WWE WrestleMania 33 is just a day away, but what if you had to field an NFL roster with wrestlers of past and present? Who makes the cut?
With WWE WrestleMania 33 on the horizon, it’s time to have some fun by assembling an NFL roster made up of wrestlers both past and present. We’ve had plenty of time to fret about the WWE’s next plan to make Roman look strong, Seth Rollins’s poorly-booked feud with Triple H, and John Cena’s potential heel turn.
It takes a special kind of athlete to succeed in the NFL, and the same can be said for the WWE. Although there’s a certain stereotype of what a wrestler or NFL player looks like, athletes of all shapes and sizes have found success in both. From Rey Mysterio to Big Show and from Steve Smith to Calvin Johnson, plenty of competitors in both football and sports entertainment have shown that it’s all about tailoring your game to your strengths.
Because of this, it makes it easier to slot wrestlers into specific positions. So here’s a full football team of wrestlers, starting with a head coach that would make Vince Lombardi (or at least Jim Harbaugh) jealous.
Head Coach: Paul Heyman
Just hearing Paul Heyman walk out of the tunnel yelling, “My name is Paul Heyman…” and introducing his team would be gold. Heyman is the best talker in the history of wrestling, and that’s saying something when you consider the Hollywood career Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has forged (and the one John Cena is about to).
If Heyman has some issues with the Xs and Os, he can just call up his client Brock Lesnar, who tried to crack the Minnesota Vikings roster, for some help. Heyman is a sharp guy, so I’m sure he wouldn’t have any trouble picking things up quickly.
Could you imagine Heyman’s press conferences? We’ve seen Jon Gruden and Bruce Arians deliver some priceless lines, but Heyman would be gold for writers looking for #viralcontent. Heyman would immediately change the “No Fun League’s” reputation.
On the downside, he’d engage in some downright dirty tactics. I mean, if you think Belichick and the New England Patriots are cheaters for a bunch of unconfirmed stunts that made a few reporters more popular than they should have been, then Heyman’s intimidation of referees and on-field interferences would make you cringe (or swoon, I won’t judge your character).
Remember when Mike Tomlin tripped Jacoby Jones? Yeah, that would be a footnote in NFL history after Heyman’s career. The man is willing to do whatever is best for business, even if it means eating soap.
It isn’t exactly a shocker to see “The Face That Runs The Place,” you know, running the place. John Cena is easy to hate, because he’s a proven draw with a large fanbase of all ages. Vince McMahon can count on him to put on a strong performance in a big match with just about anyone, cut a promo that works the crowd perfectly, and rake in big bucks as the champion.
Cena is the highest-paid wrestler in the WWE with a $9.5 million salary, which means he makes $3.5 million more than Lesnar per year. It’s understandable, given how much merchandise Cena can push, and he’s easily the most recognizable name in wrestling. Chances are, he and The Rock are the only wrestlers your friends have ever heard of.
Everything about the guy seems tailor-made for the quarterback position, and he could easily be the Tom Brady of the NFL, which would make Nikki Bella a less cool version of Gisele. Like Brady, Cena has a ton of hardware, and most people think that you either absolutely adore the man or you hate him. The truth is that most people respect Cena and Brady, but they don’t exactly like rooting for the obvious favorites.
A powerful leader in the locker room, Cena can be the nice guy who rallies the troops to fourth quarter comebacks. But when pushed over the edge, he can deliver the pain, because it isn’t wise to mess with someone with a degree in thuganomics.
One of the most agile wrestlers in the history of sports entertainment, Rey Mysterio is built to shine as a running back in the NFL. Small and powerful, quick and unpredictable, Mysterio is the type of shifty back who could be this team’s Ameer Abdullah, ably carrying the load until an untimely injury forces him to hit the shelf.
Plus, what team is complete without heat between two players? Mysterio and Cena have reason to dislike each other, seeing as how Cena took the WWE Championship away from him on the same night that he won it. Both Cena and Mysterio could clash about how often the team should run or pass, forcing Heyman to step in, booking a steel cage match for the right to goal-line plays. If you think Richard Sherman openly criticizing Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was something, then imagine hashing out personnel decisions in the ring.
