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From the Olympics to the Pros


There is a rich connection between professional wrestling and the Olympics.

Many pro wrestlers have backgrounds from the various Olympiads through the years, and, of course, not all of them from the amateur wrestling competitions. There have been weightlifters, basketball players, judoka, swimmers, and even a bobsledder who turned to pro wrestling over the years.

Enjoy our look back through the years!

CANADA

GEORGE LARSON

After competing in swimming at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles as a freestyler in the 100 and as the anchor for the 4x100 relay team, Larson got to go back again in 1936 to Berlin, but fizzled out in the 100. He later became a police officer and a pro wrestler around Ontario as "Irish" Tom Collins. A medallist in the Empire Games, Larson died September 20, 2008.
  • Interview: Olympic swimmer turned wrestler hits 90

    HARRY MADISON

    At the 1932 Olympics, Harry Madison was a light heavyweight freestyle wrestler who lost both his bouts, the second of which to fellow future pro wrestler Pete Mehringer of the U.S. "He worked for Canadian Pacific emptying the box cars. He wrestled on the side for years and years," said Mad Dog Vachon. "He was a tough son-of-a-bitch."
  • Feature: Harry Madison: Canadian Olympian turned ruffian

    EARL MCCREADY

    Perhaps the greatest amateur wrestler Canada has ever produced, Earl McCready represented Canada at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. He failed to place in the unlimited heavyweight division. Back in North America, enrolled at Oklahoma A & M, and became the first-ever winner of three-straight NCAA wrestling championships, from 1928 to 1930. His pro wrestling career spanned another 30 years.
  • Feature: SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Earl McCready

    FERNAND PAYETTE

    Fernand Payette finished tied in 4th place in the light-heavyweight freestyle wrestling division in 1948, his only losses being against the silver and bronze medalists. He was a very good friend of Mad Dog Vachon and the two of them broke in at the same time in 1951 for promoter Gerry Legault. He wrestled until the mid-'50s in Montreal but never made it big. "He wasn't able to simulate. He understood the business. But he had too much respect for his background as an amateur wrestler to lose against guys that he could've beaten legit," said Paul Leduc.

    BEN SHARPE

    In 1936, a 20-year-old Ben Sharpe went to London, England as an oarsman for the Canadian Olympic rowing team. While the Olympics were a wonderful experience, Ben was bitter about the finish. "We were really fast," he recalled in a 1979 interview in his hometown Hamilton Spectator newspaper. "At our trials at Port Dalhousie, we set a record speed which has still never been broken, but they promised us a special boat for the Olympics. The boat we received had originally been built for the British team, but they discovered a warp in the bow which slowed it down an awful lot, and then they gave it to us." He later became a huge star in professional wrestling, especially in San Francisco and in Japan, where he and his brother Mike were the first major gaijin stars.
  • Feature: PWHF inductees Ben & Mike Sharpe were giants

    MAURICE VACHON, a.k.a Mad Dog Vachon

    "It's an incredible feeling. It's something that's very hard to explain," Vachon said about his experiences representing Canada at the 1948 Olympics in London, England, as a young man of just 18 years of age. "It's something that makes you absolutely and totally very proud." The future Mad Dog competed at 174 pounds in amateur wrestling and finished in seventh place, having been eliminated in the third round.
  • Interview: Young Olympian was not yet a Mad Dog

    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    KURT ANGLE

    It's true, it's true, Kurt Angle did win the 1996 220-pound freestyle wrestling gold medal with a broken neck while competing in Atlanta. After the decision, he broke down and cried. It's an amazing story, and his pro wrestling career has been equally amazing, including world titles in both WWE and TNA.
  • Kurt Angle bio and story archive

