At the WWE mega house show Crown Jewel, we will see two matches featuring legends from other sports. In one match, you have Braun Strowman going up against the Lineal Heavyweight Champion, Tyson Fury. In the other match, you have former two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, going up against the man he beat for his first title, and the current WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar.
Now in the case of Cain, him having a match in the WWE isn’t that far fetched. Once leaving the UFC, Cain had a match at Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide’s Triplemania XXVII event. He was involved in a 6 man tag, teaming up with Cody Rhodes and Psycho Clown, to take on the team of Texano Jr., Taurus, and Killer Kross.
With these two matches taking place, I decided to look at the few times boxers or MMA fighter stepped into the world of professional wrestling for a match, or maybe just a special guest referee spot.
Fighters like Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Matt Riddle and Brock Lesnar will not be listed here due to the fact that they left MMA to pursue a career in pro wrestling. In Brock Lesnar’s case, he obviously was a pro wrestler before joining the UFC.
Butterbean’s time in the WWE may not have been that very long, but he was involved in a big story both in kayfabe and in real life. The first appearance for Butterbean was at the D-Generation X: In Your House pay per view in a match against Marc Mero. Marc Mero was a former Golden Gloves champion, so Butterbean was brought in to work with Mero.
Butterbean defeated Mero in the match, but his much bigger appearance would happen 15 months later. Before we get to that appearance, we need to give some back story. For those that may not know, in 1998 Vince Russo came up with the Brawl for All tournament. The Brawl for All tournament was a real fight tournament for the WWE “tough guys”.
WWE already had a favorite to win the Brawl for All, which was “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. According to Bob Holly, WWE actually paid Williams the $100,000 prize money before his second round match. His second round match was against Bart Gunn.
During the match, Williams sustained a hamstring injury which led to him being knocked out by Gunn. Gunn then went on to beat Bradshaw to win the tournament. After winning the tournament and following feuds with Holly and Williams, WWE booked Gunn in a match with Butterbean at WrestleMania XV.
Gunn lost the match, getting knocked out by Butterbean in 35 seconds. Gunn was later released by WWE. Many believe that the Butterbean match was punishment by the WWE for Gunn winning the tournament. Butterbean hasn’t returned to the WWE, but has made appearances on the indies.
4. Tito Ortiz
In my opinion, UFC would be nothing without fighters like Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. Between 2003-2005, Tito Ortiz fought opponents such as Ken Shamrock, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort. After defeating Belfort at UFC 51, Ortiz took some time away from the UFC.
Ortiz appeared in TNA in May of 2005, serving as special guest referee at Hard Justice in the NWA World Heavyweight Championship between Jeff Jarrett and A.J. Styles. In the match, Jarrett shoved Ortiz, which led to Tito knocking Jarrett out with a right hook, leading to Styles winning the match and the title.
Ortiz would referee another NWA World Heavyweight Championship match at Bound for Glory in 2013 between then champion Jeff Jarrett and Rhino. Two of Jarrett’s associates, America’s Most Wanted (James Storm and Chris Harris) attempted to get involved in the match, but both were knocked out by Ortiz.
Ortiz returned to the UFC but also made a final appearance in TNA in 2013 during the Main Event Mafia and Aces and Eights feud. At Hardcore Justice that year, Ortiz’s Bellator 106 opponent, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, picked Ortiz to replace Kurt Angle, to take on the Main Event Mafia.
Ortiz then turned on Jackson, hitting him with a hammer, which allowed Aces and Eights President Bully Ray to beat Chris Sabin for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. The following week, Ortiz officially joined Aces and Eights, however at No Surrender in 2013, Bellator pulled Ortiz from TNA programming due to his upcoming PPV fight with Rampage.
Ortiz ended his relationship with TNA, and unfortunately suffered a neck injury and had to pull out of the fight against Rampage.
3. Floyd Mayweather
Floyd Mayweather was on top of the boxing world in 2008. Coming off wins in 2007 against Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, nobody was hotter than Money Mayweather, and the WWE noticed. At the No Way Out pay per view in Las Vegas, Mayweather was sitting at ring side for the event.
Big Show, who was working heel, came to the ring and threatened to choke slam Rey Mysterio after his title match with World Heavyweight Champion Edge. Before he could though, Mayweather (and his entire team) jumped the barricade and ran into the ring. Show then pushed Floyd back, before getting on one knee and daring Floyd to hit him.
Floyd stepped up to Big Show and hit him with a 4 punch combination, legitimately breaking Show’s nose. That segment would set up a match between “Money” Mayweather and Big Show at WrestleMania XXIV.
Mayweather defeated Big Show by using brass knuckles to knock him out. Mayweather returned to the WWE in 2009, appearing as a guest host on Raw. During that show, Mayweather handed MVP brass knuckles to knock out Big Show in a tag match between MVP and Mark Henry and Jeri-Show.
2. Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is arguably one of the greatest fighters who ever lived. In 1976, Ali was preparing for his crossover fight with Antonio Inoki in Japan. To prepare, Ali appeared on a taping for the syndicated WWWF TV show. Gorilla Monsoon had just finished a match against Baron Mikel Scicluna.
Ali then jumped in the ring, took off his shirt and began dancing around Monsoon, trying to egg the wrestling legend on. Monsoon then grabbed Ali, and Airplane Spun him around the ring before slamming him to the mat. Still to this day, we aren’t exactly sure if this was planned or not.
That wasn’t it for Muhammad Ali in WWE, however. WrestleMania I was full of huge celebrities, such as Wendi Ricther, Cyndi Lauper, Liberace and Billy Martin. One of the other celebrities was none other than Ali himself. Ali was to serve as special guest referee on the outside in a match between Hulk Hogan and Mr. T versus “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.
During the match, all 4 men began brawling, which prompted Ali to punch Roddy in the face in an attempt to restore order. Ali also threw a punch in the direction of Cowboy Bob Orton.
Ali’s whole persona was because of wrestling. He saw Gorgeous George cut a promo and knew that’s what he needed to do to be a compelling character. Cassius Clay already had the talent, but we can thank Gorgeous George and wrestling for making Muhammad Ali who he was.
1. Mike Tyson
At WrestleMania XIV, Tyson made a guest appearance as special outside enforcer for the main event between the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.
This began when Steve Austin won the Royal Rumble and Michaels retained the Championship while Tyson was in the director’s box, which would lead to Vince McMahon naming him special guest referee. After the announcement, Austin gave Tyson the middle finger, which would lead to a brawl between the two. That brawl forced McMahon to change Tyson’s role to ring enforcer.
On March 2nd, Tyson was on Raw is War to be interviewed, only to be interrupted by Michaels, who challenged Tyson to a fight. The two men then began pushing each other around, until HBK ripped off Tyson’s shirt, revealing a D-Generation t-shirt.
During the match at WrestleMania, referee Mike Chioda fell unconscious. Both Michaels and Austin were on the canvas, until Michael’s kipped up, and hit Austin with an elbow drop. Michaels would then eat a stunner from Stone Cold, who then covered him. With the referee unconscious, Tyson slid in the ring, made the 3 count sealing the victory for Austin. HBK stood up and presumably wanted an explanation from Tyson, but all he got was a mean right hook.
Through the years, Tyson returned to the WWE and even was apart of a tag match between Chris Jericho and DX. Tyson later revealed he was wearing a DX shirt and knocked out Jericho giving DX the win. Tyson would later be inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.
So there you have it. 5 times boxers and MMA fighters appeared in wrestling. Did we miss one of your favorites? How do you think the Fury-Strowman and Velasquez-Lesnar matches will go? Be sure to let us know!
Featured photo credit: WWE.com
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