Stanislaus (Cyganiewicz) Zbyszko
#PWHS #Bio #Biography #Zbyszko #Poland #GrecoRoman #Catch #CACC #CatchWrestling
According to Stanislaus' autobiography he was born during 1881 in Jodlowa, Poland, which is near Krakow, but at the time was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some places list his date of birth as April 1, 1879, but they provide no sources for that information, so as it stands his autobiography is the most reliable date. Shortly after Stanislaus' birth, the Cyganiewicz family moved to Vienna, Austria where he was listed as from in Europe, although Stanislaus was later billed from his birth place, Poland, during his professional wrestling career in America.
At the age of 13 Stanislaus began to be trained by Wlodzimierz Swiatkiewicz. He was trained in swimming, fencing, running and eventually French wrestling (Graeco-Roman). He later trained seriously in wrestling at junior high school under coach Szczesny Rucinski. According to Stanislaus in an interview he stated he joined the Cracow Solkol circus at the age of 15, in his autobiography he said it was just during the holidays. While in the circus he got to perform in Graeco-Roman wrestling matches in front of thousands of spectators every day. He said he put the money from these shows towards his education.
One day Zbyszko heard the famous athlete Pietrusinski was in Kolomyja so he took the train and went there. He saw a poster for the circus and went to speak with the circus director Rosencwajg. There were no wrestling matches at the circus so Zbyszko ended up doing strongman tricks. He was paid 10 korony a day. The director liked him and told him as soon as he had another wrestler he would call him. Shortly after that Adolf Specht joined the circus so the director called Zbyszko back. Specht had an open challenge for 1,000 korony. Zbyszko was to wrestle Specht for ten minutes and would get 10 korony for that. The outcome of the match was predetermined - Zbyszko surviving the whole ten minutes. The second night they worked for 15 minutes. Zbyszko wanted to wrestle for real though so on the third night he told the director he would, and Specht defeated him for real in half an hour. The beaten Zbyszko left for Krakow.
In 1901 Wladyslaw Pytlasinski, the most famous Polish wrestler at the time, came to Krakow. Zbyszko met with him and Pytlasinki became his training partner. At the time Pytlasinski was preparing for a tournament in Charlottenburg (Berlin). Zbyszko went there with Pytlasinski. He had several wins there and then Laurent le Beaucairois beat him in a match where Stanislaus injured his knee. At first Zbyszko thought his career was over, but he healed quicker than expected. Pytlasinski sent him back to Krakow. The aforementioned tournament was probably the one that took place from May 16, 1901 until July 3, 1901 at the Radrennbahn Kurfürstendamm. It was won by Georges Hackenschmidt. Paul Pons placed second.
After a while Pytlasinki invited him to go on a circus tour of Ciechocinek, Wloclawek and Plock. Zbyszko agreed immediately as he considered Pytlasinki one of the best Polish athletes at the time and this was a chance to be under his guidance. This is where Zbyszko made his first real money from wrestling and for the first time he was able to send some money back to his father. During this tour he became friends with another wrestler – Wasilewski, who was known as "The Elephant" due to his size. One day they went swimming and Wasilewski drowned. Stanislaus tried to save him, but could not. After that Zbyszko went back to Krakow.
Stanislaus trained in weightlifting while in Vienna too. It was there he wrestled a man named "Tomasevitz" - likely Anton Tomasevic - and Stan won the bout. That made him a sensation in Vienna so the popular German wrestler Michael Hitzler offered to take him to Bucharest for a big tournament there. Before going there though Zbyszko wrestled in several small Austrian towns to make some money. Wrestlers like Jean Calvet, Charles Axa, Georg Burghardt, Franz Sauerer, John Pohl (Abs II) were part of the tournament, and Zbyszko says he beat them all. Then one day he asked Hitzler, the manager of the tournament, who else other than himself had the chance to win the first prize. Hitzler smiled and invited him to a sparring session, with the idea that if Zbyszko can defeat Hitzler then Zbyszko will get the first prize. Zbyszko says he beat Hitzler after a couple of hours of wrestling, but then Hitzler got angry that Zbyszko would beat him and didn't pay him anything. Zbyszko went back to Krakow.
