Five Reasons Pro Wrestling Is Better than MMA

Let it never be said that I have a bias in this fight. (Also I apologize for the wait.)

5. Variety of styles

Yes, this was one of the reasons MMA was better than pro wrestling. However, the English language is, unfortunately, a very malleable one, so I’m pulling that card and pulling out the various national differences in pro wrestling. Pro wrestling is very similar around the world, yes, but also very different. America has sports entertainment with crazy characters, crazier stories, and the matches that lead those stories on, Mexico has wrestlers that dress and fly like superheroes, Japan has combined a stiff, realistic style with a bit of the American craziness, and then there’s the worldwide independent scene (most widely known in America and Europe, but there are some in Japan and pretty much everywhere else) that turns it all into one big stew and serves it to a loving audience, and every promotion, from CHIKARA’s comic-book inspired storylines to EVOLVE’s MMA-style ranking system and Dramatic Dream Team’s (DDT) comedy stylings. Most of the regional differences in MMA come from rule changes.

4. Live event experience

Go ahead, try to start a chant at an MMA event. I’ll wait right here.

But seriously, don’t expect everyone else to join you. At an MMA event, you’re much less likely to hear a “Let’s go X” chant. Wrestling fans, to their credit, are one of the more creative fandoms I’ve ever encountered. You have the classic “Let’s go X,” which you’ll hear a lot, but you also have “John Cena sucks!” to the tune of his theme song and my personal favorite, a bunch of potentially drunken frat boys at a house show yelling “Please stop flexing!” to David Otunga. I went to that house show with two friends, as part of an effort to convince them that wrestling was worth watching. They had the time of their lives, even though that crowd admittedly wasn’t great. To this day I haven’t found a better experience.

3. Someone can always be blamed.

In MMA, if a fight bores fans to sleep, it’s the nature if the beast. Pure and simple. Sometimes a fighter will sit on someone for three rounds, sometimes two guys will paw at each other for five. And before you say the booker can be blamed, that’s definitely not fair in a lot of cases; my personal favorite is Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander from the Ultimate Fighter 10 finale. That should have been a slugfest for the ages, but it turned into everyone gassing out. For more examples, check out this link from Tapology user theMMAmessiah.

Wrestling, however, does not suffer such trappings. There is no incentive to winning or losing, but there is incentive to put on the match of the night. And thus, when a match isn’t worth watching, it’s not an inevitability caused by a clash of styles or a trapping of a sport where winning means everything. A bad match always has a cause. Why is this a good thing? Only when you know what the problem is can you fix the problem. A wrestler’s professional growth is judged by the quality of his or her matches, not how quickly he or she can dispatch an opponent or how well that person can control their opponent. And as an audience that seeks entertainment over all else, shouldn’t we applaud this?

2. It makes kids happy.

I like to explain my love for NASCAR like this: it’s every young boy’s dream. Brightly colored cars go really fast around a track and sometimes crash into each other and go flying. Pro wrestling is a lot like that. People (sometimes in bright colors) crash into each other and go flying, and sometimes go really fast. (Looking at you Kalisto.) Add in an entire bagful of classic, basic good-versus-evil storytelling and just a dash of joyous cheesiness and it’s easy to see why kids love wrestling. And, at least at the very top, kids are at the forefront of the marketing.

But, let’s avoid cynicism here. Kid wrestling fans are the best wrestling fans. For example, remember when Brock Lesnar turned John Cena into his personal Raggedy Andy for about twenty minutes? Good times, good times. Now think about the reactions. Adults and children were both shocked, but for entirely different reasons. Adults thought “I can’t believe they’re booking Cena this weak.” The kids saw their hero being destroyed in front of them and reacted as such. Maybe that’s something we can learn? Wrestling is supposed to be fun, enjoy it.

