Before there was the UFC and modern state of mixed martial arts, there was Japanese shoot wrestling. Promotions like the original UWF, Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, and RINGS helped set the stage for MMA and provided the beginnings of some of the sport’s early stars like Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, Kazushi Sakuraba and Ken Shamrock.
Looking to build off the recent mass of MMA and pro wrestling crossover, Paradigm Pro Wrestling is reaching back into the pasts of both sports when it holds its upcoming Fighting Spirit Heavyweight Grand Prix event on Friday, which will feature a tournament contested under the rules of Nobuhiko Takada’s Japanese shoot promotion UWFi.
Among those participating in the Grand Prix, alongside former UFC fighter Stephan Bonnar, is Anthony Henry. A former mixed martial artist himself, and current EVOLVE pro wrestling standout, Henry spoke to MMAWeekly about his involvement in Paradigm’s UWFi rules event and bringing back the spirit of Japanese shoot wrestling to the United States.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Anthony, tell us how you got involved with Paradigm Pro Wrestling’s upcoming Fighting Spirit Heavyweight Grand Prix show and what made you want to participate.
Anthony Henry: When I first learned about the event, I re-tweeted it and gave my “raise my hand” emoji at them, and from there they hit me up and I said I was good to go and wanted to be part of it.
As far as that style goes, I’m a fan of a lot of wrestling, I watch a whole lot of wrestling, probably too much for the average person, so the UWFi or even in general the shoot style is kind of a style that I like a lot and have watched a lot of, so I thought it was really cool idea.
It’s a little bit different than the stuff that raised in popularity recently like Bloodsport which is pretty much knockout/submission rules, with the UWFi having it a little bit different with points, takedowns, suplexes and the rope breaks and that stuff. I thought it was cool and different, and something cool to be a part of.
MMAWeekly.com: Do you think it will be difficult adapting a modern pro wrestling style to the Japanese shoot style from the 90’s?
Anthony Henry: For me it’s easy because I come from a background where I was a legitimate fighter. For me it’s less stressful and is easier because I don’t have to worry about talking to anybody that much, really. It’s more just kind of going with the flow and feel out there, so for me it’s easier.
I’m sure for some who are not maybe accustomed to that style, who are more traditional professional wrestler, it might be a little bit of a change of pace for them.
MMAWeekly.com: Tell us a bit about your fighting background and how that interplays with your pro wrestling career.
Anthony Henry: I started off as a professional wrestler and then kind of segued a little bit into kickboxing and stuff, while also doing the wrestling. Then about five years into my wrestling career, I ended up taking about a three year hiatus from wrestling, and at that point I pretty much got fully into training martial arts and started competing.
I was pretty hardcore into it at that point. I was probably about a purple belt level in Jiu-Jitsu and did do some grappling competitions. I was never officially ranked in Jiu-Jitsu or anything, because I pretty much did no-gi, and a lot of organizations are not going to do any kind of ranking if you’re in the gi, so I wasn’t officially ranked at that level, but I was probably about at that level or around there.
I had some amateur fights. I did some pro fights. I did some crazy three-way fights in Virginia. I did those and some fun with it, but eventually pro wrestling called my name and I made my way back into that and pretty much stopped training the MMA stuff.
MMAWeekly.com: With the recent crossing over of several MMA fighters and pro wrestlers in to each other’s sport, do you think we’ll see that trend continue in the coming years?
Anthony Henry: I do. I think kind of a natural progression, a natural mix, I think a lot of pro wrestling fans in general are also fans of MMA and vice versa. I think there will be plenty of crossover to come. I think it will probably be something that rises in popularity as well.
MMAWeekly.com: Thanks for taking time out for us, Anthony. Tell us what you have upcoming with your career and where our readers can find you online.
Anthony Henry: I’m happy with what I’m doing right now; doing stuff with EVOLVE and just becoming a bigger deal on the independent scene. I’m not getting any younger, so definitely the end goal is to make some good money doing the professional wrestling.
I think for me, being with EVOLVE and the connection with the WWE and NXT I think the natural progression for me next is to move towards that. We’ll see what happens with that. Hopefully some good things by the end of (2020), we’ll see what happens, but that’s the hope and that’s the plan.
Definitely come check out the UWFi show. That’s going to be a really fun one I think. The tournament style concept with the full-on UWFi rules (Paradigm Pro Wrestling show), so check that one out for sure.
Find me on social media pretty much on everything @antnyhenry. The one I use predominantly is Twitter, but every once in a while you’ll find me on Instagram and maybe a little bit on Facebook. Come check me out, give me a follow, and follow along with me on this crazy journey that we’re on.