The Bucharest tournament started on December 19, 1901 and finished during January 1902. In the finals of the competition Stan defeated Michael Hitzler. Stan finished first, Hitzler second, Charles Axa third and Louis Chorella fourth.
Zbyszko appeared in Riga, Latvia for a World Heavyweight Championship tournament from October 3 until November 17, 1902. He did not place in it. Georg Lurich finished first, Heinrich Eberle second, Nicolai Petroff third and John Pohl finished fourth. In December of the same year he wrestled in Lemberg, Ukraine, but the results for that tournament are currently unknown.
In 1903 Zbyszko found himself in Lodz where there was a tournament with Aleksander Aberg, Georg Lurch and Nicolai Petroff as the main stars. Zbyszko challenged all three, but they never accepted his challenge, despite the public wanting to see those bouts. Those he claimed to have challenged were appearing at the local Apollo-Theatre, around the same time Stan was appearing at the local Circus-Devigne with a different troupe of guys. Zbyszko recalls his time with the Circus-Devigne was actually in June 1903 and says this is where he first wrestled Franz "Cyclop" Bienkowski.
He recalls one of his first big breaks came when he wrestled at a Casino de Paris tournament in Paris. The pay was not good, but this was a chance for Stanislaus to get international fame. The first wrestler he came across there was the Serbian giant Simon Antonitch, who was about 7 feet tall, and that made him question his chances of winning the tournament. Some of the notable names in the tournament were Cotch Mehmet, Buzovac Mourzouck, Omer de Bouillon, Jess Pedersen, Raoul le Boucher, Aleksander Aberg and Ivan Poddubny. Zbyszko's first win was over Albert Sturm. Georg Strenge took a liking to Stanislaus and even started helping him in training. Zbyszko also wrestled Antonitch, who was considered a favorite to win the tournament. Before the match Leon Dumont, Antonitch's former manager, offered Zbyszko some advice on how to defeat Antonitch since Dumont was angry at Antonitch for breaking their contract. Poddubny, who was changing in the same dressing room as Antonitch, told Zbyszko Antonitch was saying backstage that he'll throw Zbyszko in 16 minutes, which angered Stan since the previous day he had had a good conversation with Antonitch and thought they were friends. The match lasted 1 hour 27 minutes and Zbyszko won. He calls this one of his "first and biggest" victories. Zbyszko claims this defeat more or less ended Antonitch's career, who became disillusioned with athletics, became a drunk and eventually died broke in a Brussels hotel. The win over Antonitch made Zbyszko quite popular, the top French sports newspapers writing big articles about him.
The Casino de Paris management started pushing him as a headliner. In the finals of the tournament he lost to Jess Pedersen. He finished 3rd after Pedersen & le Boucher, but placed before de Bouillon. The Casino management then offered Stan a new contract and increased his pay from 25 to 150 francs a day. His recollection seems to be pretty good of the events, however it is known the finals were actually Jess Pedersen defeating Raoul le Boucher. While Zbyszko defeated Omer de Bouillon on the last day, which is why Zbyszko finished third and de Bouillon fourth. The tournament was billed as the annual World Heavyweight Championship one.
His star only continued to rise as he traveled more and more through the rest of 1903 and into 1904. He saw places like Lemberg, Ukraine; Minsk, Belarus; Cluj-Napoca; Vilnius, Lithuania; Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic; and in Russia as well. He remembers the money not being good, but he did make an acquaintance in Boleslaw Rogalski. Plus, he fell in love with a woman names Mariska. Zbyszko stated she was married and had a child at the time, but he had a fencing duel with her husband and won. As they were all set to get married, Mariska fell ill with tuberculosis and died soon after. He remembers that being his first major loss in his life.
It seems that during those few years of his life he was studying at the University of Vienna where he studied music, gymnastics and philosophy and worked persistently on his physique to the point where the 5'8'' college student was listed in Health & Strength as one of Europe's elite Graeco-Roman heavyweight competitors. Finally graduating as a lawyer by the age of 24. Around this time it's said he also spent time as a lieutenant in the Polish infantry. It's unlikely he made it to that rank as he only spent a few months in the army before being declared unfit for service.
