History of Professional Wrestling
Category: Sport History
History of Professional Wrestling.
Wrestling as a sport goes back millennia, all the way back to the original Olympic Games in 708 BC, though it was certainly practiced as a sport and one on one activity before then. Egyptian murals from 2000 BC show wrestling. Wrestling is mentioned in the Iliad, describing events from the Trojan War around 1200 BC.
In the 1700s, wrestling was a popular sport for entertainment, along with boxing and other physical competitions. Philip Astley established what is considered the first modern circus in 1769. In 1806, he added wrestling to the list of attractions.
In the early and mid-1800s, wrestling was often a side entertainment at horse races. Wrestling was considered safer than boxing, both for participants and observers who were more likely to riot after boxing matches.
In 1837, the Highland Games were introduced in Scotland. While track and field was the major sports, wrestling was also included.
In 1887, P.T. Barnum, American circus entrepreneur, hired wrestler Ed Decker as a side show act. Barnum offered money to those who weren’t held pinned by the wrestler.
In 1891, a women’s wrestling championship was held in New York City. Women had to wear tights and cut their hair short to prevent hair pulling.
Modern History of Professional Wrestling
Wrestling was part of the 1896 Olympic Games and one of the major highlights. It was not in the 1900 Summer Olympics. It was back in the 1904 summer program, with both a weight class and freestyle wrestling. Wrestling in at least one form has been part of every summer Olympics since 1908. Women’s wrestling was introduced to the summer Olympic Games in 2004.
The FILA World Championships, another wrestling title, were begun in 1904. After 1920, FILA stopped holding its competitions the same years as the Olympics. FILA began with Greco-Roman wrestling. FILA added freestyle wrestling in 1951. Women were granted their own freestyle championships in 1987, nearly 20 years before the Olympics. For the World Wrestling Championships, the Soviet Union holds the most medals combined, followed by Japan, Russia, Bulgaria, Iran and the United States.
In 1948, the National Wrestling Alliance or NWA is founded. It begins holding national championships. In 1957, the first National Wrestling Alliance international title is given.
In 1963, the World Wide Wrestling Federation was founded, an offshoot from the National Wrestling Alliance.
In 1979, the World Wide Wrestling Federation changed its name to World Wrestling Federation. By 1984, WWF matches were regularly televised. Later the group became World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE due to a lawsuit by the World Wildlife Fund, also called WWF.
Wrestling and the Martial Arts
Wrestling is not a martial art by many people’s standards, Sambo is a Russian martial art that borrows heavily from Greco-Roman and Asian martial arts.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting often incorporates wrestling techniques. Wrestling is considered one of the three core components of MMA: Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kick boxing are the other two.
Future of Professional Wrestling
In early 2013, wrestling was removed as a sport from planned future games because it wasn’t considered a “core sport” and had little worldwide support. And it was one of the few sports that required amateur status for competitors, the only sport other than boxing to have such a restriction. (For example, the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion is not allowed to compete in the Olympics.)
In late 2013, wrestling was reinstated to the summer Olympic program for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. It beat out baseball, softball and squash to be added to the summer program.