Vendetta x Daily DDT
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There has long been a debate as to whether or not professional wrestling should or should not be considered a sport. This is thanks to the largely scripted and theatrical nature, making it more akin to a TV series designed to replicate what has become known as amateur wrestling that includes other martial-art influences and acrobatics being incorporated into the modern product.

The amateur wrestling squad at Vendetta has already covered their perceptions of professional wrestling on Daily DDT here. Now it is time for Daily DDT’s pro-wrestling experts to tackle their own beliefs and opinions surrounding amateur wrestling and its influence on the product we view nowadays.

Describe the importance of amateur wrestling and the impact it can have on professsional wrestling

Raphael Garcia (Daily DDT Co-Expert): “Amateur wrestling could help set the groundwork for a professional wrestler’s ability to put together moves and technical matches. Look at individuals like Chad Gable, Kurt Angle, Dolph Ziggler, and others. Even the likes of Ronda Rousey. They all have legit grappling styles that can be applied to the over-the-top nature of professional wrestling. Just like with mixed martial arts, wrestling is a solid foundation to come with for those looking to break through.”

Sam Gladen (Daily DDT Contributor): “To put it plainly there would be no Professional Wrestling as we understand it today without Amateur wrestling. Professional wrestling can trace its roots back hundreds of years to strong man competitions and even the wrestling matches that were held in the court of Caesar himself. Without “amateur” wrestling this artform that I love would cease to exist. As for its current impact? The rise of the Pure Title in Ring Of Honor and success of guys like Chad Gable on SmackDown show that even if your typical wrestling fan isn’t watching amateur wrestling they’re being directly influenced by it.”

Sam Schipman (Daily DDT Contributor): “I’ll admit that I don’t know much about amateur wrestling. I think that professional wrestlers with an amateur background probably approach it differently. They have a different set of skills & mentality when approaching both opponents & matches. This isn’t a bad thing and can add to the matches they’re in as they can flawlessly execute mat-based moves. This can be especially important in technical style/Pure rules matches.”

When you think of an amateur turned professional wrestler, who is the first name who pops to mind and why?

Raphael: “Kurt Angle by a mile. Especially with the Olympics going on. Angle hit the pinnacle of the sport, winning a gold medal with a broken-freaking neck. But at that point, he could have gone on to do anything. He could have even been a champion in mixed martial arts. Looking at his career, he reached the top of both worlds.”

SG: “I think there are three main guys that come to mind when you think about Amateur wrestlers turned pro. Brock Lesnar, a former two time NCAA All American and one time NCAA Heavyweight Wrestling Champion as well as being one of the most dominant WWE Champions of the last 20 years. Some may even find their minds shifting to the current WWE Champion Bobby Lashley who was a 4 time All American wrestler as well as a 3 time amateur wrestling world champion. For me though the guy that immediately jumps to mind is the GOAT Kurt Angle. The only WWE Champion to also win a Gold Medal at the Olympics which he did in 1996 as a heavyweight. He was my introduction to amateur wrestling when I was only 10 years old watching him with his medals on Monday Night Raw.”

SS: “Kurt Angle is synonymous with amateur-turned-pro wrestler. He was prolific in what he did, especially winning gold with a broken freaking neck. He’s the standard for amateur-turned-pro wrestler.. I also thought of Chad Gable. He’s just incredible. His German suplexes are a thing of beauty. He also has incredible strength.”

Do you believe present promotions invest enough in amateur wrestling talent?

Raphael: “I don’t think we truly know the answer to this question. WWE has made a clear investment in Gable Stevenson, who is a name that is about to blow up in amateur wrestling. He has the potential to be a big star wherever he decides to compete next. But outside of that, we don’t really hear too much about other moves being made to bring in amateur wrestlers that perform well in that space and then move over to professional wrestling. I think there would be a big opportunity if promotions invested in the women who compete on a high level, but we haven’t seen that yet either.”

SG: “This is hard to quantify because there are so few true amateur wrestling superstars. When you look at promotions like WWE and their history, Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Bobby Lashley, and Chad Gable, who have all been active within the last 3 years. (Kurt’s official retirement from in-ring competition came in 2019, and Brock Lesnar has not been seen since before the COVID-19 Pandemic). But all these guys had their heyday in amateur wrestling in the 90’s or early 00’s with the exception of Gable who won the U.S. Olympic trials in 2012. It could be that less and less amateur wrestlers are looking to make the change over to the WWE or even AEW (Jake Hager was a 2006 All American and has the most pins in Oklahoma wrestling history). I’m honestly not sure.”

SS: “Not really. They tend to focus on indie names, not that that is a bad thing. That’s who I also focus on. I don’t know how many amateur wrestlers want to make the move to pro wrestling. I do think it’s a more  untapped resource that is full of talent.”

Is there a big enough spotlight cast on the amateur side of wrestling?

Raphael: “No. As I mentioned, I don’t think there’s enough done to bring in the top names from amateur wrestling into professional wrestling. Especially on the women’s side. There are a lot of women that could come in and have an impact, but it doesn’t seem like big-time promotions do a lot of work to bring them over once their time competing is done.”

SG: “I think that the reestablishment of the Ring Of Honor Pure Championship using amateur wrestling rules within the confines of the squared circle has definitely helped to shine a spotlight on the amateur wrestling skills that can really help a professional wrestler flesh out their skills. That being said, there is always more that can be done. MLW could bring back the Garini cash challenge, IMPACT could allow Josh Alexander – the current X-Division champion who wrestles in a singlet and amateur headpiece to hold more pure style matches. WWE could allow Bobby Lashley and Chad Gable to show their skills on the mat. AEW could allow Jake Hager to challenge whomever he feuds with next to an amateur wrestling match.”

SS: “No, I don’t think a majority of pro wrestling fans consider amateur wrestling. If there were a bigger spotlight, more probably would.”

Give one closing statement on your perception of amateur wrestling, and whether or not you recommend it.

Raphael: “I 100% recommend amateur wrestling. There are some matches and athletes in that space that would blow your mind. Go watch Kyle Dake, David Taylor, J’den Cox, Gable Stevenson, and so many more. Adeline Gray, Helen Maroulis, and others on the women’s side. There are wrestlers out there that compete well and have big personalities that would translate to professional wrestling if they were given the opportunity. The big matches are fun, competitive, and intense. Start with the Summer Olympics and go from there.”

SG: “Amateur wrestling is a much different animal than professional wrestling but it exists in such a unique lane within this huge world of wrestling and all its subculture. I would recommend any Pro Wrestling fan to at least give it a real shot and try and watch an event. It could click for you and it could not. But that’s the best part of being a wrestling fan. There are so many different ways of expression within the artform. This is just a different version of it.”

SS: “I can’t say whether or not I recommend it because it’s not something I can watch. As with anything, support for what you like.”

Check out more from the Daily DDT squad here.

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