MMA analyst/reporter Ariel Helwani joined Sean Waltman’s “Pro Wrestling 4 Life” to talk about the current WWE product, the rise of AEW, his pro wrestling fandom and much more.
Here are some highlights:
Helwani said he has been a lifelong pro wrestling fan. He talks about the similarities between MMA and pro wrestling:
“I feel like there have been times where the two worlds have come together. Punk coming over to MMA. Brock going over to UFC. For the most part, I just think there’s a lot of insecure MMA fans that don’t want to acknowledge or admit that MMA’s roots are in pro wrestling and they’re only fooling themselves. Anyone, and I think even Dana White himself would admit that he has taken a lot from the world of pro wrestling, and there is nothing wrong with paying respect to those that came before you.”
Helwani said he was not a fan of the Ronda Rousey character in WWE:
“Here’s one thing that really rubs me the wrong way. I don’t like when people play pro wrestler. I actually wasn’t a fan of Ronda Rousey, the pro wrestler. I thought she was playing pro wrestler. She would walk down the ramp almost acting like the celebrity who’s there to make an appearance at WrestleMania waving and smiling. You don’t do that when you’re going to a big fight. You’re intense, you’re focused, especially her. I felt the whole gimmick, everything about her, was off. She felt like she was playing pro wrestler. When I see some of those guys there (Dan Lambert’s group in AEW), I want to coach them and tell them, ‘Don’t play pro wrestler. Act like yourself. Act like you would be at an MMA event.’ I think the one who can be a huge star is Kayla Harrison. I think Kayla Harrison can be more successful at pro wrestling than Ronda Rousey was. She is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in judo. She’s in the back there with Dan Lambert, and she’s an immense talent.”
Helwani talking about the interest level of pro wrestling and MMA:
“NXT was on fire years ago. Perhaps it was ill-advised to rush into a head to head battle with AEW because you’re talking about the third brand against the top brand for another league. It’s like UFC putting a low level Fight Night up against Bellator’s best card each and every week. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s understandable if AEW with the names that they have are beating them. I don’t think that should be an indication or an indictment that NXT is a bad brand and needs to be rebranded and all that stuff. Anyway, I think that WWE over the years, the track record speaks for itself. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I’m one of those old school guys. I don’t think pro wrestling is a bad word or a dirty word. I think sometimes it gets a little bit too crazy with the sports entertainment stuff. I think we all became fans of this because we love pro wrestling. It’s very refreshing to have options now where it’s a different product with different characters and a different mindset. I think pro wrestling is on fire, and dare I say, I think it’s hotter right now than the sport that I cover, MMA. I don’t think it’s been this interesting for over 20 years. I’m tuning into everything. I want to see who’s showing up where. Who’s going to up the ante, and MMA at times can feel a little bit stale. I would say this is one of those times where pro wrestling is hotter than MMA.”
Click below to listen to the entire interview.