The Weird History Of Oil Wrestling

Fans of The Rock and other legends of WWE past and present, consider this: why not reserve some space in your hearts for Turkey's traditional take on wrestling? Where professional wrestling can highlight storylines rather than action, there's simply no room for any extraneous detail in oil wrestling. This clash of the titans is simply about two combatants, an awful lot of oil, and sheer slippery chaos ensuing.

The sport of oil wrestling has fascinating ancient origins and is still held in great regard in its home country. As United World Wrestling reports, the Ancient Greeks would wrestle competitively naked, sometimes applying layers of olive oil and sand to their skin to keep them safe from the ravages of the elements. Oil wrestling itself was also developed in the ancient world. According to All About Turkey, the sport has its roots in the time of the Persians (an era that began in around 1065 BC).

The Most Intense And Slippery Of Sports

The story goes that the Ottoman Sultan, Orhan Gazi, paused during a series of conflicts in the region of the modern border between Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece. In All About Turkey's account, two soldiers commanded by the Sultan's brother, Süleyman Pasha, engaged in a friendly wrestling match during a break in the fighting. Neither came out on top, though Pasha promised the victor a kispet (a pair of leather pants).

They are said to have fought to a draw until they died of exhaustion hours later, all while slick with oil (to keep the area's ravenous bugs away, per The Oil Wrestler). The evenly-matched brawlers were buried in a place that became known as Kirkpinar (Forty Springs), where many of the watery wonders were said to have popped up afterward.

This proud tradition continues today. The Kirkpinar tournament is an annual event held in Edirne, Turkey, to much fanfare. It began in the mid-14th Century (per Olive Oil Times) and is among the longest-running sporting events in the world. Turkey's best oil wrestlers engage in a heated regional competition to qualify, battling for the Kirkpinar Golden Belt and the title of Baspehlivan (champion).

Wrestlers must hoist their opponents over their heads and walk for several paces or pin them by their shoulders to win. In a nod to the sport's proud origin story, competitors wear just a kispet (tearing it also constitutes a victory) of water buffalo leather. Plus copious amounts of oil, naturally.