1. Availability

You really can’t beat the availability of professional wrestling. Four wrestling promotions have national television deals (WWE has 2 shows then there’s, TNA, Ring of Honor, and Lucha Underground; I don’t count New Japan here because their show on AXS is kind of a highlight show). There are several MMA organizations that have TV deals; the two that immediately come to mind are the UFC and Bellator, and beyond that, AXS TV broadcasts several promotions as part of its AXS Fights, and Titan FC has a deal with CBS Sports Network. However, wrestling differentiates itself through its accessibility on the internet. The WWE Network, for the oft-repeated price of $9.99 a month, provides a live feed of WWE-related programming, from old episodes of RAW to pay-per-views and original content, an unlimited on-demand service, and, in my opinion most importantly, live showing of WWE pay-per-views. New Japan Pro Wrestling offers a similar service, NJPW World, for 999 yen (as of this writing that’s $8.20/month) that offers current pay-per-views. By comparison, the UFC has a similar service which offers on-demand access to past pay-per-views, Fight Nights, Ultimate Fighter seasons, and live broadcasts of some other promotions including Invicta FC and Titan FC. However, that does not include live pay-per-views or Fight Nights and I have not heard good things about Fight Pass, while the WWE Network has received great praise.

If two top level promotions having such a service isn’t enough for you, there are at least two others I know about: Insane Championship Wrestling On-Demand from England, which is $5.99/month for what the site describes as “120+ hours of video,” and CHIKARA, from the Eastern US, which offers a similar service for $7.99/month.

But, I hear you saying, “Yeah Jerron, that’s great and all, but I’m broke and don’t need to be dropping fifty bucks a month on streaming services.” I hear you, person whose argument I made up in my head, and I have some good news. There are several promotions who put their weekly television online for free. My personal favorites are Ohio Valley Wrestling and SMASH Wrestling (which also has an on-demand service, advertising all of their shows for $7.50/month). OVW is a Kentucky promotion (formerly developmental for WWE and TNA, now independent). Think of it like a modern Smoky Mountain, with a solid face-heel dynamic and a great southern vibe. SMASH is Canadian, and is more like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla than anything. They’re also well-known for their work in the community, being the masterminds behind Chris Hero wrestling for three hours for ALS Canada. Beyond that, there was a subreddit called FreeProWrestling which would showcase matches posted to WWE, TNA, and Lucha Underground’s respective Youtube channels, as well as television shows given away by the companies, such as OVW, SMASH, and Ring of Honor. However, that sub has gone private for some reason; I’ve sent a PM to the mod there asking what happened.

Thank you for reading; part 3, Five Reasons Why Wrestling and MMA Are Both Awesome, will be up at some point.

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Five Reasons MMA Is Better than Pro Wrestling

MMA and pro wrestling fans tend to have a not-so-friendly rivalry about which one is better. I’m here to help both sides of the argument. We start tonight with why MMA is better than pro wrestling.

5. Fluke, quick finishes.

Pro wrestling, as entertainment, has a responsibility to be entertaining. Quick finishes can be entertaining, but they don’t seem to be hoped for that often. Remember the backlash to Sheamus’ eighteen second victory over Daniel Bryan or, going further back, Carl Winslow raging at (presumably) one of Mike Tyson’s many first round knockouts. However, I contend that the possibility of a flash knockout or crazy submission adds a lot more than it removes, and that’s why it’s on this list. Sure, there were people on the internet that raged about the ending to the first Velasquez/Dos Santos fight, but there wasn’t a person in that dorm lounge I was in that wasn’t standing and yelling when it happened. Fifty minutes of preview for two minutes and one solid punch, and no one was mad.

4. Clash of styles

As many a commentator has said, styles make fights. And there are many styles to choose from, from the classic high-level martial arts like Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai to crazy stuff like Machida karate. And because every fighter is different, every fight is different. Pro wrestling has styles as well, but they don’t tend to matter as much and can often be as basic as a “technician” only having a submission finisher.

