Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that wrestling be removed from the 2020 Olympic Games. The recommendation was ultimately made by secret ballot of several rounds, and wrestling was voted out from a final group that included modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey.
This is an unsettling decision for many in the pro wrestling community, a landscape that is full of successful amateur wrestlers at all levels, including former Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle, a TNA wrestler.
“I was really in shock [when I heard the news],” Angle said in a phone interview today. “It’s the oldest sport in the world. It’s like pulling the 100-meter dash out of track and field. It doesn’t make sense at all. To drop wrestling shows that the IOC has no tradition.
“[Modern] pentathlon was the one was supposed to be dropped. They threw wrestling to the dogs. I’m pretty upset about it. I would have picked the pentathlon. Or what about handball or badminton? Do we really need that?”
Though there will still be yearly world championships for amateur wrestlers, Angle said the Olympics is the ultimate dream for so many competitors.
“That’s all I dreamt about. I didn’t have fun as a kid. I didn’t go out and go to the movies. [Wrestling] is all I did. I was a kid with a dream. I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me. I had a very selfish childhood. I’m wondering will these kids today still continue to wrestle or will they give it up because they won’t be in the Olympics?”
FILA, the governing body of amateur wrestling, can appeal the IOC’s decision. If they are successful, wrestling can return to the 2024 Olympics but will remain excluded from the 2020 games.
Gerald Brisco, an accomplished amateur wrestler and now a scout with WWE, is also distraught with the news.
“As a scout I communicate with amateur wrestling coaches. I’ve received 50 emails a day from upset coaches across the country," he said. "To me, it’s a big blow. It’s an uneducated blow that these people over in Switzerland made. It’s a travesty for the sport. It’s one of the oldest sports known to mankind, a sport that demands respect. A bunch of men sitting in an office made a rash judgment call on such an important sport in our civilization.”
One thing the WWE Hall of Famer does foresee is an increase in the amount of amateur wrestlers who become interested in WWE sooner in their amateur careers.
“In a selfish way, [the decision] helps me because there’s no more Olympic dreams," Brisco said. "I’ve lost a few [possible candidates for WWE] that say, 'I want to be an Olympic champion,' to which I say, 'Go and fulfill your Olympic dream and then come back to us.' Now there will be two options: WWE and MMA. It will probably make my job a little easier. There’s not that dream of an Olympic championship. I hate to put it in that light but it might make my job a little easier.”
Some amateur wrestlers choose the sport because of their love for pro wrestling, like former WWE superstar Shane “Hurricane” Helms, who wrestled in high school and in Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling tournaments for seven years. He actually discovered amateur wrestling after falling in love with pro wrestling.
“[When I heard the news], I immediately got hot," Helms said. "To me, wrestling is the ultimate of pure sports. There’s no equipment. It’s you against somebody else. That’s the essence of what the Olympics all about. With sports like gun shooting, ribbon dancing, horse riding, with all due respect to those sports, how could you even touch wrestling? There’s a long list of other [sports] that could disappear and people wouldn’t notice.”
Several WWE superstars took to Twitter to express their feelings about the decision. See their statuses below:
Alberto del Rio