Beyond a shadow of the doubt, Archie “The Stomper” Gouldie was the biggest homegrown star ever in Stampede Wrestling and one of the greatest talents to survive the training in the Hart Family Dungeon. But his tale, which ended Saturday with his death at age 78, is much more than just that. It’s the story of a small-town boy from tiny Carbon, Alberta (pop. 600) who made it big at home and abroad as the vicious Mongolian Stomper.
Growing up in the 1950s, pro wrestling looked good to him. Gouldie would go to the matches on a regular basis, and started to talk to the wrestlers and promoter Stu Hart, begging him to begin training. Eventually, Stu relented.
No one expected to see the strong, lanky, 6-foot-2 kid with a junior football background back at the Dungeon the next day after his first stretching, but he came back again and again.
“I wanted to make it. I didn’t want to fail,” Gouldie told this writer. “I just wanted to do it, and I figured the only way I could do it was to keep going because Stu was such a persistent person that if you did lay out — I’ve seen a few guys lay out for a week or two and he’d just give up on them. So I just kept going.”
The journey to the Hart House was almost as bad as the training. “I didn’t have a car. I used to walk out to that old gym, that old pit every day. Sometimes it’d be 20 below and snow, but I’d keep going. Until he hurt me so bad, I couldn’t go. Take a couple of days off, and I’d go back. My mother used to say I was crazy, but I kept going.”
Being crazy helped Gouldie during his career, and from today’s perspective, he looks back and shakes his head at some of the things he did. The one that stands out the most was letting Jos Leduc hit him over the head with sledgehammer to break a concrete block on his head while they were working in Knoxville. “Stupidest thing I ever did in my life. My neck’s never been the same. I’ve got arthritis in my neck so bad from that. He went to the hospital with that.”
After starting out in Calgary for a few years, generally as a preliminary talent learning the ropes (“Stu never put me over”), Gouldie headed to North Carolina for Jim Crockett Sr. Gouldie worked there for three months, then injured his back and was let go. He hopped on a bus to Alabama, then ended up in Amarillo, Texas, working for Dory Funk Sr. “He started me out refereeing, then started me out wrestling,” said Gouldie. “He made me Sputnik Monroe’s bodyguard. Sputnik was the champion in Amarillo. That was a real trip. Sputnik would go into bars and throw beer in somebody’s face, and say ‘Talk to my bodyguard about it!’ I finally went to Dory Sr. and said, ‘I can’t handle this no more.’ He took me out of those duties.”
Gouldie got his first big break in Kansas City in 1964. Former world champ Pat O’Connor was a co-promoter there, and had seen Gouldie work in Texas. It was O’Connor who dubbed Gouldie “The Mongolian Stomper.”
“He said he wanted a gimmick-type character in Kansas City, he had just bought the promotion. I went along with it and it stuck with me. It worked well so I stayed with it.”
As The Mongolian Stomper, Gouldie terrorized the southern U.S., winning belts in Kansas City, Texas, Georgia, Florida, San Francisco, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. He figures that he went to Japan almost 20 times, and did three tours of Australia. He was meant to be a mysterious figure. “With the Mongolian Stomper, I always had a manager, so they didn’t want me to talk. They didn’t figure that it would go along with the gimmick, me talking being Mongolian,” he said.
JJ Dillon was one of Gouldie’s many managers. (Others included Gorgeous George Jr., Don Carson, and Bearcat Wright.) In fact, it was Archie that convinced Dillon to switch from wrestling to managing, the two having gotten to know each other during a summer tour in the Maritimes. “Archie was very intense — he looked intense when he was there for promos, he looked intense in the ring, he always was really a workout freak, and he always looked great, really looked great. His work was solid. He would use that stomp to the head, and it just looked like he killed people,” said Dillon. It was a different era, when fans would suspend disbelief about where a wrestler was from. “We used to have some gibberish that we would use, like I was talking to him in his own language. It wasn’t anything elaborate, just a sentence or two. I actually looked up some research on Mongolia.”
Dressed in a fur vest, and sporting a tassel of hair on his shining bald head, the Mongolian Stomper struck an imposing figure behind his manager. One of his stunts would be to flex a long spring for the camera, sweat starting to pour off his tensed body.
