The term “Pro Wrestling” may likely conjure up imagery of superstars like
Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant, however more than a century prior to Andre
being bodyslammed by Hogan at The Pontiac Silverdome, and even before the
era of Westchester County wrestling greats “Classy” Freddie Blassie, Captain
Lou Albano, and White Plains’ own Arnold Skaaland there was another man
from White Plains, New York. A man named William Muldoon whom was a
true pioneer of professional wrestling and neighbors with The Buckhouts of
modern day Buckout Road.
Born to Irish immigrants in 1845, by the young age of 20 William Muldoon was
already a veteran of The Civil War having served as a Private until the conflict
ended in 1865. A year later Muldoon worked in New York City as a bouncer
where he encountered a man with a black eye on the street. Muldoon inquired
where this gentleman obtained his black eye which lead him to Harry Hill’s
saloon located at 26 East Houston Street.
In 1854 Harry Hill converted a two story grocery store into a saloon and
concert hall named “Harry Hill’s Variety Theatre”. Hill was a boxer and boxing
promoter whom ran live boxing bouts at his saloon in which patrons would
gamble on the outcome. Amongst those whom frequented the saloon
included P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, and Thomas Edison whom installed
installed some of the first electrical lighting in his saloon which attracted even
more publicity for his fights. Boxer John L Sullivan whom was the last
recognized bare knuckle boxing champion and first ever gloved boxing
champion made his fighting debut at Harry Hill’s and soon became a featured
attraction as was Civil War veteran “The Green Mountain Boy” John
McMahon. Like Muldoon, McMahon also gained notoriety for his wrestling
skills during The Civil War.
Upon suggestion of Muldoon and Barnum, Harry Hill began booking
predetermined wrestling bouts at his saloon. John McMahon and William
Muldoon were amongst the first to compete in these matches.
Pro Wrestling was born at Harry Hill’s Variety Theatre.
In 1876 William Muldoon became a New York City police officer and soon after
became the founder of The Police Athletic League. He remained a police
officer until his resignation in 1881 at which point he was a detective.
On February 6, 1877 William Muldoon defeated France’s Andre Christol to be
crowned the first World Wrestling Greco Roman Champion. This of course
predates the infamous World Wrestling Title reigns of George Hackenschmidt
and Frank Gotch by several decades.
In 1878 Muldoon defeated American Wrestling Champion Young Bibby which
prompted Richard K. Fox, then the publisher of the world-famed Police Gazette,
to hail William as the first world champion in modern day Greco-Roman style
wrestling. To make it official, the Police Gazette presented Muldoon with gold
pin which symbolized the honor.
On January 19, 1880 William Muldoon defeated Theo Bauer at NYC’s Gilmore
Gardens (which later became Madison Square Gardent) in front of 4,000 fans
in a match which unified Muldoon’s Title with Bauer’s American Catch As
Catch Can Championship.
Muldoon adapted the nicknames “The Solid Man” and “Iron Duke” and
continued to have a successful wrestling career picking up wins over apanese
star Sarakichi Matsuda, Profesor Clark, Jack Carkeek, Col J.H. McLaughlin,
“The Omaha Demon” Clarence Whistler, Evan “Strangler” Lewis, and German
Champion Carl Sandow amongst others. Muldoon was also part of the very
first wrestler versus boxer match which was against John L Sullivan of Harry
Hill’s Saloon fame. The match was declared a No Contest after 2,000 fans
stormed the ring after Muldoon bodyslammed Sullivan.
Muldoon never lost a match and once competed in a match that went over 7
hours in duration. He was also one of the first pro wrestlers to add theatrics
to his matches by wearing a gladiator outfit to the ring.
Muldoon also became the first chairman of The NY State Athletic League.
In 1890 Muldoon purchased the Thomas Carhart Mansion in White Plains NY
which became his home and initial site of his fitness center. Muldoon lived in
White Plains for ten years prior to relocating to the border of modern day
Purchase NY and West Harrison NY. Part of his property extended into the
modern day woods of Buckout Road; the alleged haunted road of Westchester
Muldoon’s fitness center was called William Muldoon’s Hygienic Institute and
was nicknamed “The Olympia”. Some documents refer to it as a ‘health
farm’. It became a famed getaway destination.
Perhaps the country’s first personal trainer, Muldoon placed a high emphasis
on health and working out to those whom stayed at The Olympia. Muldoon
invented the medicine ball which was featured in work out sessions.