Mysterio could be a nice workhorse back for this fictional WWE team, racking up thousands of yardage as a durable bowling ball. At his best, he could be Maurice Jones-Drew, who once led the league with 1,606 yards in the prime of his career for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Charlotte says she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but the truth is that she deserves every bit of success she’s had in the WWE so far. Poised to become the greatest female superstars when she retires, Charlotte cuts the perfect egotistical promo. Her “queen” persona fits perfectly as a talented, me-first wide receiver who has the leaping ability to make jaw-dropping catches that would turn Odell Beckham Jr. into yesterday’s news.
Among Antonio Brown’s many celebrations, he once capped off a touchdown by flipping into the end zone. Now imagine Charlotte finding paydirt and celebrating with a moonsault off of the goalpost. That puts AB to shame.
If the NFL thought they had a problem with Jimmy Graham‘s dunks, then imagine what lengths they would go to stop Charlotte from executing corkscrew backfilps off of Cairo Santos‘ spirit animal.
Putting a dash of flair into all of her plays, Charlotte is an elite athlete with incredible strength and speed who could become the greatest wide receiver to ever lace up. In wrestling, she and her father Ric Flair form a father-daughter combination that is already more prolific than any father-son combo in NFL history.
The “Queen” is this team’s No. 1 receiver, and John Cena will have to contend with a “Show-Off” as his No. 2 option. There may be rumors of heat between Ziggler and Cena that rivals the distaste between Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb, seeing how Ziggler once dated Cena’s current girlfriend Nikki Bella.
However, McNabb and Owens made things work by appearing in a Super Bowl, and Cena and Ziggler teamed up to put Team Authority out of business (for like two weeks, but whatever) at Survivor Series 2014.
Ziggler is one of the finest athletes in the WWE, and he would be Cena’s best bud on the field. Since he’s so good at selling in the squared circle, maybe Dolph could win his team some personal foul flags or pass interference calls by flopping. Ziggler has a way of making anyone in the ring look like a million bucks, which means he would make Cena look like Warren Buffett out there. Wait, that might not be such a good thing for WWE’s square-jawed god.
Anyway, Ziggler is under-appreciated in real life by casual wrestling fans who can’t take people who lose seriously, but he’s the classic “Internet Wrestling Community” darling. That would, naturally, make him a #DraftTwitter favorite, especially once Pro Football Focus starts taking notice of his prodigious talent that goes beyond showing off. Ziggler does all the little things well in the ring.
I apologize if this is on the nose, but the devil Bill Belichick made me do it. Daniel Bryan is the classic Belichickian slot receiver, constructed right out of the Wayne Chrebert mold. He was billed as a scrappy underdog in the WWE, and the crowd got behind him as forcefully as they have supported any superstar in the history of sports entertainment.
Bryan had to face long odds in order to succeed, as he was constantly victimized by “The Authority.” But Bryan, just like Julian Edelman or Wes Welker, is more than just a scrappy, undersized athlete with plenty of heart.
In the ring, Bryan is on the shortlist of the greatest wrestlers ever. He was an elite technical wrestler capable of dazzling the crowd, and his submission holds were downright vicious. Bryan would bring peak technique—to steal from Cesaro—to the wide receiver position, running crisp routes and rarely making mistakes once the ball comes his way. Cena could come to rely on him as a 90-reception guy who allows Charlotte and Ziggler to soak up big plays outside the numbers.
Cut from the same cloth as Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, Rick Rude is the type of loose party animal that this team needs. Rude is a nice change-of-pace from the down-to-earth Bryan and the grounded Cena. He’d bring plenty of size and athleticism to this versatile attack, providing Cena with yet another capable target in a high-flying offense.
The “Ravishing” co-founder of D-Generation X would constantly flaunt his physique on the field, irking opponents and potentially drawing frustration personal fouls from the opposition. Rude wouldn’t mind taunting defenders after catching a meaningless seven-yard pass in a 20-point game.
Safeties wouldn’t be able to hang with Rude, who would probably still be too strong for linebackers. The guy is a beast, and he would put Kelce’s raunchy gestures on the field to shame. Besides, is there a better position for a risque character to play than tight end? Absolutely not. So Rude would need all of the fat, overweight NFL sweat-hogs to shut up and take a look at a real tight end.