3. Wins and losses matter

Aside from a few notable exceptions, the way to a championship in mixed martial arts is to put together a nice string of wins, with bonus points for finishes and dominating performances. And, as a competition, isn’t this how it should be? Sometimes it seems like it’s not true in pro wrestling, even as real as it wants to seem. I mean, take NXT; Sami Zayn got like six shots against Adrian Neville for the belt after losing cleanly every time. Imagine if the Seahawks got another five shots at the Super Bowl. That’s kind of how that feels.

2. It’s a better way to tell who the better fighter is.

At first glance, this is obvious; he or she who wins the most fights is probably the better fighter. But here’s the other side of it; pro wrestling, in its matches and various acting segments, also gives us a chance to directly compare two competitors. The problem, however, is the uniquely pro wrestling quality of “putting your opponent over.” As part of the grand spectacle, through things like selling and promo work, a wrestler can make his opponent look better than he really is. Thus, the eyeball test comes into play a lot more than it normally would. However, in MMA, it’s a competition. Interviews that would make the other person look good become personal attacks. Help to perform spectacular feats becomes a race to knock someone out or submit them. There’s much less ambiguity involved.

1. It’s real.

Yeah, you knew this was coming. MMA is better than pro wrestling due to the simple fact that it is real. Bar none, the most annoying thing about being a wrestling fan is that the first thing anyone says when they find out is “you know it’s fake, right?” If you’re lucky, that leads to a too-long conversation about performance art and risk-taking and other such things and might end with an agreement to disagree; if you’re really lucky they’ll agree to watch some of it and inevitably they’ll wind up watching a really awkward part of the show. On the other side, with MMA, there is no such conversation. It’s a sport full stop. It makes your life a whole lot easier.

Part two, Five Reasons Pro Wrestling Is Better than MMA, will be posted soon.

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Payback 2014 Review

Obviously, this is my first post in quite a while on this site. Blame college. For this one, there’ll be a bit of a cast of characters; I had the good fortune of eating pizza and watching the show with some of my buddies.

Garrison Jones: Former HS wrestler, hasn’t watched wrestling in a couple of years.

Kellis Jones: (they’re not related) Kinda keeps up with the stories.

Holden Wells: My roommate. Never watched wrestling in his life.

And of course there’s my regular wrestling crew: Tim Sherrill (takes things way too seriously), Cazz Brewer (Captain Kayfabe), & Mikey Young (the actor).

All ratings are out of five.

The first match of the night was Hornswoggle vs. El Torito in a mask vs. hair lucha de apuestas. I remembered this match right before I brought the pizzas in, and a nice little “oh crap” look would up plastered on my face. Because a comedy match featuring two little people is exactly the first match you want to show to wrestling newbies. There isn’t a whole lot to say about the first half of the match; most of the good stuff (including several suicide dives that made me think that this was a comedy match booked by Paul Heyman) came in the last half of the match. Best part was when Hornswoggle ripped El Torito’s mask off revealing… *drum roll please* another mask! Wee LC last month was much better though, and the shaving of Hornswoggle (obviously, El Torito wins) was really uncomfortable to match. Holden was pretty embarrassed by this one, as his rating was a resounding “uh.”

Average rating: 3.08, my rating: 3.5, high rating: 4 (Garrison)

Match #2 was Sheamus vs. Cesaro for the US title. Cesaro entered first, well, more accurately, Paul Heyman entered first. He let the crowd know that CM Punk was watching the Blackhawks game to a fair bit of applause, but then announced that the Hawks would lose. Obviously, less applause ensued. At that point, we got the return of Mike Lient, at which point Garrison yelled that someone needed to “shoot him in the head.” Let’s just say that Paul E. got the second most heel heat for the night, from that to Tim’s walrus jokes to my reminiscing about the bad old days of ECW.

This was a pretty solid match, all things considered. No one in the room was a Sheamus or Cesaro fan at the beginning, and I’ve got a pretty serious antipathy towards the Swiss Superman. I can’t say this changed from this match, but it’s entirely possible that Cesaro made Sheamus look as good as he did. Sheamus was on fire. He pulled out an elbow drop and a three-pack of second rope knees, which broke up the monotony a fair bit. It was also interesting that Sheamus went straight into comeback mode when the match started. Good pacing and good chemistry. Maybe I can learn to bow down to the King of Swing eventually. Sheamus retains.

