Justin Barrasso
Wednesday July 6th, 2016

SI.com’s Wrestling Week in Review is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Ken Shamrock Analyzes Lesnar-Hunt Fight

Ken Shamrock will be watching Brock Lesnar’s return this Saturday with great interest, and the fighting legend believes the fight will be decided early.

“This fight will not go beyond two rounds,” said Shamrock. “Mark Hunt can go longer, but Brock Lesnar has to finish this in the first round.”

Shamrock is an MMA pioneer and UFC Hall of Famer, and broke down the strengths and weaknesses of Lesnar and Hunt.

“Brock Lesnar’s stand-up sucks,” said Shamrock. “He doesn’t have a chin. Brock has got to take him to the ground, because Mark Hunt will knock him back to pro wrestling if he hits him.

“On the other hand, if Brock puts Hunt on his back, he will pound him into the ground. It’s going to be interesting to see if Brock Lesnar still has that magic in getting his opponent to the ground and finishing him.”

Shamrock is largely responsible for the early growth of the UFC, and he has expertise in every facet of the sport. He believes there was a certain reason why Mark Hunt was chosen as the opponent for Lesnar in his return after nearly five years away from the cage.

“Mark Hunt got the fight because the UFC wants to give Brock Lesnar at least the chance at winning without just feeding him somebody,” said Shamrock. “Mark Hunt is a formidable opponent, but his style gives Brock Lesnar the best chance to win. Mark Hunt may not be the best skilled athlete, but when he gets in the ring, you’re going to get everything he’s got. It’s a style matchup, and they’re trying to give Brock Lesnar a chance to win.”

With a win, Shamrock believes that the UFC will immediately insert Lesnar into the picture for the heavyweight title.

Courtesy of Ken Shamrock

“They brought Brock Lesnar back, forgoing all the testing, and want to walk him right into a title shot,” said Shamrock. “I’m sure there are a lot of guys who are pissed off and deserve a title shot and have been waiting for their opportunity, but listen, it makes sense. You want to make sure you put the best guy in the position to make the most money.”

Despite the USADA testing Lesnar five different times since his return to MMA, Hunt stated that Lesnar has “been juicing his whole career.”

“It’s pretty obvious that rules are made and broken to people that they want,” said Shamrock. “Look real clearly and you can see the rules were made or broken because of money. It’s not fair, but there are a lot of things that aren’t fair. Mark Hunt is being politically correct, but it does affect the fight. Don’t lie–people do this because it works. We all realize what it can do if it’s done properly. But Brock is older, so it could cause problems for him with his heart rate or his blood pressure. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you start messing with things other than what is natural. But I wouldn’t make too big a deal of it because it’s been in our sport forever. Let’s not stick our heads in the sand and pull it out when we want to get mad at somebody–we know it’s there.”

Shamrock can relate with Lesnar, as he jumped from the Octagon to the WWE and then back to the cage. Yet despite his legendary status, Shamrock admitted Lesnar is on an entirely different level.

“People have tried to compare some of the things Lesnar is doing to the things I did, but there is no comparison,” said Shamrock. “I started out at the age of 30 years old going into the UFC. I started off by fighting in Japan in my younger years, pretty much winning championships and being at the top of the sport by 34 years old. But that was then, when people didn’t have the same training or skill set that the world has now. Everybody knows how to get prepared for an MMA fight. Everybody knows what the other person is going to do. Whereas when I did it, MMA was really style against style. Things you hadn’t seen before, you’d see for the first time. People didn’t know how to train properly for it, and the coaching wasn’t there yet, either. For someone to do what I did then–and do it today–is absolutely remarkable.”

Shamrock stated that leaving MMA–and then returning–is a herculean task.

“It is not easy to go away and come back,” said Shamrock. “One year out of MMA is like five years out of MMA. When you leave and go do something else, like pro wrestling, you’re so far behind the times. People are constantly getting better and taking fights to increase their ranking and move up the ranks. When you step away, you fall five years behind–and people pass you by because they’re training harder and working harder. So to walk away from it, and then come back to the cage, that is going to be phenomenal for Brock Lesnar.

“Training for pro wrestling is very different from MMA. It’s apples and oranges–it is a different fruit. It’s like going from baseball to football, or tennis to baseball–they use the same type of throwing motions, but it’s so different. With pro wrestling and MMA, it’s an entirely different game. You cannot go from WWE and think you’re getting anything close to prepared for MMA, and you cannot prepare for pro wrestling in MMA. That’s what is going to be interesting about this fight, especially with how advanced the sport is now–can Brock Lesnar pull of this unbelievable comeback after being gone from MMA?”

Shamrock is well aware of Vince McMahon’s brilliance. While he does believe McMahon will capitalize on the success of Lesnar’s UFC return, Shamrock does not envision a Lesnar-Hunt rematch at SummerSlam.

