You don't know me, as I'm kind of new here. Just an armchair wrestling historian spending hours researching the greatest historical topic known to man, professional wrestling. Pro wrestling is an industry long steeped in almost as much myth and uncertainty as prehistoric times, as legend and hyperbole was valued more than historical accuracy by the old school power brokers. As a wrestling mark―and let's face it, we are all marks, why else would we consign to watch people pretend beat each other up for x hours of a given week or month?―I find myself more fascinated with wrestling history than I am in the modern wrestling scene. Which is why we get to why I'm suddenly here, to begin writing a series of posts that really just occurred to me a few hours ago, featuring the greatest wrestlers of the twentieth century. I write a post about a dead wrestler, we all discuss, you all know the drill. I don't have to draw a picture. We'll start with the beginning of the twentieth century, and who better to begin with than the acknowledged greatest wrestler of the early-1900s, Frank Gotch? Name: Frank Gotch Height: 5’11” Weight: 195 lbs. Born: April 27th, 1877, Humboldt, IA Died: December 16th, 1917, Humboldt, IA Career: 1899-1917 Top Earning Years: 1908-1913 Titles Held: World heavyweight title, American freestyle title (3 times), Iowa heavyweight title (twice), Canadian Greco-Roman title What Made Him Great: Frank Gotch was the second world heavyweight champion of record, winning the title in a 1908 encounter with George Hackenschmidt that lasted more than two hours and carrying the belt for a reign lasting five years. Upon announcing his retirement in 1913, and having never lost the title, Gotch remarkably continued to be acknowledged as champion in sports print, a condition that remained unchallenged for more than two years before Joe Stecher officially continued the lineage. Nevertheless, Gotch was regarded as the true champion in many circles until his death because he had never been defeated. Gotch was also a 3-time holder of the American freestyle title (one of only two wrestlers to achieve that benchmark) at a time when it was considered the leading championship in North America. What Held Him Back: Gotch was regarded as the greatest wrestler of all-time for decades after his death, yet his shady political maneuverings, coupled with a sadistic streak and rumors that he succumbed to syphilis, rather than uremic poisoning as was reported in the press, tainted the once-proud façade he had carefully erected for himself. Today, Gotch is remembered as a manipulative conniver who swindled millions in shady wrestling matches alongside manager Martin “Farmer” Burns and a spotlight hog who refused to put anyone over as much as he is hailed as the most prolific hooker of the early-20th century. Greatest Rivalry: Versus Tom Jenkins. Gotch characterized Jenkins as the strongest and toughest wrestler he ever met in the ring. Whereas most wrestlers of the period stuck to the mat, the competitive personalities of Gotch and Jenkins would prompt both to stand toe-to-toe with each other in bouts that resembled prizefights as much as they did pure wrestling matches. Gotch first met Jenkins in a private match around 1901, lost, and then dedicated himself to exceeding the man who, at that point, was widely considered the greatest wrestler in the world. Both wrestlers were up to their worst in their February 1905 meeting; in that match, Jenkins removed his glass eye, a move he would sometimes resort to in order to outpsyche and nauseate an opponent. Undaunted, Gotch is said to have stuck his fingers in the aperture, provoking an angered Jenkins to later state in the press, “A gent what gouges out a gent’s eyes ain’t no gent.” Gotch and Jenkins met on five occasions in the years between 1903 and 1906, trading the American freestyle title back and forth. Greatest Match: April 3rd, 1908, vs. George Hackenschmidt, Chicago, IL. Gotch, backed by manager Farmer Burns and likely aided and assisted in his endeavors by referee Ed Smith (a close associate of the Burns trust) toppled Hackenschmidt after close to three years of chasing “The Russian Lion.” His world championship victory was made all the more vindicating by the fact that Gotch controlled the complexion of the match for much of the two hours they were in the ring. He ostensibly could have defeated Hack at any time in the match, but drew it out to give the crowd a show. Gotch later claimed to have shed eight pounds over the duration of the encounter.