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15 gridiron greats in WWE history
In the NFL, elite athletes put their bodies on the line for four months per year in hopes of making it to the Super Bowl and capturing the ultimate prize — the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Take a look at 15 rugged NFL greats who also found their way into wrestling and WWE, which have no offseason.
Ed "Wahoo" McDaniel
The rugged Choctaw-Chickasaw Indian from the oil fields of Midland, Texas, clobbered opponents on the football field as a star with the New York Jets and in the ring as the “Master of the Indian Strap Match.” ( WATCH) A terror on the gridiron in the early ’60s, Wahoo tomahawk chopped his way to stardom in Hawaii, Houston and Minneapolis when he became a fulltime grappler at the end of the decade.
But the powerful Native American made his biggest impression in the Mid-Atlantic region, where he battled rival Johnny Valentine in blistering matches that reddened the mat long before anyone put the letters ECW together. Late in his career, Wahoo brought the fight to young antagonists like Ric Flair, Roddy Piper and Greg Valentine, helping to establish the promising upstarts as the next generation of great ring villains.
As part of the infamous “Doomsday Defense,” Harvey Martin was a standout player for the Dallas Cowboys in the ’70s. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl XII MVP and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1977.
Martin was part of the 20-man NFL vs. WWE Battle Royal at WrestleMania 2 in 1986. ( WATCH | PHOTOS) In addition to his appearance on The Grandest Stage of Them All, Martin also later occasionally performed commentating duties for WCW.
In his short tenure in the NFL, Clay Matthews has already racked up an impressive resume. In addition to being part of the Super Bowl XLV Champion Green Bay Packers, Matthews made the Pro Bowl from 2009 to 2012, is a two-time All-Pro (2010 and 2012) and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
Fresh off his Super Bowl win, the linebacker was called into duty in WWE when guest referee Vickie Guerrero could not perform her duties in the match between World Heavyweight Champion Edge and Dolph Ziggler on the Feb. 11, 2011, edition of SmackDown. With Vickie down after attempting to spear The Rated-R Superstar, Edge used the maneuver to drop Ziggler, while Matthews issued the three-count for the win. ( WATCH | PHOTOS | EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)
A four-time all-star in the American Football League before the AFL merged with the NFL, Ernie Ladd was known as the largest player in the professional game, but over the span of his more than two decades ruling sports-entertainment, Ernie Ladd was known best as “Big Cat.” Ladd, a member of the 1995 WWE Hall of Fame class ( HALL OF FAME PROFILE), tore down racial barriers in an era struggling to distance itself from segregation, and his powerful oratory skills established “Big Cat” as one of the most fascinating interviews of his day.
Ladd is also noteworthy for being one of the squared circle’s first true giants — a matter that caused more than passing hostilities between “Big Cat” and a certain 7-foot-4 Frenchman named Andre. ( WATCH) Ladd stood 6-foot-9 and his boots measured a staggering size 18 — that qualified him to be called “big.” As for the “cat” part of his moniker, Ladd didn’t take that part so literally. There was no hissing or purring when Ladd wrestled, and his plain trunks weren’t calico-patterned, but you did not want to get in the way of his swatting paw. ( PHOTOS)
Yes, Mike Adamle made this list!
Adamle played for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Chicago Bears, scoring four rushing touchdowns in his career in the 1970s. Before the NFL, Adamle played for Northwestern University, where he was a team captain, an All-American fullback, and the Big Ten MVP in 1970. Adamle’s 316 rushing yards in a game against the Wisconsin Badgers in 1969 still stands as a school record for the most rushing yards in a game.
His WWE career wasn’t as stellar, but he was entertaining.
If defense wins football games, you want a guy like Kevin Greene on your squad! The former linebacker currently ranks third among all-time sack leaders. After playing with the likes of the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers, Greene actively competed in WCW in the late 1990s.
The NFL star found himself at odds with The New World Order on numerous occasions. At Slamboree 1997, Greene lived any competitor’s dream by teaming up with Ric Flair and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to defeat nWo representatives Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Syxx. He was also teammates with NFL alum Steve “Mongo” McMichael, but McMichael turned his back on the former NFL star to join The Four Horsemen. Greene refused to let Mongo’s betrayal rest and claimed retribution against McMichael at The Great American Bash 1997.
In 1998, Greene formed an alliance with former Atlanta Falcon Goldberg in his war with The nWo. Greene unsuccessfully challenged The Giant at Bash at the Beach 1998. Following the loss, the NFL mandated that he could no longer compete in WCW while playing football.
Currently, Greene is outside linebackers coach for the Green Bay Packers.
In the NFL, Chad Johnson (formerly known as Chad Ochocinco, Spanish for his jersey numbers, 85), has quite a list of accomplishments: He is a six-time NFL Pro Bowler and was named to three All-Pro teams. Johnson spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, then most recently with the New England Patriots.
In addition to his athletic prowess, Johnson proved he has some skills on the mic when he traded verbal barbs with The Miz on the Sept. 13, 2010, edition of Raw. Could there be a future for Johnson within the squared circle or at least as Raw or SmackDown General Manager?
