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Japan Honors its ‘God of Wrestling’ on Tenth Anniversary of His Death

karl gotch japan Scott/Via Flickr


Japan Honors Karl Istaz on Tenth Anniversary of His Death

Professional wrestler Karl Istaz lived quietly in Tampa Bay for 30 years. He was one of the greatest wrestlers Japan had ever seen. When he passed away, friends and family followed his wishes. They would scatter his ashes without a formal ceremony over Lake Keystone in Odessa.

During his bout in professional wrestling, Karl Istaz (more commonly known as Karl Gotch), was so well-known in Japan and influential that fans often referred to him as “Kamisama” or deity.

“He was their god of wrestling,” said Jody Simon of Tampa, a student of Istaz.

Born in Belgium and raised in Germany, Istaz represented his native country at the 1948 Olympics in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

This past Friday marked the tenth anniversary of Karl Istaz’s death. Simon had saved some of the ashes from the lake and voyaged to Japan. There, the fans would be able to pay respect to their hero. During this event, there was plenty of ceremony.

Twenty Japanese media outlets attended the formal funeral. They also caught footage of the unveiling of a black onyx tombstone. The tombstone was paid for by Antonio Inoki. Inoki is the biggest star in the history of Japanese wrestling and now a national political leader. Additionally, he is best known for his wrestler-versus-boxer match in 1976, where he squared off against Muhammed Ali.

Furthermore, Japan held a wrestling event in honor of the star. Housing some of Japan’s biggest stars, the event occurred four days prior to the ceremony. Simon had been trying to get his mentor recognized in Japan for the last ten years. Unfortunately, nothing happened. Finally, he caught the ear of Inoki.

“Karl didn’t win a Nobel Prize,” said Simon, 61. “But in professional wrestling he did amazing things and made a lot of people happy in Japan.”

Some Achievements of Karl Gotch

Istaz held the New Japan Pro Wrestling world title twice, climbing to the top with the help of submission holds that would cause opponents to cry out in actual pain.

“He changed wrestling across Japan,” Simon said. “He cultivated that down and dirty wrestling on the mat with submissions.”

MMA stars such as Josh Barnett and Ken Shamrock trained in grappling and submissions under Istaz.

To read the entire interview with Simon, click here.

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