If you have trouble telling one new professional wrestling venture from another, you’re not alone. Long-time amateur wrestling fan K. Fabe feels your pain… and thinks today’s former college mat studs should feel some pain, too. The 108-year-old former college wrestler has come up with a new-style pro wrestling designed for former college wrestlers, incorporating amateur-style rules… from decades ago.
In Fabe’s new venture – called, appropriately enough, Old-School Amateur Wrestling – the action will look familiar to anyone who attended a college wrestling match in, say, 1928, or any other date in the distant past… before, as Fabe likes to say, “The panty-wastes and Nancy boys took over real wrestling with their nanny-state rules.”
Fabe has gone old-school – some might say medieval — when it comes to the rules governing his new venture. For starters, matches are nine full minutes; to score a fall, a wrestler must hold his opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a full three seconds, not one second, as today. His Old-School Amateur Wrestling venture also makes legal a number of holds and moves that have been outlawed by the NCAA and other rule-making bodies over the years since Fabe wrestled in college in the 1920s. In fact, the new venture already has a slogan: “Old Rules. Old School.”
“We’re bringing back the key lock, used to great effect by two-time NCAA heavyweight champ Jack Riley of Northwestern in the early 30s,” Fabe told College Wrestling Examiner. “That guy only started wrestling in college, yet he was cock of the walk among big men of his time. He’d get his opponent prone on the mat, then crank back the other guy’s arm high up his back, making the other guy basically submit by rolling over onto his back for the pin. We’re also allowing full-height body slams, done to perfection by Bill Koll, three-time champ at Iowa State Teachers College in the 1940s. None of this ‘drop-to-one-knee’ poppycock like we have today.
Sometimes Koll would slam the other guy down so hard, he’d be knocked out cold. At bare minimum he’d be so stunned, he couldn’t prevent Koll from pinning him.”
And… if an Old-School Amateur Wrestling wrestler were to be slammed from overhead a la Bill Koll, he won’t be landing on a foam-core mat like those that have been in use in amateur wrestling for the past half-century or more. In the words of Old-School founder Fabe, citing a well-known brand name for current-generation mats: “No Resilite – too soft, like too many wrestlers these days. Let ‘em come crashing down on a cotton-canvas mat stuffed with straw or shredded newsprint, like I did back in the day, and they’ll suddenly know what it means to ‘hit the mat.’”
Fabe’s Old-School pro venture also does away with today’s singlets; wrestlers will compete in wool tights and trunks, shirts optional, as it was back when Fabe terrorized the college mats. “Wool uniforms were hot, scratchy and would weigh a ton when they got soaked with sweat,” Fabe said. “It was like having a second opponent all over you. Today’s wrestlers, wearing their stretchy, moisture-wicking, breathable synthetic miracle fabrics, well, they’re being mollycoddled. And, our Old-School wrestling will not allow headgear, another example of the wussifaction of wrestling in America. Cauliflower ears are a badge of honor. They tell the world that you’re a wrestler.”
“Too many of today’s college wrestlers are pretty boys,” Fabe continued. “They’re too concerned about how they look in ads or on commercials or on the red carpet for awards shows. That’s the only reason they work out. Not to be stronger on the mat, but to look ripped in the photos and videos they constantly post on Instagram and Facebook. Back when I wrestled, we hoisted hay bales and hogs on the farm; we didn’t do Pilates or hot yoga or this other new-fangled nonsense. Instead of having six-pack abs, we wore the scars of battle – black eyes, busted lips, mat burns and boils and rashes from wrestling bare-chested on those rough-surface mats that were never disinfected – and we wore ‘em proudly.”
There are a couple of elements of Fabe’s Old-School Amateur Wrestling venture that are still up in the air. One is whether competitors would wrestle in rings, like those most of us have seen only in pro wrestling or boxing, but were in use at a number of Midwestern colleges until they were banned by the NCAA during World War II. “I remember some of my college matches in a wrestling ring, and see both the pros and cons,” said Fabe. “There certainly wasn’t this fleeing-the-mat silliness like there is today. Back then, you try to get away from your opponent, and you’re gonna get rope burns… or fall about four feet to the floor.”
The other fundamental issue yet to be decided: whether to allow outright submission holds. “This is something we’re going round-and-round about,” Fabe admitted. “Some would-be participants are all for it, while others say, ‘that would make your pro wrestling venture look like old-school MMA, not old-school college wrestling.’ They have a point. Even back in my day, the goal in college wrestling was to pin the other guy, not get him to tap out, as they call nowadays in MMA. Now, if you put him in a really painful hold or body slammed him hard enough that basically he gave up wrestling and allowed himself to be pinned without a fight, well, that’s his business… and we’d be all for that in Old-School Amateur Wrestling.”
K. Fabe is sincere in his wish to return to what he sees as the good-old-days of college wrestling… and, failing to convince the NCAA that it should look back at old-school rules for inspiration for today’s college mat sport, sees his new Old-School Amateur Wrestling as a pro wrestling venture that will stand apart from other similar ventures that pay former college wrestlers to compete in amateur-style events.
“Once I hung up the wrestling tights and graduated college, I spent my professional career in the advertising biz in New York,” Fabe reveals. “You know, just like that show ‘Mad Men’. Well, one of the things that drove everything we did was what we called the ‘unique selling proposition’ – some guys now call it ‘differential.’ Anyway, it’s all about making your product stand out in the marketplace, making it different than all the me-too products you’re competing against. I think these other pro ventures that sprang up in the past couple years are in that category. They all look too much alike. Heck, the same guys flit from one organization to another… With our Old-School Amateur Wrestling, we think that by turning back the clock, we can offer fans something unique in terms of amateur-style wrestling like they’ve never seen it before – unless they’re my age. And, we can offer a certain brand of wrestler who had a take-no-prisoners style back in college, and let him take that to the next level, testing his mettle against like-minded guys, and earn some serious coin doing it.”
K. Fabe’s advertising background is just one of the aspects that fuels his desire to bring back the rough-and-tumble world of college wrestling of decades ago. “For starters, I want fans who think college wrestling is now at its zenith – who think the guys of the 1920s or 30s or even the 60s weren’t that good – that yesterday’s studs were indeed studs, because they had such tough working conditions in terms of rules and gear.”
“Sadly, College wrestling has been taken over by the same folks who demand safety features in cars,” Fabe told College Wrestling Examiner. “For much of my life, I drove cars without seatbelts and padded dashboards, and I’m still alive to talk to you about it. We certainly didn’t need antilock brakes, air bags, traction control, lane-departure warning systems, back-up cameras, ad nauseum. I think those have made drivers lazy, less attentive, less alive. The same can be said for college wrestling. Too many rules, too many so-called safety features like headgear and foam mats have wrecked wrestling. I hope to do my part to help the sport ‘man up’ and return to its rugged roots.”
As for an official launch date… that, too, is up in the air, but K Fabe would like nothing better than to have the first Old School Amateur Wrestling event on April 1, 2016.