chapter  2
‘Are the bouts rigged?’
The enduring possibility of sporting entertainment
ByBenjamin Litherland
Pages 30

Assessing the extent to which sport can or should be considered 'entertainment' is not as easy as it may first appear. By the turn of the twentieth century, the sporting field's key conflicts and terrain had been set, and most sports had settled upon some form of compromise between professionalism and amateurism. Professional wrestling, however, developed differently to other sports, and this chapter examines how and why that was the case. Drawing on newspaper reports and showmen autobiographies, the chapter first analyses the continued influence that the music hall had on the sport. The chapter analyses other sporting relationships with the music hall stage, particularly experiments at the Olympia in presenting football as a theatrical event. Professional wrestling was frequently used in wider debates by rival sporting bodies, local and national government, and concerned commentators in the press, all of whom declared wrestling as an example of all that was wrong with outright professionalism.