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Thread: Wrestling history question

  1. #1

    Default Wrestling history question

    I assume there was a time when all wrestling was a real competition.

    When did it split into amateur wrestling and pro wrestling (WWE style)?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

    late 19th century according to this article:

  3. #3

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

    From what I found, Farmer Burns (1861-1973) was a legitimate wrestler. However, the fixing started with Farmer Burn's student Toots Mondt around 1919.

    Anyone have anything to add?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

    Ask a bunch of pro rasslin' historians, and you'll get a different answer from each of them... some claiming pro wrestling was never legitimate competition. Some will say that only world championship matches were "shoots" (no pretermined outcome), while typical matches had a winner selected in advance, like today's WWE.

    From what I've read about guys like Farmer Burns and his protege, Frank Gotch (Iowa native, world champ 1908-1913), I've come to the conclusion that most of their matches would've been legit... but I'm not sure.

    The oldest known pro wrestling film in existance is the 1920 Madison Square Garden title bout between Joe Stecher of Nebraska and Earl Caddock of Iowa (Gotch's protege; Gotch died in 1917). The 20-minute segment I've seen of the two-hour match looks "real" to me -- in fact, other than the uniforms (full-length tights, no shirts) and the roped-off ring, it looks like a modern amateur wrestling match. No costumes, no off-the-top-rope theatrics.

    In the 1920s is when pro matches became more theatrical, with aerial moves, whipping opponents into the ropes, that sort of thing. Wrestlers were cast in roles as good guys/bad guys, playing off ethnic stereotypes. Costumes started to make an appearance. Women's wrestling was also launched about this time, as were tag teams. Time-limits started about this time, too. (Until then, pro matches might go on for 2 or more hours... one went on for 8 hours!)

    One reason why pro rasslin became more theatrical in the 1920s: Competition from other sports. Football was really becoming popular. Boxing was huge, with guys like Dempsey and Tunney. Baseball was also finding a national audience with superstars like Babe Ruth.

    It was in the early 1900s that organized amatuer wrestling started to take off, as a counterpoint. Eastern colleges like Columbia and Penn State launched their programs 100 years ago. U of Iowa's first program was 1911; Oklahoma State was circa 1917, when Ed Gallagher arrived on campus.

    Back in the early days of HS and college wrestling, there were similarities to pro wrestling. The uniforms were pretty much the same -- trunks and/or tights, often without shirts... many schools wrestled in rings... and some submission/punishing holds were allowed. In the 1930s and 40s, the rules were changed to ban dangerous aspects like the double-wrist lock and the full-height bodyslam. During World War II, rings were banned. In the mid 1960s, the NCAA required wrestlers to wear shirts.

    Hope I haven't put anyone to sleep. For those who are still awake, a couple articles of possible interest:
    > How amateur wrestling has changed over the years:

    > Frank "the Iowa Plowboy" Gotch vs George "the Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt


  5. #5

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

    The reason I asked is that I was given a stack of old "RING" magazines that date back to the early 60's.

    They are primarily boxing magazines but have articles about wrestling and discuss matches as if they were legit.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

  7. #7

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ground&Pound View Post
    The reason I asked is that I was given a stack of old "RING" magazines that date back to the early 60's.

    They are primarily boxing magazines but have articles about wrestling and discuss matches as if they were legit.
    There's something in the pro rasslin' world referred to as "kayfabe" which I would say translates to doing whatever it takes to present and maintain the illusion that it's all real... even outside the ring.

    Here's an incredible story I came across doing research on my Gary Kurdelmeier story for Rev. The 1958 Iowa NCAA champ was never a pro rassler but one of his college rivals, Tim Woodin of Michigan State, became one -- masked good-guy Mr Wrestling. Woodin was a passenger in a private plane that crashed in the south; the others on the plane were "heels" (other than the pilot, who was killed). Woodin, the management of the pro rasslin' organization, and even the police all played along, claiming that Woodin was NOT on the plane -- despite the fact he broke his back, and was out of the ring for months. Why? Because it would have broken "kayfabe" to have a good-guy traveling with bad guys. It wouldn't have made sense to pro rasslin fans -- sort of "consorting with the enemy."


  8. #8
    Round of 12
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Norwood, Pa.

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

    G&P, Some matches as late as the 60's we straight, if two guys had a score to settle (or even one did) they might settle it in the ring. Lou Thesz recounts what he contends were shoots in his classic book, Hooker (Thesz is generally considered the last "real" champ). Regarding The Ring covering wrestling, one of the best wrestling historians was Nat Fleisher (sp) a boxing hstorian. Lots of boxers wrestled in the old days and lots of wrestlers boxed, they even had mixed matches, MMA is not new. Everything is much more segregated now, but, MMA will change that I guess.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Wrestling history question

    Short after the World war I when people were eager for new forms of entertainment. It isn't known when exactly because initially the promotors tried to keep in secret the fact that the matches were arranged.
    Last edited by akzent; 06-29-2008 at 01:26 AM.

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