Wrestling / Karl Gotch

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The master.
"He could hook you and do things with you from any angle, whether he was on top, underneath, standing up or laying down. He was just phenomenal."
Roger "Nature Boy" Kirby about Karl Gotch

"I was so glad when Karl quit going to judo and jiu-jitsu. It was so hard washing everyone else’s blood from his gi every night."
— Attributed to Ella Istaz, Gotch's wife

Karl Gotch (1924-2007) was a German Professional Wrestler, known for his role in the development of Mixed Martial Arts in Japan. He was a former Greco-Roman and freestyle champion in Germany before moving to England to train Catch Wrestling in Billy Riley's Wigan Snakepit. Initially as Karl Krauser, he won several championships in Europe and toured in Canada and United States. His career was extensive in America, but he never got over due to his lack of showmanship, and ended leaving for Japan after an incident in which he and Bill Miller attacked Buddy Rogers backstage. In the land of the rising sun, however, Gotch turned out very popular thanks to his amazing skills, and over time was nicknamed "The God of Pro Wrestling". He worked in Japan Pro Wrestling training wrestlers in the art of catch wrestling, and also helped to establish New Japan Pro Wrestling and Universal Wrestling Federation, tutoring names like Antonio Inoki, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Satoru Sayama. Always a defender of realistic wrestling, he was very influential on the Japanese MMA, assisting to the creation of shootboxing, the Super Tiger Gym and Pancrase, as well as Muga Pro Wrestling. Gotch spent his last years in the "Gotch Dojo" in Tampa, Florida, where he passed away in 2007.

As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki.

"The Godly Tropes of Pro Wrestling":