After that he went back home to his family. His brother Wladek was only 10 years old at the time. Stanislaus took an interest in Wladek's development – taught him about working out, diet, hygiene, helped him with school, etiquette, etc. There's a whole chapter in his autobiography where he lays out his ideas about how children should be brought up. He seems to feel very strongly about this, particularly because back then a lot of people were dying young and he thought this could've been avoided if they had followed a certain regiment in their upbringing/life. While Zbyszko remembers being 24 for these past two paragraphs, it's possible they either happened at a young age, or the birth date of 1879 is actually more accurate. it's hard to tell for sure which is more likely.
At the end of 1904 he traveled to Hamburg, Germany, where he palced third behind John Pohl (Abs II) and Nicolai Petroff in a tournament which took place from January 1, 1905 to February 15. Laurent le Beaucairois finished fourth. In what is possibly the only case ever recorded in history, Zbyszko actually sold himself short in his autobiography and stated he finished fifth place in this tournament. Who'd have thunk they'd ever hear of a wrestler doing that?
Georg Strenge acted as a training partner for Stan around then. They appeared together in a tournament at the Circus Busch in Berlin, Germany from February 1, 1905 to Marchh 9. This time Jakob Koch came first, Jess Pedersen second, Zbyszko third and Strenge fourth. Zbyszko beat Omer de Bouillion in a tough match during the tournament. At the 46th minute mark Zbyszko threw him so hard that de Bouillon lost consciousness for 12 minutes and had to be revived by medics. In the mean time Berlin police had surrounded Stanislaus thinking he had murdered his opponent and they were getting ready to arrest him. That match made Zbyszko's reputation in Berlin. Shortly after he failed to place in a competition at Dusseldorf, Germany.
His career continued with him travelling Europe competing in the tournaments held across the continent. It is thought he may have traveled to America during 1905, but whether he actually went has yet to be confirmed. Of course he later made a long trip to the United States, first he had to prove himself in Europe. Here are a selection of his appearances:
- April 3, 1905 he finished second in a tournament at Helsinki, Finland, losing to Alexander Aberg.
- May 27, 1905 he finished third in a tournament at Budapest, Hungary. Jakob Koch got first place and Jess Pedersen second.
- No known matches until December 1905.
- January 4, 1906 he finished joint first with Georg Lurich in a tournament at Vienna, Austria.
- March 11, 1906 he finished third in a tournament at Hamburg, Germany. Jakob Kock finished first and John Pohl second.
- He failed to place in a tournament at Bucharest, Romania which finished in April 1906. Georg Lurich came first, Pugatschew second and Karl Milchthaler third.
- April 30, 1906 he finished second in a tournament at Prague, Czech Republic. Jakob Koch got the top prize.
- He also failed to place in a tournament at Mannheim, Germany which finished in May 1906. Jakob Kock came first, John Pohl second, Anastace Anglio third and Ursus Jankowsky fourth.
- During August 1906 he got the top prize in a tournament at St. Petersburg, Russia. Heinrich Weber was second, Ivan Saikin third and Emil Bau fourth.
- During September 1906 he came second in a tournament at St. Petersburg, Russia. Alexander Aberg got first place.
- October 11, 1906 he lost to Georg Lurich in the finals of a tournament at Budapest, Hungary.
- October 31, 1906 he failed to place in a tournament in Hanover, Germany. He suffered an injury during the final stages of the competition.
By this career Zbyszko had secured a couple of great placings in tournaments and won some big matches. Nothing compared to winning the World Heavyweight Graeco-Roman Championship Tournament at Paris, France on November 23, 1906 though. It was a very prestigious award to win. Not only that, France was probably the most important country to transition to English speaking countries at that point in time too. Leon Dumont, especially, had great connections with the promoters over in America and England was just a short boat ride away.
He said his two biggest matches in that tournament were against Madrali and Lurich. The Turk Madrali had been winning all of his matches and the press was predicting he'd be the winner of the tournament. Zbyszko says that for his match with Madrali at Cirque de Paris 5,000 fans were turned away. Zbyszko won. After his win over Madrali he received an offer to wrestle in London, but still had engagements in Paris so he couldn't go. In the finals he beat Lurich in a very tough match in 52 minutes. Zbyszko had already met a number of tough wrestlers, but now wanted to meet Hackenschmidt and Poddubny.
