As an intermediate-advanced Muay Thai practitioner, I’ve taken my fair share of bumps over the past 6 years (the world over). I’ve trained in Dutch, traditional Thai, dirty and Mexican boxing, likewise picked up a fair share of great tips from the MMA gurus among us. I’ve literally sparred hundreds of rounds, met a like number of great training partners along way. My shins have kicked way too many things and people.
With this knowledge in hand, I returned to professional wrestling after a two decade hiatus. Gone was Hulkamania, replaced with the art of counter movements, rope manipulation, and grapple flow.
What I’ve noticed is just how much an art form professional wrestling – much like Muay Thai – is. Don’t get me wrong: I’m in no denial pro wrestling is staged, outcomes pre-determined. Still there are conventions and nuances that must be adhered to in hopes of creating a successful and entertaining match. Ironically, this makes pro wrestling moves arguably harder to execute (as they must suspend disbelief despite inevitability).
1. Professional wrestler lateral footwork is amazing. They do incredible things behind the scenes, outstanding, precise foot placement in anticipation of subsequent moves. Want to see matches from a new perspective? Watch feet ONLY. You’d be surprised at how much positioning and balance determines athletic prowess. Core strength is vital to Muay Thai, also pro wrestling.
2. While Daniel Bryan arguably perfected the art of Muay Thai friendly low-mid level strikes, many followed in his footsteps…also preceded him. Pay attention to posting up on the balls of a front foot, also hip turns in sync. The most seemingly lethal pro wrestling kicks are derived from Muay Thai. Superkicks, however…Tae Kwon Do. I’ve got no doubt the Young Bucks watched and/or practiced a fair share of Tae Kwon Do strikes.
3. With no disrespect to Wade Barrett, proper elbows turn over, to the side, or are chicken winged. He does none of these…nor does any wrestler not wanting to seriously injure his/her opponent. Good forearms strikes, however, are a smidgen removed from solid Muay Thai elbow technique. You know you’re seeing it right when the arm turns over in 6 or 12 o’clock, respectively.
4. One of the stables of Thai-style Muay Thai is clinch work. This close range clutch and grab is rare to professional wrestling…but does exist. Watch very closely for grappling against the turnbuckles. Every now and then you’ll see a proper grasp with palms clenched, against the back of an opponent’s head. Followed by a hip toss or snap mare.
5. Defense, defense and more defense. Parries, leg checks, and kick catching are stalwarts of Muay Thai \also pro wrestling. You’ll see prior martial arts training among those who have defensive drills down to a cohesive science. Hideo Itami is one of the better current wrestlers in defensive strategies. As was Dave Batista, a prominent MMA fighter in his own right. CM Punk also snuck in terrific body and head covers, if you’re paying attention.