For the ancient Greeks, wrestling was a very big deal. It virtually defined the original Olympic Games as the marquee event. Wrestling history has recorded various forms of wrestling (and boxing), and many of the details as to how they have evolved.
Professional wrestling, a sport and performing art, is a popular form of entertainment in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Japan. Beginning in France around 1830, wrestling became a popular sport in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and North America during the 19th Century.
The French developed the modern Greco-Roman style which was finalized by the 19th century and by then; wrestling was featured in many fairs and festivals. Greco-Roman wrestling and modern freestyle wrestling were soon regulated in formal competitions, in part resulting from the rise of gymnasiums and athletic clubs.
On continental Europe, prize money was offered in large sums to the winners of Greco-Roman tournaments, and freestyle wrestling spread rapidly in the United Kingdom and in the United States after the American Civil War. Wrestling professionals soon increased the popularity of Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, worldwide.
- Greco-Roman wrestling became an event at the first modern Olympic Games, in Athens in 1896. Since 1908, the event has been in every Summer Olympics.
- Freestyle wrestling became an Olympic event, in 1904. Women’s freestyle wrestling was added to the Summer Olympics in 2004.
Since 1921, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) has regulated amateur wrestling as an athletic discipline, while professional wrestling has largely become infused with theatrics but still requires athletic ability. Today, various countries send national wrestling teams to the Olympics, including Russia, Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, India, Azerbaijan, Gambia, the United States and several ex-U.S.S.R nations.