the New York Yankees were playing most of their games in an almost empty stadium. Their average home attendance was 8,885.66 O’Mahonys box office appeal has been described as huge in Boston but just "okay" in the rest of America, and I agree.
O’Mahony was a hard worker who upheld his end of the bargain with Paul Bowser and pro wrestling. The Irish gimmick had been tried before and after Danno, but he made it work, and he was a public relations dream for his bosses. In Boston, fans compared O’Mahony with the other major Irish wrestler of his era, Steve Casey. Most thought Casey was a tougher wrestler, but O’Mahony had more personality and responded to the crowd better. As a worker, he started out as being very green, used only in short choreographed matches with only the best workers, and evolved into a performer who could work championship matches that lasted as long as two hours, without the fans running for the exits.
O’Mahony was the last man to defeat Jim Londos and had wins over just about every major wrestler of his time. The impressive list includes Ed Lewis, Ray Steele, Orville Brown, Gus Sonnenberg, Jim Browning, Yvon Robert, Billy Watson, George Zaharias, Chief Little Wolf, Man Mountain Dean, Ed Don George, Sandor Szabo, and all of the Duseks. Three of his matches rank with the most historically significant matches of the 20th century. The Shikat/O’Mahony match of March 2, 1936 changed wrestling and the public’s impression of the business more than any single event in wrestling history.
Even though he played major parts in the careers of many major Hall of Famers, such as Londos, Shikat, George, Thesz, and Yvon Robert, experts rarely consider him for any of the major Hall of Fames in America. The reason is because people see him as a non-wrestling, poor-performing, gimmick created by Bowser … a gimmick that was exposed and embarrassed in the worst possible way … by a true hooker.
Maybe a lot of people, like me, have seen photos, perhaps from the 1940’s, which show O’Mahony as an unimpressive-looking old man. It seems that Danno, who died at age 38, aged very fast and gained weight (for an Irishman he didn’t seem like a big drinker, although he did own his own bar), but the photos of Danno at the start of his career in America show an athletic young boy who had the look of a Joe Stecher. He was not a wrestler, but he was a world-class athlete in track, and he was very strong. In the ring, his push as the strongest man alive didn’t fit in with his slender body and that, with his lack of wrestling balance and pose, made him look inadequate in the eyes of fans looking for true wrestling ability. I do believe he was good with throws standing up, knew the standard moves on the mat, and had two very good finishing moves. From the newspaper reports, everyone seemed happy with his matches and many of them were very long affairs. Although he could play heel, he also had a very good rapport with the crowd. People liked Danno, in and out of the ring. He was an Irish gentleman, who was a friend to just about everyone he came in contact with.
As for the Shikat disaster in Madison Square Garden, other than the fact that he wasn’t a true wrestler, O’Mahony seems blameless. He was just a working man, doing his job, and got screwed by a very tough guy who was playing a different game. The report has Shikat punishing O’Mahony with hold after hold for 18 minutes. He took a bad beating and submitted to a hold that would make anyone give up. Many guys would have jumped from the ring and made an excuse in the dressing room, but O’Mahony took the beating. The fault belongs to Shikat, a man more respected than O’Mahony, but one who selfishly damaged wrestling as much as anyone in history.
O’Mahony was not the first non-wrestler world champion. Wayne Munn and Gus Sonnenberg came before him. Wrestling was going the way of the worker regardless of Danno O’Mahony. Danno was just like hundreds of today’s pro wrestling performers, guys who are just trying to make a living, with no thought of being the toughest man in the world. Danno started as a soldier making $15 a month in a very poor country, and ended up the (almost) Undisputed World Wrestling Champion, who made some money and used it to raise a family. Does he belong in a wrestling Hall of Fame? I don’t know (maybe not)?67 The purpose of this study was to examine the events of the late 30’s so decisions can be made with facts. Does he deserve respect? Yes, I think he does.
1) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION
2) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—page 162 to 163
3) Paul Bowser defeated Joe Turner in Boston on January 3, 1922 to win a version of the World Middleweight Title.
