Many WWE fans were taken by surprise when CM Punk (Phillip Jack Brooks) decided to take a shot at making a name for himself in MMA. Driven out of the WWE due to a rift with management, Punk decided that his Muay Thai background and skillful moves he uses in the WWE were good enough to warrant a shot at making it in the octagon. After all, Brock Lesnar was able to make the transition, helping to prove that professional wrestling was more than just creative storylines.
CM Punk was without a doubt one of the best technical wrestlers in the WWE with the ability to land a variety of different kicks as well as strikes with his hands. Brock Lesnar is also a tremendous athlete with more size and strength while also being very successful at other sports that do not include a script. Many sports fans try to discredit the sport of professional wrestling, labeling it “fake” and “entertainment”, but most of the wrestlers are highly skilled athletes that can fare well in other sports. Constantly taking something off of strikes and kicks is not easy either, so it should come as no surprise that professional wrestlers can experience some success in MMA. Brock Lesnar is living proof, but he isn’t alone.
It is hard to gauge which WWE wrestlers have the potential to make the jump to the gladiator sport of MMA but there are many of them with experience in sports that have contact and combat. The following 10 professional wrestlers have many of the skills and physical characteristics that might make it easier for each of them to do more than just survive a stint in MMA. If CM Punk is successful, you might someday see one of these 10 make the jump to the octagon too.
10. Daniel Bryan
The very popular WWE star is working on a return to the ring after suffering an injury and he certainly would make an interesting candidate for having a shot at making it in MMA. Daniel Bryan has an assortment of athletic kicks and is also well known for having creative submission holds that he uses in his matches in the WWE. Bryan is one of WWE’s best technical wrestlers, but his lack of experience striking and with getting hit would be hard to overcome in the competitive light heavyweight division he would likely fight in.
On a positive note, Daniel Bryan is no slouch and manages to work with wrestlers who outweigh him on a consistent basis. He has been able to endure longer matches, helping him showcase his repertoire of strikes and holds and has been relatively immune from serious injuries, up to this point at least. He might not have the tenacity or speed as a striker, but he probably would be able to train hard to have a wicked ground game.
9. Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns has not been in the WWE a long time, but he has quickly become one of the most impressive newcomers in the sport. He is big (listed at 265 lbs), strong and athletic for his size. He is a terrific athlete whose credentials include playing football for the NCAA Division I Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.. Reigns was a three-year starter who was a first-team All-ACC defensive lineman his senior year and was aggressive enough to log 29 tackles for a loss. Reigns ended up playing professionally for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL, where he played in just five games before deciding to go into professional wrestling.
Reigns is a member of the Anoa’i wrestling family and is no stranger to being around the ring. He has great strength to go along with terrific quickness for his size. This would make him a hard guy to corner or control in the octagon. Striking might be an obvious deficiency, but his ground game and experience pushing around larger men could make up for any deficiencies he might have with his striking. His success at playing football in the trenches helps prove that he can handle contact and is also capable of using leverage as well as his hands. On top of that, Reigns has that bad boy look that makes him tough and could help him absorb punishment in MMA.
8. John Cena
John Cena is one of WWE’s biggest stars and is also one of professional wrestling’s best athletes. His combination of speed and strength makes him very capable of matching up against a wide variety of opponents who are either bigger and strong or smaller and quicker than he is. Cena is a former collegiate football player who played center for Springfield College in Massachusetts. He has also been a bodybuilder and knows how to take care of his body as well as train for a big event.
What makes Cena a rather compelling selection is that he looks like he would be athletic enough to slip a good number of punches and let a few fly of his own. Cena is such a successful wrestler that he just seems like he could be successful in MMA. If Cena’s toughness and “never give up” attitude are not just part of WWE script, he might be able to take a few shots to the chin and learn enough submission moves to make a statement in MMA.
7. Dean Ambrose
Sheer will and determination propelled Dean Ambrose to have a shot at a successful career in the WWE. Ambrose burst upon the WWE scene with Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins as a member of the 3-man tag team called, “The Shield”. The gritty, yet athletic, wrestler made his professional wrestling debut in 2004 working his way up to the WWE where he finally debuted at Survivor Series near the end of 2012. Ambrose wrestles with a tenacity and skillful ability that could help him succeed in MMA.
Ambrose is just the type of hard working athlete who can muster up the motivation and drive to achieve some measure of success in MMA. Ambrose grew up obsessed with professional wrestling as a way to take his mind off the less than normal life he had growing up as a youngster in public housing in Cincinnati, Ohio’s East End. The same grit and passion that propelled him to learn the craft of professional wrestling and make it in the WWE could translate into positive results in MMA.
6. Randy Orton
Randy Orton has the menacing look of an MMA fighter down pat as he uses this look to intimidate opponents every time he steps in the wrestling ring. Orton comes from a family with a rich history in professional wrestling and his ring skills and ability to always put on an entertaining match are unparalleled. Orton is pretty quick on his feet, has the ability to use both his hands and feet and seems to enjoy doling out punishment. He is instant action when he gets in a wrestling ring.
