Abe Coleman

Name: Abe Coleman
Year Inducted: 2012

Abe Coleman

Abe Coleman

With 101 year-old Abe Coleman’s death on March 28, 2007, professional wrestling lost its last link to the era of Jim Londos, Man Mountain Dean and other stars of the 1930s. Coleman, who died in Queens, New York, made a name for himself despite being just 5’3” in height but on a solid 200-pound body.

“The squat New Yorker who was just a little over five feet tall and seemed at least that wide,” wrote Paul Boesch in his autobiography, Hey, Boy! Where’d You Get Them Ears? “Coleman liked to leap up and put his feet in his opponent’s face and did it frequently. But Abie never learned to use it with the explosive power needed to become a winning weapon.”

Born Abe Kelmer on September 20, 1905 in Poland, he immigrated to Canada in 1923. New York City would be his next home. The story of his entry into the professional wrestling ranks was often repeated in newspaper stories as his age crept ever upward. In 1929, he was working out in a Brooklyn gym. Local promoter Rudy Miller approached him and said, “Hey kid, you want to make $25?” Kelmer agreed and Abe Coleman was born.

Newspaper stories credit Coleman for bringing back the drop kick as a wrestling move after a tour of Australia. He would say that he had been inspired by seeing kangaroos.

Coleman always seemed to be able to score publicity. During the 1930s, there were few Jewish pro wrestlers, and Coleman was billed at times as the “Hebrew Hercules” and “The Jewish Tarzan.” He was also called “Little Hercules.”

In his 2,000+ bouts, Coleman did get in the ring with some of the greats of the day. He faced Jim Londos, Man Mountain Dean, Ted Cox, George Zaharias, George Temple and the Dusek brothers. He is also credited with tipping off St. Louis promoter Tom Packs about Orville Brown being a future star and world champion.

“I beat ’em all,” Coleman told the Queens (NY) Chronicle-Central Edition before his 100th birthday. “JimLondos was tough, but I was tougher.” Coleman’s career would last until the early 1950s.

In 1939, Coleman married June Miller. “I was wrestling at Madison Square Garden in the spring of 1936. I was thrown out of the ring and landed right in her lap,” Coleman told Newsday in 1995. June died in 1987 and the couple had no children.

Besides promoting the occasional show in small New York City locations, Coleman served as a wrestling referee. Outside the ring, Coleman inspected license plates for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.  For the last few years of his life, he was mostly confined to a wheelchair, living at a health care center in Flushing, New York.

Previously, he lived in Forest Hills, New York. It was there, when he was in his eighties, that two teens attempted to mug him. As the story goes, Coleman subdued the aggressive youth for the police, with some stories saying that it was with a vicious hold, and others that it was a couple of solid punches.

As Coleman would say in his later years, “Who else had a better life than me?”

- Greg Oliver

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