Extra Mustard
Brock Lesnar is returning to the octagon. But why?

“Wrestling is a different beast,” noted Shamrock. “I don’t know how a rematch from MMA into wrestling would work. I’d watch it, no doubt, but then you have to start mixing the waters of what’s real and not real. There are already problems with some of the rulings and how the decisions are made that people are already questioning if it’s real, so to mix that with pro wrestling would only make it worse.”

Shamrock has spent over three decades competing in MMA, and understands that a right hook holds no discrimination in the cage. He does not believe a knockout will hurt Lesnar’s status in pro wrestling.

“When you look at this realistically, Lesnar will get knocked out if he gets caught–and anybody can get caught,” explained Shamrock. “That might hurt his dominance in pro wrestling, but it won’t hurt that much.”

Shamrock stressed that the most important part of the fight is to watch and see if Lesnar struggles to take down Hunt.

“If Lesnar struggles to take Hunt down, then he will have less control of him on the ground,” said Shamrock. If that’s the case, Mark Hunt will start imposing his will on the stand-up. If–if–Brock is able to shoot on him pretty easily and get him to the ground, and land his punches while he’s on the ground, then Lesnar will take over and finish this by the end of the first round or beginning of the second.

“This fight is about stamina, will and heart. That is where this fight is going to be won or lost. Mark Hunt has a ton of heart, but his ground game lacks–and Brock Lesnar’s wrestling and takedowns are tremendous–but does Brock Lesnar have the ability to get himself in shape and go the distance to beat Mark Hunt? Mark Hunt is not going to give up, and Brock’s going to have to finish him. I’ll be looking to see if Brock Lesnar has the heart and desire to win this fight.”


News of the Week

Brock Lesnar is genuine in his claim that he does not care how his fight with Mark Hunt affects his standing as a pro wrestler. Lesnar is a fighter and a competitor, and the highlights of his career will forever be his national championship in collegiate wrestling and his run as UFC heavyweight champion.

But make no mistake, Lesnar’s fight with Hunt absolutely affects his standing in the world of professional wrestling.

A victory over Hunt–particularly with a knockout punch that will be replayed over and over on ESPN–will further enhance Lesnar’s image as the baddest man on the face of the earth. His presence alone will instantly turn SummerSlam into appointment viewing, and the excitement of Lesnar’s next UFC fight will be building.

Yet a loss changes Lesnar’s status. The WWE has its reasons for not publicly supporting Lesnar, and one of the primary reasons is that they are afraid of a loss. Watching how the worldwide leader in wrestling responds to this fight is almost as interesting as the fight itself.

My prediction? Brock Lesnar forces Mark Hunt to tap in the second round.

In other news…

• Coming next Monday to SI.com: a feature on New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Kenny “The Cleaner” Omega.

• Speaking of Omega, he and the Young Bucks–better known as The Elite–entered their match in Japan during Sunday’s Kizuna Road card in New Day shirts, with the Bucks dancing like Big E and Kofi Kingston, and Omega pretending to play the trumpet with his broom. Unfortunately for the trio, however, the team of Matt Sydal, Ricochet and Satoshi Kojima won the match and captured the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team titles.

• Brock Lesnar shared some of his family values during this past Thursday’s UFC conference call: “I don’t want to raise my kids in the city. I want them to know a good, honest day’s work. I want them to know what it’s like to dig rocks out of the field all day. There’s no easy out for my kids. They’re going to have to earn their keep. For too many kids nowadays, life is just too easy. Life is in the palm of their hands with their phone. Everything is accessible–but not in my house.”

• All charges were dropped against Jerry “The King” Lawler, and the WWE lifted his suspension. I thought potential gun charges would spell doom for Lawler, but “The King” will be back in place for the brand extension draft on July 19.

• The heavily hyped match on the Hardy compound between Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy on Impact Wrestling raised the profile of TNA for a week and was truly the first of its kind. Although I am a fan of the work of the Hardys, the affair was more spectacle than wrestling match. Shooting off fireworks at each other, trying to drown one another, and an attempt to light Jeff Hardy on fire were all part of the encounter, which finally saw “Broken” Matt Hardy defeat his brother to continue this feud.

• Shane and Stephanie McMahon are going to run Raw, but I pray to the wrestling gods that Paul Heyman is placed as the General Manager of Smackdown.

• The Fourth of July Raw was tailor-made for “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who would have energized the crowd before Rusev pummeled the Hall of Famer and locked him into the Accolade. Instead, we saw Titus O’Neil do the j-o-b that you could see coming from a mile away.

