Grapplers continue carving out their place in the world of professional wrestling
While fans of both avenues often hate to admit it, combat sports has a very close cousin in the sports entertainment industry of professional wrestling. The list of mixed martial artists that have bounced between the two worlds is very long and features a bevy of prominent names. In the last few weeks there have been a few flashes of commonality that have brought the two industries closer together.
A few weeks ago, regional fighter Jonno Mears, became an internet sensation when he finished his fight with a move called the Boston Crab. That moment caught the attention of many throughout the grappling, MMA and professional wrestling spaces. Mears, who fancies himself a life-long professional wrestling fan, claimed he’s tried many of these moves in grappling practices throughout his developing career.
“I loved and studied all the moves,” Mears told Marc Raimondi of MMA Fighting. “I don’t think some of the [moves] would transfer over to MMA too great, like a Tombstone. I wasn’t great at remembering the names, as I was trying to do them on my younger brother.”
Mears grew up watching the WWF (now known as the WWE) and is one of many who admit to being a fan. Even UFC personalities such as Daniel Cormier and Robbie Lawler openly talk about their love for all things professional wrestling. What’s interesting is seeing that same type of appeal occur within the competitive grappling athletes who’ve made the move to professional wrestling.
On the professional wrestling side of the conversation, there’s an influx of entertainers that are using their base in the grappling arts to add some “legitimacy” to their matches.
Taynara Conti is a new addition to the WWE roster that is a black belt in Judo and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The 22-year old athlete attempted to join the Brazilian Judo team for the 2016 Summer Olympics, before stepping into the professional wrestling industry. She made an impression during the WWE’s Mae Young Classic this summer which allowed her to sign a deal with the organization.
Conti isn’t the only new name to join the ranks within the WWE. Bobby Fish is another personality that has a background in the grappling arts and blended it into his style. It’s that style that played a huge part in him growing in popularity while on the independent scene before joining the WWE earlier this year.
Even bigger stars are joining the fray as rumors have swirled around Olympic Judoka and former UFC champion Ronda Rousey joining the WWE after her friend and training partner, Shayna Bazler, did the same last month. Daniel Bryan is a former WWE champion who grew in popularity in recent years. He’s known for using heel hooks and other BJJ based techniques during the biggest run in his career a few short years ago.
As the space between sporting competition and sports entertainment continues to blur, it’s always interesting to watch the two sides influence each other. With more athletes making the leap from grappling into the professional wrestling industry, this is a trend that is sure to continue.