Frank Gotch


Frank Gotch : biography

April 27, 1878 – December 16, 1917

Gotch was among the first elected to the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame and was the first inductee to both the Professional Wrestling Writers Hall of Fame in Latham, New York and the Lou Thesz/George Tragos Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Waterloo, Iowa.

There is another side to this story, however. When Lou Thesz was just starting out in the early 1930s, there were a good many wrestlers still active who had known Gotch and were not reluctant to talk about him. “The picture that emerged of Gotch from those conversations,” Thesz recalled, “was of a man who succeeded at his business primarily because he was, for lack of a kinder description, a dirty wrestler. That’s not to say that he wasn’t competent, because everyone I ever talked with said he was one of the best. But those same people described him as someone who delighted in hurting or torturing lesser opponents, even when they were supposed to be working out, and he was always looking for an illegal edge when he was matched against worthy ones. One of the old-timers I met was a fine man named Charlie Cutler, who knew Gotch very well and succeeded him as world champion…; according to Cutler, Gotch would gouge, pull hair and even break a bone to get an advantage in a contest, and he was unusually careful to have the referee in his pocket, too, in case all else failed.”Thesz, Lou, & Kit Bauman, Mike Chapman, Editor Hooker, p. 40.

Referee Ed Smith, who officiated several of Gotch’s bouts, including both of the Gotch-Hackenschmidt contests, had observed after the second match that “to my mind…he wasn’t just exactly through one hundred percent on the courageous side. Two or three times I saw needless acts of absolute cruelty on his part that I did not like. Always will I think that the really courageous man, no matter how ferocious and filled with the killing instinct and eager to win he may be, is willing to let up on a beaten foe and not punish needlessly or wantonly.”Fleischer, Nat, From Milo to Londos, p. 142.

Retirement and death

While in retirement, Gotch joined Sells-Floto Circus where he would pay any man $250.00 if they could last 15 minutes in a match against him without being pinned or conceding. Not once did he have to pay. He grew tired of touring and moved back to Humboldt. After a year of health troubles, Gotch died in 1917 of what was rumored to be syphilis, but the official cause of death was uremic poisoning. He left behind his wife Gladys and their son, Robert Friedrich. All are entombed together in the Gotch mausoleum in the Union Cemetery in Humbolt.

Early life

The son of Frederick Rudolph and Amelia Gotch, Gotch was born and raised on a small farm three miles south of Humboldt, Iowa. He took up wrestling in his teens, earning a reputation by beating locals. He adopted the toe hold as his signature finishing move.

In wrestling

  • Finishing moves
    • Bridging belly to back suplex
    • Cross kneelock
    • Toe hold
    • Ankle Lock
  • Signature moves
    • Double leg takedown

Championships and accomplishments

  • Wrestling championships
  • World Heavyweight Championship (Catch as Catch Can version) (1 time)
  • American Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
  • Champion of the Klondike (1 time)
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
  • Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
    • Class of 2002
  • Other titles
  • George Tragos / Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (1999)
  • Iowa Sports Hall of Fame (1951)