  • A Father to His Men: He was very close to his trainees, especially Osamu Kido and Masami Soranaka, who was also his son-in-law. Ironically enough, his most famous apprentices are precisely the ones he ended looking down by a number of reasons, namely Inoki, Sayama and Maeda, as well as the Pancrase staff.
  • Always Someone Better: According to Gotch and Billy Robinson, their friend and trainer Billy Joyce was this to both of them. He was considered the best of the Snakepit in his prime, and the only reason they ever beat him in matches was because he was getting old.
    • There were talks about a match between Gotch and vale tudo legend Ivan Gomes when New Japan Pro Wrestling was touring Brazil, but it never happened, according to Brazilian press because Gotch backed down upon hearing Gomes's fame. The conditions of the affair are unknown, but some believe Gotch might have refused simply because he wanted wrestling rules for the bout while Iván wanted full vale tudo, which were their respective fields. Another source has it as actual confusion (see The Dreaded below).
  • Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: He once met an Indian wrestler who claimed the he once did 9000 Hindu squats. Gotch decided one day to beat that, and he did, though he said it almost killed him and took over four hours. Working out was Serious Business for him indeed.
  • Arch-Enemy: Lou Thesz was considered Gotch's biggest enemy. They tended to badmouth each other, had different philosophies about pro wrestling and often clashed for them, and supposedly featured a legit shoot during a match. However, their relationship seemed to be more akin to Vitriolic Best Buds, as despite all the hate they deep down respected each other and stayed in good terms (excepting the occasional public verbal brawl) until their deaths.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: He was the kind of guy who did not care about brutalizing his opponent if he felt he had to do it, especially in order to prove who was the best or to shut up an impertinent mouth. Naturally, this did not help him to make friends.
  • Badass Grandpa: Even as an elder, he followed a training regime which few could do. He owned several gym contraptions like logs with handles and ropes prepared to work out like a beast, at his sixties.
  • Badass Teacher: He trained Antonio Inoki, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Satoru Sayama, Tatsumi Fujinami, Osamu Kido, Masami Soranaka, Akira Maeda, Nobuhiko Takada, Hidetaka Aso, Caesar Takeshi, Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, Gene Lebell and many others. Basically anyone who has training in strong-style pro wrestling, UWF-style shoot wrestling, shootfighting, Shooto, Pancrase Hybrid Wrestling, Seikendo, Submission Arts Wrestling, shootboxing, Combat Wrestling Japan, Combat Submission Wrestling, Hayastan Grappling System, and Shinsenjutsu Japanese Fighting Arts comes from a lineage where someone has trained with Gotch. (Breathe now if you were reading it full stop.)
  • Bash Brothers: With Bill Miller, Rene Goulet and Mike Dibiase. He was also friends with Boris Malenko, father of Joe and Dean Malenko and the adopted father of Carl Ognibene. Karl and Boris trained a lot of people in the Malenko's gym.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: He cornered Antonio Inoki along with Fujiwara in his legendary fight against Muhammad Ali.
  • Boring, but Practical: The main reason he didn't succeed in US. He was against gimmicks and show-offs, and his simple submission style was seen as boring by the crowds.
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Riki Choshu learned it the hard way when he went to United States to train with Gotch and tried to shoot on him. The German wrestler swiftly reversed the lock and held it in a neck crack until he heard his vertebrae crack. After that, it's said that Choshu got the first plane to Japan and didn't return.
    • Gotch supposedly had a reverse one in a match against Lou Thesz, in which he blocked a suplex by Thesz and broke several of his ribs, making Thesz go ballistic with him until tapping him out with a wrist lock. Word of God has been inconsistent through the years about whether it was a true shoot or not; Gotch refused the claims of shoot, and while Thesz did imply that he believed to have been double crossed, he later seemed to think it had been more of a botched show-off attempt and less of an attack. Considering that they later worked together a lot (and badmouthed each other a lot), whatever it was, they did not care.
  • Captain Ersatz: Fire Pro Wrestling had these of him, as to be expected, along with Lou Thesz and many of Gotch's students.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Bulls get killed on the floor," which he uses when explaining that most submissions can only be done on the ground.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Gotch's pehlwani training regime could make a high-level athlete throw up, but for him, it was what enabled him to do German suplexes on André the Giant.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Apparently what he had with his wife Ella.
  • Cultured Badass: He liked Miyamoto Musashi's writings.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Antonio Inoki became Gotch's student after getting turned into a bloody pretzel by Karl in a live training.
    • His defeat to Bert Assareti led to their friendship and Bert was also the one who told him about the Snakepit in Wigan.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Inverted. He, like most catch wrestlers of his time, believed that wrestling is like physical chess, where you have to think moves ahead to have an advantage against opponents.
  • The Dreaded: He was so strong that American wrestling promoters seldom booked him because he was difficult to control on the ring, and few could handle him if he felt like shooting on his opponent. However, despite what rumors try to make you believe, Karl is regarded as a fine worker and wasn't prone to such things.
    • Some people view the rumour about the challenge from Iván Gomes was a mistranslation - instead of Gotch backing out, they say it was that when Gomes heard of Gotch's reputation, Gomes backed out and this is why he accepted the invitation from Inoki to train with them.
  • Fingore: Gotch lacked the pinky of his left hand due to an accident when he was young.
  • Finishing Move: Atomic Suplex (a bridging German suplex - he innovated the "bridging" part, by the way), Gotch-Style Piledriver (a cradle piledriver) and Gotch Special (a double top wrist lock with neckscissors).
