Acrylic on 24″ x 24″ wood
Beyond being a notable shooter in the ring, John Pesek is possibly the only World Champion in history to have neither won nor lost the title. John Pesek was born on February 21, 1894 in Ravenna, Nebraska, the fifth of seven children. After an interest in boxing, he ventured into professional wrestling’s carnival circuit and soon having a high-profile match when he defeated Wladek Zbyszko in 1914. John ‘The Nebraska Tiger Man’ Pesek only lost around 20 matches in his entire career, and suffered his first loss against Joe Stecher. Other notables that he lost to were Jim Londos and Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis.
Pesek began his career during a time that the sport was largely a competitive one and not pre-determined, and he largely disliked the ‘worked’ nature that it was transitioning into. When he should have been gaining traction due to his in-ring prowess, instead promoters largely disliked booking him due to his not playing along with the fix. Ed Lewis brought him along and booked him often to teach a lesson to those who may go into business for themselves. On one notable occasion at Madison Square Garden beat marin Plestina severely to the point he was hospitalized, nearly causing a riot and leading to Pesek being banned from competing in New York. In 1926 he had three matches against now-World Champion Joe Stecher, seeing Stecher win the first, the second in a draw, and Pesek shooting on Stecher in the third, forcing the referee to call a disqualification to save the title from changing hands. Legend tells of Stecher crying afterwards.
In September 1936 Everett Marshall vacated his National Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Championship, and on September 13, 1937 John Pesek was named the new champion. Beyond his reputation as a ‘hooker’, he was the only candidate who had the $1000 bond needed to travel with the belt. Oh, wrestling. By December of 1937 he was stripped of the title as he had refused two consecutive matches. He had two championships with the Midwest Wrestling Association that had the same pattern of being named champion, not defending it, and being stripped of it. Pesek retired in the 1950’s from in-ring competition and passed away on March 12, 1978. He was inducted into both the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005.
About the piece: Stylistically this is similar to the recent R-Truth piece I did, and really I just wanted to play a bit more with the approach. I spread a layer of paint around with a palette knife in upward strokes first. Once that dried, I applied the black and then the white, letting that first layer act as a mid-tone. I masked off some of the background and applied white paint, making straight geometric lines and shapes to contrast against the organic chaos in the back.