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The 1925 Match That Ensured Pro Wrestling's Future Would Be Fixed

Professional boxing, professional football, professional basketball, professional wresting. One of these things is not like the others. Pro wrestling is performance art, following a script for the audience's entertainment. It wasn't always like that. In the early 20th century, wrestling was a legitimate competition like any other, with rules and challengers hoping to beat the champions. And it wasn't nearly as fun as the modern version.  

But professional wrestling began to change in a way unlike anything ever seen in sports history. While boxing had known to be fixed from time to time, and the “Black Sox Scandal” had briefly tarnished Major League Baseball, no legitimate sport had ever made the full transition into what the WWE now calls “sports entertainment”—fully scripted, predetermined matchups, with chosen champions.

That change didn’t happen overnight. But wrestling historians look to one match, which completely altered pro wrestling’s history: Lewis vs. Munn, Kansas City, Miss., Jan. 8, 1925.

“That really kind of put the stamp on it,” [National Wrestling Hall of Fame director Kyle] Klingman said. “This completely changed the landscape of professional wrestling.”

So what happened at the match between champion Ed “Strangler” Lewis (pictured above) and college football star Wayne “Big” Munn? Read the story of the wrestling match that changed everything, and how it played out over time, at Atlas Obscura.

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While there are some 'surprises' today, it's just too predictable and too unbelievable at times. Yes, you know it's fixed, but there has to be some level of rationality to it. When you have a guy they are building up versus a nobody, you already know the outcome so it's not watchable. When you have two well known opponents and one is a foot shorter and 100 pounds less, it's difficult to suspend belief when you have the little guy win, it's unwatchable. The longer matches today follow the same predictable 1 count, then 2 count, then pin formula, it's easy to predict a winner. The problem is all of these devices are used literally every week. I personally enjoy wrestling, but the amount of product that's watchable can be DVR'd and watched in 30 minutes. They need the personality to mask the predictability and lack of rationality. Yet most don't have that nor storylines that build more than two weeks so one is interested in watching. While the 'Atlas Obscura' article seems to imply actual wrestling was boring, I think it would be novel to not be able to figure out the winner before it happens. But then I suppose you couldn't time shows precisely and 'build storylines'.
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