In interviews Stanislaus remembered starting to wrestle in the Catch-as-Catch-Can style around 1906. It was a style essential to transition into the English and American wrestling scenes. Something else he did to be more appealing to the English speaking audiences was to change his name from Stanislaw Cyagniewicz - his birth name - to Stanislaus Zbyszko. It was just deemed easier for audiences outside of eastern Europe to pronounce and remember.
Immediately after Stan placed first in Vienna, Austria; Oslo, Norway; Liege, Belgium; and Bucharest, Romania. In his book he recalled going ot Lisbon, Portugal and then to Warsaw, but based on the dates, it's more likely he went to Warsaw, Poland first where he again finished in first place on April 25, 1907. It is possible he joined the tournament late though and had a vacation between Romania and joining the tournament in Poland. Around this time he also appeared in a tournament in Krakow, Poland. The results are unknown.
Once again he fell in love with a woman. They soon got engaged, but an opera singer stole her away from him. "Perhaps for the first time in the history of the world a tenor competed against an athlete and won the fight," is how Zbyszko summarizes the whole situation. It crushed Stanislaus.
He left for Moscow and decided to focus his energy on getting a match with the top Russian wrestler Ivan Poddubny. One night Zbyszko, accompanied by Pytlasinski, showed up to one of Poddubny's matches and challenged Ivan to a match, but Poddubny wanted Zbyszko to put up some money as a guarantee, but Zbyszko did not have that kind of money. Then Poddubny returned the "favor" by showing up at one of Stan's matches and challenging him as well. Ultimately they picked a date and wrestled in St. Petersburg. In front of a packed house. They went to a 2 hour 15 minutes draw. The match got so much press that both received offers to do the rematch in London.
There is no known record of that match in St. Petersburg currently. However, Zbyszko finished in joint first place with Georg Lurich on August 14, 1907. By September 18, he was in Budapest, Hungary wrestling in a tournament which had started on August 26, 1907. Zbyszko did not place in that tournament and left following a draw wiht Georg Lurich on September 27, 1907. The tournament finished three days later.
The next stop was London, England. Zbyszko arrived around the beginning of October. Leon Dumont and Charles B. Cochran, a man instrumental in Georges Hackenschmidt's (Hack) earlier success in the United Kingdom, were planning a match between Stan and Ivan Poddubny. The winner to meet Hack. The two wrestlers met on December 9, 1907, not December 7 as recorded by Zbyszko.
An American wrestler called Joe "Apollo" Rogers was supposed to be in the title picture as well, but he backed out leaving Poddubny and Zbyszko to do battle. Zbyszko recalls the match lasting 47 minutes with it being a tough struggle until Poddubny kicked him very hard in the leg out of frustration, thus getting himself disqualified. The papers at the time reported it lasted no more than 35 minutes and Poddubny had been repeatedly warned for fouling Zbyszko, and was disqualified for tripping his opponent. Stan recalls being paid 30,000 French francs for the match, he said he bought a house in Krakow with it.
In England there was a major professional wrestling scandal that took place for all of the public to see. During January of 1908 Stanislaus was approached by a wrestler called Kara Suliman during an open challenge. The match however was put off for an unrecorded reason. It was simply listed Kara did not meet the satisfactory conditions required to take Stanislaus up on his challenge.
The two were to meet up at a later date and Stanislaus fairly easily pinned Kara Suliman. Unfortunately for Stanislaus and the man responsible for promoting his fights in England at that time, Charles B. Cochran, someone tipped off the local papers that Kara Suliman was actually under employment of the Cochran camp and was a Bulgarian wrestler who went by the name of Ivan Offtharoff.
