Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wrestling with Death

William Muldoon
     Wrestling may well be the oldest sport in the world.  Every major civilization throughout history has a wrestling art as part of its sporting tradition.  In early America, grappling disciplines such as collar-and-elbow, Greco-Roman, and catch were all popular.  It is unclear when the very first professional wrestling match occurred.  The roots of American professional wrestling, defined as an activity in which participants struggle hand-in-hand primarily for the purpose of providing entertainment to spectators rather than conducting a bona fide athletic contest (1) can be traced to the post Civil War period.  The Greco-Roman champion William Muldoon was suspected of participating in rehearsed exhibitions as early as the1880's. (2) 

     Having never been fully embraced by either the sporting or entertainment communities, professional wrestling occupies a unique place in American culture. For over two decades there has been a silent epidemic of professional wrestlers dying.  It has been reported that professional wrestlers have a death rate seven times higher than the general population.  They are 12 times more likely to die of heart disease than other Americans ages 25 to 44. (3)  Despite the tremendous popularity of professional wrestling, this subject has been largely ignored by the general media and the medical establishment.

     The objectives of this site are to examine deaths and related topics in the American professional wrestling industry.


  1. Kerr, P. (February 10, 1989).  Now it can be told: those pro wrestlers are just having fun.  New York Times.
  2. Beekman, S.  Ringside:  A history of professional wrestling in America.  Westport, CT:  Praeger Publishers, 2006.
  3. Swartz, J.  (March 12, 2004).  High death rate lingers behind fun facade of pro wrestling.  USA Today.

Photographs are for illustrative purposes only.  Wrestling with Death does not claim ownership.

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