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Had one after being defeated by Bert Assirati, which moved him to train even harder.
  • Hired Guns: It is believed that after his disastrous match against The Great Antonio in 1977, Antonio Inoki sent Gotch and Bill Miller to teach him a lesson backstage. One can guess what happened.
  • I Know Catch Wrestling: Learned at the Snakepit at Wigan, England. Also, not only he was skilled Greco-Roman and freestyle westler, in India he learned pehlwani, in Japan he studied judo and sumo, and it is also said he learned a bit of boxing, savate and purring (a British sport of shin-kicking). Gene LeBell has said that Karl even went to China, though to study what is anyone's guess.
  • Instant Expert: When Gotch was invited to Masahiko Kimura's judo school, he cleaned house and made many judoka cry for mercy, so Masahiko gave him a honorary black belt.
  • Jerkass with a Heart of Gold: It was believed Gotch lacked social skills more than he possessed true malice.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Gotch moved with speed and finesse of a lightweight, but was amazingly strong.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: A downplayed, but still quite brutal example. After he experimented a deep discomfort at training due to a bad toothache, he went to the dentist and made him pull all his teeth to avoid having toothaches in the future. Now that's living for the art.
  • The Nicknamer: He nicknamed his catch wrestling school (Riley's Gym) in Wigan, England "The Snake Pit". It eventually became so popular that the school officially renamed itself "The Snake Pit Wigan" and even now has offshoots like the UWF Snake Pit and Snake Pit USA.
  • Noodle Incident: The backstage incident with Buddy Rogers on August 31, 1962 is a highly debated matter, and its details remain unknown. The known facts are that the arrogant Rogers refused to have a title match against Gotch or Bill Miller, as he was not a legitimate wrestler and feared they would attempt to shoot on him, and instead insulted them and attempted to leave. Gotch and Miller weren't amused, so they cornered him and attacked him, resulting in police charges for them. There are several versions about the fight itself: Rogers claimed they punched him and broke his arm by slamming a door on it, while Miller and Gotch said they only slapped him around a bit, and a much more dramatic telling by Ed Garea sees Miller blocking the locker's door and Gotch savagely hitting ground and pound on Rogers on the floor for minutes. And even then, Johnny Barend's version says that it was actually three on one as Art Neilson joined the party because he hated Rogers as well, but that Rogers escaped more or less unscathed. Pick one.
  • No Social Skills: According to Carl Malenko, Gotch was simply not good with people. He would rather stretch them.
  • Odd Friendship: Karl was close friends with Masahiko Kimura, and they used to train and spar together. The oddity of their friendship was merely stylistic, as they both shared a power-based approach to grappling and a love for brutal training regimes.
  • Old Master: Regarded as one by his students.
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies:
    • Very much like Kimura, Gotch disliked Gracie Jiu Jitsu and the passive nature of its strategy, comparing its practitioners to, textually, old whores waiting for a customer. He believed if a jiu-jitsu guy had you in his guard and you didn't break his leg with a leglock, you should quit catch wrestling forever.
    • Though he knew both were necessary for a wrestler, Gotch preferred grappling over striking. He criticized his former apprentices Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada for indulging too much in kicking during their matches, calling them "kick-boys".
    • He once talked with Gene LeBell about gi grappling, and declared that he only put on pajamas when he went to bed.
  • Pet the Dog: He owned a pitbull which he got after a suggestion from Billy Robinson. He also stated in his last will that all the money he had, with approval from his daughter, would go to pitbull rescue charities.
  • Red Baron: "Puroresu no Kamisama" ("The God of Pro Wrestling"), "Sen no Waza o Motsu Otoko" ("The Man of 1000 Holds"), "Mukan no Teioh" ("The Crownless Emperor") and "Byo no Koroshiya" ("The Instant Killer").
  • Sadist Teacher: His training was wild, and many a Gotch apprentice recalls being taught 250 submissions in ten minutes or something in the lines.
  • Signature Move: He favored the ankle lock, as he believed the ankle was the most vulnerable part of the body.
  • Sore Loser: When he first started training at the Snakepit in Wigan, he had no experience in submissions, as he was only an amateur wrestler. But when he lost a sparring match due to a leg submission, he asked to go again, and immediately headbutted his sparring partner, breaking the guy's nose.
  • Suplex Finisher: The bridging German suplex, which in his time was called the Atomic Suplex.
  • Take That!: Gotch was friends with fellow gaijin legend Billy Robinson, but according to Tatsumi Fujinami, Karl used to make his apprentices work out the German suplex with punching bags which had photos of Robinson glued in. Whether it was just Gotch's twisted sense of humor or there was a true enmity between them is debatable.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: During a certain tour in Japan in 1971, he was once travel companions with Billy Robinson and André the Giant.
    "André the Giant has a posse, you're screwed they're catch wrestlers."
  • Training from Hell: Passed one under Billy Riley and liked to dispense another to his own trainees.
  • Ur-Example:
    • Innovated the bridging German suplex (not the German suplex itself, which was innovated by Lou Thesz), with the bridge techniques he learned in India.
    • Innovated the cradle piledriver, both the standard and tombstone variants. Contrarily to popular belief, he preferred the latter.
    • Some believe that it was Gotch who taught the double wrist lock to Kimura, who later popularized it as the famous Kimura hold. However, it is just a rumor, as the move already existed in judo under the name of gyaku-ude-garami, and in fact Kimura used it on Hélio Gracie before he met Karl.
    • Gotch also came with the name of Pancrase, and helped Caesar Takeshi to found shootboxing and Hidetaka Aso to create Submission Arts Wrestling.
    • He also came up with the rules for Jake Shannon's Scientific Wrestling matches.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Wrestling/KarlGotch