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.