Charles Istaz (August 3, 1924 – July 28, 2007) was a Belgian-born German professional wrestler and trainer, best known by his ring name Karl Gotch. In Japan, Gotch was known as the "God of Wrestling" due to his influence in shaping the Japanese professional wrestling style.
|Birth name||Charles Istaz|
|Born||August 3, 1924|
|Died||July 28, 2007 (aged 82)|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Karl Gotch|
|Billed height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Billed weight||245 lb (111 kg)|
|Billed from||Hamburg, Germany|
|Trained by||Billy Riley|
|Retired||January 1, 1982|
Istaz was born in Antwerp, Belgium to a Hungarian father and German mother, but grew up in Hamburg, Germany. He learned Greco-Roman wrestling in his early years and from the beginning he was a very well known sportsman. He wrestled in "The Hippodroom", a notable sports center in Antwerp, where amateur fights like boxing matches, savate matches and wrestling matches were fought.
Istaz excelled in amateur wrestling and experienced a major breakthrough in his career by competing as Charles Istaz for Belgium in the 1948 Olympics in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. Gotch also trained in the Indian martial art of Pehlwani. This training led to Istaz's regime of calisthenic bodyweight exercise, which were used by Indian wrestlers and other athletes to build leg endurance and strength. He also adopted other Indian exercises, such as the bridge, Hindu squats, and Hindu press ups in his wrestling. Gotch's philosophy was later passed on to several of his students.
Europe and the United StatesEdit
Istaz's professional wrestling career began after training in the "Snake Pit", run by the renowned catch wrestler Billy Riley. He debuted in the 1950s, wrestling throughout Europe under the ring name Karl Krauser, and winning various titles including the German Heavyweight Championship and the European Championship.
In the late 1950s, Istaz moved to the United States, and began wrestling as Karl Gotch. In the United States, Gotch's wrestling style and lack of showmanship held him back, and he did not experience any great popularity at the time. In 1961, he won the American Wrestling Alliance (Ohio) World Heavyweight Championship. Gotch held the belt for two years before dropping the title to Lou Thesz, one of the few American wrestlers he respected because of the similarities of their styles (the two also share a common German/Hungarian heritage). In 1962, Gotch was involved in a backstage altercation with the then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, in which Rogers was injured. The incident alienated Gotch from American promoters, and he began looking for work in Japan.
He returned to the United States for a stint in the 1970s, with a brief run in the World Wide Wrestling Federation from August 1971 to February 1972. On December 6, 1971, he teamed with Rene Goulet to win the WWWF World Tag Team Championship from the inaugural champions, Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler, in two straight falls of a best-two-out-of-three-falls match in Madison Square Garden. They lost the championship on February 1, 1972, to Baron Mikel Scicluna and King Curtis.
During the 1960s, Gotch began wrestling in other countries. He wrestled in Australia as Karl Krauser, and in 1965 he defeated Spiros Arion to win the International Wrestling Alliance's Heavyweight Championship. He had also begun working in Japan, where he became very popular due to his amateur wrestling style. He wrestled in the main event of the very first show held by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) on March 6, 1972, defeating Antonio Inoki. His final match occurred on January 1, 1982, when he pinned Yoshiaki Fujiwara with the German Suplex. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Gotch worked as both the booker and trainer for NJPW. He trained several wrestlers in Japan, including Hideki Suzuki, Hiro Matsuda, Satoru Sayama, Osamu Kido, Barry Darsow, Minoru Suzuki and Yoshiaki Fujiwara.
Legacy and deathEdit
Gotch became known as "Kamisama" in Japan. Gotch's wrestling style had a big impact on Inoki, who adopted and popularized his submission-based style. Some of Istaz's trainees founded the Universal Wrestling Federation in Japan in 1984, which showcased the shoot-style of professional wrestling. The success of UWF and similar promotions influenced Japanese wrestling in subsequent decades, and changed the style of matches in NJPW and All Japan Pro Wrestling.
The German suplex is named after Gotch. Gotch was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 1996. In 2007, he was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Championships and accomplishmentsEdit
- American Wrestling Alliance (Ohio)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2009
- New Japan Pro-Wrestling
- NJPW Real World Championship (2 times)
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Tokyo Sports
- World Championship Wrestling (Australia)
- World Wide Wrestling Federation
- Worldwide Wrestling Associates
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Gallipoli, Thomas M. (August 22, 2007). "SPECIALIST: List of Deceased Wrestlers for 2007 with Details (Updated as needed)". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- "Karl Gotch". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Oates, Robert K. "Karl Gotch". Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on May 29, 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Caldwell, James (July 29, 2007). "Etc. News: Wrestling legend Karl Gotch dies at age 82 in Florida". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Schramm, Chris; Oliver, Greg (July 29, 2007). ""God of Wrestling" legacy on wrestling may be forever Karl Gotch dead at age 82". Slam! Sports. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Karl Gotch Olympic Results". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
- "Karl Gotch, The Quiet Man, Speaks His Piece" – December, 1968
- Graham Cawthon. "WWF Show Results 1971". Retrieved September 8, 2009.
(December 6, 1971) Karl Gotch & Rene Goulet defeated WWWF Tag Team Champions Luke Graham & Tarzan Tyler to win the titles in a Best 2 out of 3 falls match, 2–0, at 17:20
- Zavisa, Chris (September 15, 2002). "5 Yrs Ago: Zavisa on the 25th Anniversary of New Japan Pro Wrestling". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- "Five very European maneuvers for Antonio Cesaro". WWE. p. 3. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- Johnson, Mike (June 30, 2009). "Ricky Steamboat, Nick Bockinkel Among 2009 Class Honored By Wrestling Museum & Institute". PWInsider. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
- 東京スポーツ プロレス大賞. Tokyo Sports (in Japanese). Retrieved 2014-01-20.
- Catch: The Hold Not Taken (DVD). 2005.
- Website of the film 'Catch – the hold not taken', a documentary featuring Gotch on the history of Catch wrestling and Riley's gym, where Gotch trained
- An Interview with Karl Gotch (Karl has stated that he was egregiously misquoted in this interview and his responses were changed when he spoke outside of "kayfabe".)
- Overview of Shootfighting and Karl Gotch with large gallery of Gotch and Catch Wrestling photos