Those two gentlemen above are BloodyElbow.com founding editor Nate Wilcox (right) and SB Nation Senior Editor Luke Thomas (left). Luke is also the host of MMA Nation on 106.7 the Fan in Washington DC. Additionally, Luke has been a personal friend to site denizen Chad Dukes for many years as they both are employees of CBS radio. When it comes to a debate over Pro Wrestling and MMA though, we respectfully agree to disagree.
What began this discourse is the rumor that CM Punk will walk out with Chael Sonnen for his fight with Mark Munoz on the UFC on Fox 2 broadcast. Luke seems to be overly nonplussed by the MMA and Pro Wrestling worlds overlapping.
Here’s some blurbs from Luke’s write-up on his broadcast:
We are free to draw our own conclusions and no matter my protests, i’m sure the crossover from pro wrestling into mixed martial arts will inevitably continue. I’d like to just say, though, that what ultimately disturbs me about pro wrestling is that, at its core, it’s unserious. Being unserious isn’t a bad thing. Lots of wonderful things are unserious. And by serious, I don’t mean stultifying academic debates among misanthropes. Sport, while entertainment, is still bound by unencumbered competition. It’s a serious, real effort.
So in it’s simplest form, Luke is immediately qualifying Sports Entertainment solely as Entertainment and ignoring the Sport. So unfortunately in the eyes of every Pro Wrestling fan he has already discredited his own argument. Ignore the billion dollars yearly in sales figures. Ignore the TV ratings rivaling and sometimes besting the NFL or MLB during the World Series. Ignore the fact that the WWE has been global for decades, and is creating it’s own network to support it’s programming.
Being a competitor in the pantheon of Pro Wrestling brings major risk of bodily harm and outright fatal injury. It takes years of educating and honing of the craft to ascend to even being a jobber in the WWE. Which is analogous to the rise in stature mixed martial artists realize as they train and compete in multiple lesser organizations before getting a shot at a UFC fight live on Facebook, or ESPN 8: The Ocho. There is an absolutely defined minor league experience in both sports.
The frustrating thing is Pro Wrestling and MMA are incredibly similar as a whole. They are different just like the NBA and NHL are different, but the basic business model and functionality are the same. However it is infinitely more frustrating that every MMA “purist” when broached with the comparison between MMA and Pro Wrestling immediately discounts the latter based on the fact that the content is scripted. They worry so deeply that casual fans will assume that the outcome of MMA fights are predetermined. This is ignoring the fact that fans have been alleging that every major sport within the last 50 years have had predetermined match ups.
A little influence? Sure, who does it hurt? It might annoy me, but I’ll live. But blur the lines such that the nature of what we enjoy is as much theatre as it is competition, now you’ve got a problem. Pro wrestling fans are already here. The sport won’t get any bigger waiting on more of them to come over. It’s sports fans the UFC craves. Sports fans don’t mind a little pro wrestling influence either, but they generally make clear distinctions between the two. At the margins (touchdown dances, etc.) they may not care. But ultimately they’ll ask themselves: are we witnessing a sport in MMA that’s worthy of being viewed with the same level of sophistication, athleticism and seriousness we are accustomed to with football or basketball? For them, the jury is still out. And infusing more pro wrestling in MMA will not help.
On the contrary Luke. First off let’s look at who is the biggest name in MMA. A die hard UFC pundit may say Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, or Georges St. Pierre. But that is because it is who they prefer the biggest name to be. Brock Lesnar has done more in the way of exposure for MMA than anyone will ever give him credit for. Crossing over, dominating, and capturing the UFC Heavyweight Title put asses in seats. Brock being on PPV means more revenue all around.
John Cena is more famous than GSP. He just is. Accept it. I’m not even going to bring the Rock or Steve Austin into this because then the comparison becomes almost unreasonable. Pro Wrestling has been an established medium for upwards of 60 years. MMA is now going on twenty, and is still gaining steam. CM Punk walking out with Chael Sonnen is on par with Cyndi Lauper appearing with Captain Lou Albano in 1984 and ’85. Crossing over brings more attention to your medium. A rising tide lifts all boats.
To doubt the validity of MMA is foolish. To worry that two stars in each field being seen together in a supportive manner will lessen the credibility of the sport is even more so foolish.
Luke delves into his points pertaining to “Pro Wrestling and the female response,” and went to to question what antics will Chael Sonnen and CM Punk get into during their brief walk to the ring. That question alone will push an extra hundred thousand or more PPV buys. What else is there to say?