MMA and pro wrestling have a long, complicated history that tends to divide fans. That history continued Friday, with members of American Top Team “invading” AEW Rampage.
In an episode technically filmed Wednesday at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York, the “Men of the Year” (Scorpio Skye and Ethan Page) defeated Chris Jericho and Jake Hager — coincidentally the #10 ranked Bellator MMA heavyweight — in tag team action.
Over the past several weeks, ATT owner Dan Lambert, a noted pro wrestling aficionado, has been serving as the mouth piece for Skye and Page, occasionally bringing in some muscle from the gym with him.
In a post-match segment Friday, Lambert brought out pretty much the whole damn gym. That included everyone from former UFC heavyweight champs Junior Dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski, to Bellator’s Dalton Rosta and Austin Vanderford, plus wife Paige VanZant.
But it was Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal himself, one of MMA’s larger than life characters, who stole the show for the MMA fighters.
After VanZant softened Jericho up with some body shots, she signaled for Masvidal to break out the flying knee — and he happily obliged. The end result was a bloodied Jericho lying prone on the mat alongside Hager. Masvidal basically Askren’d Jericho (and yes, that’s a verb now).
— All Elite Wrestling on TNT (@AEWonTNT) September 25, 2021
While fans will debate the merits of having legitimate athletes partaking in predetermined showcases, fighters like Hager, an NCAA Division I All-American in collegiate wrestling, have shown that it’s possible to do both. And the exposure for American Top Team’s biggest stars is significant: AEW shows have routinely been cracking one million viewers for TNT. Their Wednesday night Dynamite show recently toppled WWE’s NXT, forcing that program to move to Tuesdays.
Lambert recently told Cageside Seats that if any of his fighters make the jump to professional wrestling, it might just be Dos Santos or Arlovski. Although an insanely over-the-top cage match between The Lucha Bros and The Young Bucks may have slowed their roll.
“Up until that tag match I would have said Junior dos Santos cause he’s going to these and watching and he’s like, ‘Man this is great. I would love to do that.’ And then every time I see him at the gym he says, ‘Hey, when are you going back to that wrestling stuff? I want to go with you.’
“But like I said, he looked down from the rafters and was having second thoughts on that,” Lambert continued. “But I think I’ll stick with him or maybe even Arlovski. I think they would both like to get into it. They’re both big, strong guys. Maybe Arlovski’s a little scarier looking and he’d probably end up being the heel and I think JDS would be the perpetual babyface.”
The ATT crew and Hager weren’t the only mixed martial artists in the ring at AEW Rampage: the aforementioned Scorpio Skye has a 2-1 pro record in the cage.