Even though she’s suffered through some weird booking up until WWE WrestleMania 33, it’s clear that Nia Jax is an absolute beast. What Braun Strowman has been right now in the men’s division is what Nia will be in the women’s division over the coming months. It was somewhat disappointing to see her tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her at Survivor Series, but there’s no shame in losing to the champion’s submission hold.
Nia won’t be tapping out on the NFL gridiron, because she’ll be bringing the pain to pass rushers who dare to try and get past her. There’s no doubting Nia’s power, because she just rag-dolls opponents within the squared circle. Take one look at her samoan drop, and it’s obvious that she won’t get bull-rushed.
Offensive tackles need to be quick, and most teams like their left tackles to be superb athletes. Nia certainly fits the bill here, because she moves explosively in the ring. She would have no trouble mirroring quick pass rushers, unless if it’s the superhuman Von Miller, and she could be a Taylor Decker or Taylor Lewan type on the blindside.
Sometimes it’s easy to under-appreciate Kane, but he’s one of those guys who gets respect in retrospective articles or videos. He’s worn different hats throughout his career, and he’d have no problem adjusting to different blocking schemes or working with different combinations of teammate son the offensive line.
Kane is one of the strongest competitors in the history of the WWE, and he would be an absolute mauler on the inside. It wouldn’t be difficult to find running lanes with Kane putting in work, and it would be even more difficult to push him back into the quarterback.
Delivering chokeslams and tombstones is impressive enough, but imagine the look on a defensive lineman’s face once Kane latches onto them. There’s no escaping the grip of the “Big Red Machine”, and the intimidation factor alone would probably keep pass rushers at bay.
At seven feet tall, Kane is a physical specimen in every sense, and he’s absolutely ruthless. Remember that scene in “The Blindside” when Michael Oher blocked someone to the buses? Yeah, that’d be Kane at least once every game.
The Big Show wouldn’t be easy to deal with in the locker room, seeing as how he’s always flip-flopping, unsure if he’s the good guy or the villain. Outside of kayfabe, Big Show was willing to do anything to put anyone over, which makes him a great fit as the selfless centerpiece of a beefy, hard-working offensive line.
Lately, Big Show has been busy leaning up for his WWE WrestleMania 33 match, but his offensive line coach would probably like him to keep on the extra pounds. Big Show would be an immovable force up front, and he’d put in the work to make sure he wouldn’t have to miss chunks of time with injury. This is a guy an offensive coordinator can rely on to play every snap, and he and Kane would make life quite easy for Mysterio in the backfield.
A storied career in the Kevin Mawae mold would befit Big Show, who would quickly earn the respect of his peers with his strong work ethic and brute force. Of course, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to make enemies outside of his own locker room, as he’s be willing to get into scrums to protect his teammates from a cheapshot. You could count on him to have Cena’s back, unless if it’s Survivor Series.
Whether it’s Geoff Schwartz or Evan Mathis, we’ve seen plenty of charismatic offensive guards in the NFL. Kevin Owens would certainly be on that list, and his Twitter feed might even blow theirs out of the water. Owens isn’t afraid to rile up some fans, and I’m sure the faithful followers of his team would appreciate the barbs he’d send at opposing defensive linemen.
Owens doesn’t look like he should be quick, and the amateur scout would surmise that he is out of shape. Far from it. Owens is capable of executing excellent dives and flips in the squared circle, and he’d have the athletic ability to block in space, pulling effectively and blocking linebackers on screen passes to help spring Ziggler or Bryan loose.
In the WWE, Owens’s work in the ring and on the mic is among the best in the business. He’s been booked as the quintessential cowardly heel, but he’d reassume his role as the “Kill, Steen, Kill!” beast we once knew in Ring of Honor and throughout the independent circuit.
A big drawback with Owens would be costly penalties. He’d have no shortage of enemies in this league, and he’s willing to resort to cheapshots in order to get a message across, or simply to get revenge on a foe. Holding penalties would also be frequent, though he would be smart enough to avoid racking up flag counts similar to Alex Barron‘s.