The Sporting Life newspaper summed it up:
"We cannot deny that there is a certain element of humor in the situation. Here are two foreign wrestlers hoaxing the British public as it has not been hoaxed for many a long day. There were challenges and counter challenges, affected quarrels, threatened breaking off of negotiations, meetings at the Sportsman office, the deposit of money on behalf Mr. 'Constantin Papiani,' who does not exist, charges of skin-greasing, and to crown it all, hot water baths for the two friends who were soon to be in each other's deadly embrace. Jow these two fellows must have enjoyed their baths - with their tongues in their cheeks, while the deluded British public were rolling up in their thousands to pay for admission to see the wrestling. It is more like a bit from a comic opera than anything we have ever heard of in the world of sport. While we admit to the humour of the situation, we cannot shut our eyes to the seriousness of the matter, and we ask.
How long is the generous-hearted supporter of wrestling to be imposed upon these gentlemen from the continent? If a state of matters exist such as we have shown existed between Zbyszko and Suliman, what confidence can we have that when the men, after due palaver, do meet, we are to have real honest wrestling? Both at the Pavilion and the Holborn Zbyszko and Suliman gave 'good shows', but the story we have disclosed of Zbyszko paying for Suliman's board and lodging since he stayed at Kennington Road does not reassure us that the two men were really trying. Is this wrestling farce never to end?"
Meanwhile Charles B.Cochran in his book Secrets of a Showman released in 1925 recalls:
"After his London engagement Zbyszko did enormous business in the provinces. I supplied him with a number of aggressive contestants, who always appeared to have a good chance with him - and this made for big receipts. I had learned from experience with Hack that the music hall public required a show, and I had no compunction in giving them what they wanted - a show.
A member of the troupe, who was particularly successful in creating excitement, and making the receipts go up, was a raw-boned Scotsman. Zbyszko wrestled under Graeco-Roman rules, but the Scotsman always disregarded them, and notwithstanding the protest of the referees, in the different towns we visited, practiced catch-as-catch-can holds. In one case, I remember, he threw the referee himself into the orchestra."
With England being disgruntled following the hoaxing of February 1908 its somewhat amazing that Stanislaus still managed to stay there until May 1908. He did travel the country a lot following the incident though. He then returned to Europe where he embarked on one final circuit, finishing up in Poland - as far as we know - before traveling to America for a huge tour over there.
Even Vince McMahon with all his modern technology could not have given Stanislaus a bigger build-up for his arrival. For over a month before he was even in the country, papers were talking about the foreign wrestlers coming and in specific the serious threat to the American public's pride of wrestling and World Heavyweight Champion, Frank Gotch. There was no doubt every American considered Stanislaus to be Gotch's most dangerous opponent to date and he was not even in the country yet.
Then in his first match on October 7, 1909, Stanislaus defeated three men in row. For just over a month Stanislaus competed in various matches, sometimes he may lose a handicap contest by being unable to throw an opponent enough times in a specific amount of time, but for the most part he dominated. Jack Herman had the task of managing Stan's USA-based career.
In front of 10,000 people - a large audience for that period - Stanislaus met Frank Gotch for the first time. The location was Buffalo, New York and it was a handicap match, whereby Gotch had to throw Stanislaus twice within 60 minutes. The big polish wrestler came out of it without being thrown, stating he knew for certain now he could throw Gotch in a straight match and that was all the people of America needed to convince them that their American really was in trouble. Zbyszko wrote in his book that the match gave him some confidence.
During 1910 he toured America defeating such people as "Rough" Tom Jenkins, Fred Beell, Charles "Kid" Cutler, Charles Olsen, Dr. Benjamin F. Roller. Stan remembered his manager got him a lot of bookings, sometimes up to six matches in six different towns in a week. The constant traveling exhausted Stan – in five months Stan dropped from 265 to 209 pounds, and lost some of his strength too. Zbyszko also recalls not defeating Yussiff Mahmout, "The Terrible Turk."
On March 29, 1910, at the Coliseum in Chicago, Illinois, Mahmout and Zbyszko met for the right to face Frank Gotch for the World Heavyweight Championship. Stan won in two straight falls taking up a total of 1 hour, 57 minutes and 17 seconds.
