What is Catch Wrestling, and Why You Should Care

Catch wrestling (or Catch-as-catch-can) has a long and complex history that is a microcosm of what was happening in the larger world during its rise, fall, and rebirth.  Learn about Catch and you learn about politics, commerce, and the Western psyche.

And who better to explain all this than Eddie Goldman, “the Conscience of Combat Sports.”  In his article Catch Wrestling Is Back: The Revival Of A Working Class Sport (it’s a whopper, coming in at a couple thousand words, but if you’re into Western Martial Arts, you gotta invest the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to read it) he brings it all to light.

Did you know:

  • That catch wrestling was once as popular as boxing in the US?
  • That it was a true working class sport “practiced by athletic clubs organized by labor and socialist organizations, even including the Industrial Workers of the World and the Communist Party of Canada?”
  • That the transformation of catch wrestling into the modern form of staged pro wrestling was “perhaps the greatest case of corruption in the history of modern sports, with an entire sport becoming fixed?”
  • That Kasushi Sakuraba, “The Gracie Killer” learned catch wrestling from Billy Robinson, who trained at the Billy Riley’s famed Snake Pit?

The story of catch wrestling would make a great movie, one filled with politics, drama, and action galore.  Hold on — looks like somebody already did.  Ed Asner  (no shock that he’d sign on to that project when you consider his political views) starred in The Wrestler back in 1974.  I think I’ll see if I can pick up a copy and give it a look.

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