With the WWE SummerSlam just around the corner, and the NFL training camps in full swing, we remember the best who have practiced both disciplines
Jeff Jarrett is a WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling promoter who ESPN He reached out for his thoughts on professional football players who were successful in pro wrestling leading up to Saturday’s WWE SummerSlam.
That’s right, it’s me. The best singer in the world, the best fighter in the world and, today, the best professional American football writer in the world.
ESPN approached me on the eve of SummerSlam of the Wwe, and with the training camps of the NFL in full swing, to ask myself about two of my favorite subjects: wrestling and football. “Double J, no one knows the business of wrestling like you do, and we know that you are a huge fan of American football. We want you to give us your top 10 professional wrestlers of all time who played at a professional level.”
Good decision from ESPN to go to a real expert. Haha! Damn, I know wrestling and I know football too. I am the third generation of my family in the wrestling business and have been a fan of American football for as long as I can remember.
Wrestling has long attracted great athletes from other sports, and I can tell you that it is so popular in the locker room of the NFL like football in the wrestling locker room. During my career within, I have been fortunate to meet several great athletes, but football obviously lends itself to fighting. It produces boys with speed, power and agility, as well as boys of various sizes. What other sport could a guy as big and tough as Ron Simmons or someone as skilled as Brian Pillman?
The rules that you gave me ESPN are as follows: I can only include those who participated in professional games. Many boys participated in the training camps of the NFL, USFL and CFL, but they never made it to those leagues for various reasons. So you won’t find superstars like Vader, The Rock or Brock Lesnar in my list.
Here are my top 10 fighters who played professional football, and many of whom were in the ring with me:
1. Bill Goldberg
Football Credentials: Atlanta Falcons, 1992-94. He played in 14 games, with one start
Goldberg’s undefeated streak, on that stage on a global scale, will never be repeated. And it’s still paying dividends to this day. I fought Bill on a ‘Nitro’ on Monday in Milwaukee with Green Bay Packers players circling the ring. And they’ll see Bill at SummerSlam this weekend in the main event.
2. Roman Reigns | Real Name: Joe Anoa’i
Football Credentials: Edmonton Elks, 2008. Played in five games, three starts.
I have known the Anoa’i family since the 1970s. Roman’s father and uncle were the Wild Samoans, multiple-time WWE champions. Rikishi was another of his uncles and, of course, Rikishi’s sons, the “Usos”, are Roman’s cousins. So to say that Roman has fighting in his blood is an understatement. And since he became “Tribal Chief” and “Head of the Table,” we’ve really seen him take his game to another level. Now when you call yourself the head of the table in a family that includes The Rock, that’s a bold statement in this business. We’ll have to see where that leads.
3. Wahoo McDaniel
Football Credentials: Houston Oilers, 1960; Denver Broncos, 1961-63; New York Jets, 1964-1965; Miami dolphins, 1966-68. He played in 105 games, with 91 starts and 13 interceptions.
I grew up as a Wahoo fan, but my family liked to talk about their football success more than their wrestling success. One of the toughest guys on the field and in the ring.
4. Lex Luger | Real Name: Larry Pfohl
American Football Credentials: Montreal Alouettes, 1979-81; Tampa bay bandits, 1984; Memphis Showboats, 1984-1985; Jacksonville Bulls, 1985. He played 14 games for the Alouettes and an unknown number of games in his USFL career.
I’m not sure Lex gets the credit he deserves. It was a source of money for a long time. There was a period when he was as big a star as anyone in the business. He got off the football field and became a leading fighter. We fight many, many times. A very powerful guy who threw me easily.
5. Ron Simmons
Football Credentials: Ottawa Rough Riders, 1981; Tampa bay bandits, 1983-85.
Any list like this has to include Ron, the first African-American athlete world heavyweight champion. It definitely left me very sore after some of his hits. He’s another guy who for his size had incredible agility, speed and speed.
6. Ernie Ladd
American Football Credentials: San Diego Chargers, 1961-65; Houston Oilers, 1966-1967; Kansas city chiefs, 1967-68. He played 112 games, with 76 starts and had 33.5 sacks in his career.
“The Big Cat” was a little before my time. But you look at his football credentials, and you have to say he was as good a player as anyone on my list. Three times All-Pro? Amazing! I know he got into a fight with Andre the Giant and Wahoo. He was one of the few guys in his day who was comparable in size to Andre. Ladd is in the Chargers Hall of Fame and in the WWE Hall of Fame. It’s definitely good enough to be on my list.
7. Steve “Mongo” McMichael
American Football Credentials: Chicago Bears, 1980-93; Green bay packers, 1994. He played in 213 NFL games, with 171 starts and 95 sacks.
Without a doubt, “Mongo” possessed incredible strength. I could really throw you off with ease. I worked with him and against him in the ring many times. And nobody told football stories like “Mongo.” I don’t remember where we were, but I can remember being in a wrestling locker room with him and Kevin Greene listening to their stories. “Mongo” had so many stories about the great Bears defense in the 1980s. You could hear stories all day.
8. Brian Pillman
American Football Credentials: Cincinnati Bengals, 1984. Pillman appeared in six games.
“Flyin ‘Brian” was a fickle talent. He was great in the ring, but he probably made a bigger mark with his work on the mic. His career-interrupting motorcycle accident was a tragedy, so we will never fully know where he would have gotten to. But it cannot be argued that it had a large impact on the business in a relatively short time.
9. Moose | Real Name: Quinn Ojinnaka
Football Credentials: Atlanta Falcons, 2006-09; New England Patriots, 2010; Indianapolis Colts, 2011; St. Louis Rams, 2012. Played in 62 games with 20 starts.
I met Moose at a proving ground in Windsor, Ontario, in 2014. I thought, this is a diamond in the rough. He had all the tools. He still had the body of an offensive lineman at the time. You see him now and he’s skinny, but he still has all that power and explosiveness. The sky is the limit for him. If we make this list again in five years, it could be at the top.
10. Monty Brown
Football Credentials: Buffalo Bills, 1993-95; New England Patriots, 1996. Brown played 43 games with 13 starts. Seven of his NFL starts were under coach Bill Belichick with the Patriots.
“The alpha male!” Monty became a huge star for us at TNA. A very charismatic guy who worked hard and became an excellent character in the ring. He had a presence in him that you either have or you don’t have. His spike, “The Pounce,” is basically a flying tackle. What an incredible physique.
10. Pacman Jones
Football Credentials: Tennessee Titans, 2005-06; Dallas cowboys, 2008; Cincinnati Bengals, 2010-2017; Denver Broncos, 2018. He appeared in 146 games with 104 starts, 17 interceptions and five punt returns for touchdowns.
My friend Pacman! He had about a dozen matches on TNA and was in fact world tag team champion with Ron “R-Truth” Killings. Pacman had a skill set that not many guys could match. Incredible speed and jumping ability. Bad Bunny received so much credit for how well he performed at Wrestlemania, and he deserved it; But I promise you, I couldn’t have kept up with Pacman.