WWE rarely acknowledges the fact that other promotions or sports exist outside of their own.
While that may be a good marketing strategy from Vince McMahon himself, many WWE stars, like Goldberg or Roman Reigns, have backgrounds in football. Others come from different wrestling promotions like NJPW, ROH, or TNA/GFW.
Some wrestlers come from an MMA background and others try their hand at MMA after their time in WWE.
Wrestlers may get their start as gifted technicians or have a legit wrestling, boxing, or martial arts background to fall upon.
Still, many go in completely blind and possibly find success or get absolutely floored. In light of the recent Jones/Lesnar buzz, let’s take a look at some WWE talent that has crossed over into MMA.
1. Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. His stuff with Paige and subsequent suspension from GFW have been crushing to that company as of late. Despite this, Del Rio is a talented performer.
He’s a former Money in the Bank winner, Royal Rumble winner in 2011, World Heavyweight Champion, WWE Champion, and United States Champion. Outside of WWE, he’s won the GFW Unified Heavyweight Championship and CMLL World Heavyweight Championship.
Del Rio was once an MMA fighter under the name of Dos Caras Jr. where he achieved success in both Mexico and Japan.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura is one of hottest acts in pro wrestling right now. His otherworldly charisma and incredible wrestling skills have won him multiple titles in Japan including the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, IWGP Intercontinental Championship, and 2 NXT Championship reigns.
His matches with guys like Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn, and Finn Balor were hard-hitting and entertaining. However, before becoming the “King of Strong Style”, Nakamura was an MMA fighter in Japan for NJPW and K-1 defeating the likes of Alexey Ignashov, Jan Nortje, and Shane Eitner with his only loss coming against Daniel Gracie.
3. Dan Severn
Being a crossover fighter before it was cool, Dan Severn is the GOAT of MMA, as well as having the coolest looking mustache.
He was a UFC original, winning the UFC Superfight Championship and the NWA World Championship, becoming the first and only man to do so. He is also the only man to compete for WWE and UFC at the same time. His first NWA Title Reign lasted for 4 years and he brought the title with him to the WWF/E and was managed by Jim Cornette.
4. Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock is known as the “World’s Most Dangerous Man” and he definitely lives up to the title. A crazed fighter and the first King of Pancrase, Shamrock has experienced success in many ventures.
Defeating guys like Dan Severn and Royce Gracie as well as a reign as UFC Heavyweight Champion cemented him as a legend in MMA. He is a UFC Hall of Famer and respected veteran of the business. Shamrock also had a successful WWF/WWE career winning the Intercontinental title once as well as the King of the Ring tournament in 1998.
5. Bam Bam Bigelow
As an athletic big man, Bigelow entertained crowds with his surprising agility and unique style. He was widely known for the flaming tattoo that covered half of his bald head.
While he didn’t achieve much success in the WWF, he achieved success in NJPW becoming a IWGP Tag Champ alongside Vader, ECW Heavyweight Champion, and ECW World Televsion Champion. Bigelow had a one off MMA fight in Japan and lost via TKO in the first round.
Bigelow claims that the fight was a work and he got paid a handsome sum for the one fight.
Batista has had a successful career both in and out of professional wrestling. He’s won the World Heavyweight Title 4 times, the WWE Championship twice, won the Royal Rumble twice, and the Tag titles 4 times.
Batista is also an actor and plays Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy (my favorite movie as of late). His crazy physique and likable personality allow Batista to excel at whatever he does.
Batista was always interested in MMA and finally made his debut defeating Vince Lucero via TKO. After the fight, he promptly retired from MMA, leaving him undefeated.
7. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is one of the best crossover athletes in recent memory. A former amateur wrestling champion, Brock joined the WWE and had a rocket strapped to his back.
He won the King of the Ring in 2002 and defeated The Rock for his first WWE Championship at Summerslam in the same year. After leaving the company and competing in New Japan Pro Wrestling where he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, he signed with the UFC.
In just his third professional fight, he defeated Randy Couture at UFC 91 to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Brock did return to WWE in 2012, winning the WWE World Heavyweight Title in 2014 and the Universal Title this year.
Brock has since fought at UFC 200 against Mark Hunt; however, the decision was overturned due to Lesnar testing positive for banned substances.
8. Jack Gallagher
Jack Gallagher is a very different character. He portrays an English gentleman and is extremely entertaining in the Cruiserweight Division.
He’s been called a “breath of fresh air” in a sometimes stale WWE product. He’s had great programs with Davari and Neville. Gallagher’s trademark umbrella is a powerful weapon. He’s also a very technical wrestler as shown in his match with Neville and Akira Tozawa.
Despite his character’s comedic nature, Gallagher has proven himself to be an athlete outside of wrestling.
He’s a former MMA fighter with an undefeated record of 2-0. Both wins were by submission proving that the Gallagher isn’t all fun and games.
9. CM Punk
CM Punk is one of my favorite personalities in wrestling.
When wrestling became a hard thing to watch, CM Punk was a bright spot in a whole mess. He had no problem telling people how he really felt and cut passionate, hilarious, and entertaining promos.
Punk went on to have a 434-day reign as WWE Champion and put on great matches with the likes of John Cena, Daniel Bryan, and Chris Jericho. His alliance with Paul Heyman had money written all over it, and his feud with John Laurinitis is some of the greatest mic work of that year.
After a dispute with WWE in 2014, he left the company. Punk made an appearance at UFC 181, announcing that he had signed a multi-fight deal with the company. He began training in Milwaukee under Duke Roufus and moved to Milwaukee to be closer to the gym.
His debut was delayed once due to a shoulder injury and then again due to a herniated disk. Punk made his professional debut at UFC 203, losing to Mickey Gall in the first round by rear-naked choke.
10. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley was touted as the next big star in WWE in 2006. He won the United States Championship once and the ECW Championship twice.
He’s also won the TNA Heavyweight title 4 times, X Division title once, and was the final King of the Mountain champion.
Lashley splits his time between wresting for GFW and fighting for Bellator MMA. He has an impressive record of 15-2 and has held the Shark Force Heavyweight Title as well as the XFN Heavyweight Title.