Besides maybe Brock Lesner, Randy Orton is the one WWE wrestler who looks like an MMA fighter. He has the glare and smirk that make it appear like he is no stranger to pain whether he is inflicting it or the recipient of it. He wrestles like he has a screw loose and would need to have more than one screw loose to face heavyweights in MMA. “The Viper” probably could strike better than most, would have a good ground game and could mix in some good kicks, but what really makes him a good consideration for MMA is the fact that he is as tough as nails.
5. Big E
Big E is big, athletic and seriously strong. The former United States powerlifter has a personal best powerlifting total of 2,039 pounds and has also bench pressed 575 pounds in the gym while training. He is a gifted athlete who also looks smooth and somewhat nimble for a heavyweight who carries over 280 pounds on a 5-foot-11 frame. He doesn’t have a boxer’s body with long limbs, but his power and quickness for his strength and size could make him a formidable opponent.
He might not have the reach or quick hands to be an effective striker, but matching his strength on the ground might offer many MMA heavyweights a rather stiff challenge. Big E could crouch and learn to come forward in a manner that would draw comparisons to boxer Mike Tyson, but unleashing a fury of power punches would be quite a different endeavor. If he could, however, learn jiu-jitsu and find a way to overpower lanky opponents on the ground and avoid their strikes, he could certainly be a legitimate threat in MMA.
4. AJ Lee
AJ Lee might be the smallest WWE wrestler on this list, but her amazing athleticism and outstanding technical skills in the ring make her a worthy candidate for success in MMA. She is flexible and strong for her weight, constantly taking on opponents who weigh considerably more than her 110-115 pounds. She appears to have good stamina, with the ability to engage the other divas in longer more noteworthy matches, and is no stranger to using kicks and a strong ground game to earn her victories in the WWE.
AJ Lee is also fiesty and tough and seems to be fairly successful at avoiding injury while experiencing a solid run at being a Divas Champion in the WWE. Her scrappy personality, tough attitude and ability to pull off a repertoire of moves against larger opponents on a regular basis, give her qualities that could be valuable in MMA. She is as quick as a cat and has uncanny strength that could keep her away from good strikers and make here very capable on the ground. Her feisty style, compact body and ability to remain durable make her an easy choice for having a chance at a successful stint in MMA.
3. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is one of the most accomplished amateur wrestlers to make the transition to the WWE. He set a school record in high school with 82 pins and carried that success through to collegiate wrestling at Kent State where he set a record at the time of 121 career wins. He is one of the better athletes in the WWE and uses his great quickness and athleticism to use the whole ring and make his matches highly entertaining. He would come into MMA with a solid ground game and is athletic enough to be a capable striker with some training.
Ziggler also has grit and tenacity, as evidenced by his amateur wrestling results. Together with his athleticism that should enable him to strike as well as avoid getting hit and he has the potential to be quite dangerous in the octagon. He is a natural at countering moves and has always used the entire WWE ring in order to take advantage of his speed and quickness. Ziggler has the stage presence, swagger and gift of gab that would also make him a hit with MMA fans. The potential “Pretty Boy” MMA fighter seems to have what it takes to make the transition from the WWE.
2. Alberto Del Rio
Although he was fired by the WWE in August of 2014, Alberto Del Rio should still be considered for this list. He certainly has the submission holds and wrestling skills to lay the foundation for achieving success in MMA. Del Rio seems to have quick hands for a big man and oddly enough uses an arm bar labeled as a “cross armbreaker” as one of his signature submission moves. In addition to his mat skills, Del Rio has many kick variations and is quite nimble on his feet. He is also pretty tough and regularly works longer matches with men who carry more weight.
Unknown to many WWE fans, Del Rio has already had a 14 match MMA career. With a record of 9-5, it seems like Del Rio has already achieved a healthy measure of success in the octagon. Prior to experiencing a loss in his last MMA match in 2010, Del Rio had a string of six consecutive victories with five victories by submission and one TKO due to a head kick. That seems to be enough evidence to prove that many of the moves Del Rio has used in the WWE could translate into more devastating damage inflicting moves that can be used in MMA.
1. Brock Lesnar
Since Brock Lesnar has already made the jump to MMA, it should come as no surprise that he tops this list. Lesnar is a hulking figure with an enormous upper body and mean scowl to go along with his bulging biceps. He is strong and athletic enough to earn the title of NCAA Division I Heavyweight Champion, a title he won his senior year wrestling at the University of Minnesota. Lesnar uses his strength and skills on the mat to lift his opponents and submit them in the WWE. His skills might make him a natural for MMA, but his toughness and mean disposition are simply icing on the cake.
In 2006, Lesnar announced that he was going to pursue a career in MMA. In November of 2008, Lesnar beat Randy Couture at UFC 91 to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship. He finished his MMA career with a 5-3 record, highlighted by wins over Couture, Frank Mir and Shane Carwin. In addition to MMA, Lesnar also had a brief stint in training camp with the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. Winning a title belt in MMA alone, is enough of a reason to position him at the top of this list. In fact there are rumblings that Lesnar could be going back to MMA after his WWE contract expires following WrestleMania 31.
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