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Pro Wrestling vs Amateur Wrestling – Key Differences Explained

Photo by Miguel Discart & Chris Hunkeler / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pro wrestling such as WWE and amateur wrestling both have the same roots but are very different from each other. Amateur wrestling skills are a good foundation for Pro wrestling and are transferrable to the Pro arena. So what differences set amateur and professional wrestling apart from each other?

Amateur wrestling is a sport and Professional wrestling is entertainment. The rules differ substantially, and Pro wrestling allows strikes and acrobatics, whereas Amateur wrestling does not, and competitors are not paid.

Most pro wrestlers have some sort of wrestling background, but it is not a requirement for the activity. There are significant differences between amateur and pro wrestling that make them two completely different undertakings that have very few similarities other than their roots. We will delve into the differences between the two, so you can decide between sport and entertainment.

What Is Pro Wrestling?

Photo by Miguel Discart / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pro wrestling has its roots in sports wrestling insofar as it uses sports wrestling as a basis for some of the moves and techniques. However, this is where the similarity ends.

The other face of Pro wrestling is entertainment, which borrows from the theatrical and incorporates it into physical activity.

Pro wrestling is a theatrical performance where the players are all athletes, and the “actors” require physical ability to adequately play their roles.

The matchups in Pro wrestling have a theme, with good guys and villains, and some even have a storyline that persists from bout to bout. Pro wrestling is considered to be a form of performance art rather than a sport, and the performance is played out in the wrestling ring.

Due to the physical nature of Pro wrestling, the performers are still considered athletes and need to be in peak physical condition to avoid injury during the high-flying antics required of them in the ring.

Pro wrestling has its roots in classical wrestling and catch wrestling but has grown to incorporate melodrama, acts of physical strength, acrobatic maneuvers, improvised weapons, and very flexible rules.

Many people consider Pro wrestling to be fake wrestling since there is usually a pre-determined outcome for the fight, based on the theatrics rather than skills of one opponent overcoming the other.

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What Is Amateur(Sport) Wrestling?

Amateur or sport wrestling is significantly different from Professional wrestling. Amateur wrestling has taken a different path and has more closely followed its roots in ancient forms of wrestling.

Amateur wrestling is a sport rather than a form of mass entertainment like Professional wrestling. Wrestling using similar rules to Amateur wrestling is a popular sport at college level in the USA and is termed Collegiate wrestling.

Competitors who are accomplished at college-level wrestling often go on to pursue the following jobs after college:

  1. Become a wrestling coach.
  2. Compete in the Olympics if highly skilled.
  3. Become an MMA fighter

The rules in Amateur wrestling are different and more strict than those applied in Pro wrestling. There are substantial differences in what moves are allowed, the format of the wrestling space, and the duration of the match. You can read about the general rules of wrestling here.

Amateur wrestling is governed by the United World Wrestling or UWW organization which oversees the rules, regulations, and competition organization worldwide. 

The UWW oversees many different forms of Amateur wrestling, including Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling which are the most popular forms.

Amateur wrestling has been accepted as a sport in two different formats in the Olympic games.

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Pro Wrestling vs Amateur Wrestling – Key Differences

Several differences set Professional and Amateur wrestling apart from each other and separate the competitors and spectators.

The main differences between the two wrestling forms include the following.

  • Rules. The rules in Pro wrestling are often unclear and generally disregarded by the competitors. The rules in Amateur wrestling are strictly adhered to with penalties for breaking the rules.
  • Aim. Amateur wrestling is a sporting competition, while Professional wrestling is entertainment.
  • Platform. Amateur wrestling takes place on a mat. Pro wrestling is conducted in an elevated ring similar to a boxing ring.
  • High-flying antics. No high-flying antics are allowed in Amateur wrestling.
  • Strikes. Pro wrestling allows strikes with the forearm and straight arm, known as a clothesline. No strikes or blows are allowed in Amateur wrestling.
  • Outcome. In Pro Wrestling, the outcome is pre-determined. In Amateur wrestling, the outcome is based on a competitor’s superior skill.
  • Use of weapons. No weapons are allowed to be used in amateur wrestling. Pro wrestlers use any available object as a weapon against their opponent.