If you think Jack Conklin has a mean streak, imagine lining up across from “The Deadman” himself on Sundays. The Undertaker would have no trouble digging a hole right in the middle of the gridiron and burying your soul into the catacombs of the field. No away crowd would rile him, and no man would be strong enough to face off against him.
A throwback to the old days of offensive line play, the Undertaker wouldn’t need cheap tricks to keep pass rushers at bay. He’d simply anchor and frustrate pass rushers, neutralizing their quickness and embarrassing them if they decided to use power moves against him.
The Undertaker is arguably the single greatest icon in the history of sports entertainment, and no wrestler—not even AJ Styles—has earned more respect than The Deadman. Taker is in a league of his own, and I’m sure he’d love to add another 21-game wining streak to his resume.
In case the Undertaker and Kane have some brotherly trouble, it makes sense to put him on Kevin Owens’ side of the line. That way, any problems “at home” wouldn’t spill onto the gridiron. Since the Undertaker and Heyman have a bit of history, it would be interesting to see that dynamic, but I’m sure both icons can set their differences aside for the common goal of a championship.
Arguably the least popular superstar in the WWE today, the animosity directed towards Roman Reigns has more to do with his poorly-constructed, entirely predictable, never-ending push at the behest of Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr.
Reigns is a former defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, so he’d bring scheme versatility at the defensive end position, capable of playing in a 4-3 or 3-4. A gifted pass rusher, Reigns is one of the quickest and most agile defensive linemen around, and he can certainly deliver a powerful tackle, spearing quarterbacks into forced fumbles that turn into touchdowns.
Watching Reigns beat tackles, guards, and double-teams from tight ends and running backs would be a joy. As a defensive end, Reigns wouldn’t have to be burdened with being the face of the brand, and he’d be more like the quiet, dominant, and likable “Shield” version of himself. He’d be busy bringing the pain, tackling quarterbacks and running backs into the oblivion, as opposed to spouting off lines from Looney Tunes at press conferences. I mean, Heyman would have the decency to avoid instructing Reigns to make a fool out of himself.
Heck, Reigns could finally be able to embrace the villain inside of him, arrogantly strutting around the field, trash-talking below-average tackles, and injuring fragile quarterbacks.
The Beast Incarnate tried to crack it in the NFL as a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. He failed that time, but a renewed focus on the craft would allow him to forge a legendary career similar to Kevin Williams‘. With his insane quickness on the inside, Lesnar would become a pressure-piling defensive tackle that would make the likes of Aaron Donald, Gerald McCoy, and Geno Atkins envious.
Lesnar’s strength is held in high regard. I mean, he didn’t break the Undertaker’s streak for nothing. The man’s F-5s are a thing to behold, and Big Show and Mark Henry can certainly attest for his inhuman power.
Beyond that, Lesnar has technical prowess. He’s a former UFC and NCAA Division-I champ, and it’s hard not to forget the classic matches he put on with Kurt Angle, who was an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. Lesnar’s refined hand usage, arsenal of moves, and ridiculous first-step would decimate offenses, turning offensive lines into a state of chaos.
Although Lesnar’s motor could be called into question, the only real problem is his tendency to pick up suspensions for PED usage. If Heyman isn’t able to help him do a better job of gaming the system and avoiding positive tests, then his career could go the route of Josh Gordon‘s. It’s more likely, however, he ends up being an immortal workhorse like James Harrison (not that he’s on gear), as Heyman would keep Lesnar’s eye on the prize.
What football team made up of wrestlers would be complete without the talents of Mark Henry? The man truly was the world’s strongest man at one point, but a fact that might be even more remarkable than his raw squat and deadlift totals is that he weighed 225 pounds in the fourth grade.
Henry’s “Hall of Pain” run was wonderful, but he deserved better from the WWE. The man never won the WWE Championship, even though he cut one of the best promos of all-time, faking his retirement before hitting the World’s Strongest Slam on John Cena.
I’m guessing Cena and Henry have moved past all of that, especially now that Henry is a face nearing the end of his time in the company. Either way, they won’t have to work together, seeing how Henry will be busy plugging up running lanes on the defensive side of the ball.