According to his autobiography, during his second stay in Buffalo he got word that his father had passed away. Zbyszko wanted to go back home, but his manager told him if he leaves now without facing Gotch he will be considered a coward and this will be the end of his career in the States, but if he stays and defeats Gotch this will bring him huge money and fame. Zbyszko agreed to stay in the States and in July 1910 he signed on to wrestle Gotch. In the their big match Gotch beat him in 26 minutes. Zbyszko felt like he had disappointed the Polish community in the States, which so far had been extremely supportive of him. He felt their disappointment and anger, some even going as far as to suggest he had sold out and laid down for Gotch for money. Zbyszko says Gotch was simply the better wrestler. Zbyszko thinks he should have not accepted the bout to begin with, given his emotional and physical condition at the time and his lack of knowledge of the catch style. For the Gotch bout Herman and Zbyszko had been promised $10,000, of which Zbyszko got $6,000.
Zbyszko's second stay in Buffalo was during May 1910, so he'd already "earned" his title shot against Gotch by that point as far as the public concerned. The match actually took place on June 1, 1910 at the Exposition Building in Chicago, Illinois. It drew around 8,000 fans, which was less than their first match, which had Gotch wrestling with the handicap rules against him. It took only 27 minutes and 42 seconds for Gotch to win the two straight falls. One paper reported Gotch jumped Zbyszko before the bell, immediately after they had shuck hands.
Spending more then 12 months in America battling many of the top stars there had fine tuned Stanislaus's catch-as-catch-can wrestling skills, where as before he had been more proficient in Graeco-Roman, he was now becoming known as a serious and legitimate hooker in the world of wrestling. It was that reputation that led him into his next match against the famed, the legendary, some say the greatest wrestler of all time, the Great Gama.
Here is what Stan wrote about it, Jack Curley, who was traveling in Europe with Dr. B.F. Roller, visited Zbyszko in Krakow and wanted him to train Roller for a match with The Great Gama, who had arrived in England and was challenging Gotch, Hackenschmidt and Zbyszko to wrestle him. In the mean time Curley arranged a match between Zbyszko and Roller in Vienna, which Zbyszko won. After that Zbyszko, along with his brother Wladek, went to London to train Roller.
While there Zbyszko signed a contract to wrestle Gama himself. In the Gama match Zbyszko was to take 25% of the gate, regardless of the outcome of the match. Zbyszko went to Brighton and began training for the match. He was training with Roller, John Lemm and his brother Wladek, who was only 16 years old but was already wrestling quite well. Zbyszko then went to London to watch a Gama vs. Roller match, which Gama won. In his own match with Gama Zbyszko wrestled him for 3 hours and the match ended without a winner.
The match between Roller and Zbyszko may not have actually happened, no proof of it taking place has currently been located. Stan did meet Gama in London though. It was in the finals of the John Bull World Championships. They competed for over 2 hours and 30 minutes before the match was declared a draw.
It is considered to be a poor match by many as Stanislaus used such a defensive style in the contest to try and avoid the Great Gama's size and strength advantage. The two were set to fight in a rematch two weeks later, however, Stanislaus did not show up to the event and was therefore declared as forfeiting and the victory handed to the Great Gama. Through all of this Stanislaus earned a place in the record books as one of a handful of men who stepped into a match with Gama and came out without a loss.
Before leaving England Zbyszko helped Curley persuade Hackenschmidt to sign with him. Stan then took his brother Wladek with him to the States for the first time, after a quick trip back to Europe.
He had the following to say about this tour of the states, he wanted another match with Gotch, but Gotch's manager Emil Klank was carefully picking Gotch's opponents. Klank also had Mahmout under contract. Mahmout was one of the most dangerous wrestlers and you had to go through him to get to Gotch. At first Zbyszko did not want to meet Mahmout, because he had a lot to lose (a loss from Mahmout would cost him the Gotch rematch). So Stan beat a number of lesser opponents, but the money wasn't all that great. He finally decided he had to wrestle Mahmout. The promoters in Chicago guaranteed $5,000 purse for the winner, but by that time Mahmout had left for Europe. So Zbyszko thought now he would get Gotch, but instead Gotch announced his retirement.
During his time in America he actually wrestled people like Dr. Benjamin F. Roller and even took Hackenschmidt to a 90 minute draw, where Hack was supposed to throw him twice within that time limit. The big news in 1911 was Gotch versus Hackenschmidt and anybody else would have just been fodder for Gotch to conquer in the build-up to the match with Hack, which took place in September 1911.
