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From the 18th century on, a procession of wrestlers or strongmen appeared at fairs, in theatres, and in circuses, challenging all comers, beginning with the Englishman Thomas Topham of London in the 18th century and culminating with Eugene Sandow, the German-born international figure, who continued into the 20th century. Early in the s wrestling became a part of the training regimen of the German turnverein gymnastic movement. In the United States, wrestling was popular as a frontier sport Abraham Lincoln was a noted local wrestler , bouts usually going until one contestant submitted and with few holds barred. In the second half of the 19th century, two wrestling styles developed that ultimately dominated international wrestling: Greco-Roman wrestling and catch-as-catch-can , or freestyle wrestling. Greco-Roman wrestling, popularized first in France , was so called because it was thought to be the kind of wrestling done by the ancients. Greco-Roman wrestling involves holds made only above the waist and forbids wrapping the legs about an opponent when the wrestlers go down. Originally it was professional and popularized at international expositions held at Paris, but after its inclusion in the revived Olympic Games in , Greco-Roman wrestling events were held at subsequent Olympic Games except in and
Professional wrestling in the United States , until the s, was viewed as a legitimate sport. This view did not endure into the s, as professional wrestling became identified with modern theatrics, or "admitted fakeness" " kayfabe " , moving away from being a showcase for true competition. The scripted nature of the art has made critics view it as an illegitimate sport, particularly in comparison to boxing , mixed martial arts , amateur wrestling , and the real sport itself, wrestling. No major promoter or wrestler denies that modern professional wrestling has predetermined match outcomes. Through the advent of television in the s and cable in the s, professional wrestling began appearing in powerful media outlets, reaching never before seen numbers of viewers. Throughout the s, professional wrestling achieved highs in both viewers and financial success during a time of fierce competition among competing promotions , such as WWF, World Championship Wrestling , and Extreme Championship Wrestling. The nature of professional wrestling changed dramatically to better fit television, enhancing character traits and storylines.When amateur wrestling , especially freestyle wrestling, gained prominence as an amateur sport after the Civil War , the Amateur Athletic Union first began to regulate it, sponsoring national tournaments and local athletic clubs in amateur wrestling. But collegiate wrestling particularly in institutions of higher education and secondary schools began to differ from freestyle wrestling. The decline of amateurism in the United States loosened the AAU's hold over the governance of amateur sports. Yet because the AAU regulated a vast assortment of sports, the collegiate wrestling authorities still had little say about its governance. The lackluster performance of the United States Olympic teams sponsored by the AAU in , and a similar performance by its World Teams the following year, prompted many to call for a national wrestling federation that would challenge the AAU in its regulation of the sport. Olympic team in and who later became wrestling coach at Oklahoma State University.