    ALLEN COAGE, a.k.a. BAD NEWS ALLEN and BAD NEWS BROWN

    Fitting, perhaps, given his "Bad News" persona as a pro wrestler, Allen Coage was always bitter about his third-place finish at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, where he competed in the over 93 kg / 205 pound category for judo. A split decision in the semis to German GŁnther Neureuther derailed his gold medal dream. He trained to be a pro wrestler in Japan, was a regular in Stampede Wrestling, and had a stint in the WWF, including headlining against Hulk Hogan for the WWF World title. He died March 6, 2007.
  • Interview: Bad News on his judo bronze medal
  • Allen Coage obituary and story archive

    VERNE GAGNE

    It was a bittersweet trip to the London Olympics for Gagne. He made the U.S. Greco-Roman team, but the powers-that-be in American amateur wrestling pulled the squad. "We came right down to the night before we were supposed to wrestle Greco and they pulled us out. They said, 'We don't think you guys know enough about Greco-Roman wrestling.' This is '48, right after the War, and we really didn't, but we sure as heck trained hard and wanted to wrestle. We were in the parade and were in the Olympics," recalled Gagne, who treasures his Olympic memories, even if he didn't compete. "It was a great experience. Wembley Stadium was the big parade. It was the first Olympics after World War II and it was a real focal point for the world at that moment in time and most of the world was there. Russia was not there, and a couple of those other countries behind the Iron Curtain didn't make it."
  • Interview: Verne Gagne recalls glory days

    ED DON GEORGE

    George placed fourth in the 1928 Games in Amsterdam in the freestyle unlimited weight class. He came straight out of the Olympics and won the world title in Dec. 1930 from Gus Sonnenburg. He lost it in April 1931 to Strangler Lewis. George won the belt again in March 1933, beating Henri Deglane (another Olympian) for the title, and losing it over two years later to Danno O'Mahoney. He later become the promoter out of Buffalo, New York.

    MARK HENRY

    A powerlifter, Mark Henry never had the success in the Olympics in weightlifting that he did in power lifting. In 1992 in Barcelona, Henry finished 10th in the superheavyweight class. Four years later in Atlanta, he finished 14th, lifting 831 pounds in total: 386 in the snatch and 445 in his only attempt at the clean-and-jerk. His jump to the WWF was big news, including a 10-year contract, and he is still a major part of the roster.
  • Feature: Mark Henry: Two-time Olympian

    DANNY HODGE

    Danny Hodge was perhaps the greatest amateur wrestler ever in American history, and he is the only amateur ever on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Hodge, who is from Oklahoma, competed in two Olympics. He was 19 and just out of high school in 1952 when he competed in Helsinki, Finland for the U.S. at 174 pounds in freestyle wrestling. He didn't place. In 1956, he was on both the freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling teams at the Games in Melbourne. He ended up only fighting freestyle, and won the silver medal. His pro career was stellar until a car accident ended it.
  • For Hodge, Olympics meant meeting people
  • Danny Hodge story archive

    DICK HUTTON

    DICK HUTTON Was seventh in freestyle wrestling at the 1948 Games in London as a super heavyweight.

    Hutton went on to become NWA World champion, wrestling in many locations as Cowboy Dick Hutton. He beat Lou Thesz for the title in November 1957 in Toronto, and held the title until January 1959, when he lost it to Pat O'Connor. He was a controversial choice as champion at a time when the NWA board would meet to decide on their title holder. Hutton was the choice of champion Lou Thesz.
  • Obituary: Former NWA champ Hutton dies

    DALE LEWIS

    Lewis competed in two Olympic games. He was on the 1956 U.S. squad in Greco-Roman that went to Melbourne, Australia. He did not place in the heavyweight division. In 1960, he went to Rome, Italy for the Olympics, and again, did not place as a heavyweight. Back in the U.S., he had won two NCAA titles (1960 and 1961) while wrestling for the University of Oklahoma Sooners. He was a pro wrestler for decades. Lewis died on August 30, 1997.
  • Feature: The Olympian life of Dale Lewis

