CM Punk may have choked inside the #Octagon, but that doesn't mean he should ruin the MMA adventure for every professional wrestler.
Punk famously tried to jump from the #WWE to the #UFC, at the age of 37, with no MMA experience. Punk never made it out of the first round. Unfortunately for Punk, the UFC matched him with an an undefeated rising star, #MickeyGall, a guy who recently beat #SageNorthcutt, who is a much better fighter than CM Punk.
Still, let's not judge all pro wrestlers based on Punk's performance. We're certain there are #WWE wrestlers who could compete or win an MMA match. Let's take a look at some of the wrestlers who would make an impact inside the Octagon. Now, this list is a bit different than some of the others you might find out there. Yes, in a perfect world anyone who competes in the UFC should have some amateur or other combat sports experience.
This list, however, will take into consideration fight experience background, as well as microphone skills, overall charisma and straight-up man toughness. After all, fighters need to sell fights.
10. Dolph Ziggler
He's the modern-day showstopper, but his WWE career is certainly not that of the legendary Shawn Michaels. Too bad. Ziggler (Nick Nemeth) is a really good athlete who has suffered from poor booking choices by the WWE promoters. In the UFC, however, Ziggler could be another Northcutt. Well, hopefully better.
Ziggler wrestled in high school and was teammates with UFC fighter Gray Maynard. At Kent State University, Ziggler racked up 121 wins between 2000 and 2003, and is second in all-time victories at the university. He is a three-time All-Mid-American Conference champion.
In other words, Ziggler, even at 36, can probably hold his own in the UFC, and maybe even get out of the first round with Gall. Maybe.
9. Roman Reigns
Reigns (Leati Joseph Anoaʻi) is on the list just because we would love to see him get his backside beat -- by anyone. Put him in there with Mickey Gall and the crowd will be yelling "Roman's Sleeping" for entirely different reasons.
8. Jack Swagger
When Swagger (Jake Hager) looks back at his WWE career, he's going to know that his bank account was full, but his pro wrestling legacy was nearly bankrupt. Swagger is one of those odd pro wrestling ducks. He's a great athlete who should have been a big star, but for some reason never did. Like Ziggler, Swagger has legitimate amateur wrestling skills. He was a standout in high school before moving to the University of Oklahoma, where he wrestled and played football. He eventually became an All-American and set a record for pins in a season, with 30. Swagger is only 34 years old. If anyone could pull a CM Punk and just walk away from the WWE to fight, it could be Swagger. It probably won't happen, but if Swagger could improve his conditioning, and figure out a way to take an MMA fighter to the mat, he could have some success.
7. Kofi Kingston
Kingston (Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah) is a singles WWE star hiding in a Fabulous Freebirds tag team gimmick ripoff. Before he was a clown in the New Day he was a rising star, with some impressive wrestling skills. He enjoyed a great feud with #RandyOrton and was starting to define himself as something special during the WWE's annual #RoyalRumble match -- with his defeat-defying acrobatics. Kingston is the kind of wrestler who can hang with the high-flyers, but also hang and bang with the heavy-hitters. Kingston, with some MMA training, and especially jiu-jitsu, would definitely have some potential inside the Octagon. Please, no unicorns, though.
6. Seth Rollins
The Architect is one of professional wrestling's shining stars. Who was really the breakout star of The Shield? The jury is still out on #DeanAmbrose. Certainly Roman Reigns has a lot of work to do. In fact the breakout star is Rollins (Colby Lopez) , who is one of those guys who has shades of Shawn Michaels AND Bret Hart in him. Rollins also possesses a great quality, one needed among professional fighters: he's competitive. He brings intensity and sense of realism into his character. Rollins is 30 years old and has a lot of natural athletic qualities. Maybe he needs to start in a few smaller promotions, then move to Bellator, and then end up in the UFC.
5. Kevin Owens
Heck, he's already regarded as a "prizefighter." He wears T-shirts that say "Fight Owens Fight." His initials are "KO." Come on, this guy lives an MMA gimmick. Unfortunately for Owens (Kevin Steen), he looks more like Roy Nelson than #StipeMiocic, or any elite heavyweight. Still, believing in yourself is half the battle, right? Owens is surprisingly athletic inside the ring, and a high-flyer. He's certainly got better cardio then some other professional wrestlers who are in physically better shape. We've seen Owens have great physical matches and there's no reason to believe that he wouldn't bring his WWE edge into the Octagon. Who knows, if the WWE keeps messing with him with questionable booking decisions, Owens might be considering new career options.
4. Randy Orton
Of all the guys on this list, Orton knows what it is like to take a real MMA-style elbow from one of the baddest men on the planet. The WWE, in its infinite wisdom, allowed Brock Lesnar to beat up Orton to end Summerslam. Lesnar connected with several vicious elbows to Orton's head, one of which cut him open. Orton certainly looked stunned after the elbows, but he proved one thing: he was a tough son of a gun. Orton bled hard way right there on the mat for everyone to see, in a display, if nothing else, of bravery. Orton is only 36 years old and possesses a fairly wicked mean streak. A former high school wrestler, we certainly like his MMA chances more than say, someone like #JohnCena.
3. AJ Styles
Of course the greatest professional wrestler in the world today would do well inside the Octagon. Certainly Styles (Allen Neal Jones) could have, had he gone into the sport when he was younger. At 39 years old, that train has likely already left the station. But if you matched him up with CM Punk inside the Octagon, smart money is on Styles. Styles is a phenomenal pro wrestler. He's athletic, strong and quick. Styles also wrestled in high school so he has some mat experience. Styles told Stone Cold Steve Austin on a WWE Network podcast that he likes to work stiff and that he likes to get hit. It's easy to believe that Styles could probably do just about anything he wants athletically. Can you imagine him performing a 450 splash off the top of the cage? Yes, we're dreaming, but it would be cool.
The Lucha Dragon (Emanuel Alejandro Rodriguez) could certainly breathe some life into the UFC. We're not saying he should be allowed to wear his mask inside the Octagon, but this Luchador's high-flying skills and lack of fear would make for some exciting fights. Kalisto was also an athlete in high school, competing in wrestling, football and jiu-jitsu. At only 30 years old, Kalisto is one of those pro wrestlers who could have gone into MMA if he wanted to. He just loved professional wrestling, and pursued it right out of high school. Kalisto is more than just a little guy who can perform stunts inside the ring. He's mean, tough and knows how to throw a right hand. There's clearly a fighter living inside this guy.
1. American Alpha
Talk about a couple of professional wrestlers who have options. Jason Jordan (Nathan Everhart) and Chad Gable (Charles "Chas" Betts) were elite amateur wrestlers who are probably way better on the ground than Northcutt. Jordan was a three-sport athlete in high school and was drafted by the MLB. Jordan instead went to wrestle at Indiana University, and became one of the best amateur wrestlers in the nation in the heavyweight division. Betts was also a high school and college wrestling standout and wrestled on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
There's little doubt that with some proper training these two wrestlers could have an impact in MMA. As for the WWE, they have picked up the art of pro wrestling quickly and both appear to have bright futures.