Sports

TNA Wrestling’s History With MMA Fighters

ORIGINALLY POSTED June 5. I thought it would be appropriate to re-post after the return of Tito Ortiz. Rampage Jackson isn’t the first MMA fighter that has appeared in TNA Wrestling. Several former UFC fighters have appeared in TNA yet none of failed to make a serious impact. A look back at the history of fighters in TNA shows a pattern of questionable booking and failed potential.

Jackson is the new flavor of the week in TNA. Dixie Carter has called his arrival a “big free agent signing” and Viacom is labeling the alliance with Bellator MMA as a “landmark partnership.” The funny thing is that seeing an MMA fighter in TNA is hardly anything new. Yet ironically none of them have ever panned out and the bookers have never seemed to get it quite right.

Here is a look back at the short list of Mixed-Martial Artists to have taken part in the charade known as TNA Wrestling.

Dan Severn – This is a great one to start off with. Former UFC pioneer Dan Severn was NWA world champion when TNA launched back in 2002. TNA leased the NWA titles when it began so Severn would have been their inherited champion. Severn was already booked and couldn’t make the first TNA date so instead of waiting a week, they decided to strip him and hold up the title. I have talked to Severn and others who believe that this was just TNA’s way of getting the title off of him and on the guy they wanted which I guess is their prerogative. However, it just seemed like a bit of a murky start when you kickoff your company playing games with the world champion. Needless to say Dan never did make his TNA shot which is a shame because they had a pretty good storyline there with him and the champ.

Ken Shamrock – The beneficiary of Severn not showing up for opening night was Shamrock winning the world title. Shamrock won the NWA world title in a Gauntlet Match the first night when he defeated Malice (who, yep that’s who) with a belly-to-belly suplex. Shamrock was world champion for a few months before losing to Ron Killings. Shamrock came back to the company in 2004 but really didn’t do a whole lot. Of all MMA fighters Shamrock of course was most successful, although in terms of drawing money he didn’t mean a whole lot.

Tito Ortiz – I think it’s arguable whether Rampage or Tito were the biggest MMA stars to sign with TNA. Ortiz was in the midst of a contract dispute with the UFC and was their light heavyweight champion at the time. However, this was 2005 so the UFC was not the global conglomerate back then that it is today. Ortiz made a few appearances, his biggest being two as a special guest referee. Booker Dusty Rhodes loved Ortiz at the time and had bigger plans to use him if he didn’t re-sign with the UFC. Ortiz’s last appearance on TNA PPV resulted in Rhino becoming new world champion. It’s hard to get a read on exactly what kind of impact that he had since TNA doesn’t release buyrates. He did create quite a bit of buzz so in this case I’d say he was a hit. Wrestling purists may say differently since he didn’t sell anything back to the wrestlers.

Editor’s Note: He’s back!

Frank Trigg – Here is a beauty. Trigg came in as an analyst and TNA played up his physical resemblance to Kurt Angle as part of the story. Trigg wound up wrestling AJ Styles in what could be considered Styles’ worst match in TNA history. The crowd crapped all over it and Trigg was gone shortly thereafter.

King Mo – King Mo was the last flavor of the MMA week to sign with TNA Wrestling. Mo’s signing was a big deal at the time yet he quickly fizzled out. Mo made a handful of appearances including serving as special enforcer on last year’s Bound for Glory event. Unlike Ortiz who was used in the world title situation, Mo was used simply as a special enforcer in a street fight between James Storm and Bobby Roode. Keep in mind that Mo signed in May 2012 and has yet to wrestle in TNA. Thus far King Mo’s signing has been a complete dud although in all fairness it could change.

Bobby Lashley – This was a tough one because Lashley is more known as a pro wrestler than fighter but he came into TNA in the middle of his MMA career. Lashley debuted during the Main-Event Mafia angle and was immediately thrust into it. Lashley jumped into TNA at Lockdown 2010 but wasn’t seen again for about three months. That isn’t exactly what I’d call capitalizing on the momentum. Lashley had feuds with the Main Event Mafia and a notable series with Scott Steiner. He actually began to show some depth to his character when he turned heel. Unfortunately his heel run was short and it ended with him being fired on television. Lashley wasn’t a difference maker at all in the ratings and almost surely didn’t even come close to paying off what his contract cost the company.

Joe Warren – I almost didn’t put him here but if this is a blog on the history of MMA fighters in TNA, he belongs in. Warren showed up randomly on Impact to do commentary and shill Bellator MMA. This was all part of the “ground breaking” partnership that started between TNA and Bellator (although I can’t seem to remember TNA ever getting anything from Bellator on Bellator’s television). It was a little weird since Bellator wasn’t even on Spike yet although they were both a part of the same Viacom family. Other than giving Bellator a free commercial I can’t imagine what TNA got out of this.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric’s work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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