Exclusive Interviews

Thursday, 07/12/2012, 09:36 am

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


20 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE | Al Snow, "Professional wrestling really is the forefather of MMA"”

  1. Nestor says:

    I agree with Al snow back in the day Judo Gene Lebelle faught a mma style match with little to no rules well he was a pro wrestler and larry zybiscos father refused to take the then NWA world heavyweight belt to brazil to fight the Gracies. and for me always being a huge ofan of old school wrestling where guys like Stu hart would put these boys through the ringer teaching them catch wrestling and subbing the hell out of them begore they ever took a bump in the ring or did a interview after practing BJJ and MMA at elite academies i see many of the same locks and holds as in mma just not done all the way in wrestling

    • Will says:

      Just to note, Larry Zbyszko is not related to the earlier Zbyszkos in wrestling. His last name is actually Whistler. He undoubtedly took the name as a tribute but, to my known, was never promoted as being part of the same family.

  2. CraigMak says:

    Al is a legend in pro wrestling, but he needs to stick to what he knows. MMA is totally different.

    • Delta says:

      I guess you’re unaware that professional wrestling used to be legitimate competition of catch wrestling, where Freestyle comes from(to my knowledge). You could win by pin or submission. A few things caused it to die as a legitimate sport, and it evolved into what it is today. On a related note, Abraham Lincoln had actually competed in this before he got into politics.

      And I guess you’re also unaware that MMA’s roots in Japan are derived from professional wrestling, with Shooto, Pancrase, and Antonio Inoki, who had trained in the more technical catch-wrestling based style of professional wrestling, and had mixed style fights back in the 70’s(although not all of them were legit competition, there were real fights), including against Muhammad Ali(which was real).

  3. Bob says:

    I remember this guy. Thats when WWE was WWF.. Once it became WWE I stopped watching. Too much cheesy folks

  4. drew says:

    im sorry al snow your a cool guy i used to watch wrestling when it was good…meaning when ECW was around…im a philly boy and philly had ECW as its cornerstone wrestling entertainment in the city and it was some rowdy shit never went cuz i was young but watched that shit on tv. therfore, i must say this is absolute bullshit. there have been fighting techniques that have been around and evolved way before FAKE WRESTLING WAS ON TV becuase that is what it is and thus i dont wnat it anymore becuase i dont like male soap operas or gay porn. so thinking he can say MMA came from fake wrestling is saying i have my own head up fake crafts ass. so judo wasnt around before? so JJ wasnt around? so karate wasnt around? so greco roman wrestling wasnt around? kung fu wasnt around? maui tai wasnt around?
    this article is bullshit
    yet i know u gotta fill this website with something

  5. gh0st says:

    He’s kinda on to something but he’s not 100% correct. Pro-wrestling’s root might be similar to MMA’s but they went off in a completely different direction. MMA’s forefather is NHB and prizefights that weren’t limited to just one style.

    Tons of people don’t know but pro-wrestling in the old days was pretty legit. You had guys striking but a lot of the matches ended up on the ground with very technical catch-wrestling battles taking place. The problem was that the general public didn’t know what the hell was going on and didn’t want to see two men roll around on the ground, they’d rather see two people beat the crap out of each other and maybe add a little drama and that’s how the whole fake wrestling started.

    • Delta says:

      Actually it had to do with a combination of people started tiring of them(the matches sometimes went on for hours according to HISTORY CHANNEL), and when the world champion at the time wanted to keep his championship, he paid another wrestler to purposely injure the challenger in a training session just days or so before their match. When that was found-out and made public, it hurt professional wrestling’s image big time as a legitimate competitive sport.

  6. hazza says:

    You know In Mexico it’s real.

  7. Goombaplata says:

    There was a very real sense of excitment I had when UFC first came out. It was an incredible feeling watching the first few UFC venues. Just not knowing who was fighting who. It was a very raw and true tournament to see who was the best.

    Nowadays I do not feel that excitment. I am still excited to watch the fights, but it is a very different excitment and not a bad thing at all. It is just a shame that I’ll never feel that way again.

    But I am thankful for the chance to have experienced it in the “Dark Days” of the UFC.

  8. Ben Nusbaum says:

    How is it that in EVERY article, there is at least one person who uses the word “fag” and/or thinks the whole post is crap? There are more people who comment to tell someone off than to have intelligent discussion about a sport we all love.

    Al Snow has a point that he made, and it is an interesting one. Is it new? Not really, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. Its a piece of information.

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