    PETE MEHRINGER

    When Kurt Angle made his WWE debut in 1999, he was pushed as the first pro wrestler with an Olympic gold medal. But what about Pete Mehringer, the 1932 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling at 192 pounds? His pro career may have been brief, but his story itself is fascinating and should be told. After all, he won a medal by simply reading a book.
  • Feature: Overcoming the odds: Pete Mehringer's 1932 gold medal

    CHIP MINTON

    Chip Minton thought nothing of his combined careers -- professional wrestler and bobsledder in two Olympics. "I think they're the two most extreme sports around," Minton said. "I'm just that kind of guy." The native of Macon, Georgia, was a prison guard when he took interest in bobsledding during the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. Following the 1994 Olympics, he hooked on with World Championship Wrestling as a wrestler, and then competed again at the 1998 Games.

    KEN PATERA

    KEN PATERA Patera dominated the sport of weightlifting going into the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He was the first American to lift over 500 pounds in both the military press and clean and jerk. He won four straight national championships while at Brigham Young University, and four gold medals at the 1971 Pan-American Games in Cali, Colombia before going to Germany. Patera was considered a front-runner at the Games, and like Mark Henry years later, he did not live up to expectations and game home empty-handed. He turned to pro wrestling after the Games, and trained with Verne Gagne. Patera's amazing strength and athletic ability fit well with the wrestling of the day, and he quickly became a well-known name. Patera also competed in of the World's Strongest Man competitions in the 1970s. Outside the ring, he drew fame for being arrested and imprisoned for throwing a boulder through a McDonald's window along with Masa Saito in the early '80s.

    NATE PENDLETON

    When Olympians turned actors are discussed, names like Johnny Weissmuller and Glenn Morris are brought up. When old wrestlers turned actors are talked about, it's Mike Mazurki and Woody Strode that get the billing. Yet Nat Pendleton, firmly entrenched in both camps, with a silver medal and more than 100 films, is often overlooked. Pendleton went off to the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, where he competed in both the Freestyle and Greco-Roman disciplines. He didn't place in Greco-Roman. In Freestyle, he competed as a Heavyweight (now known as the Super-Heavyweight division). Pendleton lost a controversial decision to Robert Roth of Switzerland.
  • Feature: Pendleton's unparalleled route: Olympics, pros, Hollywood

    BRAD RHEINGANS

    BRAD RHEINGANS Finished fourth at 220 pounds in Greco-Roman at the 1976 Montreal Games. He was also on the U.S. team for Moscow in 1980 that boycotted the Games. Rheingans went on to a respectable pro wrestling career, which centred around his time in Verne Gagne's AWA promotion. He had a brief stint in the WWF during its '80s heyday, but his bland, all-American character seemed out of place with the larger-than-life WWF superstars of the day. He was also a respected trainer for wannabe wrestlers.
  • Interview: Olympic boycott still haunts Rheingans

    BOB ROOP

    After failing to crack the 1964 Olympic squad, Michigan's Bob Roop set his sights on 1968, and got to go to Mexico City. There, the heavyweight finished in in seventh place, losing to a seven-foot, 340-pound Russian named Aleksander Medved, who went on to win the gold medal. His pro career lasted until the 1980s, included time behind the scenes as a booker.
  • Interview: Olympics just another step for Bob Roop

    HAROLD SAKATA, aka TOSH TOGO

    Sakata won the silver medal in weightlifting at the 1948 Games in London in the 182 pound weight class. After the Olympics, he went into pro wrestling as Tosh Togo, and was a star in Hawaii and on the west coast of the U.S. in the '50s and '60s. Later, he became 'Oddjob' in the James Bond flick Goldfinger.

    JOE SCARPELLO

    An NCAA champion in 1947 and 1950, Iowan Joe Scarpello was on the U.S. Greco-Roman squad in the 1948 London Games that got pulled at the last minute. He was an alternate at 175 pounds. Scarpello wrestled pro from 1950-75, working primarily around the midwest. He died in 1999.

