At some point during every Summer Olympics season, my friends and I wonder aloud, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if pro wrestling was an Olympic sport?” We amuse ourselves with the notion of a run-in during a medal ceremony, or an entire panel of judges somehow missing a pull of the tights. There’s no question, the idea of pro wrestling being allowed in the Olympics is absurd.
Or is it? After watching much of the Games this past summer, I couldn’t help but question why some of the sports included are any more legitimate than pro wrestling. With all due respect, can anyone tell me with a straight face that ping pong, handball, or rhythmic gymnastics—which involves throwing a hula hoop in the air, dancing around, then catching it—requires more athletic ability than a 30-minute wrestling match?
Let me state the obvious, under the definition of an athletic contest in which participants compete for victory, pro wrestling may not be considered a sport. But, as athletic exhibitions that can be judged on various criteria, pro wrestling matches are not much different that platform dives or gymnastic events.
What’s more, pro wrestling has tremendous international appeal. The United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada and Great Britain all have rich pro wrestling histories that go back several decades. Other countries, including South Africa, Germany, Spain, Turkey, and India also host various wrestling promotions, some of which are nationally televised.
According to the Olympics website, for a sport to be included in the Olympics, it has to be “widely practiced around the world.” Certainly, pro wrestling fits that bill.
So here’s how I think it could work:
• Olympic pro wrestling would be divided into two events: singles and tag team.
• Countries would send “teams” of singles wrestler and tag teams to the Olympics. They’d have to first pass whatever qualifying events to make it to the Olympics. Those would be scored using the same criteria as for the Olympics.
• At the Olympics, a panel of judges representing different countries, and consisting of former pro wrestlers, promoters, and writers would observe matches and assign scores.
• Point values would be assigned based on a criteria that took into account the various elements of a good wrestling match, including athleticism, execution, flow, dramatic content, and the finish. In other words: How exciting were the moves? How well did they connect? How much did it feel like a real fight? How well did the match captivate viewers and take them for an emotional rollercoaster ride? And how satisfying was the finish? Tag team matches would have added criteria to reflect the differences in styles.
• Teams would compete tournament style to advance to the finals. Qualifying matches would be given time limits of 10 minutes, while finals would be given 30 minutes.
To be clear, participants would only wrestle in matches against those from their own country. In that sense, the actual outcome of the match is less relevant than the overall quality of the match (although who is chosen to win could affect how good the match is, and therefore, how many points it receives.)
To say the least, it would be an imperfect system—in large part because it would be impossible to replicate in that setting one of the key factors that determines whether a match is good or not: the storyline and build-up behind it. Wrestlers would be limited to the time they have in the ring to tell an interesting story.
It would be fascinating to see a competitive showcase of different wrestling styles from around the globe, ranging from the high-flying Mexican lucha libre style to the hard-hitting Japanese style. As well, it would be interesting to follow which wrestlers are sent by each country to represent them in the Olympics, and whether some wrestlers who made careers in the U.S. might choose to compete for other countries (Chris Jericho for Canada? Primo for Puerto Rico?)
And, like we’ve seen in the past with men’s basketball, the perfect Olympic team may be about more than just star power and individual success. The right pro wrestling team would require good chemistry among all of its contestants, so they can be mixed and matched and consistently put on good performances. They’d have to be technically sound, but not high-spot artists. And, most important, they’d have to be good storytellers in the ring.
My U.S. pro wrestling Olympic dream team might include Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Davey Richards, Austin Aries, AJ Styles, and, of course, Kurt Angle.
Who would you choose?