Being the first world heavyweight champion ever is good enough reason to be a legend and not being popular enough makes him forgotten all the more.
Known as the Russian Lion and inventor of Bear Hug for a finisher, he started out as a travelling strongman. Wowing the audience and everyone with feats of strength including stuff like lifting a horse he went on to become a blacksmith.
His first wrestling match was a impromptou challenge which he answered and lost. The challenger was Georg Lurich, a greco-roman wrestler who took to train him looking at his potential. He started running through wrestling ranks in Russia beating the Russian wrestling champion of that time. He went on to travel around the world beating all well known wrestlers he came upon and with a flamboyant manager, he went to beat five men one after another in the same day becoming a celebrity in his own right, a draw, if you like.
At his peak, Roosevelt is said to have told other than being the president, he would like to be Georg Hackenschmidt. He eventually faced American Champion Tom Jenkins and beat him clearly becoming the World Heavyweight Champion, the first, being a pre-cursor to all pro-wrestling heavyweight titles. He was quickly challenged by Frank Gotch
which he ignored for he had just beat the American Heavyweight Champion.
The rivalry between Frank Gotch
and Georg Hackenschmidt is history and was a real intense feud then. In today's terms, Gotch
would be a heel who would do whatever was needed to win and flamboyant while Georg would be a babyface, doing the right thing, soft spoken and a gentleman. At the end of their rivalry where Gotch
got the better of him, by whatever means, he retired due to various injuries he had sustained.
He is said to have fought over 3000 matches losing only two, both to Gotch
in controversial manner. He was well respected for his integrity, honesty and straightforwardness in and outside the ring sticking to the match as a show of ability and talent rather than vindication or aggressiveness or machismo. He however was accused of being lethargic and lacking heart on the flipside, esp in his Frank Gotch bout where he let Gotch have his way. He however was still a epitome of physical culture keeping fit long after.
One of the four Gods of wrestling, a true legend, but forgotten.