Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, and Stone Cold Steve Austin are just a few of the names that have brought professional wrestling into mainstream. The same can be said for Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva for MMA. But now some of the fighters are trying to make headway into the sports entertainment business, that could be good for their career but bad for the consumer.
Recently Muhammed Lawal “King Mo” signed a lucrative deal with both Bellator Fighting Championships, and TNA Wrestling. He has interest in doing wrestling for a very long time and after his release from Zuffa he had the option to pursue both passions. The problem is that even though Lawal doesn’t have much background of wrestling, TNA signed him for a ratings boost.
Over the years TNA has been the second fiddle to the WWE in terms of ratings and being looked at as the “Triple A” of sports entertainment. With the amount of veterans on their roster TNA hasn’t been able to equal any sort of challenge to the WWE. The company as a whole is still trying to figure out how to boost their viewers and show that they will be around for the immediate future. With the ratings still not what upper executives would call “immaculate” TNA pulled another rabbit out of the hat. They signed King Mo to a wrestling contract while Bellator did the same so he can fight in their upcoming tournament.
The problem I have is that these two companies are totally different because one is real and one is scripted. We have seen it with The Undertaker trying to stir something up with Brock Lesnar after UFC 121. Nothing was ever publicly released by the WWE or Mark Calaway (Undertaker’s real name) regarding this exchange but all signs point to him trying to lure Lesnar back to the WWE.
After his loss against Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 Lesnar returned to the wrestling business due to the limited schedule and training he has to do. But he decided to make an appearance at the last PPV and many were wondering if this was another ploy to further story-lines. Dana White met with Lesnar in a private meeting and said it was a terrible. White didn’t share the details on why it was dreadful, but some have said Lesnar was looking to do both (wrestling and MMA).
With TNA struggling to find a stronger viewership and Bellator still looking to try new broadcasting ideas it’s a smart business decision to have a fighter enter the wrestling world. It would make a great cross-over viewership for both types of fans but only if they avoid a major area.
The major issue TNA needs to avoid is the mixing of wrestling into the real sport of MMA. We don’t need managers walking to the cage with Lawal or having him bring a championship belt he won in TNA during an entrance during at a Bellator fight. TNA doesn’t need to put marks in the crowd to approach him after his fight to further a storyline and force viewers to watch the wrestling product.
Sports Entertainment is still a big industry and with Roy Nelson also getting niche to do wrestling its inevitable more MMA fighters will try their luck. Even though the schedule is yearlong it’s easier on the body in terms of training and the money can be good in terms of how they develop. Dana White hasn't budged on letting Zuffa contracted fighters join a wrestling promotion as there is more risk than reward.
But keeping the real sport of MMA and wrestling separate will be the smart thing to do for fans of both businesses. If you start intertwining both, there will be more backlash and tirade from fans who will be confused on what is going on during a broadcast.
I don’t see a problem with fighters doing wrestling, but keep the sideshow and acting away from the cage. A winner in one match is well decided well before a bell is rung while another is based on pure talent. Keeping it separate is the best possible solution for everyone involved.