British Champion Wrestler
Edwin Bibby was considered to be a champion of the 'Catch-as-Catch-Can' style of wrestling (later known as freestyle) during the 1870s and 1880s. This style originated in Lancashire and was more dramatic than Graeco-Roman style which was the most popular in the late 19th century. It permitted holds on any part of the body, barring only the strangle hold.
Wrestling was very popular in Britain at that time as it preceded both Soccer and the Olympics and, because Edwin became the champion, he too was very popular. Some public houses in Ashton-under-Lyne, where he was born, (eg The Albion & The Buck and Hawthorn) had Edwin’s photo(s) on the wall.
Edwin was born in 1848 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire and in 1871 his regular job was a coal miner.
In 1867 he married 16 year old Mary Ann Connelly who had Irish parents.
Also known as Ned or Eddie, he quickly became a top wrestler and in 1879 he emigrated to the USA on his own, presumably to enhance his reputation and to make a better life for his family. He sent for his wife and children later. They were to have 13 children altogether but only 3 of them survived.
He was living in Manhattan, New York at first, then he moved to Rhode Island where, in 1900, he was a day labourer. By then he had been naturalised as an American citizen.
In 1884 he was 5’ 4.5” tall and 155lbs in weight.
He also refereed wrestling and taught his two sons, Tom and Edwin, to wrestle and to referee.
He died in 1905 of rheumatism (rheumatic fever?) and was buried in Fall River City, Bristol, Massachusetts.
His son Tom said he had sent, or taken, the silver belt that Edwin had won home to Lancashire and deposited it in a museum. He also said that Edwin claimed that he had invented the 'Catch-as-Catch-Can' style.
His great granddaughter, Jean Mauro nee Bibby, said that on a visit to England she stayed in a friend's apartment at Prince Albert's Court in London where Edwin had once performed before Queen Victoria.
His early fights would be outdoors in a large roped-off area on rough ground.
Beat J Barnes of Bury, holder of the 6sc 6lb champion cup (value £80), in the Cumberland & Westmorland style
6 Apr 1872 Lost to Snape at the Royal Oak Park, Manchester
27 Dec 1873 Lost to William Acton at the Snipe Inn, Audenshaw for £25 a side, max wt 6sc 12lbs
1874? Lost to Acton at the Ince Recreation Grounds, Wigan for £25 a side, wt 6sc 16lbs
13 Nov 1875 Beat Acton at the Royal Oak Park, Manchester for £25 a side, at catchweight
8 Apr 1876 Lost to Acton at the Higginshaw Grounds, Oldham for £25 a side, wt 7sc 0lbs
3 June 1876 Beat Acton at the Higginshaw Grounds, Oldham for £50 a side
3 Aug 1878 Beat Acton at the Higginshaw Grounds, Oldham for £50 a side, max wt 7sc 4lbs
8 Feb 1879 Lost to Acton at Moston Park for £50 a side, wt 7sc 1lb 12oz
3 May 1879 Lost to Acton at the Higginshaw Grounds, Oldham for £50 a side, max wt 7sc 6lbs
27 Oct 1879 Beat Andre Christol of France at Madison Square Gardens, his first fight in America,
and recorded in the New York Times. The referee was William Muldoon (world champion). The match was long and gruelling and Christol was bigger than Edwin but at the end Christol was unable to continue being battered and bruised. The pair fought twice more in both New York & Boston with Edwin winning both times.
23 Feb 1880 Beat Samuel Perry (Devonshire style, 'Catch-as-Catch-Can'), 2-0 in 22 and 25 mins, at O'Connor's Billiard Hall in Union Square, New York for a purse of $300. The spectators were limited to 150 and were chiefly composed of Wall St brokers and downtown merchants. The referee was William Muldoon (world champion).
17 Apr 1880 Beat Albert Ellis, 2-0, at Henry Hill's Variety Theatre, New York in the Devon & Cornwall Style
8 Feb 1883 Drew with Harry N. Herbert? at Madison Square Garden, New York in Graeco-Roman style before 8000 spectators.
1883 World Wrestling Championships in St Louis
8 Jun Lost to Clarence Whistler (Graeco-Roman) in 66 mins in the first bout of the competition.
10 Jun Lost to Bixerwos (Graeco-Roman) in 6 mins.
11 Jun Beat Cannon (Catch-as-Catch-Can) in 12 mins.
11 Jun Beat Whistler (Catch-as-Catch-Can) in 3 mins.
Edwin won the 'Catch-as-Catch-Can'1st prize of $500. (Whistler won the Graeco-Roman 1st prize)
16 Nov 1883 Beat Mamou at Irving Hall, New York in an American Graeco-Roman title fight.In 1883 he lost to world Graeco-Roman champion William Muldoon of USA in San Francisco, California, at middleweight. Six weeks later he lost to him again in San Francisco, when he was knocked unconscious in front of 3000 people.
"Edwin Bibby, an Englishman, came to America, hoping to get a match with Muldoon whose reputation had spilled far beyond these shores.
Muldoon feared no man and quickly accepted Bibby's challenge. However, on the day of the match, William was required to work a full tour of duty. And the Superintendent of Police wouldn't even let Muldoon off early to fulfill his commitment.
When he returned to the station that night, Muldoon was fit to be tied. And to add insult to injury, one of his fellow officers unwittingly told him Bibby was saying Muldoon wouldn't even show up for the match.
Fuming, Muldoon raced to the site of the match which was New York's old vacant Post Office building. Since there was no Madison Square Garden in that era, the building was used for many boxing and wrestling events.
When Muldoon arrived at the building, he was still wearing his policeman's uniform, having been too riled up to bother to change into street clothes.
When William jumped into the ring still wearing his police uniform, Bibby was struck with terror. For all practical purposes the match was over right there and then.
Speed as well as power was among Muldoon's trademarks. Bibby was pinned twice in lightning succession and then for the coup de grace, Muldoon held him high over his head and slammed him viciously to the mat.
The smashing victory over the Englishman was big news far and wide and enhanced Muldoon's reputation even further."
14 Jan 1884 Beat Matsuda Sorakichi of Japan 2-0 at Irving Hall in New York City, in 'Catch-as-Catch-Can'
style, wt 148lbs.
10 Mar 1884 Lost 3-0 to Matsuda Sorakichi at Clarendon Hall, New York City before 500 spectators.
17 April1884 Beat August Schmidt of Germany at Clarendon Hall, New York
25 Jun 1884 Drew 1-1 with Matsuda Sorakichi at Gentlemans Park, Paterson, New Jersey.
16 Aug 1884 Billed to fight Hamada Korakichi but both refused to wrestle because of the poor house.Jan? 1885 Lost to Faulkner 3-2 freestyle
26 Feb1885 Beat Faulkner 3-1 in a return match in Chicago (2 matches freestyle, 2 Graeco-Roman)
2 Apr 1885 Beat Wright 2-0 in Detroit
30 Apr 1885 Lost to Carl Abs of Germany at Clarendon Hall, New York in Graeco-Roman style.
24 Feb 1886 Last recorded fight in the New York Times
1886? Became champion of the USA and received The Statue of Liberty?
28 Oct 1887 Beat Matsuda Sorakichi in Buffalo
Lost? to Dufur - prize $500
The Sporting Chronicle, newspaper
The New York Times, newspaper
Pictorial History of Wrestling by Graeme Kent, Spring Books 1968
The Oxford Companion to Sport and Games
New York Passenger Lists