Name: Frank Gotch
Year Inducted: 2002
Induction Category: Pioneer Era
Very early in the 20th century, Frank Alvin Gotch emerged as a professional wrestling hero and became one of the most respected stars of all-time. Born in Humboldt, Iowa on April 27, 1878, Gotch worked very hard as a farmer in his early years, thus acquiring physical strength and a determined work ethic. Intrigued by the sports of wrestling and boxing, Gotch rapidly became notorious for being rugged and tough through winning numerous local matches. At age 21 in Fort Dodge Iowa, Gotch gained the attention of Martin "Farmer" Burns by competing against Burns in a match for a proposed $25. Giving Burns more than he expected in the match, Gotch would soon be trained by the very same opponent. After their match, Burns strongly believed that Gotch could very well become the next wrestling champion of America under his guidance and training.
Under Burns' tutelege, Frank Gotch successfully competed throughout Iowa and then traveled to Alaska where he would quickly become a top wrestler under the name Frank Kennedy. He became champion of the Klondike and earned several thousands of dollars for victories in his half year stay. After the tour of Alaska, Gotch returned to his native Iowa and challenged Tom Jenkins for the American Heavyweight Title. In their first bout in 1903, Jenkins would emerge victorious in a grueling match that would start an epic feud. A rematch occurred in February 1905 that would see Gotch defeat Jenkins for the championship in Cleveland, Ohio. The two great competitors would wrestle several times afterwards but Gotch emerged as the superior wrestler defeating Jenkins in their final three bouts. Gotch proceeded to become a three time American Heavyweight Champion.
Gotch's matches against Russian World Champion George Hackenschmidt further enhanced his status. Known as the "Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt, who earned the title of being world champion, would take on Gotch in Chicago on April 3, 1908. After literally hours of wrestling before a crowd of 40,000 people, Gotch defeated Hackenschmidt and earned the title of new world champion. After the huge win over Hackenschmidt, Gotch became a widely popular sports figure. He commercially endorsed a variety of products and was the star of a successful play called "All About A Bout." Additionally, Gotch was invited to the White House to meet President Theodore Roosevelt. He was regularly seated in luxury boxes and treated as royalty at various sporting events.
The intrigue of another match between Gotch and Hackenschmidt enticed both competitors and fans worldwide. The rematch would occur at Chicago's Comiskey Park on September 4, 1911 and the match proved to be very controversial. It is extensively believed that Hackenschmidt injured his leg during the training period leading up to the match. After Gotch had defeated Hackenschmidt for the second straight time with relative ease, it was rumored that Gotch had paid another wrestler to purposely injure Hackenschmidt before their match. The debate continues to this day over the outcome of the second match between the two champions.
Gotch's noted record includes 154 victories and an amazingly low 6 losses throughout his career. After winning 88 consecutive matches and not suffering a defeat since 1906, Gotch retired at the top of professional wrestling in 1913. After retirement, Gotch's health quickly deteriorated. On December 17, 1917 in has native Iowa home, Frank Alvin Gotch passed away at the young age of 39 due to uremic poisoning. His untimely death only adds to the legacy that he leaves behind. Frank Gotch's career as a professional wrestler not only helped shape what the industry is today, it also shed positive light on what hard work can achieve. Gotch's name is still used throughout America to identify schools, clubs, and other various tournaments and activities. There is no better name to associate with the term success than Frank Gotch.