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WRESTLING COLUMNS

A Change In The MMA-king for the WWE"
November 16, 2006 by Jordan Dowling


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Although similar in their set-up and targeted demographics, until recently the worlds of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts have remained separate to each other, with many disputes fuelled between fans as to which is superior. Wrestling fans normally choose to point out that their chosen sport is more entertaining and exciting to watch, offering more variety and freedom than MMA's short, and often repetitive fights, with MMA fans putting across the point that wrestling's, or at the very least the WWEs in particular, sports-entertainment shenanigans are 'just fake'. But it hasn't always been like this.

In the late nineteenth century wrestling, in its traditional amateur 'Greco-Roman' form, was a lot closer to a martial art than a form of entertainment, and in several bouts that bridged the worlds of wrestling and boxing, wrestlers were victorious against past heavyweight champions such as John L. Sullivan and Bob Fitzsimmons. Between the two world wars however, wrestling began to evolve into its current form.

Decades later the various fields of Martial Arts began to intersperse and in 1992 the Ultimate Fighting Championship was created by jiu-jitsu fighter Rorion Gracie and student Art Davie. At first the fights resembled free-for-alls between two men unwilling to shift from their taught rules, but while still holding masters of many martial arts such as Judo, Tae Kwon Do and Boxing, many of UFC's most successful fighters have been those that can take elements of all these trades.

But which is more successful, financially" Well the answer may surprise you. On buy-rate sales for PPVs in the USA the UFC has gone from around 100,000 in early 2004 to over 600,000 for its 60th event. In comparison an average WWE pay-per-view will receive around 140,000 to 150,000 purchases. This years WrestleMania received 560,000. What this means is that in under three years the UFC's fanbase has increased more than five-fold, a rise in popularity that shadows even the WWF Attitude era, and don't think that the WWE haven't noticed.

With the exception of Ken Shamrock's appearance in the mid-to-late nineties and Kurt Angle's amateur wrestling based techniques wrestlers in the WWE have steered clear from emulating the movesets of MMA fighters, but with the efflorescing popularity of federations such as UFC and PRIDE this has changed.

CM Punk, one of the hottest prospects in wrestling, has made a mark with a line of offense drawing from the fields of Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai and strong-style shoot wrestling, perhaps becoming the only wrestler to adopt a style further from that of the WWE when becoming a part of the McMahon empire. As well as bringing something fresh to an otherwise stale looking ECW, in his rapid raise to his status as one of ECWs most popular wrestlers he has given hope for further acceptance of new styles.

On SmackDown! two men, the team of Elijah Burke and Sylvester Terkay, have brought MMA stylings to the squared circle. In his debut match against Matt Hardy Turkay, a three time All-American, used a combination of throws and strikes to disable his opponent before locking him in a vicious shoulderlock submission. Elijah Burke uses similar tactics, however it is in amateur boxing that Burke has his roots, with a near perfect record of 103-1 with 102 knockouts. In line with the two men mentioned previously Elijah also uses a submission hold as a finisher, a double arm-lock dubbed 'The Elijah Experience'. Now both men look to have defected to the ECW brand we could bear witness to some of the hardest hitting matches to have graced the WWE ring.

And, if CM Punk and Elijah Burke's old hunting ground Ohio Valley Wrestling is anything to go by, the line doesn't end there, as deep in the heart of the Louisville, Kentucky promotion a new monster is slowly devouring prey. Boris Alexiev, or Anthony Carelli as he is known outside of the ring, has been labelled 'The Russian Kurt Angle', and this is not undeserved praise.

In his short time in OVW Boris Alexiev has amassed an impressive winning streak, something in common with our other three featured wrestlers, destroying pros and rookies alike with a brutal blend of takedowns and kicks. Alexiev's raw talent has been distilled with the Japanese Strong-Style spirit, and he is proficient in the arts of Judo, Sambo, Amateur Wrestling and Kickboxing, and can defeat opponents with any of these disciplines. And, of course, his finisher is a similarly vicious hold, a crippling standing armbar.

That these four men have had such success in a short time is no coincidence. Among the diva-searches and on-screen ass-kissing small seeds are being planted for an uprising of respectability, and with veterans of the European scene such as Finlay and Regal seemingly all to happy to nurture these talents and share their own experience, bringing with them new elements to add to the gumbo of disciplines and styles, these seeds, given the right feed and time to grow, should have no problem in shooting roots strong enough to hold the sports entertainment industry for quite some time, even if it is 'just fake'.

by Jordan Dowling..


Vince wrote:
Good article. I think the most significant thing you pointed out is that UFC pay per views are now outdrawing WWE PPV buyrates. I really think the WWE should wake up and just start offering shoot matches, or at least bring back the Brawl for All. Everybody knows it's fake nowadays, and the business just isn't the same as it used to be (like in the early 80s and before that when it was at least presented as legit) because the cat is so far out of the bag. Let's just go back to realism.
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