By Nick Matthews

The evolution of wrestling

Today, the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is desperately looking for the next great entertainer. They don’t scout acting schools for wrestlers though, they look for athletes and expect them to memorize lines and act. They must think that it is impossible to entertain people with actual wrestling because more than half of the show is talking now.

There is a special guest host each week on Monday Night Raw. Half the time, all they do is bring in a celebrity who doesn’t know anything about wrestling, to host the show. All the host cares about is plugging their latest book, movie or show, and the WWE desperately wants some publicity. The WWE wants to be a hybrid of the sports world and the entertainment world, but all they’ve done is become the laughing stock of both.

Total Nonstop Action (TNA) on Spike TV is no better. I used to watch TNA, but had to give up for my own sanity. It is a wrestling show only in name. I have at some point on a TNA show seen a match in which the winner got a wedding ring and got to marry one of the ring girls. I’ve also seen a man dressed in a shark costume known as “Shark Boy,” who bites people in the ass as a signature move, and a former world champion in therapy sessions each week for two months to help him with his violent behavior. I don’t give a rat’s ass about a grown man’s therapy session, I want to see him beat people up.

The reason people go to a wrestling show is because they have a natural blood lust, and want to see two big, strong men beat the holy hell out of each other. As far as I’m concerned, TNA is just as bad, if not worse, than WWE.

This leaves mixed martial arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). They do not predetermine their bouts, but their fighters are promoted as stars in a similar fashion to professional wrestling. UFC is not as ridiculous as professional wrestling today, but their fighters only fight once or twice a year, while WWE stars wrestle over 200 times a year. Shooters (old-school, legitimate wrestlers) wrestled several times a day at their carnivals, and that does not include the bouts they would have against other world renowned shooters of their time.

People do not realize that virtually every submission used in MMA came from catch as catch can wrestling (amateur wrestling plus submissions and some striking). The Jiu-Jitsu and Judo guys took most of their holds from catch as catch can wrestling (also known as “catch”), and renamed them.

Wrestlers have been using the double wrist lock for thousands of years, but when Masahiko Kimura defeated Helio Gracie with a double wrist lock, the Jiu-Jitsu guys renamed the hold a “Kimura” lock and called it their own. “The Kimura” is recognized as an original Jiu-Jitsu hold. Please, Henry VIII used the double wrist lock to win a wrestling match in England hundreds of years before anyone ever heard of Jiu-Jitsu.

A triangle hold was called a figure-four before Judo even existed. All other martial arts have been inspired by catch, but no one practices the original anymore. They just practice the styles that have come from it. This is because catch wrestling gradually transformed into entertainment wrestling, and now “wrestling” is a dirty word. When people hear about wrestling, they think about big neanderthals fake punching each other.

Most of today’s combat sports practitioners are wrapped up in a much more finesse style. They take kickboxing classes and learn muay thai. Those are both effective and exciting in their own way, but punches and kicks are much more flashy and can be seen in other combat sports. And that’s coming from a huge boxing and MMA (mixed martial arts) fan with years of experience training in boxing and Judo.

There needs to be an organization that focuses on grappling, and utilizes catch style. Catch wrestling was the most popular sport in America for a long time, and it can no doubt be at least moderately popular today.

There is Ring of Honor, which is a small, independently run wrestling promotion in the United States. You can watch it online at HdNet or subscribe on Youtube. I highly recommend it, and wish everyone would show their support to a wrestling organization that takes itself seriously. Although Ring of Honor does utilize a new style professional wrestling, of all the wrestling companies around today, it is as close to serious action as there is.

I will admit, I have seen things in Ring of Honor that are certainly cringe-worthy, and it may not be that great of a show overall. However, compared to the cross dressers, leprechauns, and stripper look-alikes in the other major wrestling promotions, C-SPAN provides better action.

Do not take this the wrong way. I have never said, nor will I ever say, that the wrestling you see in WWE or TNA is fake. It is predetermined, and sometimes entire shows are scripted. However, I have been trained and have performed entertainment wrestling, and the wrestlers you see on T.V. are the some of the toughest people on the planet.

They are taught to take inhuman amounts of pain. Try and take just one flat back bump (falling flat on your back without rolling into or bracing your fall in any way), and tell me otherwise. They live everyday of their life in an unbelievable amount of pain just to entertain their fans, and they deserve the utmost respect.

However, the people running the wrestling companies, writing the shows and putting this crap on television shouldn’t even be allowed to watch wrestling (they probably don’t anyway or else they would know better). There shouldn’t even be writers or a script on a wrestling show. It is not a sitcom or a late night talk show, it is a wrestling show! It is so far gone that I sometimes wonder what I am doing with my life.

You cannot script wrestling. When Ric Flair talked on the microphone, it was natural. Dusty Rhodes was himself. Superstar Billy Graham was himself. They are just amped up versions of themselves. They turned the volume up on aspects of their personality to bring out a reaction from the crowd, but they are still themselves.

If there was a writer feeding them lines, they would never have developed the outrageous personas they did because it would be a writer’s creation, not their own. Wrestlers appear larger than life, extraordinary and unique because they are, not because they act like it.

I do not expect anyone working for a major wrestling promotion to read this and truly take it to heart. Why should they listen to me? My objective is to reach out to you. The person who the wrestling companies want to watch their shows and buy their pay per views. Do not do it. You have the choice to flip the channel and not support modern day professional wrestling.

Show these promoters that you want wrestling, not sports entertainment, and when there is a show that does provide wrestling, throw it all of your support. Professional wrestling can still be enjoyable and entertaining while maintaining it’s credibility as a sport. Wrestling companies just need to stop treating the sport like a joke.

There are thousands of professional wrestlers in the world today, which is still a relatively small number, but there are even far less shooters or at least successful ones. I currently do not watch any professional wrestling except Ring of Honor, and I do watch UFC. Not because it’s real, but because they take themselves seriously and they do not insult me by expecting me to watch a product where a 77-year-old woman gives birth to a human hand.

Yes, that really happened too.