Average rating: 3.82, my rating: 4, highest rating: 4.5 (Tim)

Holden left right after this match.

The third match was the Rhodes Dynasty vs. Rybaxel. Rybaxel were definitely the stars here, with Axel looking brutal and Ryback growing some technical prowess. Maybe besides being hilarious together, they’re helping each other in other ways. That’s nice. On the other hand, Goldust did basically nothing and Cody had a pretty off night. His dropkick was among the best he’s ever done, but he might’ve slipped on his “fall to the ground and punch up” bit. Worse than that was his underrotation on his moonsault; I was afraid of a legitimate injury. Ryback got the pin on Cody with a rather odd-looking Shell Shocked. After the match, Cody told Goldust that he deserved a better partner, and left the ring looking dejected.

Average rating: 2.9, my rating: 3, high rating: 3.2 (Garrison & Tim)

Match number four was one I was definitely not looking forward to. Rusev, the Bulgarian Brute-turned-Putin’s personal death machine, took on “Murica” Big E. In NXT, I thought Rusev had a bit of potential, but I never would have called myself a fan of his. At this point, though, I’m sick of him. Not because I’m not a true God-fearing Patriot (I am, I go to C of O), but because I’m freaking sick of him. Lana’s not a manager, she’s a puppetmaster.

That said, we got started with a nice little flag waving contest, interspersed with “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miz in the room. Blame Mikey. There wasn’t much to note here. Big E’s STO out of the corner was quite good, and I’m glad this one wasn’t a total squash like most recent callups get stuck with, but the best part was Big E spearing Rusev out of the ring. That was awesome. Rusev wins with the Accolade, though, and I’m amazed at how protected that move is so far, considering it’s a submission move. Someone’ll break it soon enough though, I’m sure.

Average rating: 3.45, my rating: 3.5, highest rating: 4 (Garrison)

Obviously, the clusterscrew that was originally supposed to be Kofi Kingston vs. Bo Dallas doesn’t deserve a rating. I’m basically the original Bo-liever; I’ve been following the guy since FCW and the great match he had with Big E (who was basically a walking botch at that point). Thus, he’s probably my most looked-forward to callup since I’ve been watching wrestling. And they don’t let him have a match. It’s just the Kane express running through Kofi for no good reason. The good news, though, is that they gave him a mic. Bo on a mic makes me happy.

But now for the bad news. Bad News Barrett vs. Rob Van Dam for the Intercontinental title, to be accurate. When I got into wrestling around the time of the Pipebomb, Barrett was the second guy, after Punk, I became a fan of, and I’ve never had any problems with RVD, even during his supposedly awful TNA days, so this should have been a dream match for me. However, Mikey summed it up best: “I’m bored.” This one was BORING. The one good spot was RVD leg dropping Barrett over the barricade, but that one’s not new or anything. I don’t know what happened; obviously there were some chemistry problems, but this one should have been match of the night. I am still disappointed.

Average rating: 2.05, my rating: 2, high rating: 2.3 (Garrison)

The way I’m going to describe the next match, John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt in a last man standing match (unfortunately American rules) only makes sense in a particular context, namely, that I go to an extremely conservative Christian school and hang out with either theology majors, theology minors, or wannabe theology minors. So when Bray Wyatt says “I am a god,” it’s not a callback to the Kanye West song or even cheap heat. It makes him literally Satan. Thus, I was treated to a healthy diet of reaching comparisons for Cena to Jesus, Wyatt to the False Prophet of Revelation, and innumerable other things. For a match that was proclaimed to be the ultimate in good versus evil, did it deliver? Yes. Yes it did.

The crowd was very much pro-Wyatt; the concert-esque cell phone lighting was a nice touch that ended too soon. The Usos came out after Cena to keep Harper and Rowan at bay; this didn’t excuse the lack of a tag title match (especially since the Rhodes/Rybaxel match was so average) and led to a nice portion of overbooking with a side of OH MY GOSH. The Usos may be spot monkeys, but they’re awesome spot monkeys. Never will sending your butt into someone’s face to break a table not be cool.

