As one of the fundamental bases of MMA, catch wrestling has already died a slow and painful death in the middle of the last century. Briefly stoked by Japan's pororesu culture, as the foundation of MMA organizations like Shooto and Rings, catch wrestling has sprung several of the sports biggest stars and most influential fighters. However, even with it's late 80s/early 90's revival, it's still been a system of diminishing returns; producing fewer and fewer top level fighters as the years go by. Where once MMA contained a serious contingent of catch wrestling grapplers it now houses a scant few.
There are a number of reasons for this - most notably the fall of combat sports interest in Japan - but it's also been the uneasy relationship the art has held with pro-wrestling and the desire for traditional wrestlers to separate themselves from the more theatrical facets of the industry. Even still, catch is no longer quite as dead as it used to be. MMA ties have reignited interests in all facets of grappling, and brought more traditional freestyle wrestlers into a submission oriented sphere. Yet growth hasn't come evenly or easily and it has a lot of rebuilding to do if it wants to bring itself even to the level of other competitive grappling martial arts.
That's where we find the North American Catch Wrestling Association, or NACWA. Although the NACWA has been around for several years, it has largely been a grassroots organization focused on rebuilding instruction and interest in the sport. The Liberty Bell Classic will be their first open registration event and one that the organization hopes will be the first of many. It takes place August 31 at the Klein JCC in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The rules will be best of three falls, pins and submissions, no points will be awarded, matches are win/lose/draw only. The event will be divided into six weight divisions, from Super Light (140 lbs) to Super Heavy (225 lbs) with a single open women's division. There will be no rank based divisions and fouls will include hair pulling, groin attacks, fish hooking, spitting, biting, and intentional striking. No holds barred. Registration appears to be completely open to all comers, with a $40 charge for early entries and a $60 entry fee for last minute signups.
Needless to say this is a small scale event and it really only goes to show the level of disrepair in the sport that something at this regional a level is worth covering. But it is worth covering. And as a first small step the NACWA is taking the long road back to re-establishing one of the building blocks of MMA. If you're interested in registering or learning more, check out the website here. While it doesn't appear that the event will have any sort of live feed, hopefully it will make its way online. Check back for updates.