MMA purists often hate to admit it, but their sport has many similarities with the traveling circus known as professional wrestling. Yes, one is sport while the other is entertainment, but the skill set needed to be a star in both professions is strikingly similar. You have to be athletic, possess a marketable personality, be able to talk smack and not freeze up when you must perform in front of a live audience. There are some fighters and wrestlers who have perhaps a couple of these traits, but only the best of the best have all four. Those are the men and women who stand head and shoulders above their peers and reap the rewards of their hard work and natural talent.
Several examples of pro wrestlers transferring over to MMA and vice versa are proof of the similarities between the two fields. Brock Lesnar, Ken Shamrock and Kazushi Sakaruba are all successful professional wrestlers who also dominated the sport of mixed martial arts. Their intensity, captivating personalities and athletic superiority brought them championships in both the UFC and the WWE.
For the purposes of this list though, not every entry has to necessarily be an in-ring performer to succeed in the squared circle. Wrestlers, managers and announcers are all needed to allow the WWE machine to keep on rolling so even fighters who lack in a couple of departments but absolutely excel in other areas have a shot in the WWE. Also important to note that only fighters actively competing in MMA will be included, so no Chael Sonnen on this top 10.
Honorable Mention: CM Punk
Ha, just kidding. But come on wrestling fans, it would be pretty sweet right? Okay, now that we got that out of the way, on to the real list.
10. Anthony “Showtime” Pettis
In terms of bell-to-bell action, there may not be a more exciting or creative fighter in the UFC than its Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. The man is a human highlight reel, constantly adding new elements to his game that all lead to the end goal of submitting or knocking out his opponent. His dynamic athleticism would be a dream for the WWE as I can see Pettis giving Kofi Kingston a run for his money in the Royal Rumble and Money In The Bank matches. Unfortunately Pettis’s promos would most likely pale in comparison to his physical attributes but with the right manager, “Showtime” would shine in WWE. Hell, maybe he would convince the company to resurrect the Cruiserweight championship!
T8. Nick and Nate Diaz (Tag Team)
Unlike the WWE, I don’t forget about tag teams. The Diaz brothers are two of the most controversial personalities in MMA. They do what they want, when they want and how they want and people either love or hate them for it. The brothers severely lack the size and look needed to be an intimating force but they don’t need those qualities. Anyone who has seen a Nate or Nick Diaz interview will know just how quickly it can go off the rails and turn into a compelling train wreck. Every time they open their mouths people listen, a most desirable characteristic any wrestling company wants in a performer. If we were living in the Attitude Era the Diaz brothers would be ranked much higher. While they would okay in the current WWE climate, I feel their free spirits and incendiary trash talking would fit in better with someone like Stone Cold than John Cena.
7. Brendan Schaub
While he may not be as successful as other fighters on this list, I see Brendan Schaub having a lot of potential in pro wrestling. From listening to his Fighter and The Kid podcast with comedian Bryan Callen, it’s clear that Schaub is anything lumbering heavyweight. He is a clever, well-spoken and funny guy who just happens to punch people in the face for a living. As far as athleticism goes, “Big Brown” was a former member of the Buffalo Bills practice squad so it’s fairly certain that he has the physical capability to learn how to execute a spear. Hey look at that, he already knows 20 per cent of Roman Reigns’s moveset (zing!).
6. Quinton Jackson
If I were to list some Quinton “Rampage” Jackson quotes, you would think that he was already playing some sort of gimmick in a WWE ring. What MMA fan could ever forget gems like “There’s gonna be some black on black crime!” or “My style is called whoop that ass.” Obviously, Rampage knows his way around a microphone.
On the physicality side, Rampage has a highlight reel filled with knockout punches and slams that make WWE finishers look pathetic. His powerbomb of Ricardo Arona in particular is one of the craziest things ever witnessed inside a MMA contest.
What would hold Jackson back on a chance in the WWE would be his very non-PG style. Jackson has repeatedly humped female reporters over the years and in general is a loose cannon, definitely not something WWE brass would be a fan of. Still, Jackson’s big physique and even bigger personality are definitely desirable traits in the world of pro wrestling.
5. Michael Bisping
One doesn’t need to look far into WWE history to see how much they love heels from foreign countries. None would be better in this role from MMA than The Ultimate Fighter season three winner Michael “The Count” Bisping.
While the public’s hatred for Bisping has cooled off considerably, there was point in time where he was one of the UFC’s most hated fighters. Many fans viewed him as cocky, pompous and condescending jerk that always ran his mouth, even in defeat. Worse yet Bisping wasn’t opposed to cheating in the cage as he showcased most prominently when he blasted Jorge Rivera with an illegal knee at UFC 127. Once he won that fight, he also spat at Rivera’s corner for good measure.