In terms of the actual match, the pacing was excellent. Many finishers were attempted and hit, but the counters were creative and looked great in the context. The commentary lifted the match, especially during the overbooked parts. Michael Cole noticed something the rest of us didn’t: Wyatt had been down and out for quite a while, and not even the ref was thinking about it while the Usos, Harper, and Rowan were laying waste to an army of tables. Righteously angry face Cole is easily the best Cole. He sells it so well, and turns the commentary into something that sets wrestling apart: in quote-unquote “real” sports, the commentators will disagree with a referee’s call or a judge’s decision, but they have to be as tactful as possible in order to not get fined. In wrestling, though, injustice gets called out as part of the story. I think that’s kind of nice.

Anyway, there’s the ending. Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment off of what looked like a suitcase by the pyro table (but not before Wyatt sent him flying over said suitcase, accidentally setting off what sounded like Kane’s opener), into a hollow box. Then Cena pushed over what looked like a safe onto the box, preventing Wyatt from even attempting to get up. Much fun has been had on wrestling forums, calling this a literal burial of Wyatt. However, this match was in no way a burial. Wyatt looked the best he has in quite some time and the two of them put on a fantastic match. While I wish this was the feud-ender, easily the match of the night and it would have been a Match of the Year contender if Daniel Bryan vs. HHH at Mania never happened.

Average rating: 4.97, my rating: 5, highest rating: 5 (by everyone but Mikey, who gave it a 4.8).

That match must have set off the testosterone in the room, because basically no one was paying attention to the Diva’s championship match (Paige vs. Alicia Fox). Unfortunately, those of us who were weren’t rewarded with the match both competitors are capable of. The chokeslam of yours truly by Garrison into the pizza boxes was far more compelling, as was Paige’s bout with Tamina at Extreme Rules. Because of the lack of attention paid, there’s not really an average rating. I gave it a 2.5.

Finally, there was the main event and the match that everyone was looking forward to: Shield/Evolution, the rematch. And, well, the Extreme Rules one was better. The booker made a really, really poor choice by making the elimination match no DQ. Basically, it turned the match into a rehash of the ER matchup with no crowd interaction.

That’s not to say it was all bad. Triple H is still an extraordinary ring general after all these years, and it was about as well-paced as a clusterscrew of this magnitude can be. The match looked like a slobberknocker and acted like a slobberknocker. Seth Rollins hopped off the Titantron and took out all of Evolution (plus his teammate Roman Reigns). The finish, well, I wish it wasn’t a sweep, and I wish it wasn’t so abrupt. The Shield won 3-0 after back-to-back-to-back eliminations. Taking away one of the Shield would have made a more compelling match in my opinion. Looking back, it wasn’t too impressive, but we were impressed at the time.

Average rating: 3.83, my rating: 4, high rating: 4.5 (Garrison)

For the entire card, my average was a 3.44. Above average, but nothing to really write home about. Except I am writing. Strange. Some end-of-show-awards:

Line of the night: Stephanie McMahon, “They want you to quit just like CM Punk did.”

Most improved: Sheamus

Worst performance: Wade Barrett (honorable mention: Cody Rhodes)

Best performance: Bray Wyatt (honorable mention: Sheamus)

Can we please never do this again? Award: Hair matches involving comedy characters

Match of the Night: Cena/Wyatt

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Randy Couture: A Retrospective, Part One

NOTE: Part two will be completed by Lars Freitas and posted at freitascombatlab.com.

Randy “The Natural” Couture. Not only is he one of the most-loved and best-known fighters in the world, but, obviously, he is among the most dominant ever, winning multiple UFC titles in two weight classes. He also remains the only fighter to be inducted to the UFC Hall of Fame on a free event (the Ultimate Fighter 3 Finale), and the dirty boxing style that he invented has become a staple of modern MMA. This is a look back at his remarkable career.

