The World of Wrestling

July 21, 2017 at 11:27 am Ron Mullinax

A Short History of Wrestling


Since the ancient times, wrestling has been depicted in art, painted on urns, and has been a sport that celebrates physical combat and the human physique. From the old Sumerian myths, to the classical Greeks’ tales, and even to Scandinavian legends, it has been a way for two warriors to settle differences in an unarmed fight where the victor is crowned for physical prowess. These days, we find warriors in the squared circle for theatrical entertainment or on the mat for competitions, while the original grappling style has been enhanced by other martial arts techniques.

Perhaps wrestling is one of the oldest forms of combat, and its origins can be traced back to fifteen thousand years to cave drawings in France. Evidence of Babylonian and Egyptian reliefs shows wrestlers using techniques still used today. As time passed, the Greeks developed it as a form of hand-to-hand combat and turned it into the focal point of the Olympic Games. It was later adapted and improved by the Romans, albeit less brutal than the Greek style. Later practiced in the medieval times, it transcended social classes as it was available for both the rich and the poor in countries like France, England, and Japan. From England, at a much-later time, American settlers brought wrestling with them and found that it was already popular among the Native American tribes. This made amateur wrestling quite popular, and it was featured in fairs, carnivals, celebrations, and military exercises.

Modern wrestling came about from the Scots forming a variant of the catch style of wrestling, while the Irish had their own collar-and-elbow style. The immigrants to the new land brought these techniques with them, and its popularity grew, especially with it becoming fashionable in Europe. A golden age of wrestling followed in the early twentieth century but was paused due to World War I. It picked up right after the war in the United States with a match that was historically significant between legend Frank Gotch and the European wrestling champion Georg Hackenschmidt, where the former beat the latter. It declined sometime after this due to its lack of legitimacy as a competitive sport.

The standard for wresting became Greco-Roman, but competitive wrestling as a sport took a blow and was not popular toward the end of the twentieth century, and it became quite uncommon, only done by collegiate wrestling teams with matches in the Olympic Games. But it did not fall off the map; it found a new audience willing to pay to see over-the-top matches between larger-than-life characters. This was when professional wrestling found its stride in the latter half of the twentieth century as sports entertainment, leading to the powerhouse show that is now known today as the WWE.

If you would like to know more, check my book Fritz Von Erich: Master of the Iron Claw. You may also follow me on my accounts on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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