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Karl Gotch (1924 - 2007)


Real Name - Karel Charles Istaz
Lifespan - 8/3/1924 - 7/28/2007
6'1" 245 lbs. - Antwerp, Belgium

Athletic BackgroundFreestyle & Greco-Roman Wrestling (`48 Olympics) 

Teacher(s) - Billy Riley, Billy Joyce, Joe Robinson (Snake Pit)

Professional Background - n/a

Aliases - Karl Krauser

Peak Years - `58-`66

Trainees - Tatsumi Fujinami, Antonio Inoki, Kiler Khan, Osamu Kido, Shunji Kosugi, Akira Maeda, Hiro Matsuda, Manabu Nakanishi, Satoru Sayama (Tiger Mask), Nobuhiko Takada
Place in HistoryKarl Gotch has a legacy like few others who have come through the professional wrestling world.  He was an amateur wrestler who represented his homeland of Belgium in the 1948 Olympics.  He was a credible and dangerous hooker who spent nearly a decade honing those skills at Billy Riley’s “Snakepit” gym in Wigan.  He toured North America successful in the 1960s and while not a strong drawing card or fan favorite, he was well pushed because of his legitimacy.  In Japan, most notably, he became known as a “God of Professional Wrestling” and he helped launch New Japan, the UWF companies and those largely influence Pride FC, all of which were hugely successful.  To hear Billy Robinson tell the story, Karl Istaz was a world-class amateur who found himself a novice when stepping onto the mats in Wigan.  It was there that he transformed himself and gained the knowledge base that influenced a generation of pro-wrestlers from Antonio Inoki and Bob Backlund Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada.  While its is debatable where he ranks in terms of skill and toughness to other Wigan alumni like Robinson, Bert Assirati, Billy Joyce and others, he was more successful than most internationally.  In the US, he took the last name “Gotch” for the legendary Frank Gotch and began touring around.  He was well-regarded by other credible shooters and hookers of the day like Lou Thesz and Bill Miller.  Gotch's in-ring style was very straightforward and while not heralded as innovative, his signature move, the German Suplex, became one of pro-wrestling's most popular. After being snubbed by NWA Champion Buddy Rogers, Gotch would break the top star’s hand was labeled as untrustworthy and dangerous in addition to not being able to draw.  Therefore, it was in Japan, where he built his greatest legacy.  Gotch’s in-ring work was important, mostly in establishing the credibility of New Japan and Antonio Inoki.  However, it was his training that became his true calling.  Gotch was a wealth of knowledge from his high-level skill at Olympic wrestling and his well-developed mastery of Lancashire-style catch wrestling, but his greatest trademark was his obsession with Pehlwani-style training.  This Indian form of grappling is known for its emphasis of calisthenics, strict dieting and the use of items like clubs, maces and other seemingly archaic training tools.  The Gotch approach became the most popular one though and wrestlers trained in Japan are doing thousands of Hindu squats and neck bridges to this day.  When you look at Karl Gotch’s list of trainees, it reads like a who’s who of puroresu, and only lucha libre trainer Diablo Velazco can boast more notable and legendary trainees.  Gotch would remain a influence in kakutogi (Japanese combat sports) as he and his students were responsible for creating many of the most popular and successful companies including the UWF (and its successors including Pride FC), RINGS, Pancrase, Shooto and MUGA (Dradition).  Karl Gotch eventually passed away in 2007, but his influence and legacy will carry on for many years to come.