• The mere mention of Daniel Bryan–who returns to the WWE Network tonight for Cruiserweight Classic: Bracketology, which is a look at the 32 wrestlers competing in the Cruiserweight Classic–makes me think back to the buildup of WrestleMania 30 and Bryan’s moment of glory raising both titles after defeating Randy Orton and Batista. Bryan’s victory over Triple H to open WrestleMania is one of the most underrated matches of both of their careers.

• “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash will open next week’s column by breaking down the upcoming brand extension, as well as discussing some of the halcyon days of WCW.


Test Your Wrestling IQ

See how well you know the behind-the-scenes aspect of wrestling with SI.com’s new quiz on wrestlers’ real names.


The Wrestlers’ Tribune: Jonathan Gresham

Courtesy of Jonathan Gresham

Jonathan Gresham is a modern day Dean Malenko. An eleven-year veteran of the squared circle, the 27-year-old has wrestled all over the world, including a recent outstanding bout with Zack Sabre Jr. with Beyond Wrestling, but has constantly been overlooked due to his size at 5’4” and technical style. Underestimate him at your own risk.

After eleven years of wrestling, condensing my journey onto a single page is difficult. In the beginning, my goal was simply to become a traveling professional wrestler. Molding my passion into a career wasn’t easy, coming from Atlanta, Georgia, standing at 5’4, 120 pounds (at the time). I had only a single platform on which to start–WWA4 [Pro Wrestling School in Atlanta]. In 2005, at 16 years old, I began training.

My first match was against Heath Miller, also known as Heath Slater. I wrestled mostly shows at the school and surrounding states during this time, and quickly outgrew the setting. I wanted my work to be seen by more people, but to do this I first had to reach out. The first companies I contacted were in France, then Germany. From there, their curiosity grew and my travels extended all over Europe. England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Amsterdam…it was a whirlwind.

The tide shifted during my first tour of Hong Kong, when the promoters of Zero1 Japan saw potential. Mr. Nakamura put his faith in me and I completed several tours of Japan. On my third tour, I won the Tenkichi Jr. Tournament. From there I went on to win the Zero1 International Jr title, the Zero1 World Jr title, the NWA World Jr Title, and the Zero1 USA Jr title. After wrestling in over fifteen countries, the time came to shift my attention back to the USA.

While my name was building overseas, my lack of US presence was apparent. While I did some work for Ring of Honor in my early years, too many roadblocks came from going overseas and I missed more dates than I made. My name wasn’t popping up in the companies it needed to, in spite of my expansive resume. One major reason I attribute this anonymity to is my “look.”

While there have been many successful African-American wrestlers over the years, there were none that were 5’4”. I was commended for my in-ring ability, but no one wanted to take a chance on a short, unspectacular looking, technical wrestler; the technical part being the uncompromising factor. For my height, people expect a certain style normally associated with “cruiserweights.” I refused to be placed inside that box, and for that, I believe, I was punished–with unfair booking, distasteful storylines, and random throwaway matches.

After fighting this uphill battle for a while, things began to pick up. My hard work was finally beginning to pay off. I was suddenly being booked better places, being held in a higher regard. This acclimation of things finally came to a climax these past few years; with multiple Ring of Honor appearances, a CZW Best of the Best win, becoming a regular at the internationally acclaimed Beyond, multiple returns to WxW in Germany, and a debut in Mexico for DTU.

From here, my goals are still as clear as they were eleven years ago. To show the world something different, something unique. To be something you don’t typically see on every show. To break the boundaries and to crush the box that they’ve tried to shove me in all this time. And, of course, to continue making a living doing something I love.

Gresham will be wrestling Zack Sabre Jr. at Beyond Wrestling’s #Flesh card on July 17 in Melrose, MA.


Weekly Top 10

1.) AJ Styles, WWE

Fantastic promo from Styles on Raw, who is finally being given the opportunity to show his personality on WWE programming.

2.) Dean Ambrose, WWE

Ambrose defeated The Miz in non-title matches on Smackdown and Raw, but I am beginning to question whether he will make it out of Battleground on July 24 as champion.

3.) Seth Rollins, WWE

Rollins looked fantastic on Raw in victory over Dolph Ziggler, but his night ended with a“Dirty Deeds” from Ambrose.

4.) Kenny Omega, New Japan Pro Wrestling

Omega dazzled, again, in defeat in six-man tag action this weekend, but he is looking for a big showing in the G1 Climax.

5.) Kevin Owens, WWE

Owens was disqualified from the 16-man tag team elimination match on Raw...for attacking his own teammate. How does that make any sense?

6.) Will Ospreay, New Japan Pro Wrestling

Surrounded by Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Hirooki Goto, it was Will Ospreay who dominated a special elimination match this past Sunday at New Japan’s Kizuna Road.

7.) John Cena, WWE

Cena received backup–though not in the form of Finn Balor or Randy Orton–from Enzo and Cass to help him in his battle with The Club.

