New Catch Wrestling course and academy launched in New Jersey 1/25/13
By: Ted Czech, MMA Sports Writer
For many decades, catch wrestling — a ground-fighting style traced back to Wigan, Lancashire, England, and later brought to the United States in the late 1800s — had been nearly lost. Some have said it was when wrestling became about money, when the powers-that-be started fixing matches and choreographing moves. Catch wrestling’s take downs and submissions further became buried in the mire of costumes and T&A as professional wrestling’s popularity soared in the latter parts of the 1900s.
But slowly, through the efforts of a few individuals, the legacy of catch wrestling has been preserved, with people like Jake Shannon, Billy Robinson, Erik Paulson, Neil Melanson and Josh Barnett leading the charge — and now has turned a corner and has begun to flourish.
Add two East Coast catch practitioners to the list: John Potenza and Joel Bane, who have started a company known as Snake Pit USA.
“We’re all about spreading catch wrestling and bringing it back to life,” Potenza said. “We’re trying to revive it a bit.”
It’s no accident that the company’s logo bears a striking resemblance to Japanese MMA organization Pancrase — whose original competitors relied heavily on catch as their go-to ground style — as Potenza said, “We wanted to give respect to the Pancrase guys.” The company’s name harkens back to the gym in Wigan where catch was developed, the Snake Pit. Billy Robinson, who has worked extensively with Shannon to create a catch wrestling course, is one of, if not the, last living connection to the original Snake Pit.
“Billy (Robinson) was really excited — he was the one who gave us the blessing to use the Snake Pit name,” Bane said.
The plan for Snake Pit USA is to have both an instructional series and certification program, which can be used by affiliates worldwide, but also to hone a home-grown team of submission artists who will enter grappling competitions, Potenza and Bane said.
The full Snake Pit USA curriculum includes several levels of mastery: Journeyman I and II, Ripper I and II, Hooker I and II and Shooter I and II, they said.
In addition to receiving Robinson’s blessing for the curriculum and use of the name, Potenza and Bane have also reached out to the original Snake Pit, still operating in Wigan, with hopes of some cross-continental catch pollination in the future.
“We said, ‘We’d like to be a brotherhood with you guys,’” Potenza said. “They’ll support us. We’re not affiliates, but we’d like to get over to the UK someday,” to train with them.
In addition, Snake Pit USA’s website is nearly complete, and when it is, will have both a members section and a non-members section.
The two also plan to hold a catch wrestling exhibition at the MMA Expo in New York in February. With all of these plans, Potenza and Bane hope to spearhead a resurgence of the sport.
“We want to be a resource and lead this revolution,” Bane said.