Steve "Mongo" McMichael
Most people thought WCW officials made a poor choice when they revealed that Super Bowl XX champion Steve “Mongo” McMichael would be the color commentator for its new show, WCW Monday Nitro. They were proven right when Mongo’s unintelligible analysis beamed into millions of homes each week.
After Ric Flair tried putting the moves on McMichael’s wife, the former Chicago Bear got the itch to step in-between the ropes. He brought in another football player, Kevin Greene, to take on The Nature Boy and Arn Anderson at The Great American Bash 1996. During the match, Mongo turned on Greene and became a member of The Four Horsemen. To his credit, the former defensive lineman went on to have a somewhat successful in-ring career, winning the United States Title.
For 15 months in WCW, the former NFL defensive tackle from the University of Georgia was the most dominant competitor in the history of sports-entertainment. Fans wouldn’t so much chant his name as they would sing it. Victory after victory, Goldberg demanded to know who was next on his impressively growing laundry list of victims including "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, Raven and Bam Bam Bigelow.
On July 6, 1998, Goldberg took his undefeated record to his home state’s Georgia Dome. In front of more than 40,000 cheering Atlantans, he challenged Hollywood Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. With a flick of his finger, Goldberg signaled to the world that he was about to finish off the champion. The roof nearly blew off as The nWo leader was Jackhammered to the canvas and pinned. With a record of 108-0, Goldberg became the first undefeated World Heavyweight Champion in the history of professional wrestling. ( WATCH) And the crowd loved it.
Marcus Cor Von (Monty Brown)
Monty Brown played in the NFL as a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills (1993–1995), competing in Super Bowl XXVIII, and later with the New England Patriots for the 1996 season. He left the NFL in 1996 due to an ankle injury.
After forays in other wrestling leagues, Brown signed with WWE in 2006. He competed as Marcus Cor Von (“The Alpha Male”) and joined the ECW roster in January 2007, aiding The New Breed in their battle against the ECW Originals. However, his stint in WWE was short and ended in fall 2007.
William "The Refrigerator" Perry
WrestleMania is often referred to as the Super Bowl of sports-entertainment, so who better to be inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame than Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl Champion William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2006. ( HALL OF FAME PROFILE)
Simply known as The Fridge to many of his adoring fans, the Super Bowl champion defensive lineman made his mark on WWE at WrestleMania 2 at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago in the first-ever WWE Superstar and NFL Player Battle Royal and eliminated Big John Studd. ( WATCH)
Perry’s WrestleMania accomplishment is one that few will forget, but his accomplishments in the NFL are just as impressive. The Fridge burst onto the scene in the NFL as a first-round draft pick by the Bears in 1985. He immediately impressed with his defensive line play, but he also had the unique opportunity to play on offense on occasion. In fact, The Fridge was even called upon during Super Bowl XX to run the ball, and he made the most of it, rumbling through a crowd of defenders and into the end zone for a touchdown.
During his time in the NFL as an offensive guard, Bill Fralic developed a reputation as a vicious run blocker. He played for the Atlanta Falcons from 1985 to 1992, and then changed teams and joined the Detroit Lions in 1993 after being one of the first to take advantage of the NFL’s free agent system. He was named All-Pro in 1986 and 1987.
Despite his abilities in the NFL, he could not help his fellow teammates score a win in the infamous NFL vs. WWE Battle Royal at WrestleMania 2.
Ernie Holmes was another football great who competed in the NFL vs. WWE Battle Royal at WrestleMania 2. ( PHOTOS)
In the NFL, Holmes was one of the most feared members of the legendary Steel Curtain defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers through the 1970s, racking up 40 career sacks — eighth on the Steelers’ all-time list. He was part of two Super Bowl winning teams with the Steelers (IX and X). He finished his NFL career with the New England Patriots in 1978.
Reggie White, aka “The Minister of Defense,” was one of the greatest to ever play the game of football. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and finished his career with the Carolina Panthers. His accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, but include: Super Bowl champion (XXXI), two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 1986 Pro Bowl MVP, member of the 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Team and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
White made appearances in both WWE and WCW during the 1990s. Although White only appeared at ringside during WrestleMania XI, he entered the squared circle to lock up with former NFL star Steve “Mongo” McMichael at WCW Slamboree in 1997.
Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, White had the WCW faithful in his corner against the former Chicago Bears standout and Super Bowl champion. Both competitors were powerhouses and battled to a virtual stalemate until Mongo used a steel briefcase to take out the Green Bay Packer and secure victory.
Perhaps the greatest defensive player ever, Lawrence Taylor played his entire career with the New York Giants. He made the Pro Bowl 10 times, is a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the Giants (XXI and XXV) and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
At WrestleMania XI, “L.T.” tied up with the 390-pound Bam Bam Bigelow in the show’s main event. Refusing to crack under the pressure of performing on The Grandest Stage of Them All in his first match, L.T. toppled The Beast from the East with a flying forearm smash to the face. Following his victory, Taylor literally had to be carried to the back by a group of his NFL buddies — a sure sign that he’d left it all in the ring.
Check out photos of more NFL greats in WWE, including some who did not appear on this list. ( PHOTOS)
DID YOU KNOW?
Both WrestleMania 29 (April 7, 2013) and Super Bowl XLVIII (Feb. 2, 2014) will take place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. ( FULL WRESTLEMANIA COVERAGE)