8.) Bobby Lashley, TNA

The Hardys took the spotlight on Impact Wrestling, but the promo between Lashley and X-Division champion Eddie Edwards was fantastic. I am extremely excited to watch the two wrestle next week.

9.) Ricochet, New Japan Pro Wrestling

Trevor Mann–who goes by Prince Puma in Lucha Underground and Ricochet in New Japan–is one of the most talented wrestlers in the world and a future WWE superstar. He captured the NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team titles with Matt Sydal and Satoshi Kojima this past weekend in Japan.

10.) Dolph Ziggler, WWE

Ziggler had a terrific match with Seth Rollins on Raw, although it was overshadowed at times by the guest commentary of Dean Ambrose. Ziggler has few equals in the ring, and his moment of comedy with Vickie Guerrero reminded everyone of his sense of humor, but he is in desperate need of a heel turn.


Five Questions with… The Intercontinental Title

Courtesy of WWE

Five WWE superstars who wore the Intercontinental championship share their feelings about the historic belt.

Current WWE Intercontinental champion The Miz:

What does the Intercontinental championship mean to you?

The Intercontinental title has always meant that you’re the workhorse, you’re the person they’re looking for to do anything and everything, and I am that person in WWE. There is always someone that is going to motivate you and push you and be bigger–and John Cena is the poster child for that. You’re always striving to one-up him and be better than him. Granted, did I beat him at WrestleMania 27 in the main event? Yes, I did. For the WWE championship? Yes, I did. But you’re always striving to be the person who sells the most merch, does the most appearances and be the one everyone is talking about.

Has the title lost some of its shine over the years?

Whenever you are a champion, you are a champion–no matter what title it is. ‘Oh, you’re not the WWE champion?’ No, you’re a champion. I have a title and it weighs down my bag when I go through TSA. Every time I open my bag and give them a championship, they’re not going, ‘Oh, you’re not the WWE champion.’ No, they’re going, ‘Oh my God, you’re a champion,’ and that’s the way we feel. You’re always striving to be the best there is.

Santino Marella:

What does the Intercontinental championship mean to you?

When I decided I wanted to become a professional wrestler in 1998, the title I actually set my sights on was the Intercontinental title. The heavyweight championship is the main title, but this is a super significant title–it’s basically a world championship. Once you have this title, you’re guaranteed to work and defend it all year.

Has the title lost some of its shine over the years?

It’s never lost its shine to me. Sometimes, it takes a backseat to the world heavyweight title, but I prefer that title. It’s my favorite title. When I debuted and won that championship, my friends back home knew I wanted that title and said, ‘Man, you got it on your first day!’ So that was pretty cool.

Wade Barrett:

What does the Intercontinental championship mean to you?

I’m a five-time Intercontinental champion. It means a huge amount to the guys, and you need to remember the era we grew up in.

Has the title lost some of its shine over the years?

Guys like Bret “The Hitman” Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and my hero “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith all held that title, so it means as much to us today as it did to them back then.

Dolph Ziggler:

What does the Intercontinental championship mean to you?

This is the championship I grew up watching, thinking, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to be the man who represents this company with this title.’

Has the title lost some of its shine over the years?

No, but it is very simple – stories were all about larger than life stars and titles were on the back burner for a little while. It’s OK, it happens. Everybody can’t be in the main event every single night at all times. It’s a great little peak and valley, just like has happened in my career. I was defending the title multiple times a week and it was like putting some equity in myself. The title was making me mean so much more.

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat:

What does the Intercontinental championship mean to you?

Having the Intercontinental championship, at that time, put you in line for the world championship. Winning that championship was such a big, big moment for me because I knew how prestigious that belt was, and how high up it was on our ladder.

As the weeks were approaching prior to that big show at WrestleMania [III], Randy [Savage] and I were hearing how big the numbers were getting for tickets sold at the [Pontiac] Silverdome and pay per view, and we knew this was going to be a huge event. Randy and I had our hand in it, but give credit to Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, which was the main event of the evening. Knowing that the scope of this was getting so big, I thought that we had a really good opportunity to show ourselves and showcase what we could do in front of so many people.

Has the title lost some of its shine over the years?

My true belief is that the way the wrestling business is now is more created for television and pay per view. Back then, WrestleMania I, II, III were the only real pay per views, and now we have one every three weeks. So television has changed, pay per view events have increased, and titles change from one guy to the next to keep the product fresh. Plus, our talent pool has grown so much. If you look at the Who’s Who of wrestling in the past fifteen years, these guys are incredible.

[Ed Note:The interview with Wade Barrett was conducted before he exited the WWE.]


Tweet of the Week

Once again, this video proves that everything is better when pro wrestling is involved.


Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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