He was called “The Man with the Cast Iron Stomach,” a hugely popular and long-running performer who headlined across the United States for several decades. Jose (Joseph) “Pepper” Gomez, who died on May 6, 2004, was one of the true greats of his generation. He was 77 years old.

Friend of many years, CAC president Red Bastien, said, “In my view Pepper was one of the best wrestlers in history. When he was on the card we always drew big. And even with all that success, Pepper was still a sweet, humble man. He always had a smile on his face. Never heard him whine ever.”

Pepper was not very tall, but he made up for that with a variety of skills and one of the most perfectly sculpted bodies of the 1950s and 1960s. It was his physique that earned him national acclaim every bit as much as his wrestling ability.

CAC executive vice president Karl Lauer remembers Pepper as a fine performer, but more importantly a fine gentleman. “Pepper loved the business and his fans immensely. You just couldn’t fake the kind of sincerity he had. I think that had a lot to do with him keeping on top for so long. Of course he was also a heck of a wrestler, too! I knew him for many years, and I will really miss him.”

Pepper was awarded by the Cauliflower Alley Club in 1992 for his numerous contributions to the sport of wrestling. He held countless titles all over the country, but it is his gimmick as “The Man with the Cast Iron Stomach” that everybody will best remember him for. Pepper would allow other wrestlers to jump off of a ladder on to his stomach, and it wouldn’t affect him in the least. He took this gimmick with him around the country and it got him over immediately. Ray Stevens, the top heel in California, took up Pepper’s challenge and, instead of landing on his stomach, intentionally landed on his throat. This sent poor Pepper to the hospital and ignited one of the most legendary feuds in the history of professional wrestling. People still talk about their matches to this day.

He made his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he gained his greatest fame. Pepper wrestled into the early 1980s. For several years, even as he was wrestling, Pepper served as a greeter for Scoma’s, one of the finest restaurants on Fisherman’s Warf. He held this job for several years and served as a huge attraction. “He loved to talk with the fans,” said Pepper’s stepdaughter, Teri. “He had such a big heart, and he never forgot the people who supported him over the years.”

Pepper had a kidney transplant several years ago, and recently had fallen into poor health. He died peacefully with his family by his side.

CAC Board of Directors member Maria Bernardi summed it up best when she said, “Pepper was loved by everybody. We are all saddened by losing him. But now he’s up there with the angels and all his wrestling buddies up in heaven.”

Pepper leaves behind his wife of 27 years, Bonnie, seven daughters, three sons, and ten grandchildren.

A special gathering for Pepper will be held in the near future, which will be open to every one. We will post the information here when it is announced. The family has asked that all donations be made to the Kidney Foundation.

For more information on Pepper, visit

We at the Cauliflower Alley Club send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Pepper Gomez.

Pepper was frequently featured on the cover of wrestling and bodybuilding magazines, sporting a body that was surely uncommon in his day.
Pepper truly loved his fans, and was always a hit with children.

(Photo courtesy of
Dickie Steinborne)
Here's Pepper holding yet another championship, one of many that he held throughout his long career.