The MMA - Wrestling Connection
In case you haven’t heard, TNA announced that their BIG free agent signing was none other than former UFC Champion and new Bellator MMA competitor Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. There have been a lot of people who think that it’s a bad idea, and these folks are acting as if MMA guys haven’t made the crossover to professional wrestling before. Back in the 90s we saw guys like Ken Shamrock (who to be fair had pro wrestling experience prior to UFC) and Dan Severn, who both made their mark competing for UFC, wrestle for the WWF & NWA too. And both have been NWA World Champion at some point in their careers. The idea of someone crossing over from MMA to professional wrestling or even vise-versa is old hat. Dan Severn actually did both at the same time when he held the UFC Superfight Title and the NWA World Title simultaneously, and he still remains the only guy in wrestling history to accomplish this feat. Over in Japan, men such as Naoya Ogawa, former UFC Champion Josh Barnett, and Yuji Nagata (just to name a few) have split their time between MMA runs and professional wrestling runs. Before Alberto Del Rio because a name in WWE, he was wrestling down in Mexico under the name Dos Caras Jr. and split time between professional wrestling and MMA where he was actually the first masked fighter to take part in Mixed Martial Arts. If you go on YouTube, there is footage of the man who would go on to become Alberto Del Rio nearly getting his head taken off in a fight against Mirko Cro Cop at Pride FC. When the pro wrestling audience started to dwindle, a lot of those fans crossed over to the MMA realm. The reason being is that folks want to see something that is real. The interest in fake fighting has been on the decline for years, and while a lot of people don’t want to consider UFC as true competition to WWE, it definitely is. Just like WWE, they are fighting for your Pay Per View dollar (or internet bandwidth for all of you streaming folks) each and every month. In my opinion, groups such as UFC and Bellator are wrestling in its purest form. I remember back in 2010 when me and some buddies were watching Brock Lesnar take on Shane Carwin at UFC 116. One of them looks at me (knowing how big of a wrestling fan I am) points to the TV and says “Hey Ant, this is 2010 wrestling”. I responded back to him that what he was seeing was actually more like 1910 wrestling. Men like Frank Gotch, George Hackenschmidt, and Ed “Strangler” Lewis, would shoot wrestle for hours where the goal wasn’t necessarily to pin the other guy but to either knock them out, make them submit, or force the referee to stop the match. I believe this is what the basis to the appeal of guys doing both MMA and professional wrestling the similarities as well as the differences. We have seen guys like Bobby Lashley, Batista, and Brock Lesnar make the transition from pro wrestling to MMA, and in Lesnar’s case, watched as he became UFC World Heavyweight Champion. With Rampage Jackson the jury is still out on how dedicated he is going to be to learning the craft as we are still unsure if he will take it seriously or not. At age 35, will he be able to learn to turn things down a bit and not be too stiff? Will he respect the business? And is he going to be in this for the long haul or is he just a ploy to get ratings and PPV buy-rates? This all remains to be scene. He definitely has the charisma to make it in professional wrestling, but I am looking forward to seeing what type in ring work we will see out of him. Whether he does well or he stinks of up the joint, I am thinking that Bellator themselves is likely footing the bill for him to do work with TNA which means Dixie Carter isn’t spending a bunch of cash to bring him in. The way that he is used and booked is the difference between him being an ass kicker from MMA and just another fake wrestler on the roster. Jackson will be either make an impact like Ken Shamrock or he will just come into wrestling looking like a washed up MMA guy such as Tank Abbott or Frank Trigg (remember them?). I also wonder what the signing of Rampage means for the other Bellator guy signed to TNA? Last year TNA had signed Bellator MMA fighter King Mo to wrestle for them. He has yet to even be booked in a match in Impact! I’m sure King Mo getting knocked the hell out in his last fight didn’t help matters either. Is this a sign that TNA and Bellator may be pulling the plug? I feel that if you are going to have MMA guys on your roster, you should stop at just one; because it makes that guy stand out more. There is also the possibility that Rampage will get sucked into that Hulk Hogan vortex. He will seem special at first, but then he will be overshadowed by Hulk Hogan. It just seems like no one in TNA is allowed to shine brighter than the old washed up guy who can no longer wrestle and his talent-less daughter, but they both have to be involved in all of the top story-lines. I know that I seem to bash Hogan a lot, but I am just speaking the truth on the guy. He’s one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, but at the same time it isn’t 1988 anymore. Rampage Jackson being signed to TNA Wrestling should be the main thing standing out, but instead it’s going to be him taking on a wannabe motor cycle gang of former WWE mid-carders while trying to build up his match with Kurt Angle that will be taking place sometime down the road. If anyone can school Rampage in wrestling 101, it’s Kurt Angle. In a company where it’s really hard to stand out, I hope he gets the chance to do just that. Because if nothing else, he is something new for the company. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @whosantcox, and I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions, comments, concerns, thoughts, opinions, I respond to ALL of them! I promise you that! See you next time, wrestling fans!