REES' PIECE OF MIND|
MMA: Where do wrestling fans stand?
On St. Patrick's Day, I went up to Kenosha, WI, to see Extreme Brawl 3, along with Denoit's dad, four brothers, a couple of sisters-in-law, and a nephew. We all had a pretty good time (except for mid-sixties Papa Ross - he called 'em all a bunch of pussies), as most of the eleven fights had lots of striking. Not a lot of technical skills used, as I saw only one arm-lock submission and two choke-outs. Unless you are a serious (and I mean serious) follower of the sport, you wouldn't know anybody fighting, so I won't bother with the names. Jeremy Horn reffed most of the night, but for the final match, Dan Severn was in charge. Dan was selling t-shirts and photographs as well as signing autographs.
Severn's presence got me to thinking about how MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fits in with pro wrestling. Other than the fact that both activities use a ring, there doesn't seem to be much correlation between the two.
A correlation does exist though. Severn, Frank Shamrock, Tank Abbott, and others are trying have all been pro wrestlers, primarily for the money and easier toll on their bodies, with varying degrees of success (in my minds, success is getting over with the fans). Meltzer's webpage and newsletter almost always has tons of detail on big MMA events, and he's obviously a big fan. Al at Scoops has brought it up in several of his columns, including letting us all know that Sen. McCain had helped ban UFC from pay-per-view TV. At the same time, I've never seen anything in the Torch or Wrestline/WrestleManiacs. Rantsylvania polled it's readers about whether they should cover MMA, and the overwhelming response was no.
To put it all in perspective, I met a nice grandmotherly type lady named Phyllis Lee at a UFC contest in Cedar Rapids. She was promoting a fighter there named Waterman, an incredibly well muscled 260-pound beast. Duane (#6 of Denoit's seven brothers) actually recognized Phyllis, as she had been in Severn's corner in the eary UFC's. As it turned out, the two had a nasty split and don't speak.
Phyllis gave us a business card, and then we really had something to talk about. Her card said Malenko Wrestling. It turns out she had lived for several years with the Great Malenko, although they were never married. And on the back of her card was a picture of Sabu, which led to a thousand questions from me. She said everyone, including his wife, calls him Sabu, and he leaves great three word messages on her answering machine ("Phyllis. Sabu. Call."). I got the feeling she could write a hell of an insider's book.
Personally, I enjoy both tremendously, but in very different ways. I enjoy the theatrics of wrestling as much as I like the action. The whole action-adventure movie idea Vince sells, I really enjoy. I like to watch talented guys in the ring, but I'm not a work-rate freak. A Flair or Foley, guys who are great interviews alone at this point, are just as much fun for me as Sabu or the Hardy's. But I'm also dying to see some matches from the great Japanese workrate guys right now.
As for MMA, I kind of lump it in with boxing, but much more entertaining. Boxing, to me, can be pretty boring. Hand-speed really seems to be everything in boxing. Certain fighters just can't be beat, due to natural ability. When I sit down to watch a boxing match, I want to see somebody get knocked down or out. Judge's scorecards suck ass.
In MMA, however, nobody is unbeatable. Guys giving up a hundred pounds can win easily, because of all of the various ways you can win. The sport is constantly evolving, forcing the fighters to keep as up-to-date as possible, or else lose. Case in point is how Royce Gracie, king of the early UFC, got beat in his return match to MMA fighting in Brazil to a guy he should have squashed. Royce tapped out to a chokehold he had never seen before.
Although I enjoy reading Meltzer's MMA reports, I think wrestling and MMA should be separated. I would love to see a really well run MMA-only website. In fact, I would love to see MMA make a comeback on pay-per-view. The person who could get MMA back to where it was in 1994-1995 is Vince McMahon. Problem is, Vince has a reason to keep MMA down. It's shootfighting, and the truth is shootfighting hurts pro wrestling.
Everytime a shootfighter is involved in pro wrestling, the believability factor drops a couple of notches. I'm sorry, but there is no way in hell Frank Shamrock couldn't destroy any WWF wrestler. He's just too good, and everyone knows it. And the trick to pro wrestling is getting you to believe. So when the WWF has to use internal bleeding or some other crap to explain away a Shamrock loss time after time, it gets old and hurts the product.
And to be perfectly honest, MMA's realism hurts both boxing and pro-wrestling. If I'm in a fight, I'm certainly not going to stand and trade blows, because I have no punching technique or handspeed. And as impressive as a running powerbomb is, the strength it takes to deliver one to an uncooperative opponent isn't worth wasting.
Anyone that's play-wrestled growing up learned the best way to win was to make your guy submit. I was a big fan of the Boston Crab, because it inflicts pain. And chokeholds, armlocks, and leglocks are that much better because of the ease you can apply them and the torture it causes.
Personally, I hope MMA makes a big comeback. I think there are enough fans out there to support both pro wrestling and MMA. And I'd like to keep the big name shootfighters in MMA competition, where they belong.
As the note on the back of Friday's program said, keep shootfighting legal. Let's keep it separate as well.