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Are Wrestlers Really More Athletic Than Before?

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    save all japan pro wrestling

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 04:33 PM

Or is it just a matter of the meaning of the word athletic shifting? I don't think there's any doubt that the gymnastic stunts done in today's wrestling are more impressive than those that were done in the past (now, I'm not of the opinion that automatically makes for better wrestling since I care more about the impact, but there's a story for another thread). Watching videos of the insane work-outs in the New Japan dojos as well as the stories of them is something that really made me think about this. It's true that wrestles may take more bumps today, but they also don't regularly do stuff like wrestle hour long matches, or if they do not nearly as often as it was the case before.


Interestingly you'll see most people considering the best wrestling as what happened in 80s and 90s, which was when the two really met in the middle and you had the gymnastics and the creativity of modern wrestling as well as the old school work-outs, mentality, territories, washing your senior's balls, doing a 1000 squats every day and so on.

#2 Laz

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 08:05 PM

The fitness world continues to evolve and produces better athletes overall than yesteryear, so I don't see how the argument against today's wrestlers being more athletic overall can really be made.

#3 Loss

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 09:05 AM

I think it's more in how we define athleticism. Most wrestling fans would probably say Kofi Kingston is a better athlete than Mark Henry, for example, which is completely, absolutely bonkers. I think most people say athleticism when they mean aerial ability.

#4 MoS

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 10:35 AM

I think the lens with which we measure athleticism has changes, yeah. For my money, Ric Flair might be the most athletic wrestler ever, even though he is not someone considered conventionally athletic, and because he was rather sloppy while executing his high spots. 

#5 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 10:48 AM

For me, the most "atheltic" match I've ever seen is still Clash 6, which is a 55 minute match worked like a 10 minute sprint for virtually the entire running time. In terms of pure cardio fitness, Steamboat and Flair both have to be right up there, because I've yet to see that repeated.

The closest to cutting that sort of pace in long matches are the Yatsu / Choshu vs. Jumbo / Tenryu tags from 85-6. But there it's four men who can take turns resting on the apron, and they seldom go 45+ minutes. The four pillars do not cut that sort of pace over that length of time, and post-four pillars indie wrestling of the 00s and now follows suit.

I'd make a distinction between:

- Cardio fitness / stamina (seems like Flair and Steamboat are unassailable, virtually super-human in this regard)
- Gymnastic high spots (a la Jeff Hardy)
- Strength (a la Mark Henry)

#6 rzombie1988

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 11:37 AM

Basically, through wording, WWE has taught wrestling fans that athleticism = high flying and that how many muscles you have or how ripped you are - how in shape you are.


If you guys remember the NJPW weight lifting competition in the 80's story where Andre and Hogan were supposed to take part against people like Atlas and then they dropped out because it would expose them, this destroys the argument above. People like Patera and Henry didn't have great bodies at some parts of their career, but these guys would destroy anyone in the gym.


People like Flair went 60 minutes every night at time. If that's not being in shape, I don't know what is.


Wrestlers definitely do more flashier moves than they used to, but the older guys could work enough that they didn't have to do stupid stunts.

#7 Childs

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 11:53 AM

My sense is that, as in most sports, modern training techniques have enhanced the general level of fitness, strength, quickness, etc. Does that mean the best in today's business are better athletes than Jumbo Tsuruta or Tatsumi Fujinami or Steve Grey or Jack Brisco? No. 

#8 stomperspc

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 01:33 PM

My sense is that, as in most sports, modern training techniques have enhanced the general level of fitness, strength, quickness, etc. Does that mean the best in today's business are better athletes than Jumbo Tsuruta or Tatsumi Fujinami or Steve Grey or Jack Brisco? No. 


Agreed. I think if we are discussing natural athleticism there is no noticeable difference between current wrestlers and wrestlers 30 or 40 years ago. A baseball player from the 50's who was considered a good athlete in his time probably isn't at the same general level of physical fitness a a comparably athletic baseball player from 2017.  The difference has nothing to do with their athletic abilities. The difference is attributable to scientific advancements more than anything else.

#9 Grimmas


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Posted 19 January 2017 - 01:57 PM

There is also the illusion that someone like Chris Hero is fat and out of shape. Dude is just like Flair in able to wrestle hard in really long matches, he's a great athlete.

#10 Loss

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 03:40 PM

I would argue Tamura and some of his peers, although they may not be quite as tested, as being in the same league or possibly superior to Flair and Steamboat in cardio, just because they worked an even more physically grueling style. Tamura in particular has the greatest cardiovascular conditioning of any wrestler I have ever seen.

#11 El-P



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Posted 19 January 2017 - 04:43 PM

Manami Toyota and Kyoko Inoue working a 60 minute sprint in 1995 put them in the head of that pack too.

#12 DMJ

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 05:03 PM

When Daniel Bryan was wrestling multiple times a night in 2013-14, I was amazed by his athleticism and conditioning. I mean, Cesaro and Cena have freak strength and obviously prime Mysterio or Juvi were unbelievably acrobatic, but Bryan's conditioning was just as impressive to me as he was required to essentially wrestle 30+ minutes a night, but take breaks between matches at times, bring matches up and down in terms of speed and intensity, etc.

I'd compare it to running 3 miles in one 40 minute workout (which is intense but very doable on an elliptical for someone in moderate health) to running a mile, then stopping for maybe an hour, and then jogging another mile, stopping for 5 minutes to sell or stand on the apron or whatever, and then sprinting a last mile. He was doing this it seemed like every RAW for a stretch in the summer. And, though it doesn't really need to be said, doing it really, really, really well.

#13 WingedEagle

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 05:13 PM

Training techniques, diet, science and technology have changed how athletes and performers develop so much its almost impossible to compare at any baseline.  No one today is training like Flair & Steamboat, or Jumbo & Brisco did.  Today's athletes have an edge because of so many advancements.  If you could strip all of that away there might be some means of comparison, but even cardio training is very different now than in previous generations.  


Is there any sense whether today's wrestlers come to the industry from more diverse, perhaps non-athletic/sport backgrounds than in prior generations?  

#14 joeg

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Posted 09 February 2017 - 01:01 PM

Short answer- Yes. Absolutely. You also have to think of how guys are breaking in these days for the most part. 35-40 years ago you had to know somebody who knew somebody to break in. Starting with the death of the territories, but especially since the death of ECW and WCW, WWE has actively gone out and recruited talent with no experience or connection to the business what so ever. They've actively gone after athletes who otherwise may not have ended up in the wrestling business. Baba and Inoki always went after amateur guys. This is a relatively process with the WWE over the past decade or so with Jerry Brisco shaking out the bushes looking for athletes. Anyways, that's why today's wrestlers are more athletic, its because better athletes are getting into wrestling.

#15 G. Badger

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Posted 19 February 2017 - 08:11 PM

Wrestling in the States has more of junior/cruiserweight focus than it used to. The indys of 2000s allowed smaller guys to hone their craft and build a following. Watching ROH during their peak, its essentially an all junior roster save Joe. Even he wrestled a junior style of sorts. So, I think wrestlers are more agile and have better cardio on average than in the past.

Sure you had Steamboat, Flair, and their peers but, you really don't see any Buddy Rose, Adrian Adonis, Jerry Blackwell type physiques anymore. And sadly I don't think we will...but yeah, they are better athletes now but, probably not better pro wrestlers.

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