    CHRIS TAYLOR

    Chris Taylor was the biggest Olympian ever in 1972, competing in freestyle wrestling in Munich, Germany at a whopping 412 pounds. Taking a bronze medal, he teamed up with Verne Gagne's AWA to a lot of fanfare, but never was a true pro wrestling star, and died far too early in 1979 at the age of 29.
  • Feature: Chris Taylor: The giant Olympian


    EVEN MORE AMERICAN OLYMPIANS

  • Paul Anderson, Melbourne 1956, weightlifting, gold medalist, super-heavyweight class
  • Roy Dunn, Berlin 1936, freestyle wrestling, did not place, heavyweight
  • Fred Meyer, Antwerp 1920, freestyle wrestling, bronze medalist, heavyweight
  • Robin Reed, Paris 1924, freestyle wrestling, gold medalist, lightweight
  • Jack Van Bebber, Los Angeles 1932, freestyle wrestling, gold medalist, middleweight

    JAPAN

    HIROSHI HASE

    Hase fought in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles for Japan in Greco-Roman wrestling. He placed ninth. He is considered one of the best junior heavyweights ever from Japan. Hase actually began his pro career wrestling in Calgary, teaming with Fumihiro Niikura under masks as the Viet Cong Express, feuding with the top stars there, including Owen Hart. He debuted in Japan in December 1987, defeating Kuniaki Kobayashi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title in his first match. From there, Hase became one of the top five workers in the world in the early 1990s. He feuded with the likes of Jushin 'Thunder' Liger, Owen Hart, El Samurai and all the top junior heavyweights in New Japan. Hase was also IWGP world tag team champion with Kensuke Sasaki and Keiji Mutoh (twice). Hase also got involved in booking, and was assistant booker to Riki Choshu in New Japan for a while. He also booked the junior heavyweight division where he was known as a selfless booker always putting younger wrestlers over strong. The former Olympian 'retired' in 1997 after winning a seat in Japanese Parliament. He has come out of retirement on occasion since, wrestling a handful of matches each year for All Japan.

    TAMON HONDA

    Honda represented Japan for three Olympic Games in freestyle: 1984 in Los Angeles where he placed fifth; 1988 in Seoul, where he didn't place; 1992 in Barcelona, where again he didn't place. He was recruited right out of the Olympics, and debuted in 1993 for All Japan. There, Honda was a perennial mid-carder. He currently wrestles for the Pro Wrestling Noah promotion.

    MANABU NAKINISHI

    Nakinishi wrestled in the freestyle discipline for Japan at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, where he failed to place. He turned pro right out of the Olympics, debuting in October 1992 for New Japan. Nakinishi's biggest accomplishment so far was winning the G1 Climax tournament in 1999, beating Keiji Mutoh in the finals. The win was supposed to elevate him into being the next big drawing card for the promotion, but he's been a disappointment by most accounts. He lost in the finals of this year's G1 to Kensuke Sasaki. Nakinishi has also been a successful tag wrestler, holding the IWGP World tag belts with Yuji Nagata last year, losing them this past July. In 1997, he also held the titles with Satoshi Kojima, beating from Riki Choshu and Sasaki. North American fans would best remember him from 1995-96 when he wrestled as Kurosawa in WCW.

    NAOYA OGAWA

    NAOYA OGAWA The former NWA World Heavyweight champion was a silver medalist in judo for Japan in the heavyweight division at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. He tore this his first four opponents in 7 minutes, 53 seconds. In the final, however, Ogawa was thrown twice in the first minute against David Khakhaleishvili of the Republic of Georgia. Ogawa, who was world judo champion in 1989, also competed in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, but did not place. Ogawa made his pro debut on April 12, 1997 defeating IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto at Tokyo Dome before 60, 500 fans. 'Knocking out' Hashimoto, instantly made him a superstar in Japan. Ogawa is one of the hottest property in Japanese wrestling today and his subsequent battles with Hashimoto are legendary, selling out Tokyo Dome several times. His matches have been booked as 'shoots'. In April 7, 2000, he beat Hashimoto by KO in main event of Tokyo Dome card in a retirement match. Ogawa is also a former 2-time NWA World Heavyweight champion. He defeated Dan Severn on March 14, 1999 in Yokohama, Japan and lost to Gary Steele on September 25, 1999 in Charlotte, NC. He defeated Steele on October 2, 1999 in Thomaston, CT, and vacated the title on July 2, 2000.

