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Ken Shamrock – a household name, but perhaps for different reasons, depending on who you ask.
Shamrock is considered by some to be “The Godfather” of MMA, as he was the first ever UFC Superfight Champion (later renamed the Heavyweight Championship), the first ever inductee into the UFC Hall Of Fame and a multiple time headliner of MMA shows worldwide.
He would earn the moniker “World’s Most Dangerous Man,” as in his prime, there was arguably no better fighter than Shamrock.
Ken Shamrock leaves MMA, joins the WWE
Shamrock decided to move on from UFC and attack the professional wrestling world in 1997. He stated that he was burnt out on fighting and had a need to support his family.
He would make an immediate impact when serving as the guest referee for WWE’s WrestleMania 13 for the historic “I Quit” match between Bret Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
This match was made famous due to its extreme violence and critical “double turn” that took place at the match’s conclusion. However, Shamrock was established at the end of that match as well, when he took down Bret Hart which resulted in a roar from the rabid Chicago crowd that night. This act helped to establish Shamrock with the WWE crowd.
For all intents and purposes, Ken Shamrock was Brock Lesnar before Brock was Brock Lesnar. He was a legitimate and intense shoot fighter that brought an aura and realism to WWE that had not been seen before.
Shamrock began his career very strongly as a fervent face that could “snap” at the drop of hat. He had very entertaining feuds with the likes of DX, The Rock, and Owen Hart (among others) and was the winner of the 1998 King of the Ring tournament.
Ken Shamrock’s Heel Turn
This was around the time that I believe that WWE dropped the ball with Ken. He was at the peak of his popularity and it seemed WWE was behind him, giving him a slow and steady type of push – as to not feel forced.
But then, shortly after an entertaining Summerslam 1998 “Lion’s Den Match” against Owen Hart, they seemingly pulled the rug from underneath Shamrock. WWE turned him heel and placed him in a stable – The Corporation, effectively stalling all of his momentum.
Ken was cut from the same kind of cloth that made The Rock and Austin such huge stars during that era, in that he was a popular anti-hero type of persona. He was more of a loner type, but once they placed him into a stable, he just got lost in the shuffle and never really recovered.
It was during his heel run, however, that he would win the only two championships of his career in WWE, acquiring both the Intercontinental Title and one half of The Tag Team Championships with Big Boss Man. Neither run felt impactful.
For most of 1999 he floated around the mid-card without ever taking part in anything significant. He had a strange storyline involving kayfabe sister Ryan Shamrock and Val Venis that never really took off.
Towards the end of 1999 it appeared that there was an interesting storyline in the works with Chris Jericho who had just debuted, but an unfortunate injury would sideline Shamrock putting an end to that, and effectively ending Shamrock’s WWE career.
Departure from WWE
After leaving WWE, Shamrock would go on to mixed success. He is credited as being the first ever TNA Heavyweight Champion and he has been part of some successful MMA broadcasts as far as PPV buy rates are concerned.
However, most people accuse Shamrock of holding on for too long when it comes to his MMA career – as he has been largely ineffective for years, but continues to fight.
When it comes to his wrestling career, though, it was a brief, yet impactful run. Could he have been a top tier guy in WWE? The crowded scene at that time certainly didn’t help…
Guys like HHH, The Rock, Austin, Foley, and ‘Taker were all making their mark on the business at that time. So, it’s possible that Shamrock just fell through the cracks due to the immense amount of talent that was present.
All I know is even to this day when I watch some of Shamrock’s old footage, it’s impossible to not get pumped when that guitar riff would hit, signaling the entrance of “The Most Dangerous Man.”