Ed Don George
The date is reported as June 3, 1905 and it marks the day that one of the multi-talented men of professional wrestling was brought into the world. In the small city of North Java, New York Ed Don George was raised. It's said like many wrestlers before him he grew up working and through this he acquired his impressive physique and strength.
While Don George was good at pretty much anything of a physical nature in sports, football and wrestling were his two stand-out fields. When he ended up at the University of Michigan George played in both sports there. It was wrestling where he truly excelled though. During his tenure there he won the State Amateur Championship before moving on to St. Bonaventure-Fairfields University in 1926.
When he returned to the University of Michigan in 1927 he won the American National Amateur Heavyweight Championship in the 1927-'28 season. Later that year he represented America at the Olympic Games. Promoters would often exaggerate his success in Amsterdam that year, however, George placed fourth for the Light Heavyweight Freestyle class. George soon returned to the University of Michigan where he completed his degree in engineering ad won the American National Amateur Heavyweight Championship again in the 1928-1929 season. Later in his life he'd attend the University of North Carolina to pick up a bachelors degree in arts.
Following his graduation George took up a regular job at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio. Only a few months of his life was spent there though as Jack Albright a well known wrestling star took George under his wing. Through Albright, George had a great door opened for him into the professional wrestling world. Within in the first few months of 1930, the name Ed Don George was making an impression.
Truthfully though he was supposed to be. Albright had strong connections with the Boston based American Wrestling Alliance's owner, Paul Bowser. Together they had recognized the potential star draw in the amateur stand-out. Bowser sent George out to California and Canada where he had affiliates whom he could trust to take care of his new talent all with the plan of building him up for a big win. Quite possibly that win came sooner than even Bowser and Albright could have ever imagined.
That night came on December 10, 1930 when Ed Don George defeated Gus Sonnenberg in two out of three falls totaling to 37 minutes and 29 seconds. With that George was the new AWA World Heavyweight Champion. The match which took place in Los Angeles, California was also backed by their State Athletic Commission as well as other southern states and the Montreal Athletic Commission.
His reign only lasted for a little over four months though. As on April 13, 1931 Ed "Strangler" Lewis defeated Don George also in Los Angeles. They wrestled for an hour and 17 minutes with Lewis scoring two straight falls. Over the course of the next 22 months George continued to pick up victories over the likes of Dan Koloff and Joe Malcewicz. It seems that his initial reign was so short due to how new to the game he was. Bowser realized that George still had a world of potential to him.
Bowser showed his faith in George on February 10, 1933 when he scheduled the North Java native to square off against Henri DeGlane. After 21 minutes and 3 seconds George scored the third fall of the match to once again wear the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Over the course of the next two-plus years he defended the title against all comers and seemed like he was on an unstoppable roll. He had rounded out into a good, reliable draw and a solid in-ring performer also.
If it had not been for some of the major promoters of the time coming together and deciding they wanted to work together in an attempt to further boost ticket sales like back in the Frank Gotch days. They were going to work together once again and crown a new Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, or as close to undisputed as possible in wrestling. July 30, 1935 was the date set for Don George to drop his title to Danno O'Mahoney.
They competed in a one-fall bout that lasted for an hour-and-a-half before O'Mahoney scored the victory. 45,000 screaming fans were in attendance to see O'Mahoney unify the third of the three major titles in North America at the Braves Field in Boston, Massachusetts. George never saw another world title for very nearly four years. Even without a title though he stayed relevant and his name drew attention whenever he appeared.
Less than two years later it was reported he had claims to another world title. In 1937 he went on a tour of Europe. Upon returning some papers stated he beat all the "top notchers" over there while others that he had won the European version of the World Heavyweight Championship on April 5, 1937. By early May he returned to America. On his home soil he'd have to wait until April 18, 1939 to once again win World Heavyweight Championship laurels. Again it was for the AWA.
He accomplished thats when he defeated Steve "the Crusher" Casey at Albany, New York. Seven months later he was defeated by Casey in Buffalo, New York and that ended his last chance to hold the very top prize in a professional wrestling promotion. Just a couple of years later Don George retired from in-ring competition to join the United States Navy. It appears he entered as a Lieutenant, but left as a Commander. Although he served different stateside duties, George was known primarily for his training of young cadets in the art of self-defense.
Shortly after leaving the service he opened up his own pro-wrestling promotion with his first card debuting on July 18, 1947. Under the banner of the Upstate Athletic Club George promoted in the Buffalo area for eight years. After a couple of years in charge he brought in Ignacio "Pedro" Martinez as a partner. After an initial success, the promotion floundered and George decided to cut his losses and sold the remainder of his shares to Martinez.
For that sale It was reported he received $100,000 for the rights to the Upstate Athletic Club and he also included in the deal his Buffalo License. Syracuse, Albany, Utica, Binghampton, Erie, Pa. and ten other areas which he had held promotions in and also his tie-up with the National Wrestling Alliance.
George had been a well-off man anyway saving his money wisely over the years, but with this additional lump sum it meant he could retire in comfort. Papers reported that he was content with traveling the world. George also kept up to date with the sports of kinds though and liked to be around them when he was in America. In 1975 he was inducted into the St. Bonaventure-Fairfield University Hall of Fame. Six years later he was given a place i the Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor.
On September 18, 1895 Ed Don George passed away in his house located in Florida. Still he was to be honored in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996. The International Wrestling Institute and Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006.
Unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society.
Biography of Ed Don George.
Author: Jimmy Wheeler.
Published: September 3. 2014.
Editor: Jimmy Wheeler.
Updated: November 15, 2018.