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Parallel Universe: What if Some of MMA’s Biggest Training Camps Were Wrestling Stables?

(“When you need me, I’ll be there, ’cause we’re BEST FRIENNNNNNDS….” Photo via WWE)

By Chris Huntemann, Columnist

Comparing mixed martial arts to professional wrestling tends to draw the ire of many am MMA fan. While former WWE and UFC world champion Brock Lesnar eventually earned the respect of UFC fans by putting on dominant performances, he was originally greeted with a less than warm reception. Fellow former WWE world champion CM Punk signed with UFC to less than open arms and is expected to compete in his first MMA bout later this year (or early 2016). Pro wrestling and MMA also crossed paths once again last month, when UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey made a special appearance at Wrestlemania to help Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson run off Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon.

All of this interplay between pro wrestling and MMA lately got me thinking; How do some of MMA’s top teams compare to great pro wrestling stables of the past and present? MMA fans are well aware of Rousey’s “Four Horsewomen,” which consists of Rousey and her teammates Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and recent Invicta FC signee Marina Shafir. The group is big pro wrestling fans and while I’m personally not a fan of the name, they’ve wasted no time promoting themselves.

So which pro wrestling stables would I compare to current MMA teams? Here are a few of my suggestions:

MMA: Team Jackson-Winkeljohn/Wrestling: New World Order (nWo) – Team Jackson-Winkeljohn in New Mexico is probably the most well-known team in all MMA, and at its peak, the nWo was the most famous wrestling stable of its time (and maybe of all time). The nWo was home at different times to such high-profile wrestling personalities like “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, X-Pac/Syxx and Sting. Meanwhile, Team Jackson-Winkeljohn has almost a who’s-who of MMA on its roster, including UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Travis Browne, Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Keith Jardine, John Dodson and Leonard Garcia.

Who at Jackson-Winkeljohn could play the roles of the nWo’s original trio: Hogan, Hall and Nash? If I had to venture a guess:

- Hulk Hogan = Jon Jones

- Scott Hall = Donald Cerrone

- Kevin Nash = Carlos Condit

MMA: American Kickboxing Academy/Wrestling: The Dangerous Alliance – American Kickboxing Academy boasts a roaster comparable to Team Jackson-Winkeljohn, including UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Josh Thomson. At its peak in WCW, the Dangerous Alliance consisted of “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbysko, Arn Anderson and “Stunning” Steve Austin. While the group never boasted a world champion like AKA does with Velasquez, the Dangerous Alliance was among the greatest group of wrestling talent ever assembled – much like AKA is right up there among the best MMA teams from top to bottom.

MMA: Team Cesar Gracie (“The Scrap Pack”)/Wrestling: D-Generation X – The antics of D-Generation X are known and loved by pro wrestling fans worldwide. From its original iteration of Triple H and Shawn Michaels to the grouping of Triple H, X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws to going back to Triple H and Michaels in its final days, DX were rebels without a cause who loved to thumb their noses at authority.

Likewise, Team Cesar Gracie has its own pair of rebels in the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate. The team also consists of Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields, among others. The Diaz brothers have caused UFC president Dana White many a headache throughout their careers and fans love the brothers for their antics inside and outside the cage.

MMA: Team Alpha Male/Wrestling: The Filthy Animals – The Filthy Animals in WCW were one of the very few stables in all of pro wrestling to consist of cruiserweights, or “smaller” wrestlers – Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera and Eddie Guerrero. Similarly, Team Alpha Male consists entirely of fighters from the UFC’s lighter weight classes – bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes and Danny Castillo. The Filthy Animals were thick as thieves during their WCW run, and Team Alpha Male is one of the more tight-knit teams in all of MMA.

MMA: Blackzilians/Wrestling: The Nexus – The Blackzilians are a fairly new team in MMA, coming together in 2011 and boasting talent including Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Anthony Johnson and Michael Johnson. The Nexus also took the pro wrestling world by storm in 2010 and included young talent like Wade Barrett, Ryan Reeves (Ryback), Justin Gabriel and David Otunga. The Nexus tangled with some of WWE’s biggest names, including John Cena and CM Punk, who both at one time were also members of Nexus – in Cena’s case, unwillingly. The Blackzilians have yet to taste gold, unlike the Nexus, but Anthony Johnson gets his chance to bring a belt to the team when he faces Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 187 in May.

Of course, I didn’t list some of the other famous teams in MMA, including American Top Team, Team Quest and Xtreme Couture. Conversely, there are wrestling stables I didn’t mention, such as the Four Horsemen, Nation of Domination, Ministry of Darkness or The Corporation. Agree or disagree with my comparisons? Have some of your own? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or drop me a line!

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