Photo courtesy Journalist 1st Class Kristin Fitzsimmons / U.S. Department of Defense
Legendary wrestler Hulk Hogan follows in the footsteps of Gorgeous George as he struts his stuff.
Professional wrestling has seen thousands of performers step between the ropes, but only a few have left a lasting mark on the industry. Here's a sample:
- Frank Gotch - Generally recognized as the first legitimate champion, Gotch wrestled in the early 1900s. He also took part in one of the first "screwjobs" in pro wrestling history. Challenger George Hackenschmidt had been injured while training (possibly by someone hired by Gotch), but agreed to lose as long as Gotch let him win one of the three falls so he wouldn't look bad. Instead, Gotch trounced Hackenschmidt and won the first two falls.
- Lou Thesz - A longtime champion, Thesz wrestled from the 1940s to the 1960s and held a winning streak that lasted years. He was the Hulk Hogan of his era.
- Gorgeous George - George Wagner was a competent wrestler in the 1930s and 40s when he came up with an idea that would completely change the face of wrestling. Wagner created the character of Gorgeous George, a blonde haired, furred robe-wearing prima donna that audiences hated -- and they poured into arenas to boo him. From the first use of entrance music to a female attendant spraying "disinfectant" around the ring, the Gorgeous One laid the foundations for the theatrics that are the core of modern pro wrestling.
- Bruno Sammartino - Italian-born Sammartino is widely regarded as the greatest wrestler of the post-war era. Sammartino relied on athleticism and skill rather than any gimmick, and fans still respect him for his integrity and dedication. Sammartino recently refused a spot in the Wrestling Hall of Fame, saying that pro wrestling had become vulgar and harmful to children.
- Hulk Hogan - Terry Bollea is the face of pro wrestling for many fans who grew up watching during the 1980s. His tanned frame, blonde hair and yellow bandana evoke fond memories of "Hulkamania" in anyone who watched him wrestle. Hogan was the biggest star of his era and one of the most popular faces of all time.
To become a wrestler, you have to go to wrestling school. There are several schools scattered throughout the United States and Canada. Tuition is usually a few thousand dollars, and the training is extremely difficult. Constant endurance and weight training, combined with endless repetition of falls, slams and throws, can break down even the toughest future wrestler.
Once a prospective wrestler has completed wrestling school, his instructor will use his contacts to try to place him in the major promotions. There's no guarantee, however. Many graduates have to pay their dues in smaller promotions and work their way to the top.
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