There have been few wrestlers since then who trained more seriously than Gotch… and he trained just like a wrestler should. Calisthenics, road work, and sparing gave Gotch a killer’s heart and an advantage in every single match. The “Old Farmer” Farmer Burns understood the game of wrestling better than anyone and trained his student to be the best.
Roller was actually a legitimate Doctor having graduated from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. Roller played a bit of professional football to pay the bills after that but eventually accepted a professorship at the University of Washington. Shortly after, in a rather interesting twist, he instead chose to chase fame and fortune — mostly fortune — as a professional wrestler.. Roller’s first professional match was against Jack Carkeek whom he defeated in two falls after 17 minutes and for which he received $1600 which was a rather princely sum in the early 20th century.
Roller was a very good (but not great) wrestler although he did win his fair share of matches, and held the American Heavyweight title on three occasions. Roller wrestled the likes of Farmer Burns, Fred Beell, Raymond Cazeaux, Hjalmar Lundin, Raoul Le Boucher, George Lurich, Jim Londos, Ed Lewis, and Joe Stecher (among others.) Eventually he became a training partner for George Hackenschmidt during the time Hack famously tussled with Frank Gotch.
In the years after, Roller wrote a syndicated column for newspapers around the country on health and physical culture topics and even came up with his own training system dubbed “Rollerism.”
The greatest pro wrestling match ever held is undoubtedly on April 3rd, 1908 when the Frank Gotch and George “The Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt stepped in the ring to face each other after years of build-up. The undefeated Hackenschmidt was favored to win but after two hours of grappling, he finally submitted to an ankle lock by the American Champion Gotch. The match took place at Chicago’s Dexter Park Pavilion. The referee (middle, above) was Ed Smith.
Gotch and Hackenschmidt would face each other once again on September 4, 1911, this time at Comiskey Park stadium in front of 30,000 fans. Gotch won the rematch in two straight falls and would go on to hold the heavyweight title until he retired in 1913.