    MASANORI SAITO, aka MR. SAITO

    Competed as a super heavyweight at the 1964 Tokyo, Japan Games, and finished in seventh place in freestyle. When Saito turned to pro wrestling following the Games, he eventually became one of the most successful Japanese wrestlers ever to compete in North America. On this side of the pond, Saito was AWA World heavyweight champ briefly in 1990, beating Larry Zbyszko. He is also a former WWF world tag champ on two occasions with Mr. Fuji and had feuded with Hulk Hogan both in the WWF and New Japan. However, Saito is maybe best known for serving two years in prison the '80s after he and fellow Olympian Ken Patera threw a bolder through the window of a McDonalds in Wisconsin. Across the Pacific, Saito had a famous feud with Antonio Inoki in the mid-'80s that did record business. That led to the Island Death Match on Oct 4, 1987. The two wrestlers were dropped on Ganryujima Island and had a match all over the island without any audience that lasted two hours. Inoki won by TKO. Besides his fights with Inoka, Saito has held the IWGP world tag titles with both Riki Choshu and Shinya Hashimoto. He was also part of the exodus that left New Japan for All Japan in 1984, returning in 1987 where he had the best years of his career feuding with Inoki. A master of the suplex, Saito used so many variations of the move that one was named after him - the Saito Suplex.

    TOMONI TSURUTA

    Before turning into the best pro wrestler ever from Japan, Tomoni 'Tommy' Tsuruta represented Japan at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He placed seventh in the Greco-Roman competition. Coming out of the Games, Tsuruta was recruited into pro wrestling like a number one draft pick. He signed with Giant Baba and All Japan in 1972, just ten days after the All Japan promotion was formed. 'Jumbo' Tsuruta debuted in Ocotber 1973 in the Funks' Texas promotion, and eight weeks later was wrestling Dory Jr. for the NWA World title. His pro accomplishments are much too much to go over here. For more on Tsuruta, please see the following stories:
  • Jumbo Tsuruta dies of kidney failure
  • Friends remember Jumbo Tsuruta
  • Jumbo, Baba and The Destroyer
  • Jumbo Tsuruta memorial planned
  • Editorial: Tsuruta the best ever from Japan

    YOSHIAKI YATSU

    A 19-year-old Yatsu came to Montreal in 1976 for the Olympic Games, but did not place in the freestyle wrestling event. He also competed in the 1980 Games in Moscow as a superheavyweight. He turned pro on December 29, 1980 at Madison Square Garden, taking on Jose Estrada. Yatsu split his time between Japan and the U.S. before working full time in All Japan. Yatsu was part of the mass exodus of talent that left New Japan for All Japan in 1984; a group that included Riki Choshu, Masa Saito, British Bulldogs, Kuniaki Kobayashi, and Super Strong Machine. The movechanged the balance of power in Japan from New Japan to All Japan. While in All Japan, Yatsu became one of the top five stars in the country. Yatsu and fellow Olympian Jumbo Tsuruta formed a legendary tag team, and won the All Japan Real World Tag titles on five separate occasions. They also beat the Road Warriors in June 1988 to unify the PWF and NWA International tag titles. The duo feuded with teams like Stan Hansen and Terry Gordy, Hansen and Genichiro Tenryu and Tenryu & Ashura Hara. Also, he and Tsuruta won the All Japan Real World Tag league tourney in '87 (tag team version of All Japan's Carnival tournament) beating Bruiser Brody and Jimmy Snuka. Yatsu left All Japan in 1990 when Tenryu formed the WAR promotion.