The Natural, like many other early mixed martial artists, began his career in a UFC tournament. However, he won his at UFC 13. He then took the Heavyweight title from Maurice Smith at Ultimate Japan, defending it until a steroids-positive Josh Barnett took it from him at UFC 36. When he couldn’t take it back against Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 39, he did the unthinkable and dropped a weight class.

At that time it was nuts to think that someone could change weight classes and take a belt. Combine that with the perceived unstoppable-ness of then-number one contender Chuck Liddell and everyone seemed to count the Natural out in their fight for the Interim Light Heavyweight strap. However, Randy did what he does best and proved the doubters wrong, winning by ground and pound TKO in the third round. He then took the real belt from Tito Ortiz with a dominating five-round decision win. He lost the title to Vitor Belfort at UFC 46 due to an accidental eye-poke, but promptly won it back at UFC 49 with a third-round doctor stoppage. However, he then found his hardest test, the man known as the Iceman.

Coming off of their stint on the Ultimate Fighter, Chuck got his rematch at UFC 52, knocking out Randy in the first round. Randy got a win over Mike Van Arsdale at UFC 54, and got another shot at Liddell. In a two round war that will be forever remembered, Randy and Chuck traded punches for one and a half rounds before finally succumbing. Couture announced his retirement after this fight. However, he had bigger fish to fry: namely, the Heavyweight title.

To be continued…

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Akira Shoji: A Retrospective

For all the publicity Randy Couture’s impending retirement is receiving, another farily high-profile retirement match happened on Friday, April 22. “Mr. PRIDE” Akira Shoji fought for the final time at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, losing by second-round TKO to fellow PRIDE star Kazuo Misaki at DEEP’s 53rd show. While Shoji certainly isn’t the household name The Natural is, he was, for all intents and purposes, one of the bedrocks of the PRIDE organization.

When the first PRIDE show came around, Shoji was a young fighter with a 1-1-1 record brought in basically as a Japanese guy fighting for his country’s honor against Renzo Gracie. Entering into the ring, no one thought he had any prayer of lasting more than a round against the undefeated international superstar. However, every single person who watched that fight was proven wrong; Shoji fought a hard thirty minutes, getting out of every submission attempt he was placed in, leaving Gracie visibly frustrated and earning himself a full-time draw. It’s quite likely that had there been judges scoring the fight Shoji would have won.

From there he became the only fighter to fight in the first seven PRIDE events. He also competed in the first Openweight Grand Prix in 2000, winning his opening-round match against Ebenezer Fontes Braga before succumbing to the eventual champion, and generally a much larger fighter in Mark Coleman, a fight in which he also suffered a low blow. He gained a reputation as someone who was willing to take on all comers in the PRIDE ring, winning some, losing most, but remaining an exciting fighter in all. Fittingly, the man who earned the nickname “Mr. PRIDE” was the only man to fight in both the first and last PRIDE events.

Shoji’s fights with Daijiro Matsui and Dan Henderson will always be at the forefront of this writer’s mind. The insane heart and generally great jiu-jitsu that he showed in these fights and the rest only speak further to his testimony as a fighter. Shoji has earned the respect of fans and fighters the world over and has earned a decent retirement. You can see him post-MMA as a judge on DREAM events and as a professional wrestler. Congratulations on a career well-done Mr. PRIDE.

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ADVERTISEMENT

First up, MMAHQ is an MMA shopping site with one deal per day. One item is available on the site, and that item is normally pretty cheap. If you keep checking back, eventually they will have everything you’re looking for. http://www.mmahq.com/

Also, MMA Opinion, aside from a rather large shop on the front page, is a great place to get all your MMA Opinions. Go to the top right corner and click “Blog” for a great one. http://www.mmaopinion.com/

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Forums Now Online!

The official CI forums are now up for your enjoyment: http://s4.zetaboards.com/Cage_Informer_Forums/index/. Please feel free to sign up and stick around.

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