At worst, Henry would be this team’s Alan Branch, which is still an honorable title. Branch is one of the most underrated players in the NFL, anchoring the New England Patriots excellent run defense. Henry would be the perfect anchor next to Lesnar, and no offensive line would be able to contend with the strength of that duo. I’m sure the linebackers will be showering both players with suits and watches by season’s end.
One of the best wrestlers in the business, Samoa Joe is an entertaining brawler who has taken the NXT by a storm. He’s been around for a while, and it’s time he gets that big run on the WWE main roster. Joe’s promo work his excellent, but he’s even better in the ring with his blend of speed and power.
That combination would serve him well in the NFL ,and he and Roman Reigns would form a fearsome tandem of pass rushers in this 4-3 with Lesnar and Henry sandwiched in between them. Samoa Joe’s Musclebuster is a prime example of his power, and it’s what has made him such a legend, no matter which promotion he’s on.
Samoa Joe is a versatile team player, and his uncanny athleticism for his size makes him an especially dangerous pass rusher. Watching him and Lesnar go to work on offensive linemen would be a treat, and Joe is the type of player who commands respect from rival peers.
“The Game” has his fair share of critics, but the man who helped introduce plenty of fans to Motörhead has an even bigger following. Triple H always does what’s “best for business,” and he would match Cena as the quarterback of the defense. Trips’ work ethic in the gym is unparalleled, and he would be able to set an example for the rest of his teammates on defense.
With incredible strength, a full tank of stamina, and plenty of quickness, Triple H will always perform at a high level for his team. He would be one of the most consistent players on defense, and opposing wide receivers would fear going over the middle of the field, bracing for a crunching tackle from the “King of Kings.”
Tight ends and running backs wouldn’t be able to have their way with Triple H in coverage, and he would be one of the most effective blitzers as a 4-3 outside linebacker. A true three-way linebacker, Triple H would be able to bring every skill to the table for a defense.
The Carolina Panthers once drew heat for bringing bats to the field to intimidate Odell Beckham Jr., so imagine what would happen if Triple H brought out a sledgehammer to scare wide receivers.
Triple H is joined by his fellow “Evolution” member at the linebacker position, and Batista might be an even more exciting player. Watching the former bodybuilder explode through the A-Gap to send a running back flying flat on his back would be something to behold. Although Batista is lacking in the quickness department when it comes to covering linebacker, he could frustrate tight ends and has enough range to make plays from sideline to sideline in the running game.
With Triple H wearing many hats as the “Cerebral Assassin” on defense, Bastisa would be a throwback to the old days of hard-hitting, smashmouth football. When this team lines up in three-man fronts, Triple H and Batista could team up at inside linebacker, forming a duo akin to the San Francisco 49ers semi-iconic pairing of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
Batista wasn’t the most refined wrestler on the planet, but it’s hard to find a better brawler out there. As an added bonus, the team would get the rights to use I Walk Alone as their entrance music. It’s a coveted track, seeing as how you can’t get it on iTunes without buying a full album of WWE music. Yeah, that’s not the best deal.
But having Batista on your defense? That’s a great deal. Heck, he could even throw in a Batista Bomb on the quarterback when blitzing. A pro comparison for The Animal? Well, how about New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower?
Some may say that Kurt Angle would be an undersized outside linebacker at 6-0, but the man knows his leverages. Plus, nobody can question his toughness, because, you know, he won a gold medal with a “broken freakin’ neck.” Angle would play through the pain, producing an iron man streak that would surpass Joe Thomas‘s current streak. Maybe.
The Pittsburgh native would bring a nasty edge to this team’s run defense, and like Triple H, he has the ability to make an impact in every phase of the game at the linebacker position. He’s an even headier player and technician than Triple H, and he’s just as capable as The Game of getting into the opposition’s head with some pointed trash talk.
Angle’s power, charisma, and technique made him one of the best and most beloved wrestlers on the talent. He’s easy to work with, and nobody is a faster learner. He’d be able to pick up any scheme on the fly, and there’s no doubt that he’s a coach’s dream. Heyman and Angle would probably work together to devise coverage schemes that will keep opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators up all night.
