Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame

Name: Joseph Mondt
Year Inducted: 2008
Induction Category: Non-Participant

Joe "Toots" Mondt

James (Joe) Ervin Mondt was born on a small Iowa farm in 1894. His father moved the family to Colorado's Weld County, where mining work was readily available. Circuses often traveled to populated areas and Mondt saw a chance to earn extra money. Being well-conditioned, he soon engaged in carnival wrestling and was discovered by the legendary wrestler and instructor Farmer Burns. Mondt soon developed into a very skillful wrestler. Being the youngest participant in the Burns training camp, the wispy-haired and baby-faced Mondt was said to be christened, "Toots", by Burns himself and the name has endured throughout the years.

Mondt's innovative gamester mind is credited with changing the face of pro-wrestling by combining traditional Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, professional boxing, and mining camp brawling. He called it "Slam Bang Western Style Wrestling". Mondt, a dangerous shooter, soon saw that the big money was earned through the promotional end of the business. Circa 1922, Mondt struck up a business relationship with Ed "Strangler" Lewis and his manager, Billy Sandow. Toots introduced his concept to the top wrestlers of the day and immediately signed them up to contractual agreements. The public loved the new style, which resulted in full capacity gates, excellent payouts for the wrestlers, and handsome profits for Toots Mondt and his two partners. Throughout the 1920's, the "Gold Dust Trio" took wrestling to new heights in the major sporting arenas in cities throughout the heartland of the nation. New talent was developed and tested by the trio and finishes were carefully choreographed by Toots. Internal rifts developed and the partnership dissolved in the late 1920's. Toots took his ideas and fresh concepts and headed East.

Mondt, "The Colorado Cowboy", linked up with famed Philadelphia promoter Ray Fabiani. Toots also formed a working alliance with powerful New York promoter Jack Curley and served as his main booker. Their promotion soon topped the bill with Germany's Dick Shikat, who was also under contract to Mondt. In 1930, the very popular Jim Londos, managed by Ed White, was bestowed championship honors by the group. New York wrestling thrived until Londos balked at paying Toot's managerial fee and Londos left the promotion. Mondt then crowned old friend Ed "Strangler" Lewis as champ on June 6, 1932 after signing him away from Boston's Paul Bowser. However, New York attendance fell and the aging Lewis dropped the belt in 1933 to Jim Browning. Late in 1933, Toots found himself as part of the new "Wrestling Trust" consisting of the Curley group and the Londos/Tom Packs group with Jim Londos as their champion. Together, they controlled professional wrestling in North America and divided profits equally.

When the New York business diminished, Toot's left for Los Angeles and worked with Lou Daro's thriving West Coast territory. In 1936, Mondt returned to New York and associated himself with wrestling pariah Jack Pfefer by overthrowing Al Haft's new champion, Ali Baba. Mondt purchased the contract of new champ Dave Levin from Pfefer for $17,000. By then, the "Wrestling Trust" had dissolved and Mondt took Levin to the West Coast to face title claimant Vincent Lopez. With Jack Curley's death in 1937, Mondt teamed up with Ray Fabiani and wrestler/promoter Rudy Dusek. Toots continued to promote to a smaller but steady wrestling audience. He was able to bring wrestling back to New York's Madison Square Garden in 1949 after an absence of eleven years (Gorgeous George defeated Ernie Dusek). The previous show at MSG in 1938 had seen Steve "Crusher" Casey defeat Danno O'Mahoney.

In the early 1950's and with help from NWA affiliates, Mondt was involved in several Northeast wrestling enterprises and created what would evolve into the Capitol Wrestling Corporation. He brought in Antonino Rocca as his top draw. In 1956, he joined Washington, D.C. promoter Vincent J. McMahon and TV wrestling's popularity soared in New York City. Toots taught Vince about booking, working and marketing wrestling as a sports exhibition, while keeping with traditional concepts. Toots controlled Northeast wrestling and rarely allowed champion Buddy Rogers to wrestle in the other NWA territories. Capitol broke away from the NWA in 1963 and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Toots and Vince then built the WWWF around Bruno Sammartino. Toots left the WWWF operations in the late 1960's.

On June 11, 1976, Joseph "Toots" Mondt died of pneumonia at age eighty-two. A highly skilled professional wrestler and an astute promoter with a creative mind, he left an indelible mark on the business as we know it today.

- Johnny Griffin

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