Back in 1994, Dan Severn blazed a major trail as the first mainstream MMA star to go and try his hand in professional wrestling.
Dan “The Beast” Severn was the first man to hold both a Pro Wrestling and a MMA Title simultaneously back in 1995.he dominated the UFC and added some desperately needed credibility to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.they didn’t come more legit than Dan Severn. pic.twitter.com/E0ZoQy3sib
— Rasslin’ History 101 (@WrestlingIsKing) April 20, 2018
For every wrestler who has gone on to enjoy success in the Octagon, there are those who have failed to flourish in the UFC and other promotions – and have the bruises to prove it.
So let’s take a look at the records of the major wrestling stars who have tried their luck in MMA, and see who is the best WWE superstar turned martial artist extraordinaire.
CM Punk (Phillip Jack Brooks)
A hugely respected wrestling technician, when CM Punk left the WWE after various disputes with Vince McMahon he went away and reinvented himself as Phillip Jack Brooks, the MMA hopeful.
The president of the UFC, Dana White, sensed an opportunity and let Brooks sign up for his promotion, where he made his debut in September 2016. Unfortunately, ‘Punk’ lost to Mickey Gall, and less than a year later he lost on a decision to Mike Jackson.
Standing 0-2, Brooks hasn’t returned to the Octagon since.
He is the only wrestler with a 100% win record in MMA.
Okay, so Dave Bautista only had one mixed martial arts bout, but he made it work by KO’ing Vince Lucero in the first round of their Classic Entertainment and Sports contest.
Now he’s in Hollywood, it’s unlikely that ‘Batista’ will be returning to the Octagon anytime soon.
Much respected by the WWE hierarchy – hence his continued run as a championship contender to Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley could have gone on to great things in MMA.
His record stands at a fantastic 15-2, and his versatility as a fighter saw him win bouts both with ferocious striking and technical grappling abilities.
If Lashley had made the move from Bellator to UFC, he could have gone on to even greater things.
Other than Dan Severn, no contemporary former WWE star has won more MMA bouts than Ken Shamrock.
The ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’, former WWE Intercontinental champion and 1998 King of the Ring has fought all over the world, capturing the inaugural UFC heavyweight belt and becoming the King of Pancrase in Japan.
In the end, Brock Lesnar became something of a joke WWE champion, dusting himself off for the occasional taping of RAW and the odd PPV while his stablemates busted their backs carrying the franchise around the world.
But Lesnar’s MMA chops cannot be questioned. He’s beaten Randy Couture and Frank Mir in the UFC, winning heavyweight gold, and so his in-ring persona as a tough nut is legitimate.
Still on the books at WWE HQ, Lesnar has not appeared for a while and his six-year run of headlining Summerslam is in jeopardy.
Vince McMahon brought Ronda Rousey purely because of how bad ass she was in the UFC.
Rowdy went 12-0 through her early days in independent promotions to the UFC, beating some tough cookies along the way in Miesha Tate and Bethe Correia.
After a couple of heavy defeats, Rousey decided that wrestling was where her future lay, and she became the second-longest reigning women’s champion in history, while breaking new ground as one of the first females to headline Wrestlemania.
And to the Future
So who will be the next to step out of the Octagon and into the ring as a WWE superstar?
Fans would love nothing more than to see brawlers like Jorge Masvidal and Francis Ngannou join RAW or Smackdown, although both of those men still have unfinished business in the fight game. Both are in the mix for titles, and both feature heavily on the leading MMA betting sites whenever they announce a fight – more often than not, they are the bookies’ favorites too. It will be a while before they hang up their gloves.
Cain Velasquez has been released by WWE, per @davemeltzerWON
Velasquez last appeared at the Crown Jewel pay-per-view in October pic.twitter.com/2iTk2FSmhq
— B/R Wrestling (@BRWrestling) April 28, 2020
Others have already started to cross the divide. Jessamyn Duke, a former UFC and Invicta fighter, is climbing through the ranks of NXT, while Cain Velasquez – conqueror of Lesnar in the Octagon – has made his WWE debut already. His contract has since been rescinded, but the door has not been closed on his return.
In the past it has been reported that former UFC middleweight and welterweight champion Georges St Pierre has been approached to join the WWE’s training center, while nobody would be surprised to see Conor McGregor talking trash on the mic in the near future.
The synergy between MMA and the WWE continues to be fruitful, and with McMahon keen to address falling ratings don’t be surprised if more UFC megastars make their way into the squared circle soon.