Amateur Wrestling vs Professional Wrestling – Which One Is Tougher?

While many consider Pro wrestling to be fake, it does not detract from the fact that the competitors need to be in peak physical condition to perform the antics required in the ring.

Amateur wrestling uses fewer moves, operates within a set of rules, and does not require the physicality and acrobatics typically seen in Pro wrestling.

Consequently, Pro wrestling is seen as a tougher undertaking than Amateur wrestling, simply due to the additional demands placed on the competitors’ bodies.

Why Is Amateur Wrestling Not Popular?

Amateur wrestling is popular among athletes as a sport and often as a foundation sport to other combat sports such as MMA, but it is not popular among spectators.

From a spectator’s perspective, Amateur wrestling is viewed as slow and less exciting since many of the moves the competitors make to get the upper hand is difficult to understand for the general public.

Is Olympic Wrestling Considered Amateur?

Olympic wrestling styles are only from the sport or Amateur wrestling camp, and as such, the competitors are seen as amateurs.

While the competitors in wrestling at the Olympic level may receive some compensation from their country’s government and sponsors, it is not seen as a career in which the sportsmen get paid to participate.

What Types Of Wrestling Are In The Olympics?

There are several different forms of Amateur wrestling, but the two main forms that have been included to compete in the Olympic games are Freestyle wrestling and Greco-Roman wrestling.

While there are many other forms and styles of Amateur wrestling, these are the only two wrestling disciplines that have been included in the Olympic Games.

How Many Types Of Wrestling Are There?

Wrestling has been a part of different cultures around the world for centuries, each with different styles and rules.

Amateur wrestling has in excess of 20 different variations worldwide, including the largest category, Folkstyle wrestling, which covers more than 11 different cultural wrestling styles from many different countries.

There are also some professional cultural styles of wrestling, such as Sumo wrestling from Japan and Lucha Libre from Mexico, which has since transitioned into entertainment more than competition wrestling.

What Is The Most Common Wrestling Style?

The most common styles of wrestling are Greco-Roman wrestling and Freestyle wrestling, which are both administered by the UWW.

These two wrestling styles are the most popular because they are the only two styles represented in the Olympic Games.

Scholastic wrestling(folkstyle wrestling) is also very popular in American high schools and middle schools. This wrestling style is basically a lighter version of collegiate wrestling with some slight modifications.

Why Is Wrestling Not A Professional Sport?

Amateur wrestling is not considered a dramatic, exciting sport from a spectator’s point of view. This results in wrestling matches not gaining much support from spectators as Pro wrestling which offers spectacle and entertainment.

The salaries for professional sportsmen usually come from ticket sales, advertising during events, and merchandise sales around the sporting event. If a sport does not have public appeal, it does not draw crowds of spectators. Consequently, advertisers are not interested in promotions during the event, and ticket sales are not lucrative enough.

Why Is Real Wrestling Called “Amateur” Wrestling And Fake Wrestling Called “Pro” Wrestling?

In general, an athlete paid for their performance and where they can turn their sport into a career is termed a professional. The Pro wrestling circuit is all about entertainment, which generates sufficient income to pay the athletes to participate or perform.

Competitors in Amateur wrestling are not paid for their participation in the sport, and the sport is termed “amateur” as a result. Amateur wrestlers may receive compensation and sponsorships for their Olympic and tournament-level participation, but it is usually not enough to make a living.


The differences between Amateur and Professional wrestling are not only significant, but the two are also in different sectors. Professional wrestling is entertainment and is a business, whereas Amateur wrestling is strictly a sporting event.

Even so, participants in Amateur and Professional wrestling are considered athletes since both disciplines require a high level of physical conditioning, strength, agility, and stamina to participate!