The news came down earlier this week that Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson would be foregoing—or at least delaying—his professional boxing career for a run in pro wrestling.
It was officially announced on Tuesday that Slice would be making his pro wrestling debut in Japan under the Inoki Genome Federation banner at the “Genome 14” event on Feb. 5.
The event will take place in Fukuoka, Japan, and Slice is scheduled to take on former Sumo wrestler Shinichi Suzukawa in the first round of the IGF Championship Tournament.
Suzukawa, perhaps the organization’s most pushed wrestler who had a controversial match with former UFC champion Mark Coleman, has some experience in pro wrestling himself.
According to Coleman’s friend and fellow MMA star Phil Baroni, Suzukawa refused to follow the predetermined finish to the match.
It will be interesting to see who is booked to win the match between Slice and Suzukawa, but while Slice’s professional boxing debut was anticipated by many, his pro wrestling debut may be even more electrifying.
It just makes sense.
The guy is a superstar in every way, but pro wrestling can make him an even bigger star—and here’s how.
Let’s be real for a minute—Kimbo Slice wasn’t going to set the boxing world on fire with a dazzling display of speed, movement and technique.
While he has experience in throwing and taking punches, what he's been doing throughout his life isn’t exactly “boxing.”
Punching some homeless guy in a backyard does not equate to stepping into a real boxing ring with a trained professional.
Slice, who is less than a month away from his 37th birthday, is probably too far past his athletic prime to begin training for a new sport with legitimate competition.
His career in mixed martial arts proved that while he is a tough guy, his striking is not on the level of an elite fighter, let alone a professional boxer.
In addition, his inability to conserve energy in his MMA fights was a major source of concern going into a boxing career, where fights can be much longer.
Even if Slice did have a great start to his career in boxing, it would be very difficult to take him as a legitimate contender for quite awhile. By that time, who knows where the boxing world will be? Would there be any big money fights left for him?
Probably not many, if any at all.
While Kimbo Slice is a legitimate bad-ass that could, as he would say, “do damage” against practically any average civilian, he has proven that his talents aren’t exactly perfect for legitimate, sanctioned competition.
Whether fighting in a boxing ring or an MMA cage, Ferguson is going to have trouble being taken seriously again by real fans of the sport due to his questionable skill.
We all know that pro wrestling is “fake.” By that, I mean scripted.
The outcomes are predetermined and while there is tremendous genuine athleticism that goes into making it work, Kimbo Slice would not need to worry about being knocked out or shown up by his opponent.
Instead, he can simply go out to the ring, using his same thrilling demeanor, and perform for fans who will take him seriously as an athlete even despite his lack of success in MMA or boxing.
The “freak show” factor works in pro wrestling and has for decades.
Is there really a bigger freak show than Kimbo Slice?
Not to go too “inside wrestling” with this analysis, but simply put, the Kimbo Slice character could work well as both a good guy (baby face) or a bad guy (heel).
Great promoters know how to transition their wrestlers between the two sides based on the current climate in the business but Kimbo can also do it himself.
Just like the WWE’s top star, John Cena, Kimbo Slice is an extremely polarizing character. Most fans absolutely love him but there are plenty of others who simply love to hate him.
What many fans forget about John Cena, though, is that his “rapper” gimmick actually began with him being a heel.
It was only after he grabbed the audience’s attention by annoying them that he was able to make the transition into being one of the company’s biggest stars as a face.
Kimbo Slice could do much of the same as Cena, but likely in the opposite direction.
Given that Slice is already well known by many potential viewers, a smart promoter would start Slice off as a face for quite awhile in order to keep the fans buzzing and give them a new star to cheer for.
But an even smarter promoter would know when to pull the rug out and turn him heel by somehow cheating or turning on the fans in some way.
He’s a very likeable character, but Slice also has a darker side that could be used by smart promoters to make him into one of their biggest stars on the heel side of things.
Before anyone jumps down my throat and bashes me about how pro wrestling can be harder on a person’s body than boxing, I want to make it clear that I am not saying that pro wrestling isn’t brutal to a person’s health.
