Transitioning from football to professional wrestling is nothing new. Former WWE and WCW superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldberg, The Rock, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan all made the leap to more lucrative careers in the squared circle. The tradition continues today; before he was a current WWE headliner, Roman Reigns was All-ACC defensive lineman Joe A’noai. Bray Wyatt was Troy center Windham Rotunda. Mojo Rawley was Maryland defensive tackle Dean Muhtadi.
Those athletes put years of training in before making their debuts in the big leagues, but their gridiron backgrounds prepared them for the physical toll of stepping in the ring.
But when Steelers tailback DeAngelo Williams took to the canvas at Impact Wrestling’s Slammiversary! last Sunday, his charisma and athleticism made him an instant standout. Teaming with another NFL alum — seven-year vet Quinn Ojinnaka, now known as Moose — he exceeded expectations with dynamic shoulder-tackles and a crisp standing moonsault.
Williams’ performance wasn’t the first time Impact had pulled a non-wrestler into a wrestling role, but likely the most impressive. What’s even more impressive? The veteran running back says he did it with only three days practice.
Thanks moose for the match and friendship and yes it was only 3 days and it was damn rough https://t.co/sOrJyMPMqv— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) July 3, 2017
Not every NFL veteran could transition as smoothly, but it’s clear the athleticism and toughness that comes with playing in the league can mold some great wrestlers. With that in mind, here’s our wish list for the next generation of WWE (or Impact. Or Ring of Honor. Or Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Or New Japan Pro Wrestling) superstars from the world of football.
The current landscape of professional wrestling is sadly devoid of athletic fat guys. The WWE has shifted away from the dad strength of chubby villains like Earthquake, Kamala, or Vader and toward cut superstars who eat lean protein and do Crossfit six times a week. Wyatt is the most notable big man of his era but even at his largest is approximately half a Yokozuna.
Enter Wilfork, the nimble-footed defensive tackle who is wrapping up a potential Hall of Fame career in Houston. While at 35 he may be a bit old to turn over a new leaf, former WCW champion (and current yoga guru) Diamond Dallas Page didn’t start his in-ring career until he was the same age. Wilfork is a destructive force with sneaky speed and an intimidating figure. If he didn’t mind a little extra pain, he could be a legitimate force inside the ropes.
Plus, he could unleash one of the most devastating spears in wrestling history.
Gronkowski’s path to the WWE is clearer than most. He’s already partnered with the company to do a run-in at Wrestlemania, sending current champion Jinder Mahal flailing with a shoulder tackle in support of best friend Rawley.
He’s got the connections to make an immediate leap to the business, and the personality to be an engaging face before crowds get sick of him and turn him into an even more compelling heel weeks later. Between his 6’6 frame, elite athleticism, and “up for anything” attitude, the only thing dimming his wrestling stardom is his penchant for ill-timed injuries.
Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett (tag team)
A big part of professional wrestling is a superstar’s ability to cut a promo puffing him (or her-)self up while simultaneously tearing down prospective opponents. On that level, no set of teammates can compare to Sherman and Bennett. Neither one is afraid to speak his mind, like when Sherman roasted Michael Crabtree after winning the NFC Championship, or when Bennett lit up the press after Seattle’s playoff loss to the Falcons.
Get these two on a live mic running down the New Day or War Machine, and you’ve got magic. While their physical skills make them All-Pros, their limitless promo potential gives them an edge few converts could match.
Besides, Bennett’s flag-drawing sack celebration dance is awfully similar to Ravishing Rick Rude’s pre-match gyrations.
Harrison may be nearing 40 years old, but his litany of terrifying workout videos proves that he’s defeated Father Time in a rep-based lifting competition. He’s so jacked, he has to wear sweatshirts for his workouts so he won’t distract other people with his 24-inch pythons, brother.
Combine his freakish physical strength with his unmatched intensity, and you’ve got the makings of an in-ring monster. Harrison is just a ridiculous chest tattoo and some terrible math from being the next Scott Steiner. Holler if you hear that.
I don’t know much about wrestling, but I do know this: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was made to be a classic wrestling heel. First of all, he already has substantial experience with making wrestling fans angry, which is at least half the battle.
When AT&T Stadium hosted Wrestlemania 32, fans had a lot of reasons to be mad. They didn’t like that Roman Reigns won the whole thing, because apparently wrestling fans don’t like Roman Reigns. This happened six hours after the event started. It kicked off at 6 p.m., which means that it would have ended around midnight, so people probably would have been a little cranky, anyway. But none of that was Jerry Jones’ fault.
But it took Wrestlemania 32 ticket holders forever to actually get into the stadium, and people did see that as Jones’ fault. Plenty of people missed the beginning, and fans were chanting, “Let us in! Let us in!” outside the gates. Jones, of course, cashed in big considering that the average ticket price was over $300. That’s a pretty heel move. - Jeanna Thomas