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In 1909, Stanislaus Zbyszko moved to America and began what would become a stellar wrestling career. He won his first World Heavyweight title by defeating Ed “Strangler” Lewis on May 6, 1921. During a rematch on March 3, 1922, Lewis recaptured his title by defeating Zbyszko. Lewis would then lose his recaptured title to Wayne Munn in a bout that took place in Kansas City, Missouri on January 8, 1925. Then, on April 15, 1925, Zbyszko became a World champ for a second time by out-dueling Wayne Munn. Public domain photograph.
Billed as one of the greatest authentic wrestlers of all time, Stanislaus Zbyskzo had a brilliant career in the ring during the first three decades of the twentieth century. He first earned the World Heavyweight Championship in 1921 by defeating Ed “Strangler” Lewis, and four years later he regained the world professional wrestling title by pinning Wayne Munn. Retirement from the ring would then follow in 1928 after the strongman met Ghulam Muhammad, The Great Gama. Their match, which took place in India, was one of the most anticipated in wrestling history, drawing a reported 60,000 fans. It was also one of the shortest in history; The Great Gama won the bout in just 30 seconds! However, Eighteen years beforehand, when both men were in their physical prime, the two mighty fighters had battled for three hours in the finals of the John Bull World Championships in London before their match ended in a draw.
Although he was born in Poland in 1881, Zbyszko grew up in Vienna, Austria. His birth name was Stanislaw Cyganiewicz, but after demonstrating bravery and courage in his youth his friends started calling him “Zbyszko”, the name of a fearless fictional knight featured in “Krzyżacy”, a novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz. This nickname stuck, and, as his wrestling career began to blossom, Cyganiewicz changed his name to Stanislaus Zbyszko after being urged to do so by a promoter of the sport.
Zbyszko was once one of the most muscular and strongest men in the world. During the pinnacle of his fighting career, the mighty wrestler was a “hard” 260 pounds at a height of five feet, eight inches, and his reported measurements were as follows: chest, 55 inches; waist 42 inches; arm 22 inches; thigh 31 inches; and calf 18 1/2 inches. Judging by his large numbers, there is little doubt that the huge wrestler could have been another Doug Hepburn had he specialized in weightlifting, and I wonder what “record” lifts he would have made had he done so.
I found this photo of Zbyszko in an old Ohio newspaper, circa 1910. As can be seen, he had an incredible build and quite an intimidating appearance. Public domain photograph.
Although packed with mountains of muscle, Zbyszko was no musclehead. In fact, so great were his intellectual achievements, the strongman was once referred to in The Polish Biographical Dictionary as “one of the most cultured sportsmen who ever lived.” Zbyszko was fluent in 11 languages, a graduate of the University of Vienna, and a lawyer by profession. He also was a skilled musician, philosopher, and poet. In addition, the former champ was granted a patent in 1964 for his invention of the tilt-top table, a unique exercise apparatus.
A sports writer once described Zbyszko as “all energy and ambition.” The strongman devoted much time to athletic training, and during his competitive years he typically ran 10 to 15 miles each day, in addition to his wrestling practice! You may want to reflect upon this the next time you feel like you don’t have time for a 20 or 30-minute exercise session.
In 1967, at the age of 88, Stanislaus Zbyszko died in St. Joseph, Missouri of a heart attack. And, although it has been 45 years since his passing, the Polish strongman remains a legend of the wrestling game. He indeed had been an “eighth wonder of the world,” as was claimed by his many fans during his victory years.
My new article about the University of Kentucky is complete, but I am going to delay posting it so that it can be featured on a new and second website that I am currently creating. The new site will go live in either July or August. I apologize for the change of plans, and thanks for your patience.
I am creating a second website to address personal interests and writings that lie outside of the strength field (although I hope and believe that MOI readers will find it interesting and beneficial). I will provide more information about my new site in an upcoming post. Please stay tuned.