EXCLUSIVE | Al Snow, "Professional wrestling really is the forefather of MMA"
Al Snow is a well known professional wrestler and an active participant in the behind-the-scenes workings of the business. According to Snow it was always in his blood, but his actual competitive experience coming in to it was minimal.
“In the sense of amateur wrestling I didn’t spend a lot of time with it”, Snow said. “When I broke in to professional wrestling I was brought in to a sport that honestly had three types of guys. Shooters, or guys with amateur backgrounds, or strong wrestling backgrounds in general. Hookers. Hookers are guys who were very well versed in catch wrestling and submission type wrestling. A lot of them had jiu jitsu backgrounds. Then there were the entertainers. There were very few entertainers when I got in to the business. Now there are a lot more entertainers than there were back then. You either had a background in wrestling or you needed it back then”.
When he broke in to the business of pro wrestling there was a different atmosphere than what exists today. It was a different time and there were no real mixed martial arts to cross train in. However, Snow sees things in MMA that are shadows of what pro wrestlers have been doing for years.
“In a sense, professional wrestling really is the forefather of MMA”, Al stated. “Catch wrestling is the idea of catching a hold and being able to utilize takedowns. It was a combination of Greco Roman and straight amateur wrestling with submission locks. You used it to get the guy to submit or to wear him down and pin him. What happened with MMA is that it developed and evolved in to its own style. It was very close to professional wrestling”.
One of the least known facts about Al Snow is his involvement with the UFC in its early stages. If you watch UFC 4 you can see him clearly in the corner of UFC hall-of-famer Dan Severn.
“I met Dan through a former tag team partner Dennis Kasprowicz. He was a coach for the U.S. Olympic wrestling team. Dan was a decorated wrestler and I had a school at the time so Denny put me in touch with Dan. I started helping Dan train for professional wrestling. There was a group in Japan that was almost like what the UFC has become. It was a precursor to the UFC. They wanted guys with legit backgrounds and Dan was perfect. It was difficult for Dan to develop the real skills for regular professional wrestling, but he did great with the Japanese organization. He decided he wanted to try his hand with the UFC after that and at that time it was still when everyone had a specific discipline. No rounds and no time limits. It was interesting how well the ground fighters did and Dan was one of the good ones”.
UFC 4 used an eight-man tournament format, with the winner receiving $64,000. Dan made it to the finals where he lost to Royce Gracie by submission after 15:49 of action. The pair was just happy to have gotten the chance to compete. Getting in to the UFC was fairly difficult unless you knew someone. It was also near impossible to prepare for.
“It was in Oklahoma City. Dan had tried to get in UFC 3 on his own and couldn’t get there. Phyllis Lee was involved in professional wrestling and she went and spoke to the UFC. She got Dan in and then he came and asked me to train him. Thinking back about it I never trained anyone for anything like that at the time. We could’ve and should’ve done a lot more to prepare, but we did what we could. There were no training camps back then because you didn’t have a clue what you were getting in to or who you were preparing for. The style you would face was a mystery, there was no video to watch, and it was really a fly by the seat of your pants type of thing. I was trying to figure out what I can do to counter strikes and takedowns. We worked hard, and Dan just went in there and did what a big bear of a guy does. He takes you down and mauls you. We were trying to figure it all out as we went”.
A lot of wrestlers state that they would have preferred MMA if it had been prominent when they first entered pro wrestling. Wrestlers like Snow know where they needed to be.
“I don’t think I would have chosen MMA”, Snow said. “I enjoy entertaining and professional wrestling too much. MMA is awesome, but it’s a different mindset. The guys who are in MMA devote their entire life to that. They really have to focus and they really have to sacrifice. In professional wrestling it’s the same things just in different ways. I’ve just never had a true passion for MMA, which is what you would truly need to be successful. I enjoy MMA, but I love professional wrestling”.
Al Snow is currently working with TNA Wrestling. Follow Al on Twitter: @TheRealAlSnow