Orton is one of the smoothest performers in the history of the WWE, and there’s a reason why The Legend Killer is an eight-time WWE Champion and four-time World Heavyweight Champion. The Apex Predator is quick, agile, and incredibly aware of everything around him. He makes moves that take a high degree of strength and athleticism look easy, almost to the point where he seems disinterested. He’s like the Dimitar Berbatov of wrestlers.
All of those physical tools translate well to the free safety position. At 6-5, 250 pounds, Orton can make wide receivers think twice about hovering over the middle of the field. He has enough speed to hang with wide receivers on deep passes. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is one of the best free safeties in the NFL, and he ran a 4.58 forty coming out of Alabama.
The RKO is one of the most over finishers in the history of wrestling, and Orton’s ability to win matches on a single move can be seen in the NFL, too. He can win matches with a single interception, using his leaping ability to snare interceptions. Like Eric Berry and Landon Collins, he can make things happen with the ball in his hands after he secures an interception, putting up valuable points for his team.
It’s easy to take someone like Orton for granted because of how good he is. Just when you forget about him, he can come in and steal the game away.
An icon with the ECW, WWE, and TNA, Rob Van Dam would be the perfect strong safety for this team. His high-flying moves dazzled fans throughout his career, and he had a high degree of success wherever he went. In the early 2000s, RVD was red-hot, and he was arguably the best wrestler on the planet at the time.
Van Dam would be something of a John Lynch player in the secondary for this team. Like Lynch, RVD would clock running backs and receivers with monster hits, and he’d be a cerebral playmaker in the passing game. Lynch would call out plays and saw plays develop in his head before the ball was snapped. Van Dam exhibited the same type of presence of mind in the ring, so he’d be able to make a natural transition to the strong safety position.
At 6-0, 237 pounds, Van Dam would bring plenty of size to the table, but, again, his calling card is his athleticism. Even though he isn’t a small man, most of his finishing and signature moves were more typical of a lighter wrestler.
The NFL covets the combination of agility and size, which Van Dam would undoubtedly bring to the table across from Orton.
What team would be complete without The Architect? It almost seems like Rollins’s move-set is far too sophisticated and expansive for the WWE. Even without the Curb Stomp, Rollins’s work in the ring remains as exhilarating as ever. In his recent match with Sami Zayn for a spot in the Royal Rumble, Rollins was pulling out moves from New Japan Pro Wrestling. He’s the perfect combination of WWE charisma and indie-quality in-ring work.
NFL cornerbacks are some of the most unique athletes on the planet, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of faster and more agile people. It takes a special type of player to succeed at corner, and Rollins has shown time after time that he’s one of the most uniquely agile wrestlers in the ring.
Just watching Rollins execute the Phoenix Splash is a joy, and he has some of the best top-rope moves in the WWE today. He’s also one of the most brutal babyfaces on the roster, using powerful moves like the Pedigree and Falcon Arrow, in addition to an arsenal of kicks.
Rollins would be capable of game-changing pick-sixes, and he wouldn’t be afraid to meet running backs head-on for a crunching tackle. No longer a cowardly heel, Rollins is the type of face the crowd can get behind, and he would be one of the team’s top jersey sellers.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular and tough superstars in the history of the business, Lita would be a great partner-in-crime for Rollins at the cornerback position. A secondary comprised of Orton, Van Dam, Rollins, and Lita would be as hard-hitting as the “Legion of Boom”.
Lita’s “Litasault” is a prime example of her athleticism, and her entire match archive is a lesson in brutal competitiveness. She was a four-time Women’s Champion for a reason, and she might even have a chance to win four championships in the NFL as a cornerback.
Heyman may be worried that Lita’s work with the punk rock band, The Luchagors, could turn her into the next Mike Williams, who flamed out after pursuing a rap career. Lita is far too grounded for that to happen, and she and Rollins would probably form one of the scariest cornerback duos when looking at their combined awareness and tenacity.
All four of these defensive backs are crowd favorites, and an appropriate nickname for them wouldn’t be the “No Fly Zone”—it would be the “No Run Zone”. Any moving object in the vicinity of any of these four players would be beaten, victimized, and conquered, assuming a certain defensive lineman didn’t get there first.