UFC legend Ken Shamrock has detailed the stigma he faced when he transitioned into a pro-wrestling career following his first UFC stint.
Shamrock was one of the stars of the first ever UFC card back in 1993. Then 29-years-old and billed as a shootfighting specialist, Shamrock submitted Patrick Smith in the quarter finals of the event. Then in the semi-finals later that night, Shamrock suffered a rear-naked choke loss to the legendary Royce Gracie in one of the most memorable encounters in early UFC history.
Over the next four years, Shamrock fought six more times in the UFC amassing a 4-2-2 record. This included a rematch with Royce Gracie at UFC 5 in 1995, which ended in a draw when the fight reached its time limit. He also fought extensively in the Japanese Pancrase MMA promotion.
Ken Shamrock Details “Sellout” Stigma He Faced When Entering The WWE
Following his win over Brian Johnson at the UFC’s Ultimate Ultimate 2 in 1996, Shamrock, facing a lack of financial incentive to continue with MMA, decided to try his hand at pro-wrestling by joining the WWE.
But in an interview with Vlad TV, the “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” said that the move, while promising a more lucrative career, saw him face intense criticism from MMA fans.
“Me, having gone through what I had already gone through with fighting and having that legacy, there was a lot of things going on in the background,” Shamrock said (h/t Wrestling Inc). “Like, ‘Sellout, he’s going into this fake thing.’ So, it was a lot of things that weren’t good that was going on because I had walked and was doing pro wrestling.”
Shamrock made his WWE debut in February 1997 as a special guest referee for the WrestleMania 13 match between Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And almost immediately, Shamrock felt that he had made the right career move after realizing that pro-wrestling had all the same hallmarks of MMA.
“The match starts and I mean, probably about five minutes into the match, I’m in it,” Shamrock said. “It’s like, I can’t tell the difference between what I was doing in MMA to what I was doing with those guys reffing that match. They did such a great job. They were smacking, they were hitting each other, they were aggressive. I mean, it made me feel right at home when I was reffing that match.”
Shamrock soon went on to make his ring debut in April 1997 on an episode of Raw is War, where he got the win against fellow former UFC fighter Vernon White. Shamrock competed in the WWE until 1999, before returning to MMA and fighting in both Pride and the UFC.
What’s your best memory of Ken Shamrock’s time in the WWE?