Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sports Crossovers in Wrestling: A Fantasy Piggyback Post

If she ever gets tired of smacking tennis balls, Williams can smack around wrestlers
Photo via AFP
David Shoemaker over at Grantland has been working the WWE beat for awhile, and he's become the most acclaimed wrestling writer who doesn't have his own dirtsheet at this point, depending on how one views Brandon Stroud (it's close). Usually, his beat is confined to WWE and NXT event coverage and elegies for the recently departed, but this week, he had an article that delved into the realm of fantasy drafting sports stars into WWE. It's certainly a good read; not only does Shoemaker give his choices, but he's enlisted the help of other Grantland staffers to give theirs. Some of the choices were boilerplate (Rob Gronkowski, Johnny Manziel, Richard Sherman). Others were inspired (Ndamukong Suh, Bryce Harper). Still others were outright cheating, inasmuch as naming a MMA fighter or a boxer to be a crossover star into wrestling feels like it would require little imagination. The exchange between sport and art isn't entirely widespread, but it's enough to call them brethren genres.

Of course, real recognizing real and all, Shoemaker and Co.'s post caused me to wrack my own brain and give some of my personal choices for crossover stars. Of course, I've done this before, twice actually, but only confined to NFL stars. This time, I'm going to give my list of dudes and dudettes that I'd like to see crossover into wrestling, not necessarily WWE but wrestling in general, with a few guidelines. One, I won't pick anyone whom the Grantland staff or I myself have picked before. Two, no MMA/boxing/combat sports types because I feel that's cheating. Anyway, the list is here, without further ado:

Serena Williams Tennis - She has the look to fit into any wrestling promotion. Have you seen her? She's fuckin' jacked, yo. She has raw personality for days, and she's an inspirational story along with her sister Venus, coming up from nothing, becoming the best women's tennis player in history, and defying the age barrier that seems to mow down tennis players, male or female (but mostly the latter). I don't know if she's going to leave tennis soon, but if she does, she, not Ronda Rousey, could be the transcendent female star of current wrestling and the biggest one since Chyna.

Mario Balotelli Soccer/Football - Balotelli is another guy who has a great wrestling look, combining current Sheamus with 2009 Shelton Benjamin. He's also legitimately unhinged, which makes for interesting times. While WWE may not want to take a flier on him, he would fit in perfectly with Combat Zone Wrestling, and who wouldn't pay top dollar to see Balotelli take on Nick F'n Gage?

Rex and Rob Ryan American Football - They're older and are more coaches, but their bombastic personalities would fit in well in any wrestling promotion. The promos themselves would be legendary, even if the matches might end up lacking. Then again, that doesn't seem to hurt Enzo Amore, does it?

Brian Wilson Baseball - Wilson's weirdness was too delicate a flower for the straitlaced, old-time game of baseball. It might be too much for WWE. Big E's natural personality is a good analog, but he's had to tone it down and channel it into the troll face brilliance that is New Day. Wilson, however, might be just weird enough for Chikara or its estranged, grown-up cousin, Inter Species Wrestling. Bonus points if his valet were Pat Burrell in the gimp costume.

Sidney Crosby Ice Hockey - Crosby doesn't shy away from the primadonna image that has made him the National Hockey League's top heel (in addition to being one of its best players). He fits the chickenshit heel mold so well. He's a supremely talented dude who shies away from contact face to face but will hit you from behind. He'd be a legend in WWE, especially with his shitty, spotty moustache.

Brian Windhorst Basketball "Journalism" - Yeah, Windhorst isn't exactly an athlete; more or less, he's ESPN's LeBron James correspondent. However, he has two things working for him. One, he looks like a legit ogre. Seriously, he could play Shrek in a live action adaptation. Second, he hates children, as referenced by his beef with precocious ingenue Riley Curry, daughter of National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player, Steph Curry. He would work so well in a place like Chikara or on a children-aimed wrestling program like Saturday Morning Slam as the child-scaring heel, whether as a wrestler, NPC, or manager.

Kobe Bryant Basketball - I'm shocked that Shoemaker or another Grantland staffer didn't pick Bryant, who has been playing a pro wrestling character since the minute he came of age in the NBA. His aggro-intense overcompetitiveness would make him a terrific classic heel or WWE babyface, but the kicker is that he's got just enough weirdness that would play in a mainstream wrestling promotion to differentiate himself from the crowd. I mean, c'mon, who wouldn't pay to see Bryant come out for a promo in this?

Nolan Ryan Baseball - If Terry Funk can wrestle into his '70s, so can Ryan. He's wily, tough, and he's already got his headlock technique down:

John Daly Golf - Kevin Owens has made WWE dadbod cool again, so why not try to whip Daly into some fighting shape and have him go to war as one of the old throwback brawlers. Imagine him trying to take someone's head off with a lariat, a la Stan Hansen. It'd be glorious.

Jose Mourinho Soccer/Football - C'mon. The Chelsea manager calls himself "The Special One." How is that not straight out of the pro wrestling playbook? Whether as a worker or a manager, Mourinho would instantly garner insane amounts of boos for himself and for anyone under his charge.

Some names on here are pretty big and standard, others are esoteric. I think it's a pretty good mix. But one thing that I think I agree with most from the Shoemaker column is that the influx of sports stars crossing over into wrestling slowing down to a trickle is disappointing. Then again, it's not like WWE hasn't tried in the last 20 years or so. Either way, it's a fun concept to kick around.