Why you should care
Wrestling is a universal form of human interaction. Rawr!
There aren’t many sports that don’t require a ball, a hoop, a helmet or padding. Then again, not many activities can be a form of play, violence, performance and love all at the same time. Wrestling is — and more. Its history can be traced back 5,000 years to the ancient Sumerians and was later one of the focal points of the first Olympic Games in Greece. The purists are fewer and farther between nowadays, with an entire industry of performance wrestling taking the spotlight. But the sport is still as versatile as ever, and OZY has got you covered, for a count of three.
Sure, you’ve heard of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the wildly popular spectacle that draws about 13 million viewers a week in the U.S., according to the company. With fewer of the dramatized, soap opera-esque plotlines, New Japan Pro Wrestling is on the verge of an international breakthrough. It’s the world’s second-largest choreographed grappling show but arguably the best — it bills itself more as a sporting event rather than an entertainment one. Its first-ever broadcast to the U.S. is just the beginning. Better body-slam onto that bandwagon now. Read more here.
Ever heard of kabbadi? Unless you’re from India, probably not. But the schoolkid pastime turned professional sporting tournament has been an instant hit among Indians, one of the fastest-growing middle classes in the world. Nearly half a billion people tuned in to watch the inaugural five-week season last year. It’s a weird combination of tag and wrestling that looks like Steve Irwin poking a pack of crocs with a stick and then trying to escape back to safety. But consider this: Four times as many people watched the season finale as those who tuned in to the Super Bowl. Read more here.
The first Friday of every month, a thousand fans gather to watch costumed warriors perform punishingly realistic acts of fake brutality and acrobatic carnage. Players hurl themselves at their opponents from atop rope barriers. Masochistic mania? We think yes. Its official name is Hoodslam — an amateur underground wrestling event that’s having something of a cultural moment in San Francisco’s East Bay. Take the over-the-top acrobatics of WWE and supersize it with video games, ninjas, ’80s pop culture and no small amount of weed, and you get the picture. Now see for yourself. Read and watch more here.