In an odd turn of events, Bisping would gain sympathy from fans due to losses versus Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, two men who underwent the now banned testosterone replacement therapy in their fights with the Brit. Essentially, he turned babyface.
As far as fighting talent goes, it would be his outstanding cardio that would help most in pro wrestling. Bisping continually defeats opponents by simply overwhelming them with volume striking and an incredible gas tank which leaves his opponents gasping for air. By using that excess oxygen to talk up a storm, Bisping could make an audience hate or cheer him on a dime. You can’t ask for much more in a professional wrestler than that.
4. Josh Barnett
Almost everything about Josh Barnett screams professional wrestling, and that isn’t a coincidence. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and particularly a fan of old school shooters like Karl Gotch, Barnett is a throwback to the days where amateur wrestlers would compete in circus tents to take on local tough men who wanted to test their mettle. That’s not to say he doesn’t get the showmanship aspect, because he totally does as evidenced by his throat slash and intensity in the cage.
While WWE fans have most likely never seen Barnett wrestle, he has competed in several matches for Antonio Inoki’s Inoki Genome Federation. Barnett is such a big fan of Japanese professional wrestling that he is the current colour commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s english broadcast on AXS TV. While he has the passion, showmanship and physical gifts to succeed in WWE, he lacks the chiseled physique which McMahon’s empire loves so much. Also, the Japanese style of wrestling is quite different from the WWE style, so I wonder if Barnett could adjust his style successfully if they fought on North American soil.
3. Conor McGregor
If one were to construct to ideal fighter for a promotion to rally behind, he would sound and fight an awful lot like Conor McGregor. At press conferences he dresses in the sharpest suits and is the life of the party. Once the cage door shuts, he goes to war and knocks out his opponent in devastating fashion, often times making them look like amateurs.
While he has the athletic ability and gift of gab to be a pro wrestler, he unfortunately lacks heavily in the size area. However, it wouldn’t even matter if he was bigger because I feel McGregor is much better suited to be a manager. Imagine the sharply dressed McGregor walking to the ring with a heel Sheamus ragging on Daniel Bryan’s troll like appearance. He also wouldn’t be afraid to get physical in a match, something which managers like Paul Heyman don’t do. Maybe, just maybe, McGregor could get Sheamus over with fans but hey let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
2. Muhammed Lawal
There is only one man in MMA who could wear a crown and not look like a complete goof. That man is known as “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal. A multiple time world champion in freestule wrestling, Lawal was an absolute beast on the wrestling mat. Such a beast in fact that WWE actually offered Lawal a developmental contract back in the mid 2000s, but Lawal decided to pursue MMA instead.
Lawal’s passion for pro wrestling is obvious from his memory for old storylines and his current splitting of time for Bellator MMA and TNA. He had the look, physical gifts and mental fortitude to make an impact in the WWE all those years ago when he refused the developmental deal. At the very least, fans will get a taste of what he could have been from his brief dabbles in Impact Wrestling.
1. Ronda Rousey
My, what great timing, as we are not far removed from her WrestleMania appearance. But even if this list had been published prior to WrestleMania 31, she would’ve easily been no.1.
Was there ever any doubt? Fresh off her 14-second submission win over her toughest challenger in Cat Zingano, Rousey’s star is burning brighter than it has ever before. Swimsuit photo shoots, movies, Mixed Martial Arts, no medium is safe from the thunderstorm that is the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. If Rousey wanted to, she can take over the WWE Divas division in the blink of an eye.
Rousey brings a lot of gifts to the table which other Divas sorely lack. First off, nothing about her personality seems artificial, whereas 90 per cent of WWE’s Divas reek of corporate packaging and fakery. If there is something on Rousey’s mind, she will not be afraid to say it, haters be damned. This attribute has gained her tons of notoriety and people love or hate what she says, but they all have an opinion.
Perhaps most importantly of all though, Rousey is believable. It’s such a simple quality to have, yet it’s one that many Divas sorely lack. I don’t believe for a second that women like Eva Marie or Cameron could kick anyone’s ass but Rousey is a monster trapped in a beautiful woman’s body. Essentially, she could do to the Diva’s division what Brock Lesnar did for the men: bring legitimacy to the WWE. And in an age where pro wrestling is laughed at and mocked more than ever, that is exactly what the WWE needs. Oh, and could you imagine her as the first Paul Heyman lady?
It’s very possible that once Rousey is done with MMA that she would venture into pro wrestling, being a longtime fan and a surefire way to make a great living on a part-time schedule.
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