Zibby stuck around until about May 1912. At that point he returned to Europe. He toured Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Ukraine up until November of the same year. Stan recalls that he got word while in Krakow, Poland, about Jack Curley matching Hackenschmidt to wrestle Frank Gotch. Curley wanted Zybszko, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Roller, and Jakob Koch to train Hack for the big match. Zbyszko says they spent three weeks in England, but during the winter of 1912/1913 he went back to Krakow. Shortly thereafter he went to St. Petersburg and the war found him there. He had a contract with Circus Nikitin, but once the war started he went to Moscow, where his main opponent was the Latvian Dimitri Martinoff.
His time line is way off there though. To start with, he may have completely made up the whole training Hackenschmidt part, unless he just got very confused and he actually was a part of some initial training in either 1909 or 1910, when a rematch was rumored between Gotch and Hack, but never came to fruition.
He actually returned to North America again in December 1912. That time he stayed but a few months leaving once again around May, but this time in 1913. The biggest match he had during that short run was on May 24, 1913 where he and Constant Le Marin drew 12,000 fans to the Mount Royal Arena in Montreal, Canada. Zbysko won.
The papers reported that Zbyszko suffered a fractured skull during the contest. Just four days later, on May 28, 1913, he wrestled his old friend/foe Georg Lurich at Madison Square Garden in New York. Stanislaus collapsed during his contest with Lurich. He came to the ring with his head wrapped in bandages and taped up. The bandage fell off during the contest and Zbyszko collapsed while applying a full nelson on Lurich. Lurich then attacked Stanislaus until the referee physically pulled him off. Zbyszko was said to be unconscious of his surroundings.
On July 2, 1913, Stan was book in the ring over in Vienna, Austria against Georg Lurich. They drew 4,000 people to the Kaisergarten. or the next few months he toured France, Belgium, Ukraine, and Russia, before he returned to North America for another shot at making it big over there. That time he arrived around May 1914.
By this point Gotch had awarded his World Heavyweight Championship to the winner of a contest between Fred Beell and Americus in March of 1914. Just two months later, Stanislaus, who was still considered a strong competitor, was given a shot at Americus on May 7, 1914. The two met in Kansas City in front of a "Huge" crowd. Stanislaus came out the champion. He was now recognized as the World Heavyweight Champion, in North America at least, anyway.
Unfortunately his reign was cut very short due to the outbreak of World War I, which forced him to leave the country. He never really vacated the title, but promoters just kind of ignored the fact he'd ever won it.
Meanwhile back in Europe the story he told picks back up slightly. He won a tournament during July 1914 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Then another one during October 1914 in Odessa, Ukraine. One would imagine there were others inbetween. Then the next listing for him is a World Heavyweight Championship Tournament which he won in Moscow, Russia and finished in May 1915. Dimitri Martinoff also competed in it, although Dimitri did not even place in the final four. After that he and Martinoff finished jointly in first place in a tournament at Saratow, Russia for the Circus Nikitin, which must've been what he stated happened in the winter of 1912/1913. It seems to be at this point when Zbyszko was enlisted in the war effort until 1920.
He once again reached a high level of notoriety in 1921 when he was enlisted by the Gold Dust Trio (Ed Lewis, Billy Sandow, Joseph "Toots" Mondt) to become the new World Heavyweight Champion on their behalf. With the Trio trying to monopolize professional wrestling they needed someone who could really wrestle to hold the belt in case anyone tried to double cross them and even at over 40 years old, Stanislaus was still considered a formidable force.
It was not meant to be though as his run with the championship was a financial failure for the Trio. His reign only lasted until March 3, 1922 after winning it on May 6, 1921. He lost the belt to the same man he had originally won it from, Ed "Strangler" Lewis. Following that Stanislaus found himself in the midst of controversy...a pattern certain seems to be in place.