But the fact is that while boxing could be easier in the short term and make him some decent money in the process, all it takes is a losing streak and lack of promotion for people to forget about both the “Kimbo Slice” persona and Kevin Ferguson, the individual.
Pro wrestling has made countless stars out of athletes in their late 30s, 40s, 50s, and even 60s.
Most recently it was Dave Batista, who is actually attempting a transition into MMA of his own, that was a pro wrestling star in his late 30s.
Though Batista had more pro-wrestling experience than Slice does, he was never really known for being particularly excellent in the ring. It was his physique, overall look, and energy that made him a star in the sport, and those things are all major assets of Kimbo Slice’s.
While Slice’s knees are reportedly in terrible condition, other pro wrestlers have continued in the sport for decades with knees that are as bad, if not worse than his. I
n fact, the sport’s biggest stars of all-time, Hulk Hogan and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin both have a long history of knee problems.
Pro wrestling is very physically demanding, but Slice doesn’t necessarily have to be a weekly contributor.
He could very well play a role where he doesn’t actually wrestle more than once or maybe twice per month at the very most.
The beauty of pro wrestling is that it’s easy to hide a guy’s faults by simply scripting around them. If Slice is hurt, let him cut a promo or just simply knock somebody out from behind.
He doesn’t have to wrestle for 30 minutes and put on a “Match of the Year” candidate in order to get over with the crowd.
As Kimbo himself would say, sometimes he just needs to “get that bread.”
At the end of the day, it’s always about making money, no matter how, for superstars like Kimbo Slice.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the point remains that it doesn’t really matter how he does it—Kimbo just wants to fill his pockets with cash.
A run in pro wrestling is a great option for the already famous Slice.
While the top pro wrestlers in the world don’t make even in the same stratosphere as the top boxers in the world do, Kimbo’s chances of becoming a top boxer are pretty slim.
His chances of becoming a top pro wrestler, on the other hand, all depend on how the company (or companies) he works for decides to use him.
Whether fans like him or not, his character is undeniably exhilarating and something that people will tune into, even if it’s in a “fake” pro wrestling ring.
There is a great amount of money to be made in the pro wrestling world from someone as marketable as the Kimbo Slice character would be.
Continuing with the idea that Ferguson is in it for the money, there appears to be growing interest in him as an actor.
As we all know, there is always the possibility of work outside the ring for pro wrestlers.
Some of the biggest names in pro wrestling have gone on to have very successful acting careers both while they are employed with a promotion and after.
The most obvious name to make a move from wrestling to acting is certainly Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who started his acting career back in 1999 with a few guest appearances on various television shows.
Things exploded when he landed a major role in the movie “The Mummy Returns.” Johnson continued acting for a few more years before he eventually left the WWE to become an actor full-time.
Since then, numerous wrestlers have been given leading roles in movies including John Cena, Kane, The Big Show and Triple H—all of which were promoted heavily on WWE television.
Ferguson only began his acting career a few years ago but recently finished work on "Scorpion King: Rise of the Dead," a film in which he worked beside former pro wrestler Dave Batista.
Slice’s chances of landing major roles while also staying in shape for boxing were just too slim. He made the right decision if he hopes to continue his acting career by making the switch to pro wrestling.
I have to admit, it’s fairly easy to predict a guy’s success when we already have evidence that he’ll be successful in practically anything he does.
Other than Brock Lesnar, Kevin Ferguson was probably the most famous heavyweight MMA fighter in the world during his run in the sport.
What’s even crazier is that he did it both with and without the UFC behind him.
Even in a struggling EliteXC company that eventually folded, Kimbo Slice was by far the company’s biggest draw and was regularly significantly out-drawing the cards that did not include him.
Even the consensus top heavyweight in the world at the time, Fedor Emelianenko, wasn’t out-drawing the newly trained Slice.
The transition to the UFC made Ferguson an even bigger star despite a few tough losses with the company.
The company practically built an entire season of the hit reality show "The Ultimate Fighter" around Kimbo Slice and his attempt to make it in the UFC after Dana White repeatedly proclaimed how terrible he was.
The previous seasons of "The Ultimate Fighter" averaged about two million viewers per episode, but the ratings during the season with Kimbo Slice skyrocketed.
