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Pepper Gomez
Gomez on the cover of Strength & Health magazine in 1948.
Birth nameJosé Serapio Palimino Gomez[1][2]
Born(1927-04-21)April 21, 1927[2]
Los Angeles, California, United States[3]
DiedMay 6, 2004(2004-05-06) (aged 77)[3]
San Francisco, California, United States
Cause of deathGastritis[3][4]
Alma materLos Angeles City College[3]
Spouse(s)Bonnie Gomez[3]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Pepper Gomez[3][2]
Billed height5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Billed weight220 lb (100 kg)[5]
Trained byBlack Guzmán
DebutJanuary 1953[3][6]

José "Joseph" Serapio Palimino Gomez (April 21, 1927 – May 6, 2004) was an American professional wrestler and bodybuilder, better known by his ring name, Pepper Gomez.[2][3][5][6] Known for his exceptional abdominal muscles, he would allow rivals to perform stunts such as jumping onto his stomach from the top of a ladder or driving a Volkswagen Beetle over his stomach, earning him the nickname "The Man with the Cast Iron Stomach".[1][7][8] He wrestled as a blue-collar Latino babyface.[9][10]

Early life

Gomez was born in Los Angeles, California in 1927. While at high school, he competed at football, gymnastics and track.[4] He attended Los Angeles City College, where he played football as a fullback.[3]

Bodybuilding career

In 1947, Gomez began participating in bodybuilding.[4] His training partners included Armand Tanny and Joe Gold.[11] He took part in a series of bodybuilding competitions over the next five years, winning the "Mr. Muscle Beach" contest in Santa Monica, California in 1950.[12][4] In 1951, he placed fifth in the AAU Mr. America contest. Gomez was featured in the November 1948 issue of Strength & Health and the January 1952 issue of Muscle Power.[12]

Professional wrestling career

Photo of Gomez from a 1960 wrestling program.

Gomez was trained to wrestle by Black Guzmán. He debuted in January 1953 in El Paso, Texas.[6] Early in his career, he toured British Columbia with the Vancouver-based Big Time Wrestling promotion, winning the Northwest Tag Team Championship three times in 1953.[2][13]

In the mid-1950s, Gomez joined the Dallas, Texas-based promotion Big Time Wrestling, winning the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship 15 times between 1955 and 1971. Gomez also held the NWA Texas Tag Team Championship on ten occasions between 1955 and 1961 and the Texas-version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship five times between 1958 and 1961.[2]

In the early-1960s, Gomez began competing for the San Francisco, California-based American Wrestling Alliance (later renamed Big Time Wrestling). In 1962, Gomez embarked on a heated feud with Ray Stevens. After Stevens convinced Gomez to allow him to jump off a ladder onto Gomez' stomach, Stevens instead delivered his signature "Bombs Away" diving knee drop to Gomez' throat, leaving him coughing up blood. Gomez and Stevens went on to wrestle in a series of matches that sold-out the Cow Palace and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena.[7][8][14] Gomez won the vacant AWA United States Heavyweight Championship in July 1962, losing the championship to Stevens in February 1963.[2] Gomez also held the AWA World Tag Team Championship on three occasions between 1963 and 1968 and the San Francisco version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship on seven occasions between 1963 and 1977.

In the late-1960s, Gomez began competing for the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based American Wrestling Association. He began a heated feud with Killer Kowalski after Kowalski delivered a knee drop to his throat in an echo of the Ray Stevens angle.[15] The feud saw Kowalski unable to apply his signature stomach claw to Gomez' muscular stomach.

In the mid-1970s, Gomez joined the Indianapolis, Indiana-based World Wrestling Association. In November 1975, he defeated Ox Baker for the WWA World Heavyweight Championship. He held the championship until May 1976, when he was defeated by The Masked Strangler. Gomez also won the WWA World Tag Team Championship with Wilbur Snyder in 1974 and 1978.[2]

Gomez retired in 1982. He went on to work as a maître d' in a restaurant in Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco.[3]

Personal life

Gomez was of Mexican descent.[16] He had five children.[3] At the time of his death, he was married to Bonnie.[3]


Gomez underwent surgery in April 2004 and was placed on life support. He died of gastritis on May 6, 2004.[3][6]

In popular culture

A minor character in the 2008 video game Fallout 3 is named after Gomez.[17]

Championships and accomplishments


Professional wrestling


  1. ^ a b John Grasso (6 March 2014). Historical Dictionary of Wrestling. Scarecrow Press. p. 347. ISBN 978-0-8108-7926-3.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Harris M. Lentz III (1 January 2003). Biographical Dictionary of Professional Wrestling, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7864-1754-4.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Rubenstein, Steve (May 8, 2004). "'Pepper' Gomez -- pro wrestler with famously tough stomach". SFGate. Hearst. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Chapman, David (November 1, 2004). "Gallery of Ironmen: Pepper Gomez". Iron Man. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Pepper Gomez". Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Oliver, Greg (May 6, 2004). "Pepper Gomez dies". Postmedia Network. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b "The 10 best wrestlers you've never heard of". WWE. May 6, 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  8. ^ a b John Lister (November 2005). Slamthology: Collected Wrestling Writings 1991-2004. p. 244. ISBN 978-1-4116-5329-0.
  9. ^ Nicholas Sammond (23 December 2004). Steel Chair to the Head: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional Wrestling. Duke University Press. p. 245. ISBN 0-8223-8682-8.
  10. ^ David J. Leonard; Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo (17 March 2015). Latino History and Culture: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 570. ISBN 978-1-317-46646-8.
  11. ^ Mozee, Gene (April 7, 2009). "Armand Tanny". Iron Man. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Pepper Gomez". Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Northwest Tag Team Title [British Columbia]". January 19, 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  14. ^ Larry Matysik (1 February 2013). 50 Greatest Professional Wrestlers of All Time: The Definitive Shoot. ECW Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-1-77090-305-0.
  15. ^ Ed Symkus; Vinnie Carolan (2004). Wrestle Radio U. S. A.: Grapplers Speak. ECW Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-55022-646-1.
  16. ^
  17. ^ (28 October 2015). Fallout 3 - Strategy Guide. Gamer Guides. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-63102-069-8.
  18. ^ "New England Heavyweight Title". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. Archived from the original on 2020-11-17.
  19. ^ *Will, Gary; Duncan, Royal (2000). "Texas: NWA Texas Heavyweight Title [Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. pp. 268–269. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  20. ^ "NWA Texas Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  21. ^ Will, Gary; Duncan, Royal (2000). "Texas: NWA Texas Tag Team Title [Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. pp. 275–276. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  22. ^ "NWA Texas Tag Team Title [E. Texas]". Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  23. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2000). "Texas: NWA World Tag Team Title [Siegel, Boesch and McLemore]". Wrestling title histories: professional wrestling champions around the world from the 19th century to the present. Pennsylvania: Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  24. ^ "National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Title [E. Texas]". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  25. ^ "Honorees". Cauliflower Alley Club. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  26. ^ "National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Titles [W. Texas]". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved February 21, 2017.