Though he worked with the Stomper in Calgary, Kansas City and the Maritimes, Leo Burke remembers Archie more for the workouts than anything. He saw Gouldie work out with football players, and do more laps than them. It was all about conditioning, not weights. “We were doing push-ups, because we had a push-up stand that was at least three feet high, you put your legs on the bench, elevated. We’d go right down, deep. We’d end up, we were doing 10 sets of 30, which is 300 push-ups. God, what a workout we had. I could see the difference — I even lost weight. I was never sore, it’s the weights that make you sore. It was no weight, but talk about good conditioning. I was in tip-top shape,” said Burke. “He’d do that, then when he was done, he wanted to go play squash, handball, anything. He was almost psychotic as far as being conditioned.”
In 1968, Gouldie returned to Calgary and would transform the territory. As Archie “The Stomper” Gouldie, he was allowed on the microphone and delivered intense promos that brought new fans into the arenas. According to longtime Stampede photographer and promoter Bob Leonard, Gouldie’s work ethic and intensity “made believers out of so many people, even those normally uninterested in wrestling.”
Gouldie would win the North American belt in Stampede eight different times (“that belt meant a lot to me”), and had an amazing run against a vast collection of opponents. “Cowboy” Dan Kroffat is proud of the matches they had together. “We set some records that have never been broken” in the old Calgary Corrall, Kroffat said.
Besides being close to home, Gouldie enjoyed his local celebrity and place on the cards. “The good thing about working Calgary was that once a year, you got to wrestle the world champion,” he said. Over the years, Gouldie took on the likes of Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Harley Race, Ric Flair, though not all in Calgary.
Conditioning and physique have also been a major part of Gouldie’s life. “I started training and working out and just sort of kept it up,” he explained. “I enjoy it. I like it. I was fortunate enough to meet a few people across the country who helped me out.” He loved to workout, go to the gym, play racquetball, and ride his bicycle on average 100 miles a week on the hills near Knoxville, TN.
He once set a record for the number of sit-ups done in an hour while wrestling in Dothan, Alabama.
“I’d mentioned it to the promoter down there at the time that I wanted to do it. I used to do a lot of them anyways. He said, ‘We’ll do it while the wrestling show is on for 60 minutes. Can you do them that long?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think I can.’ So they put me on an isolated camera in the corner of the screen as the matches were going on. I’d done 1,800 in 60 minutes, non-stop. I had a chair beside me with a bottle of baby oil beside me. That was the worst thing that was happening — these blisters were building up on my rear end, they kept building up and breaking. They’d start smarting and stinging, so I just swash this baby oil on to keep it slippery there. ‘Course it was live. They had a couple of hundred people there in the studio. You didn’t want to quit anyways, you just kept going. Couldn’t sit down for two or three weeks. Laid in the bed on my side or my belly.”
The other legendary tale told about Gouldie was an angle in Stampede where Bad News Allen attacked Gouldie “son,” piledriving him on the cement and sending him out on a stretcher. It was so violent that announcer Ed Whalen quit and the promotion came to a stand-still as the media attention raged. “It really went overboard. It didn’t just arouse the fans, it disgusted a lot of them. Ed quit, and Ed was a fine person. I didn’t like it. Of course, it was too late then,” Gouldie said. “I didn’t think it would come out like it did.”
He wrestled into the early 2000s, primarily on charity shows near his home in Knoxville. His last run in a territory was Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain promotion.
Until his health began to fail him, Gouldie worked in the guard shack at a prison. Before that he ran the paddy wagon for three years until he “got tired of hauling drunks.”
He was recognized often. “I think there’s more fans in prison than there are in the street,” he chuckled.
The last few years had been rough on Gouldie, financially, physically, in every way.
In 2011, memory issues began to surface, and Gouldie got in an argument with a neighbor and beat him up. That was the start of the end, in some ways.
According to Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer, Gouldie fell and broke his hip two weeks ago. Surgery followed, but never recovered from the operation and passed away in his sleep on Saturday, January 23rd.
Funeral information is not known at this time.
— with files from Steven Johnson