    EVEN MORE JAPANESE OLYMPIANS

  • Tsuneharu "Thunder" Sugiyama, Tokyo 1964, Greco-Roman wrestling, eighth place, super-heavyweight

    ARGENTINA

    JORGE GONZALEZ, a.k.a. GIANT GONZALEZ

    Gonzalez was a giant on the Argentine basketball team at the 1988 Games in Seoul. He was a legitimate 7-foot-6", but the team didn't place. He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, but couldn't handle the speed of the NBA. So he turned to another Ted Turner-owned company, World Championship Wrestling, and flopped miserably. As Giant Gonzalez, he did headline, but his matches stunk, and no one could understand him on interviews. Vince McMahon made an attempt to make something of Gonzalez, but even he couldn't succeed.
  • Obituary: El Gigante / Giant Gonzalez passes away

    MANUEL CHAIJ SR., a.k.a. AMAZING ZUMA, ARGENTINE ZUMA

    An accomplished gymnast, Manuel Chaij Sr. represented his country at the 1948 Olympics in London. His high-flying skills translated well to the wrestling ring, where he entered crowds with his barefooted leaps. The pinnacle of his career was headlining at Madison Square Garden in New York City against Argentina Rocca, whose style he emulated, in a rare good guy versus good guy bout.
  • Obituary: High-flying Argentine Zuma dead at 85

    BELGIUM

    CHARLES ISTAZ, a.k.a. KARL GOTCH

    At the 1948 Olympics, Istaz finished seventh in freestyle and eighth in Greco-Roman, competing at 191 pounds. While never a major star in North American as a professional wrestler, in Japan he was worshipped, known as "Kamisama" which, translated, means "God of Wrestling."
  • Obituary: "God of Wrestling" legacy on wrestling may be forever

    BRAZIL

    PAULO CESAR DA SILVA, a.k.a. GIANT SILVA

    Da Silva was the starting centre on the Brazilian basketball team for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. At that point, he was a lithe 234-pounds on his 7-foot-2 frame. When he was a pro wrestler, he was closer to 350 pounds. Of note, he was a part of the Oddities in WWE in 1998, but had more success in Japan and Mexico.

    FRANCE

    HENRI DEGLANE

    Henri DeGlane took the gold medal in heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1924 Games in Paris, making the Frenchman from Limoges, Haute-Vienne, a national hero. As a pro wrestler, he was a world heavyweight champion in the early 1930s and was Montreal's biggest drawing card before the days of Yvon Robert. He later went back to France where he was the country's biggest pro wrestling star into the early '50s.

    EDOUARD IGNACZ WEICZORKIEWICZ, a.k.a. EDOUARD CARPENTER

    While Edouard Weiczorkiewicz's Olympic fame was fleeting -- he went to London in 1948 on the gymnastics squad as an alternate, but did not compete -- as a professional wrestler, he was one of the most successful and famous ever. His gymnastics-inspired in-ring moves were revolutionary and he rose to be a recognized world champion on numerous occasions. He was also an investor in the Montreal Grand Prix Wrestling promotion in the 1970s.
  • Obituary: Edouard Carpentier dead at 84

    GREAT BRITAIN

    NORMAN MORRELL

    At the 1936 Games in Berlin, Norman Morrell competed, but did not medal, in both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling as as featherweight. Though his pro wrestling career wasn't storied, he ran a gym in Bradford and was a key promoter in Britain post-war, helping to establish the different weight classes and the rules for the sport. He was also a key player in ITV's World Of Sport. Fellow brother Max Crabtree -- brother of Shirley "Big Daddy" Crabtree -- addressed Morrell in the book, The Wrestling: "It was Norman's theory that wrestling was the perfect working-class sport. It was mostly men that came, few women and no children." He died in December 2000.

