When a professional wrestler
finds himself caught in a submission hold
he can give up by slapping the mat with his hand three times in quick succession.
In the good old days (read: before the '90s) tapping out didn't exist.
If you wanted to submit, you had to say "I submit" or "I quit" or "I give
up" or something to that effect. But, as wrestling
became increasingly television-centric, it was decided that a more visual
way of submitting would be better. It looks better in a highlight
reel, as it's immediately apparent what the wrestler is doing. Compare
that to the old verbal acknowledgement, which could be the wrestler asking
what time it is unless you see it in context. Also, the live crowd
does not have the benefit of watching the match through television
cameras five inches from the wrestlers' faces, and so it's easy for them
to totally miss a wrestler saying "I submit."
Nowadays, wrestlers will rarely, if ever, submit the old-fashioned way.
Part of it is because of the reasons listed above, another big part is
that the wrestlers feel they lose less face when they just tap out as
opposed to verbally acknowledging their opponent's superiority.
Just about the only time a wrestler won't submit by tapping out nowadays
is in an "I Quit" match, in which the only way to win is to make your
opponent say the words "I quit." The referee will usually carry around
a microphone with him so that the entire arena can hear the dialogue
when it occurs.