SpikeTV reported that the viewership rose to over 3.5 million per episode on average, while the episode featuring his fight with eventual winner Roy Nelson had an average of an astounding 5.3 million viewers.
People simply can’t look away from the former backyard brawler.
We don’t have numbers to compare him to other heavyweights in the boxing ring, but we can speculate that he has perhaps more name recognition, particularly in America, than nearly any heavyweight boxer.
The problem with boxing and MMA, though, is that Slice wasn’t ever going to make it as a top contender in either of those sports. He wasn’t realistically going to be given a chance to face one of the other top names.
He won’t have that problem in pro wrestling.
If there’s one thing we know about Japanese fans, it’s that they love their pro wrestling, and they particularly love their American-born stars.
While wrestlers like Vader, Scott Norton and Bob Sapp have some name recognition in the states, their popularity here is nothing like it was during their most popular days in Japan.
The larger-than-life look to some of these wrestlers is extremely rare in Japan, so seeing that kind of freak athlete in person is something that the fans get very excited about.
It was once described to me that Bob Sapp’s popularity in Japan could really only be compared to that of Hulk Hogan in the '80s in America. He was that huge.
Kimbo Slice is exactly the kind of personality who could shine in Japan.
His animated, almost cartoonish look and actions are perfect to draw in the Japanese fan base where he will be making his debut on Feb. 5.
What’s even better is that many of the pro wrestling fans in Japan are also fans of MMA.
Unlike in America, where pro wrestling has taken a serious fall in popularity, pro wrestling remains very popular in Japan.
Japanese fans also seem to be better at distinguishing but accepting both the two worlds of mixed martial arts and pro wrestling.
Numerous MMA fighters have competed in pro wrestling on occasion in recent years. In fact, fellow MMA fighter Josh Barnett is scheduled to also be a part of the show that Slice is taking part in.
Immediately when the news broke that Slice would be making his pro wrestling debut, the Internet message boards were flooded with fans calling a Slice vs. Bob Sapp match.
For years, Sapp has occupied the spotlight in Japan, making his name in kickboxing, mixed martial arts and pro wrestling.
Does that sound like anyone to you?
Kimbo Slice is attempting to make a very similar career move and actually has a better following now than Sapp did when he began his career in pro wrestling.
Having competed in both EliteXC and the UFC, Slice will have already established himself with many Japanese pro wrestling fans who will be anxiously awaiting his arrival.
There may be no bigger match in the world for Kimbo Slice than a showdown with perennial Japanese superstar Bob Sapp.
The match likely wouldn’t do much in America, but it could be one of the biggest matches of all time in Japan.
Japan is a great place for Slice to learn about the sport of pro wrestling, but the true money for him would still likely be in America, in World Wrestling Entertainment.
Rumors have been floating around about the WWE being interested in the superstar since Slice was released from his UFC contract back in May of 2010. Slice had since began training for his professional boxing career and it didn’t seem like he was interested in pro wrestling.
That is, until now.
Now that Slice has taken the first step into becoming a pro wrestler, there is a very real chance that the WWE could be looking at the former fighter as a shot in the arm for their annual pay-per-view event, WrestleMania.
This year marks the 27th installment of the company’s biggest show. What better place for Kimbo Slice to make his wrestling debut in America?
WWE has made celebrity appearances at the show the norm and several have actually competed in matches. Mr. T competed at each of the first two WrestleManias; numerous NFL players competed in a battle royal at WrestleMania 2; Lawrence Taylor wrestled Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania XI; Akebono Tarō competed in a Sumo match against The Big Show at WrestleMania 21; and most recently Floyd Mayweather, Jr. wrestled The Big Show at WrestleMania XXIV.
But none of these stars fits as well in the wrestling ring as will Kimbo Slice.
Dana White was recently quoted as saying that he gave “an emphatic NO” to the idea that Lesnar would be competing at this year’s WrestleMania event.
So what’s to stop the WWE from bringing in perhaps the second-most popular heavyweight MMA fighter in the world?
If everything worked out and the WWE did something right for a change, they may just be able to create their next Hulk Hogan or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.