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Announcing our new YouTube Channel: “Wrestling From Chicago”

September 12, 2014
Russ Davis

“This is Russ Davis, ringside, International Amphitheatre Chicago…”

We are proud to announce the launch of our new YouTube page, Chicago Film Archives presents “Wrestling from Chicago.” The channel consists of digitized wrestling films from our Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection, and with one hundred videos already uploaded, visitors will have the opportunity to binge watch golden age wrestling predominantly shot in the early 1950s. To read more about the history and contents of the Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection, please visit its page here.

The wrestling matches found in this collection were filmed in Chicago’s International Amphitheatre and feature ringside narration by Russ Davis. The films were produced by Imperial World Films aka Imperial Wrestling Films (IWF), a production company started by Davis and his wife Sylvia in 1949. Russ Davis had formerly worked for Chicago’s WBKB as one of television’s earliest wrestling announcers. IWF filmed and edited the wrestling events in Chicago and subsequently distributed the finished films to television stations throughout the United States.

Bruiser And Thesz

One challenge in organizing and publishing this collection has been that many of the reels are labeled with identical titles. This means that when two reels have the same title, they could be duplicate copies of the same wrestling match, different production elements from one match (negative, soundtrack, workprint), one long match that continues onto a second reel, or a different match that features the same wrestlers. Another publishing challenge was that many of the reels included multiple bouts or match-ups on a single reel. For ease of viewing on our new channel, we edited down these compiled reels into distinct streaming links.

We encourage everyone to explore the channel and delve into the colorful world of faces and heels: see the Teuton Terror Hans Schmidt take on Killer Kowalski in a grudge match! See Ivan Rasputin, Chest Bernard and Fritz von Schacht team up to take on Don Beitelman, Farmer Don Marlin and Pat O’Connor in a 3-on-3 Australian tag team match! See June Byers apply her ‘Byers Bridge’ finishing move on Penny Banner! All that and much more on the new page, Chicago Film Archives presents “Wrestling from Chicago.”

Staff favorites:

Travis’ Top Five Wrestlers:
Dick the Bruiser
Fuzzy Cupid (not afraid to fight dirty)
Haystacks Calhoun
Yulie Brynner
Farmer Don Marlin (don’t make him mad… you wouldn’t like him when he’s hoppin’ mad)

Anne’s Top Five Wrestlers:
Yulie Brynner (“the world’s ugliest woman”)
Yukon Eric (he wrestles in bootcut jeans…hello!)
Lisowski Brothers (for that glistening pre-bout attire)
Shirley Strimple (blinding platinum blonde)
Gorgeous George (and his butler!)

Nancy’s Favorites:
June Byers
Penny Banner
Yulie Brynner
and the droll (devil-may-care) announcer, Russ Davis

Davis Flyer


Davis Ringisde

Announcer Russ Davis posing ringside


Verne Gagne

Verne Gagne taking it to Great Togo


Verne Gagne Pen

“To a Valued Friend from Verne Gagne”


Davis Sylvia

“IWF President Sylvia Davis handles last minute details for evening’s ‘shoot’ of Amphitheatre show”


Davis Editor

Director Frank Diaz edits completed works prints of a wrestling shoot: three reels of house film from three separate cameras along with a magnetic sound track. To effect perfect sound-motion sequence, all four films must be kept in sync during editing.


Russ Davis By Camera

Russ Davis




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