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Notable Fighters Turned Pro-Wrestlers

posted Feb 3, 2018, 6:45 PM by Wrestling Scout
The pro-wrestling world has been abuzz following the appearance of Ronda Rousey at the Royal Rumble.  Rousey, one of the biggest drawing cards and crossover stars in the history of MMA, could be a game-changer for the WWE.  However, she is hardly the first fighter to try out pro-wrestling.

There are plenty of notable fighters who actually had backgrounds in pro-wrestling - Ken Shamrock, Kazushi Sakuraba and Brock Lesnar.  In recent years, more fighters with an appreciation of pro-wrestling have tried their hand at it.  Tito Ortiz and Quinton Jackson, despite being charismatic stars in MMA, had cringeworthy showings in TNA.  Lesser MMA personalities Matt Riddle and Shayna Bazler have made strong showings, but their careers are just getting started.

Related imageDon Frye**
Growing up a fan of Superstar Billy Graham and learning under Curt Hennig, Frye had an impressive run in New Japan in between his UFC and Pride FC days. He could bump, he would sell and he was believable!

Josh Barnett
A life-long fan, Barnett was able to tour with New Japan during their down period and excelled at the style. While very good at both, he has always had unfortunate career setbacks. Barnett was a sponge for pro-wrestling and combined an old-school believability with modern-day presentation.

Bob Sapp
One of the biggest celebrities in Japan for a few years, "The Beast" did everything including pro-wrestling. While he had trained at the WCW Power Plant, Sapp was not really a pro-wrestler prior to his time in Pride FC. His charisma, star power and athleticism carried him through several pro-wrestling matches.

Bas Rutten
His appearances were few, but his skills were without question. It might be argued Bas had some less-than-legit bouts in Pancrase, but he was certainly a fighter and not a worker. He had a few matches in New Japan during their partnership with Pride FC and showed amazing potential even though he was older and not a worker.

Ryushi Yanagisawa
Another Pancrase fighter (he actually started with Pro-Wrestling Fujiwara-Gumi) who spent 10 years working there and RINGS.  He made the jump to traditional pro-wrestling rings and was given some big opportunities in New Japan.  While he adapted well to aspects of the pro style, the company was in a tough transitional phase and mainly hung around in the midcard.

Mark Coleman & Kevin Randleman
Their rollercoaster MMA careers included a few pro-wrestling matches in Japan for Zero-One and HUSTLE as a tag team. While both were untrained and raw, they had some worthwhile showings. Coleman was a lifelong fan and was always a great intense character while Randleman's charisma and amazing athleticism impressed many. It might have been a better avenue for both of them to pursue as he never accomplished much in MMA after 2004.

Daniel Puder
While he did not have a notable background, Puder managed to battle his way into the WWE system through Tough Enough and was very good in his own way. After some time in OVW, he was released and returned to MMA.

Brian Johnston
A UFC pioneer, Johnston was brought into New Japan with Don Frye in the late 1990s. He was an impressive specimen and believable in his role, but never pushed as hard as Frye. Johnston had his limitations and sadly had a stroke that ended his pro-wrestling and MMA careers.

Ron Waterman
While he was never a huge success in either, the H20Man had a great look and undeniable presence. Unfortunately, he was often confused for Bill Goldberg. Older and less talented, Waterman's success in OVW never led to success on the WWF's main roster.

Tank Abbott
A legitimate bad ass dancing around my members of a pro-wrestling boy band? Although Tank's WCW run had some questionable booking and never proved to be a great worker, he had something. The charisma that got him over in the UFC translated in WCW to an extent and his run was certainly not forgettable.