Opinion: MMA and Professional Wrestling
By Jesse Heitz
Earlier this month, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson made his foray into professional wrestling for the TNA promotion. He made his debut as a member of the “face” or hero stable named “The Main Event Mafia”. This event begs for a more in-depth examination of the relationship between professional wrestling and MMA, encompassing both the fears and misconceptions.
In a recent interview with MMA Mania, found on ProWrestling.net, Jackson shed significant light on the dynamic relationship of MMA and pro wrestling, stating,
“Well I’ve always wanted to be a pro wrestler since I was a kid, but now that I’m older and have had a lot of injuries, people don’t understand the toll that wrestling takes on your body. I just don’t think I can do that now while I’m fighting, but when I retire from fighting and go full time into pro wrestling, then I think I can go and get more extensive with my style and my moves.”
“Right now, I just want to stick to what I know. I haven’t trained for wrestling but I know MMA and MMA is exciting. That’s why it has such a big following that it does now and I want to bring my style into my performance. Guys like Samoa Joe have an MMA style in their pro wrestling and stuff like that. I want to be different than him. I still like to slam and throw people and that’s why I did that so many years in my MMA career because I was a pro wrestler at heart. I wanted to bring some pro wrestling into my MMA back in Pride and now I want to bring some MMA into my pro wrestling.”
For ages, dedicated MMA fans have shrieked at any discussion that featured the mere mention of MMA and professional wrestling in the same breath. The anti-professional wrestling fervor is rampant on any MMA forum, despite the fact that many posters admit being or having been wrestling fans. I’ll admit that I was raised on a steady diet of professional wrestling, watching the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair before Royce Gracie stepped foot into the Octagon.
There seems to be a prevalent fear amongst MMA fans that any sort of association with the “fake” pro wrestling is demeaning. I can understand legitimate fears of associating a scripted or choreographed sport with that of a legitimate competitive sport. I can even understand the desire to avoid the injection of professional wrestling styled “promos” into MMA. Even there, who are we kidding? We loved (or loved to hate) Brock Lesnar’s post-fight tirade at UFC 100. We certainly seem to like Chael Sonnen’s pro wrestling-inspired promos enough to where we as fans, to a greater extent than can be attributed to his in-cage talents, have propelled him to main event after main event. So, are these fears truly credible, or have we been indulging in them all along?
Some of the most beloved fighters in history either started as professional wrestlers or entered into professional wrestling. We’ve seen the likes of: Kazushi Sakuraba, Ken Shamrock, Don Frye, Josh Barnett, Brock Lesnar, Dan Severn, “Tank” Abbott, and now “Rampage” Jackson, enter and exit both sports. Let’s face it, fighters themselves don’t seem to have many qualms about such associations. With that in mind, should we as fans get worked up about any and all comparisons between two non-competing and distinguishably different sports?