Pro Wrestling: Showing the Evolution of the the Sport from Greek Mythology

Ryan FryeSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2011

The word wrestling is considered the oldest word in the English language, originating before 1100 A.D. in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a sport or contest in which two unarmed individuals struggle hand-to-hand with each attempting to subdue or unbalance the other.

Wrestling can be traced back as far as 15,000 years ago, beginning with cave drawings in France. It was a sport in Babylon and Egypt, where many of us would notice holds that are still used today.

In Greece, wrestling was a common form of entertainment and often was the most prominent sport in the Olympics. It was also the genesis of much literature, where many wrote poetically about the art form of wrestling.

Like everything, the sport adapted and thrived into the fifth century, entertaining the Japanese, French and English. It went on to become an early staple of America when settlers first came over from England, eventually establishing the independence we have today. For example, amateur wrestling was common at fairs, parties and was exercise for the military after a Frenchmen associated wrestling as a legitimate professional sport (ironic now, isn't it?).

Soon, wrestling would begin to have organized tournaments, including being a flagship sport in the modern day Olympic games in 1912, hosted by St. Louis, Missouri.


Wrestling Mythology

The Hindu book The Mahabharata (epic poetry) features the encounter between Bhima and Jarasandhas, who were two very prominent wrestlers at the time.


Gilgamesh was said to have earned respect as a leader after defeating Enkidu, going on to become the fifth king of Uruk.

The rise of Zeus was said to have begun after an epic wrestling match with his father, Cronus. Heracles and Thesus were also known for wrestling man, animal and beast.

The founder of Islam, Muhammed, was a skilled wrestler, taking on critics and beating them to a bloody pulp.


Folk Wrestling Styles

Shuai Jiao means to throw onto the ground through wrestling with legs and originated in China over 4,000 years ago. Most styles of this are quite similar to karate or kung-fu, in that it uses a variety of kicks and arm locks.

Greek wrestling was more of a collegiate style. A point was scored when an athlete put his opponent's back on the mat/ground, or forced him into submission. Milo of Croton was the most famous emerging from this style and era of wrestling.

Catch wrestling, or Lancashire wrestling, was developed in the later part of the nineteenth century in Europe. It emphasizes brutal submission maneuvers, which wrestlers such as Davey Boy Smith, William Regal, Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett have become famous for.

Kurash is upright wrestling and simply stands for Martial Art, similar to MMA today. It is grappling and submission, where if you are on the ground, you are in trouble. This began as a type of medieval warfare, in which two wrestlers dropped their weapons after they were within range of Kurash style. It was done to prevent the increased risk of injury that weapons can cause from a closer distance.


Professional Wrestling

At some point in time, competitive catch wrestling became a scripted entertainment. It was done due to the horrible violence that was common in the sport, which most felt had to be toned down.

For years, wrestlers hid this completely, and acted as if it was still a legitimate, competitive sport. These wrestlers lived their life as their character for years, until the secret got out. And when it did, pro wrestling was put on it's death bed for the early part of the 1900s. It was small territories entertaining a small portion of the United States, and it was also often performed in carnivals and such things.

This was until a man named Vincent Kennedy McMahon had a vision.

He was taking over his father's territory, and he decided that he didn't want to be in just one area like every other promoter up to this time. No, he wanted to become a worldwide phenomena. So, he slowly and methodically weeded out the ways of territories, and grew the WWF into the largest wrestling promotion in the world.

In the 1980s Hulk Hogan became the face of this prime and ready company. Wrestling had come from a brutal depiction of art on a cave wall in France, to the worldwide phenomena that Mr. McMahon had strived for.

Now known as WWE, through many different eras, Vince McMahon is still the proud chairman of the largest wrestling (or sports entertainment) company in the world.