    THE NETHERLANDS

    ANTON GEESINK

    One of Holland's most famous athletes, Anton Geesink was one of the top competitors in judo when the sport made its Olympic debut in Toyko in 1964. Geesink won the gold medal in the open weight division. He was recruited to pro wrestling by All-Japan owner Shohei Baba, and trained in Texas with the Funk family. Geesink was a part-timer in Japan from 1973-78, but a main eventer following his performance at the Olympics. He later served his country as a member of the International Olympic Committee.

    WIM RUSKA

    Wim Ruska took two gold medals in judo at the 1972 Games in Munich, taking both the heavyweight and the open classes. His pro wrestling career was off and on for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and he took on NJPW honcho Antonio Inoki in three famed bouts.

    NEW ZEALAND

    JOHN DA SILVA

    John Da Silva represented his country in the 1956 Games in Melbourne, losing both his contests. The former amateur heavyweight boxing champion from Aukland went to Cardiff, Wales for the British Empire Games two years later, finishing fourth. Opting to stay and turn professional, Da Silva eventually became one of the biggest stars in the history of New Zealand wrestling, a top babyface.

    SOUTH KOREA

    KWAK GWANG-UNG, a.k.a. RIKI CHOSHU

    RIKI CHOSHU At the 1972 Games in Munich, Kwak Gwang-ung didn't place in the freestyle wrestling competition. But when he became Riki Choshu in 1973 as a pro wrestler, he became a superstar, known as a phenomenal worker, using a stiff believable style. Simply put, he was the most influential wrestler in Japan in the '80s and '90s, one of the greatest in-ring performer ever. Besides his success in the ring - three-time IWGP Heavyweight champion, three-time IWGP World tag with three different partners - Choshu was the longtime booker for New Japan, and was known for being a selfless matchmaker, downsizing his own role in the company to let the younger talent gain greater recognition. The New Japan vs UWFI feud of '95/96 that he booked was the most financially successful feud ever in wrestling history and was the inspiration behind Eric Bischoff starting the N.W.O. in WCW. In 1983, Choshu turned on his tag partner Tatsumi Fujinami, starting the famous Ishingun vs Seikigun feud. Choshu led the Ishingun group of young up-start talent to feud with the established stars in New Japan. The feud did monster business and changed the face of Japanese wrestling forever. Up until that point, most main events pitted Japanese against American heel. This feud changed that and the Fujinami vs Choshu feud turned things around for New Japan and they became the most successful promotion in the world. In 1984, he jumped to All Japan and took a slew of stars with him. The Choshu Army vs All Japan feud swung the promotional war back in All Japan's favour. Choshu also helped train a lot of New Japan's top stars including current IWGP Heavyweight champ Sasaki.

    SWEDEN

    FRANK ANDERSSON

    Sweden's Frank Andersson competed in three Olympic Games, 1976, 1980 and 1984, taking a bronze in Los Angeles in the light heavyweight class. After a big announcement from WCW in 1991, Andersson never really got pushed, doing a lot of TV matches, often just for broadcast in Europe.
    OTHER SWEDISH NOTABLES
  • Axel Cadier, 192 pounds, champion, Greco-Roman (Berlin, 1936)
  • Johan Richthoff, heavyweight, champion, freestyle (Los Angeles, 1932)

    -- compiled by Greg Oliver, goliver845@gmail.com

    Please note: This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of every Olympian turned pro wrestler, but a decent representation of the major names.

    THANKS

    Many people deserve thanks for their help with the entire Olympic project on SLAM! Wrestling. First, thanks to our interview subjects -- Mad Dog Vachon, Bob Roop, Danny Hodge, Bad News Allen, Verne Gagne, Brad Rheingans. The good folks at the Toronto Sun News Research Centre deserve praise for putting up with all of our research. Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer, as always, deserves recognition, and his Olympic issue came at a timely time. John Molinaro helped with much of the Japanese bio information, and Patric Laprade spurred on the revamped page for the 2012 London Games. Scott Teal's Whatever Happened To...? newsletter and egroup also were a big help.