When you think about wrestling, you might think about your next training session, new moves you want to try out, how you’re getting on in the leaderboards, and other things related to this year’s high school wrestling season. But for many people across the world, when they hear wrestling, they think WWE.

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. is responsible for much of the world’s view of professional wrestling. However, those involved in scholastic/folkstyle wrestling know they’re two different worlds. One is an Olympic sport, the other is a wild form of entertainment. Yet despite the drama and glamour that comes with WWE, traditional and entertainment wrestling share a lot in common. 

Scripted, but not fake

Kurt Angle made his WWE debut in 1999 and quickly established himself as a top superstar, going on to become six-time world champion. We know the events in wrestling are staged, often leading many to believe it’s totally fake. But there’s a difference between being scripted and being fake. The physicality in wrestling is real, and you have to be in top condition to compete, with trials often consisting of gruelling tests of mental and physical strength. 

Kurt Angle signed his contract with WWE after winning the gold medal for wrestling at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. After fractured vertebrae, herniated discs, and pulled neck muscles, Angle managed to reach the top of his game. So what was next?

WWE chairman at the time, Vince McMahon, approached Angle with a contract. But Angle would only sign it if it met his conditions: he could never lose. He had just won the Olympic gold medal after all, but he never got that contract. He just didn’t get entertainment wrestling. That was until a few years later, after years of watching and understanding the industry, Angle asked to tryout for WWE, and his contract came three days later.

From the mat to the ring

What Angle didn’t understand was how professional entertainment wrestling works. You need the fitness, skill, and strength of folkstyle wrestlers. But you need to be able to act and improvise, never losing face in the public eye or in the ring. It’s a completely different ballgame. But, there have been plenty of high school and college wrestlers turned WWE stars over the years who show folkstyle wrestling can prepare you for WWE and even MMA. These include:

  • 2012 Olympian Chas Betts (Chad Gable)
  • Three-time NCAA championship finalist Nathan Everhart (Jason Jordan)
  • Three-time mid-American Conference champion Nick Nemeth (Dolph Ziggler)
  • Jake Hagar (Jack Swagger), now turned MMA fighter

These are only a few names; there are many more in WWE and MMA. WWE has become a new career path for many amateur wrestlers. The industry used to be closed off to amateur wrestlers, operating on a closed basis. However, today WWE often send talent scouts to amateur competitions, opening the industry up to more potential. 

The life of a professional wrestler used to be limited, but today, there is more room to diversify. There’s MMA or WWE, and there are plenty of examples showing how former high school and college wrestlers can be successful in both. 

The most important thing to remember to become a successful wrestler is to always wear the right protection. The future looks bright for a lot of wrestlers looking to go pro, and wearing the right mouthguard makes sure you can continue to edge closer to your goals. Take a look at OPRO’s mouthguards on our website.