4) FALL GUYS: THE BARNUMS OF BOUNCE by Marcus Griffin—page 163
5) FALL GUYS: THE BARNUMS OF BOUNCE by Marcus Griffin—page 165
6) FALL GUYS—page 173
7) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—page 22
8) BOSTON GLOBE—November 30, 1935
9) FALL GUYS: THE BARNUMS OF BOUNCE—page 175
10) DANNO O’MAHONEY—THE IRISH WHIP by Mark Hewitt
11) BOSTON GLOBE—Jan 2, 1935—This amount ($100,000 over 5 years) sounds about right to me. $20,000 a year in 1935 would be a lot of money for an athlete, but considering their plans and how much other top wrestlers were making, it was a fair amount to invest. Bowser’s push of O’Mahoney ends right at five years, so it all fits.
12) BOSTON GLOBE—January 4, 1935—Day of the match reported 14,000. Other reports have said 13,000.
13) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—Page 70 to 72
14) Nick Lutze was able to get a lot of work in Hollywood when not wrestling. I was told that he was one of the crewmembers of the VENTURE in 1933’s KING KONG. He may have been the big sailor who carried the gas bomb for Carl Denham. Hope I haven’t got Lutze mixed up with a Sammy Stein tale, but I like the story anyway.
15) See THE RAY STEELE RECORD BOOK published by YOHE PRESS ($80) when available. My best work.
16) NEW YORK TIMES—Feb, 19, 1935
17) NEW YORK TIMES—March 18, 1935
18) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—Page 62—This sell-out report I got from the book since I didn’t have a newspaper result. The book was well researched and the early attendance reports matched the numbers given by the newspapers. For the Zaharias match, it was claimed that 5,000 fans were turned away from the huge Boston Garden.
19) Most of the MSG results can be found in Fred Hornby’s book THE HISTORY OF PRO WRESTLING VOL. #3: MADISON SQUARE GARDEN published by Scott Teal and researched by Fred Hornby. This is one of the most impressive pro wrestling research books every written.
20) FALL GUYS: THE BARNUMS OF BOUNCE—Pages 150 to 152
21) NEW YORK TIME April 2, 1935—I used the TIMES version of the match, almost word for word, in the bio.
22) BOSTON GLOBE—April 26, 1935
23) BOSTON GLOBE—April 29, 1935
24) The Trust plan to have Londos drop the title to Ed Don George was revealed in two "smart" stories published in THE RING September 1934 issue and in COLLIER"S MAGAZINE March 16, 1935.
25) On September 20, 1934, Londos defeated Ed Lewis in Chicago in front of 35,265 to set the all time gate record of $96,000.
26) The April 1935 issue of RING MAGAZINE called the Londos/Fields match "the smallest gathering ever seen at a grappling show in Madison Square Garden," which wasn’t true, but the show didn’t even pay the rent for MSG. My feeling is that Dr Harry Fields wasn’t a fit main evener in any arena, much less MSG.
26.1) Some important historians, such as Tim Hornbaker, feel that Londos skipped the February 27, 1935 match because Jim felt Olympic booker and manager of Chief Little Wolf, Toots Mondt, had a double-cross, or at least a bad night planned for him.
26.2) Don Luce contested my call of Joe Malcewicz being a Bowser world champion. Now this worries me because Don Luce is a strong contender for the title of "greatest historian." In the tower of wrestling historians, he’s about seven stories above me, so I worry. His point is that Paul Bowser always officially recognized the Ed Lewis title line in 1926, even after the March 11, 1926 Stecher/Malcewicz match. My point is that he was promoting Malcewicz as a title claimant. What Bowser may have claimed officially in the newspaper, may not match what he was booking in the arena. I will now give some results from this Malcewicz title line that will hopefully explain my confused thoughts:
Boston, Massachusetts: February 8, 1926
Boston, Massachusetts: March 11, 1926
Boston, Massachusetts: May 27, 1926
July 1, 1926-Braves Field
Tulsa, Oklahoma: August 2, 1926
27) LOS ANGELES TIMES—May 2, 1935
28) LOS ANGELES HERALD/EXPRESS—April 19, 1935—THE INSIDE TRACK by Sid Ziff (editor)
29) LOS ANGELES TIMES—May 9, 1935
30) THE GUS SONNENBERG RECORD BOOK by Richard Haynes—I took the trial story from Haynes’s Bio. I would guess that Mark Hewitt aided him.
31) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—page 90 to 91—This was one of the few O’Mahoney matches I didn’t research in a newspaper. I thought the coverage in the book was taken from the Boston Globe, as the rest of the 1935 and 1936 matches were. Boston rules for main event matches were that they were 2/3 falls, but, if no falls were recorded by the hour mark, they reverted to a one fall match. That’s why Danno only needed one fall in his victory over DeGlane.
32) The $50,000 deposit story can be found in FALL GUYS (page 165). The total amount was said to be $75,000 on page 176. Bowser’s offer was printed in Boston newspapers by sportswriter Jack Conway and later reprinted in DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—page 92.
33) CINDERELLA MAN by Jeremy Schaap is a great sports book and it should be read if you want to understand the time period surrounding O’Mahony. I wish we had a wrestling book as good.
34) BOSTON GLOBE—June 28, 1935—DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION also has a more detailed account of the match. Pages 95 to 105. Claims it grew 28,000.
35) Probably because of the Hearst newspaper involvement, this is the most disputed attendance figure in wrestling history. The report of "not more than 10,000" came from the Los Angeles Times July 9, 1935. Here are the other reports:
36) LOS ANGELES TIMES—July 25, 1935—FALL GUYS claims that the Lopez California title line was created by Toots Mondt as a back-up in case of an O’Mahoney double-cross. This book FALL GUYS gives Toots Mondt credit for just about everything in pro wrestling. So much that I tend to ignore anything it says about him.
37) BOSTON GLOBE—July 31, 1935
38) BOSTON GLOBE—September 12, 1935
39) PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER—September 28, 1935, also FALL GUYS—page 177
40) CHICAGO TRIBUNE—October 22, 1935 and November 25, 1935
41) NEW YORK TIMES—October 29,1935
42) ST LOUIS GLOBE—November 8, 1935
43) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—page 132 and page 197, also RING MAGAZINE—March 1936—page 41
44) TIME MAGAZINE—January 20,1936, and UNITED PRESS—January 9, 1936
45) This story, and most of the names, Rudy Dusek, came from FALL GUYS—page 178 to 179.
46) GALVESTON DAILY NEWS—February 9, 1936 to February 11, 1936 and ASSOCIATED PRESS—May 9, 1936. The title line is listed in WRESTLING TITLE HISTORIES by Royal Duncan and Gary Will on page 261. This is the greatest of all wrestling history books and should be owned by everyone interested in the topic.
47) BOSTON GLOBE—February 28, 1936
48) BOSTON GLOBE—February 29, 1936
49) I stole most of this from THE RING MAGAZINE report of the match. Checking, I found their report was stolen from THE NEW YORK TIMES—March 3, 1936. Then later, I found the same report, almost word for word, in BOXING and WRESTLING—July 1956.
50) BOSTON GLOBE—March 3, 1936
51) BOSTON GLOBE—March 4, 1936
52) All the inside information and names come from FALL GUYS—page 180 to 200. In the book, author Marcus Griffin claims that, before the Shikat match, O’Mahony had already made a deal to leave Bowser and Curley, and drop the title for the Sandow/Haft group in Detroit to Everett Marshall. I don’t believe the story. It would be inconsistent with everything I’ve read about O’Mahony.
53) BOSTON GLOBE—March 14, 1936
54) BOSTON GLOBE—April 4, 1936
55) BOSTON GLOBE—April 18, 1936
56) The story was covered in RING MAGAZINE but my copy doesn’t have a date.
57) BOSTON GLOBE—June 23, 1936
58) BOSTON GLOBE—June 24, 1936
59) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—page 199
60) WASHINGTON POST—November 12, 1936
61) NEW YORK TIMES—December 15, 1936, and THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING VOL. #3—MADISON SQUARE GARDEN by Fred Hornby and Scott Teal
62) DANNO MAHONY: IRISH WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION—Page 275
63) The record I use is from the DANNO O’MAHONEY RECORD BOOK published by Richard Haynes. I also put my own together with updates and I research as many of Danno’s important matches as I could find.
64) THE HOUSTON POST—March 21, 1946
65) BOSTON GLOBE—June 26, 1947 and March 25, 1948
66) CINDERELLA MAN by Jeremy Schaap—Preface page X
67) Longevity isn’t on O’Mahony’s side. Does Paul Bowser belong in every wrestling Hall of Fame on earth? Yes, he does.
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