Frank Gotch

Frank Gotch bigraphy, stories - American professional wrestler

Frank Gotch : biography

April 27, 1878 – December 16, 1917

Frank Alvin Gotch (April 27, 1878 – December 16, 1917) was an American professional wrestler of German ancestry, the first American to win the world heavyweight free-style championship, and credited for popularizing professional wrestling in the United States. He competed back when the contests were largely legitimate (see catch wrestling), and his reign as World Heavyweight Champion (from 1908 to 1913) is one of the ten longest in the history of wrestling. He became one of the most popular athletes in America from the 1900s to the 1910s.

Wrestling career

Gotch wrestled his first match against Marshall Green in Humboldt on April 2, 1899, and won. But his first important match was in Lu Verne, Iowa, on June 16, 1899, against a man claiming to be a furniture dealer from a neighboring town. Gotch held his own for nearly two hours, but lost the hard-fought contest. Only later when he received the impressed man’s visiting card did he learn that his opponent had actually been reigning American Heavyweight Champion Dan McLeod. On December 18, 1899, Gotch challenged another former American Champion, "Farmer" Martin Burns, losing in 11 minutes, but impressing Burns as well, who offered to train Gotch. Under the guidance of Burns, Gotch won a series of matches in Iowa and later Yukon. While in the Yukon, Gotch wrestled under the name Frank Kennedy and won the title of "Champion of the Klondike". During his time in the Yukon, Gotch tried his hand at boxing, but failed miserably against the heavyweight Frank "Paddy" Slavin.Chapman, Mike, Frank Gotch, World’s Greatest Wrestler (William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 1990), p. 23; Hewitt, Mark S., “Professional Wrestling: Frank Gotch in the Klondike,” Journal of Manly Arts, September 2001 (Research in Dawson Daily News by Don Luce. Research in Klondike Daily Nugget and Klondike Semi-Weekly Nugget by Bill Taylor. ) Gotch returned to Iowa and instantly challenged the reigning American Heavyweight Champion, Tom Jenkins. Gotch lost their first match in 1903, before defeating Jenkins in a rematch on January 27, 1904, to take the championship. After trading the title with Jenkins and Fred Beel, Gotch set his sights on the World Heavyweight Championship, then held by the undefeated Georg Hackenschmidt. The opponent, called the Russian Lion, had gained undisputed title recognition by defeating Jenkins in New York in 1905. Upon defeating Jenkins, however, Hackenschmidt ignored Gotch’s challenge and sailed home to England.

Gotch and Hackenschmidt finally met on April 3, 1908, at the Dexter Park Pavilion in Chicago. Showing his contempt for Gotch and for American wrestling in general, Hackenschmidt was not in the best condition. Gotch was. He used his speed, defense and rough tactics to wear the champion down and then assume the attack. The wrestlers stood on their feet for two full hours before Gotch was able to get behind Hackenschmidt and take him down. While on their feet, Gotch made sure to lean on Hackenschmidt to wear him down. He bullied him around the ring, and his thumbing and butting left Hackenschmidt covered in blood. Hackenschmidt complained to the referee of Gotch’s foul tactics and asked that Gotch be forced to take a hot shower to rid his body of an abundance of oil, but the referee ignored the complaints and told Hackenschmidt he should have noticed the oil before the match began. The match continued. At the two-hour mark, Hackenschmidt was forced against the ropes. Gotch tore him off the ropes, threw Hackenschmidt down and rode him hard for three minutes, working for his dreaded toe hold. Hackenschmidt had trained to avoid this hold, which he did, but the effort took his last remaining strength. Hackenschmidt quit the fall. "I surrender the championship of the world to Mr. Gotch," he said, and stood up and shook Gotch’s hand. The wrestlers then retired to their dressing rooms before coming out for the second fall, but Hackenschmidt refused to return to the ring, telling the referee to declare Gotch the winner, thereby relinquishing his title to the American.Fleischer, Nat, From Milo to Londos, The story of wrestling through the ages (The Ring, Inc., 1936), pp. 98-104; Chapman, Mike, Frank Gotch, World’s Greatest Wrestler, pp. 65-70.