When did wrestling became faked?

Following a thread in the BBQ, I’m wondering :

Real wrestling existed and still exists pretty much everywhere in the world. When and how did it became scripted?

Did this evolves slowly, from legitimate wrestling, with organizers cheating more and more for whatever reason until it became accepted that it wasn’t anymore a real contest? Did someone suddenly pop up with the idea of a new entertainment, fake wrestling? Was it aknowledged at the beginning that wrestling was faked, or were people induced to believe it was for real?
Also, are some the “stage wrestlers” former (or possibly still) real wrestlers ?

I’m not too sure when the switch happened, but I would gues sometime in the late 50’s.

As for your second question there are a lot of wrestlers with real wrestling backgrounds

Kurt Angle: Olympic gold medalist and NCAA champion
Brock Lesnar: NCAA champion

there are others that have had an ameteur wresting backround, I just cant think of them off the top of my head.

If I remember that special on A&E correctly, professional wrestling has involved cheating almost from the get-go. They started out legitimate, but discovered that it wasn’t much of a spectator sport to watch the wrestlers drag on for several hours. So they found ways to speed up the action, if you know what I mean.

I don’t know when the secret started leaking out, but it was Vince McMahon who made the brilliant move of saying, “Sure, it’s scripted – so the fuck what?” When New York tried to slap a television tax for professional sports on the WWF, he was able to dodge it by noting that the WWF is technically not a sport!

“Fake” wrestling probably started when it became televised.

Fake wrestling started the moment people started paying to see it. Long before television, consider any travelling side show.

I don’t think anyone started out with the idea of ‘cheating’, but it would quickly became obvious that a better show could be put on if the two wrestlers co-operated over certain moves. What we have now, a soap-opera with the occasional choreographed grappling, is just a progression of it all.

I can remember when people started watching television. The main things we had to watch were old movies (especially cowboy movies) and wrestling. Wrestling was phony from the start, but not near what it is today. The wrestlers actually had to listen to the referee, who would count to ten if one wrestler had an illegal hold. A lot of the drama concerned the wrestler trying to hide the fact that the hold was illegal. Also if the wrestler jumped out of the ring the referee would start counting. It wasn’t until later that any of the action happened outside of the ring. The first wrestler I remember that created a “character” was “Gorgeous George”. He had blond curly long hair, which in those days was outrageous. He wore a cape and of course he was a “bad guy”. Funny thing is that they also had quite a few woman’s matches at first and my grandfather (who never wrote) sent a letter to my mother saying that she shouldn’t let me watch the women. Another big difference was that they didn’t interview the wrestlers, so that was not part of the show. It was considerably different but still not on the up and up.

Professional wrestling became fake at least by the turn of the last century. The problem was that “real” professional wrestling was incredibly boring, even then. Matches became fixed very early on, though there were some spectacular flair ups when individuals refused to follow the script.

The Staff Report Is professional wrestling for real? contains some information on the history of faked wrestling.


FAKE? What the hell? Just what are you trying to tell me? Fake, I don’t think so!

There is a student essay on wrestling on the web with citations. Essentially it says that wrestling started faking it when travelling shows started taking wrestling from town to town in the late 19th century

“Even with these unofficial (that is, uninstitutionalized) competitions across
the country, traveling carnivals and their “athletic shows” provided the beginnings of wrestling’s formation as an institution and theatrical entity. Athletic shows were traveling stables of wrestlers and boxers who worked under a promoter, often as part of a carnival, that put on exhibition bouts and challenged locals to matches. The bouts between the carnival wrestlers were often staged to provide a visually interesting and compelling match for the audiences and enticed them to try their luck against the carnival wrestlers. Matches with the locals were similarly unfair as a carnival wrestler would generally have a much wider knowledge of the sport (including a variety of illegal/unknown holds known as “hooks”) and often the mat would have a “hard spot” where the wrestler could drop an unsuspecting opponent, stunning him. Prearranged matches between an athletic show wrestler and his local opponent were common and both sides made money through side bets placed on a predetermined outcome. In order to draw audiences and make the matches more interesting for spectators, the wrestlers developed an increasingly complex sense of performance that provided the foundation for modern professional wrestling’s characters, gimmicks and histrionics”

from http://zigguratbuilder.nu/thezone/download/illseeyouinthering.pdf

How about the graffitti uncovered in Pompeii:

Some other amateur wrestlers making the turn into “the pros” (entertainment):
Scott and Rick Steiner were both Michigan standouts
Bob Backlund was a champion for a lower division school

Also, current WWE star and Olympic wrestling gold medalist Kurt Angle is considering trying out for the 2004 Olympics.

Several martial arts ‘champions’, ex-football players, and UFC fighters have tried their hand (some very successfully) at the wrestling game. Make no mistake - wrestling is a ‘tough guy’ sport despite its scripting.