There are a few people out there who will contend to the death that pro wrestling and mixed martial arts are the same exact thing competing for the same exact market vying for the same exact fans. Some of those people have websites and newsletters that cover both as if they’re the same thing.
This blog covers both, but I think E does a good job distinguishing between the two. But yeah, there are other sites, very respected sites that actually do good work that have people writing for them that feel Triple H vs. Undertaker can be objectively judged against Rampage Jackson vs. Jon “Bones” Jones.
The biggest reason why wrestling and MMA are not the same is that the former is staged and the latter isn’t. It would be like judging Game 6 of this year’s World Series against the pivotal final game from Major League. Yeah, there was a baseball-like substance being pawned off in the movie. The point, though, wasn’t to see who’d win that “game” between the Indians and Yankees but to serve as the final act in a story that had unfolded over the rest of the film. The game mechanics being hyper-realistic or not didn’t have a whole lot of bearing on the effectiveness of the story.
It’s because of that kind of poetic license that wrestling is the free form thing it is today. It literally is whatever the people in charge want it to be, whatever the people in the ring want it to be. It’s in that freedom to create where the beauty of this thing we’ve been watching for at least some portion of our lives lies. It honestly doesn’t matter what is put on the screen or live in the ring for us, as long as it’s entertaining and executed well. There are no hard and fast rules to follow.
Yet, there are people out there who want wrestling to be MORE like MMA. I wonder what their motivations are for something like that, because MMA is a sport and sports have rules. They have structure. For fans of it, there’s beauty within that structure, but it’s a structure that works only for MMA. To try and retrofit pro wrestling into that box would be to destroy its appeal. I get the feeling that people who think in this way only want to like wrestling when it’s cool, and are trying to get it to latch onto something that is so meteorically popular right now that it would have to be cool by osmosis. I feel like their intentions are misguided.
One reason why wrestling right now isn’t doing business enough for some of these insecure, closeted fans to come out of their shells is that companies in the mainstream are trying too hard to imitate something else. In this case, especially for Impact Wrestling, the template is the business 15 years or so ago. People don’t want to see transparent imitations. It’s true that not much is wholly original anymore, but usually, what does work is a fresh take on an existing idea or archetype. Fresh takes are still innovative.
The question would then be what could pro wrestling as an industry do to provide a fresh take as to what MMA could do? I’m straining to find that answer. The appeal of promotions like UFC is that what they put on is real competition. It’s sport, men (or women) beating the crap out of other men (or women). There’s nothing in wrestling that could enhance that get-up without detracting from the legitimacy that gives the sport its appeal. None at all. The existing fans of MMA would look at it as a cheap, fake knockoff, and the existing fans of wrestling who don’t really dig MMA or like wrestling for different reasons than they like MMA will shy away from it because what makes wrestling unique is being stripped away.
Appreciate what makes wrestling special. Don’t throw it away just because shoot fighting is more popular.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.