Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pat McAfee Wants to Be a Wrestler

The next football crossover success story?
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images
If not for professional wrestling, the National Football League would be my preferred form of sporting entertainment consumption. Even though the bloom has come off the rose for me in the last few years, I guarantee I will still be glued to the television with either the Eagles or Red Zone on. The thing is that pro wrestling and football have had a close relationship ever since both were in their infancy. From Bronko Nagurski through Ernie Ladd and Angelo Mosca to WWE's several dalliances in the '80s and '90s with NFL stars making appearances, both fields have had their share of double-dabblers. Even now, with the state of the art performance center and at least a cultural resurgence of pro wrestling, NFL stars are looking at the squared circle as a post-career option.

Pat McAfee, former punter for the Indianapolis Colts, is looking to get into the graps. Unlike other recent former stars looking to get into the squared circle, like Sabby Piscatelli (known now as Tino Sabbatelli in NXT) and Shawne Merriman, McAfee isn't headed to the Performance Center. Rather, he's taking up another highly respected (if problematic) teacher in Rip Rogers at the Ohio Valley Wrestling school.

While punters have gained a cultural cache in the last 17 years, whether good (Chris Kluwe becoming a blog darling) or bad (Todd Sauerbrun as the STEROID PUNTER), I'm not sure McAfee becomes the most famous name to crossover, or at least attempt to. The punt is still a tactic of questionable entertainment and only slightly better strategy. Merriman still qualifies as the most famous name to bridge over, but he flamed out, which is only slightly disappointing. While it would have been cool to see a legit madman on the field get a shot to go in the ring, a la if Mike Tyson transitioned fulltime to WWE in the late '90s, Merriman's domestic abuse accusations would've made it hard to enjoy him, much like Tyson's rape conviction, short sentence, and demeanor that suggested he hadn't rehabilitated fully yet.

All of this begs the question as to how big a star would have to cross over to be able to keep his real name. WWE has had several players with NFL experience come in recently, and all of them, from Baron Corbin to Sabbatelli, have had to change their names. Obviously, if a white hot nuclear star, whether deserved (like, I dunno, Tom Brady?) or for dubious reasons (hello, Tim Tebow) came in, they'd keep their name, but where would the line be? One might think Sabbatelli could have kept his name. He was a second round pick and had a few productive years in the league before switching over, but even he had to go through the NXT name generator.

Either way, McAfee is embarking on a journey that, frankly, not a whole lot of people find satisfaction in. Even with his modest fame, he's got an uphill climb, but hey, the more people with, ahem, legitimate backgrounds coming into wrestling, the better.