History of Catch Wrestling

“Submission from any Position”

Catch has a long history, originating during the Middle Ages in Lancashire, England when knights armor became too difficult to pierce easily.  The had to be knocked from their mounts and engaged in hand to hand combat.  Knights would then immobilize each other and even break the opponents joints to make it easier to kill them.  It arrived in North America via immigrants and world travelers around the mid 1800’s and quickly began to dominate other wrestling styles.  It became the top sport in America by the turn of the 20th century.

Billy Riley and Riley’s Gym are as important to the history of Catch Wrestling as Kano and Maeda are to the history of Jiu Jitsu. Riley’s Gym in particular produced wrestlers as Karl Gotch and Billy Robinson.  These two wrestler’s impacted the creation of Pro Wrestling Strong Style, which lead to Shooto, Rings, Pancrase and Pride.  After Olympian Carl Gotch (Istaz) trained with the famous Billy Riley, he moved to the U.S. and eventually to Japan.  This is when an early form of MMA, Shootfighting, was born when striking was mixed in.  Shooto and Pancrase competitions were formed by two of Gotch’s students.  You may remember Ken Shamrock was a shootfighter and Bas Rutten was a champion in Pancrase before he became champion in UFC.  It’s no surprise that Gotch’s lineage and fingerprint can be traced throughout some of the United States greatest wrestlers, coaches, and teams.

Many professional wrestlers in WWE, TNA, WCW, NWA and other new and old promotions are/were Catch Wrestlers first.  Catch Wrestlers used to make money at carnivals and fairs, challenging all comers.  Audiences could place bets and money was to be made.  There are even stories of traveling wrestlers making temporary homes in new places, until they eventually pick a fight with the towns biggest, baddest, fighter… and of course there would be betting involved.

Catch Wrestling also gave birth to Luta Livre when it arrived in Brazil around the 20th century, becoming Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s biggest rivalry in the years to come, and creating the backdrop for some very famous fights.

If you want to learn more about modern catch wrestling, there is no better way than to join a school and train.  Don’t be afraid of “the violent art’s” reputation.  Most schools are thrilled to have you join the team and teach you what they know.  Catch Wrestling is still a very effective martial art and can be seen in the most popular events such as UFC and Metamoris.

Learn Catch Wrestling at Grappling Mastery!

Some Famous Catch Wrestlers:

  • Billy Riley
  • Karl Gotch (Istaz)
  • Billy “The British Lion” Robinson
  • Gene “Godfather of Grappling” LeBell
  • Kazushi Sakaraba
  • Josh Barnett
  • Ken Shamrock
  • Eric Paulson
  • Megumi “Mega Megu” Fujii
  • Antonio Inoki
  • Ad Santel
  • Evan “The Strangler” Lewis
  • Ed “The Stranler” Lewis
  • John “Nebraska Tiger Man” Pesek
  • Tom Jenkins
  • Frank Gotch
  • Lou Thesz
  • Martin “Farmer” Burns
  • Tatsumi Fujinami
  • Hiro Matsuda
  • Osamu Kido
  • Yoshiaki Fujiwara
  • Ikuhisa Minowa
  • Edwin Bibby
  • Joseph Acton
  • Tom Connors
  • Dan McLeod
  • George “The Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt
  • George Bothner
  • Dan Kolov
  • Stanislaus Zbyszko
  • Wladek Zbyszko
  • Billy Sandow
  • Earl Caddock
  • Joe Stecher
  • Clarence “The Octopus” Eklund
  • Joe “Toots” Mondt
  • Ivan Seric / Jack Sherry
  • Peter Sauer / Ray Steele
  • Bob Robinson / Billy Joyce
  • Bert Assirati
  • William “Pops” Wicks
  • Akira Maeda
  • Minoru Suzuki
  • Masakatsu Funaki
  • Kiyoshi Tamura
  • Takanori Gomi “Fireball Kid”
  • Satoru “Catch Wrestling Koala” Kitaoka
  • Nobuhiko Takada

Leave a comment: