|No more of this at the Olympics? Not a big deal.|
Photo Credit: WrestlingsBest.com
Anyway, as with anything that gets axed from the Olympics, there is a major push to get this excise overturned and to keep amateur wrestling part of Games for the indefinite future. I understand the fervor associated with it, but to me, it illustrates a problem with the way society at large tends to work. Either you're part of the cabal or you're irrelevant, and it's just as much the fault of the people getting gypped here as it is the people doing the screwing.
If wrestling were that important to the people who don't want to see it taken from the Olympic slate, it really shouldn't matter that it is part of the organized event. Wrestling does not need the Olympics any more than the Olympics need wrestling. Yes, having the built-in hype machine and free advertisement of the Olympiad and the partner networks that broadcast it makes things exponentially easier. It's also not like the amateur wrestling world has something to fall back on either like baseball when it was dumped from the schedule a few years back. When that game was 86ed, Major League Baseball organized the World Baseball Classic to supplement its big money main show with a side course for the nationalistic appetite in us all.
Again, WWE is about germane to amateur wrestling as Vivid Video is to legitimate theater. However, to pretend that they don't have a vested interest in the health and welfare of amateur wrestling as a sport is a lie. It's no secret that they scour the amateur ranks, especially college, looking for mat masters to transition into their own company. They even used Angle's inspirational 1996 gold medal run as basis for his entire character, even if it was more of an ironic execution of it.
And they really might be the third biggest company in the country who does benefit from the existence of amateur wrestling. In Ultimate Fighting Championships, mat wrestling is less a motif and more a strategy. Of course, the biggest company to benefit from it, the NCAA, is technically not for profit, but they certainly don't act like it at times. It can be argued that wrestling is the fourth biggest sport at the college level after football, basketball, and hockey, and at some schools like Iowa, Penn State, and Minnesota, it's second only to football.
What am I driving at here? Well, what makes the Olympics such a titanic entity? Tradition is part of it, but money and exposure are the two big things. A grassroots world wrestling Championship event held by only the national and international governing bodies would flop on a relative scale. However, if they were to partner with UFC, the NCAA, and most importantly from the point of view of the typical reader of this site, the WWE, along with all their sponsors and "corporate Champions," there's no doubt that the global itch for wrestling would get scratched in a satisfying manner. Wrestling fans get to have their nationalistic thirsts quenched. The NCAA gets more recognition and moral standing, which are the only things they seem to value as much as the money they distribute among their crusty old men deans and athletic directors. And UFC and WWE? It's advertising and scouting rolled all up into one.
Of course, the concentration right now is going to be focused on keeping wrestling in the Olympics. That's fine, and it's important to fans who fear change and/or love tradition. However, there's a strong case for the sport to make a clean break and go into its own bubble. It's clear the Olympics are going more and more towards an audience that likes bourgeois non-sports like dressage and golf. Don't let the addition of rugby, perhaps the most brutal team sport on dry land, fool you. The attention paid to Ann Romney last year in London marked what I fear might be a sea change in what the Games are all about. Wrestling is too gritty, too real for them it seems.
So, let the people who aren't afraid of being considered outcasts be the ones who benefit from it. Even if amateur and pro fans don't have as much overlap as would be ideal, there's no denying that at least from a logical point of view, the only things the two branches of wrestling need to stay relevant in the absence of being included in the silly international reindeer games are each other.