One of the biggest news stories in all of sports this week has come from a somewhat surprising source. Olympic wrestling isn't usually talked about much aside from a one-month period of time every four years, but the removal of the sport from the Olympic program in 2020 has many people talking, including fans of professional wrestling, despite the fact that it will have very little impact on WWE, TNA and other companies.
According to ESPN.com, the International Olympic Committee voted to remove freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling from the Summer Games beginning in 2020. With golf and rugby being added to the program for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the IOC needed to make room. In doing so, it has ousted one of the oldest sports known to man.
As a longtime fan of professional wrestling, this is obviously something that piqued my interest. If not for legitimate wrestling, it's very unlikely that professional wrestling would have ever come into existence. The early days of professional wrestling certainly took a lot from amateur wrestling and some of those concepts are still used today.
Most professional wrestlers during the sport's infancy had mat wrestling backgrounds, and that remains true to this day. The likes of Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger and so many others excelled in amateur wrestling at a high level, and it is a big reason why they're so technically sound when it comes to professional wrestling.
The connection between the two sports can't be denied in that regard, but that is pretty much where the comparisons stop. I have no doubt that it is still beneficial for professional wrestlers to have competed in freestyle or Greco-Roman wrestling at some point, but removing the sport from the Olympics won't change anything for the WWE or any other professional wrestling promotion.
If children watched Olympic wrestling and thought to themselves, "I want to do that one day and then become a professional wrestler," I could understand the outrage.
That simply isn't the case, however. The fact of the matter is that young people don't compare the two sports, which are different in every way conceivable aside from the fact that it's a one-on-one competition in which the object is to pin your opponent.
Young people aren't captivated by Olympic wrestling like they may have been in the past. The sport has lost any cachet it may have had and it simply can't compete with the likes of basketball, swimming, track and field and other events.
Rather than emulating Dan Gable, most kids want to be John Cena, so they probably don't even give amateur wrestling a second thought.
Removing amateur wrestling from the Olympics may hurt overall participation in the sport to some degree, but I highly doubt that it will translate to the WWE in any manner. If someone wants to be a professional wrestler, then they're likely to do some amateur wrestling regardless of whether or not it's an Olympic sport. Ultimately, removing wrestling from the Olympics is more significant from a symbolic standpoint than a tangible one.
I'm an avid follower of professional wrestling and I watch more of the Olympics than perhaps anyone. I covered the London Games heavily for Bleacher Report and have an immense appreciation for the Olympics and their history. With that said, the fact that I'm not particularly broken up about wrestling being removed from the Olympic program is proof positive that it doesn't resonate with the modern-day sports fan.
I watched every Olympic sport from basketball and swimming to fencing and table tennis, but one of the few that I couldn't get excited about was wrestling.
I applaud the effort that the athletes put into their craft, I'm cognizant of the amateur wrestling skills that can be carried over to professional wrestling and I respect the fact that wrestling has been a part of the Olympics since its advent.
But I'm not going to go into battle for Olympic wrestling when I don't have any love for it.
In a lot of ways, I suppose it can be said that my status as a professional wrestling fan hurts my appreciation for amateur wrestling. Professional wrestling fans expect non-stop action in the ring and movie-like storylines to go with it. Amateur wrestling provides us with incredible feats of strength and athleticism, but the matches are often boring and there are no such storylines to hold our interest.
I certainly can't be the only one who feels this way. The IOC didn't remove wrestling from the Olympic slate because it had an agenda against the sport. A number of different criteria were taken into account, including television ratings and ticket sales. It just so happens that amateur wrestling isn't as popular as it once was. It was among the worst in terms of revenue and ratings generated, so the IOC did what it had to do.
Some may argue that wrestling deserves to be in the Olympics more than golf and rugby due to the fact that it is an ancient craft with a storied history, but the Olympics have changed. The Olympics are now more about drawing a wider audience and making money than they are about preserving tradition and hearkening back to ancient Greece.
Golf and rugby may not have an Olympic background, but there is no question that both sports will draw more viewership than wrestling. Nobody can deny that fact.
Some will argue that nothing should be taken out at all to accommodate the new sports, and I would agree with that in a perfect world, but if the Olympics continue to add without subtracting, they will eventually become overkill, and nobody wants that.
I truly feel bad for the amateur wrestling purists when it comes to this situation because they're the ones who will truly be impacted. With wrestling no longer being an Olympic sport, it will be tough for star grapplers, such as Angle or Rulon Gardner, to be made in the United States.
While professional wrestling is still the standard in the United States, there are still people out there who want to excel in amateur wrestling and nothing else, so those are the athletes that we should feel for.
It's nice to see professional wrestling fans pushing for Olympic wrestling to be saved, as well as TNA launching a campaign of its own, but it seems like it's being done for publicity more than out of love for amateur wrestling.
I have no issue if people want to support amateur wrestling, but let's not make it a professional wrestling issue, because it isn't.
Many professional wrestlers have amateur wrestling backgrounds and future professional wrestlers will continue to have amateur wrestling backgrounds whether wrestling is in the Olympics or not. The WWE, TNA, ROH and other promotions simply won't be hurt by this decision despite belief to the contrary.
The two sports were once clearly linked, but so much has changed in the professional wrestling business over the years that it's best to look at them as totally different sports with a small handful of similar elements.
The IOC made a decision that it believes will improve the Olympic program and I respect that as a fan of the Olympics and professional wrestling. I wish luck to those who love amateur wrestling and are trying to champion a movement to get it back into the Olympics in the near future, but I won't engage in a charade that some people who are strictly fans of professional wrestling have perpetuated.
Amateur wrestling absolutely deserves credit for grooming many of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time; however, times have changed and professional wrestling will move on without a hitch regardless of how this entire Olympic situation plays out.
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