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Earl Caddock


Acrylic and spray on 24″ x 24″ wood

Earl Caddock was one of the biggest stars in the early days of professional wrestling, and was billed as the original man of 1000 holds. Caddock was born on February 27, 1888 in Huron, South Dakota. As a child his family moved him to Chicago to receive treatment for tuberculosis, where he joined the YMCA as swimming was part of his treatment. While there he discovered wrestling. After his father’s passing, Earl moved to his uncle’s farm in Anita, Iowa and continued wrestling, winning many local championships. He returned to Chicago in 1907 to attend college, and went on to win the AAU Light Heavyweight Championship twice and the AAU Heavyweight Championship once.

In 1914 he began training with Frank Gotch and Martin ‘Farmer’ Burns for professional wrestling, and made his debut the following year. On April 19, 1917 he defeated Joe Stecher for the World Heavyweight Championship in Omaha, Nebraska. In December of that year he walked out of a tournament that would name the next World Champion, which was won by Wladek Zbyszko. Due to the controversial nature of the tournament, this was a disputed win and ultimately not recognized as a title change. On February 8, 1918 Caddock and Zbyszko faced each other, with Caddock getting the win and being the undisputed champion. In August of 1918 Caddock left to serve the United States during World War I, and was discharged from the Army in June of the following year, resuming his wrestling career. Joe Stecher had become the World Champion during Caddock’s absence, although Caddock had not ever been defeated for the title. On January 30, 1920 the two collided at a packed Madison Square Garden, in what is the also the oldest surviving filmed wrestling match. Stecher came out the victor and the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion.

Earl Caddock returned to the World Title scene in 1921 when he faced Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis unsuccessfully for the belt, in a loss that nearly started a riot. Later that year he faced Wladek’s brother and current champion Stanislaus Zbyszko, again coming up short. Caddock’s last match was on June 7, 1922, unable to defeat Strangler Lewis for the World Heavyweight Title.

After retiring, he ran his own business in Walnut, Iowa selling cars, tractors and heavy farm machinery, and also became President of the United Petroleum Company. Earl Caddock passed away in 1950. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007. His legacy as the original ‘Man of 1,000 Holds’ lives on today, notably during a feud between Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho, where Malenko billed himself the same way, and Jericho named himself the ‘Man of 1001 Holds.’

About the piece: I was trying something a little different and almost ethereal, due to there being few surviving photographs of Caddock, and the ones that did survive have fallen prey to the procession of time. There’s very little hard contrast used, which I found to be a fun challenge. I first applied paint to the background with a palette knife, and then while it was still wet liberally applied water to it, creating a mix of textures. I then lightly misted that with white spray paint, softening the colors. I then used neutral greys and blue greys for the figure, again soaking them with water, and then applied the whites with house paint and a sponge brush. I think it’s a fun look that I aim to experiment more with in the future.

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