Does Karate Ever Feature In Wrestling?

Rob Van Dam

While numerous martial arts feature in wrestling on a regular basis, how often is karate used inside the squared circle?

Throughout the history of professional wrestling entertainment, plenty of unique characteristics were attached to some of the sport’s greats – whether it’s funeral-themed wrestlers like Paul Bearer or hellish-themed villains like Kane.

Today we’re going to explore the role of karate in wrestling and how prominent it has been throughout the history of WWE. Surprisingly, several wrestlers have a background in karate or base their characters around martial arts. Karate is predominantly a striking art, using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands and palm-heel strikes.

Historically, and in some modern styles, grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints and vital-point strikes are also types of moves that are used. Other martial arts incorporate some of the strikes and grapples we have come to associate with karate, so its influence cannot be understated.

Martial arts and wrestling are closely related, as are other combat sports such as boxing and UFC. These sports intertwine with each other and offer similar packages to their viewers. Whether it’s PPV events, the setup of their press conferences, or pitting villains against heroes, all these sports use similar formats to promote their activities.

The same applies to gambling markets. You can look to find odds on wrestling odds where you can bet on the outright winner of a match or method of victory. MMA betting odds and boxing betting odds work similarly, offering individual markets to give you more excitement as you watch events unfold.

Rob Van Dam was one of the most high-profile wrestlers who incorporated martial arts and karate into his repertoire of moves. The former WWE superstar was reported to have studied many martial arts, including karate, taekwondo and kickboxing, and was one of the most recognizable and popular names in the sport in the early 21st century.

In 2002, Van Dam was ranked the number one pro wrestler in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. In addition, he was voted Most Popular Wrestler by readers of the magazine, in both 2001 and 2002. In 2014, the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) awarded him the moniker of the greatest star in ECW history.

Another wrestler who specialized in martial arts was Steve Blackman. Blackman was a big name in WWF (World Wrestling Federation) in the 1990s. He is also a trained martial arts instructor and made sure he used his knowledge and skillset to this advantage when fighting in big WWF events such as SmackDown.

However, that doesn’t always result in a huge stage presence or marquee storylines, as Steve will be all too aware. Steve has been described by many of his colleagues and peers as a down-to-earth guy with a great sense of humour. Unfortunately, many of the same peers and fans pointed out that he didn’t have the charisma to make it at the sport’s highest level.

Steve didn’t shy away from this reputation, though. If anything, he played up to it. He was feeding into his image as a dangerous, tough, hot-headed karate expert. Steve Blackman may not have had the most scintillating wrestling career, and he may not have always been in the wrestling news. However, he’s certainly a good example of how karate has featured in wrestling and how he used it to his advantage.

Another wrestler who had a strong karate background was Ernest Miller. Miller was more than someone who just had a karate background, though. Miller went one better, since his past was as a multiple world champion in the martial art. He also became a top karate instructor and used his incredible natural ability to play his role as a professional wrestler.

Although considering all of these facts, some wrestling enthusiasts have taken aim at Miller’s ability in the ring and how he implemented his karate skills in the squared circle. He did not win a single fight in the WCW but is well remembered and liked for oozing charisma. Later in his career, he became WCW commissioner a number of times.

So yes, karate does feature in wrestling, although maybe not at the highest level. There’s a considerable crossover between wrestling and martial arts, including combat sports such as MMA. Perhaps we could see a huge breakthrough star who will use karate as their unique selling point in the future. As with anything in wrestling, plenty of characters can have an immense and relatively unique skillset, but having the charisma and attitude to turn it into a winning formula is another skill entirely.