The main rivals of the Gold Dust Trio were the Stecher brothers, Joe and Tony, and Jack Curley. The Trio had put the World Heavyweight Championship onto a newcomer, former football star, Wayne Munn. A match was set up between Munn and Stanislaus as a way to solidify Munn as a real serious competitor in the eyes of the spectators. On April 15, 1925 the Trio saw all their hard work taken away from them in the blink of an eye as Stanislaus double crossed them and continuously pinned Munn until the referee had to announce him as the winner.
Stanislaus had not gone into business for himself though, he had been paid a large sum of money by the Stecher brothers to do so. Just over a month later completing the deal, Stanislaus dropped the title to Joe Stecher. From that point on his career things started to wind down, he still continued to compete on a semi-regular basis though and as the nature of the business dictates, he kept on travelling to do so.
On January 29, 1928 he once again met the Great Gama, it is often reported that the match drew 60,000 spectators, but it is thought the stadium which had been specially built for the event in India could only hold 40,000, either way, the event sold out and was a massive hit even 18 years after the original encounter between the two and was impressive to say the least when considering that both men were well past their prime.
The outcome of the match which is often told is the Great Gama threw and Stanislaus in around 45 seconds in a legitimate bout, this probably was not the case though. It is rumored that the Maharajah who was in attendance for the match, had hired Gama as his private wrestler in 1910, so he paid Stanislaus to lose in fear of a riot if he did win. The reasoning provided for Stanislaus accepting the pay-off was he had lost a lot of his fortune during World War I and had been trying to build it up since, it is also noted that the Great Gama would not have known of the plan or he would not have competed.
There are also stories wrestlers in the 1950s heard tales of something suspicious during the match, but it is recorded that none of them were willing to speak in detail on the matter. It seems only fitting though that right up until the end Stanislaus had conspiracy, controversy and people pondering over the workings of his match.
After that match Stanislaus went into semi-retirement, at first he became a matchmaker in New York, but that does not appear to have lasted too long. So with his wrestling days behind him, he found a new direction to focus all his acquired skill and efforts; training the next generation.
He traveled to South America to scout young athletes he could train in the art of professional wrestling. While there he came across someone who went on to be considered a true pioneer of the industry, Argentina Rocca. Stanislaus also trained Harley Race and Johnny Valentine, with the help of his bother Wladek. Stanislaus actually spent quite a lot of time in South America and touring various areas with his brother as both his manager and a promoter of shows, also. For many years Zbyszko promoted shows in South America, normally with his brother and/or Karol Zbyszko (Nowina) as featured performers.
Zbyszko appeared in a movie during 1932 called "Madison Square Garden," where he played himself. When World War II broke out Stanislaus found his skills as a linguist useful and thus was called upon by the War Department. He also had a lead role in the 1950 movie, "Night and the City," in that he played a grizzled pro-wrestler. Director Jukes Dassin recalls when he contacted Zbyszko he was living in New Jersey working as a chicken farmer and remembered him as being "a beautiful, cultured, multilingual."
His work ethic was something to admire, he believed a pro wrestler should train four hours every day – an hour and a half of what he calls "free exercise", an hour sparring with a partner, and the rest of the time for walking and running. He disagrees with a lot of the European wrestlers from back in those days who thought eating a superfluous amount of food will increase their strength.
At the age of 88 on September 23, 1967, Stanislaus (Cyganiewicz) Zbyszko suffered a heart attack and passed away. He will forever be remembered as one of the first controversial figures in professional wrestling, along with being known as a legitimate hooker with an excellent skill set and knowledge. To anyone who knew him outside of the ring and had the privilege of knowing him personally, they remembered him as the intellect he was. Even the fans who don't know who Stanislaus Zbyszko is, will always remember the name Zbyszko from when Larry Whistler adopted the surname Zbyszko during his professional wrestling career during the 1970's all the way up until present day.
Unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society.
Biography of Stanislaus (Cyganiewicz) Zbyszko.
Authors: Jimmy Wheeler & Phil Lions.
Published: July 2014.
Editor: Jimmy Wheeler.
Updated: June 16, 2019.
Unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society.
Biography of Stanislaus (Cyganiewicz) Zbyszko.
Authors: Jimmy Wheeler & Phil Lions.
Published: July 2014.
Editor: Jimmy Wheeler.
Updated: June 16, 2019.