If the latest WWE news and rumors are true, the WWE may be trying to find talent from the latest NFL Draft prospects who don’t seem like a fit for a professional football career. If accurate, could it help the WWE bring in another talent to the professional wrestling world similar to former and current greats in the ring? What about the prospects of Michigan’s Kyle Kalis as the next great in the line of former football players who have become WWE stars?
On Sunday, NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk reported that former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage was on the NFL Network this weekend and mentioned that WWE obtains a list of players from him each year. Savage, who now is the Senior Bowl executive director, has a firsthand look at which talents may or may not pan out based on how they look during Senior Bowl week practices and the game itself. It was noted that Savage determines if a player might be a bust for the pro football league, but a potential star in the wrestling ring. For that, their size, athleticism, and “look” are considered.
Savage apparently sent such a list to former WWE executive Jim Ross each year. A tweet dating back to 2014 from Ross seems to confirm that he has evaluated new talent from the football world.
— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) January 16, 2014
During the NFL Network’s show, one player was discussed in particular. According to Detroit Free Press, Michigan tackle Kyle Kalis has previously gone on record to say that he wouldn’t mind working for WWE as a wrestler after his football career is over.
“That honestly, since I was a little kid, growing up watching the guys in the WWE, it always has been so appealing to me. I’m going to sound like such a meathead when I say this, but it sounds like the perfect job ever. You just lift and you train and you get ready to perform. It’s a lot like football.”
During NFL Network’s on-air discussion, there was no mention that Kalis is among the talents Savage or anyone else thinks will be an NFL bust, so he could still go on to enjoy a lengthy and successful career in the league. In fact, some players who have appeared in the professional football league, even briefly, have gone on to enjoy successful careers as WWE superstars.
Just last night, at least four wrestlers who also have played in the NFL to some extent appeared in the WWE’s 2017 Royal Rumble match. Three current top level WWE stars, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and Bill Goldberg, have each been associated with college or professional football. Each of this superstars has gone on to win championships while participating with professional wrestling and have enjoyed popularity with fans.
In the case of Lesnar, he decided to leave WWE after just three years to pursue professional football. Lesnar went on to sign with the Minnesota Vikings and participated in preseason games, but he was cut before every playing any regular season games. He soon transitioned to mixed martial arts and most recently has been going back and forth between professional wrestling and the UFC.
For Roman Reigns, he had a college career as a member of the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets before playing briefly for the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, and in the CFL. Reigns lasted to become one of the final two superstars remaining in the ring for last night’s Royal Rumble match but became eliminated by eventual winner Randy Orton. However, Reigns is a former Royal Rumble winner and a decorated champion during his time with WWE who has been enjoying some popularity to a degree.
Bill Goldberg was a member of the Georgia Bulldogs on a scholarship and went on to play defensive tackle for the CFL’s Sacramento Gold Miners, as well as the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons. Goldberg also made history when he was selected as the Carolina Panthers’ first pick in the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft, only to become the first player ever cut by the franchise. He’d go on to sign with World Championship Wrestling (WCW), enjoying a huge run before eventually coming to WWE in 2003. Goldberg would go on to fight in several high-profile matches against The Rock and, more recently, against Brock Lesnar.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could be considered amongst NFL busts. He enjoyed a successful college career with the Miami Hurricanes, even playing as part of their championship season in 1991. He would go on to sign with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders but was cut just two months into his career there, leading to his decision to join the WWE. It seems that certainly paid off for Johnson, the WWE, and their millions of fans.
Other wrestling stars who have participated in the NFL include John Bradshaw Layfield (aka “JBL”), Ron Simmons, Brian Pillman, and, more recently, Mojo Rawley. The SmackDown Live roster member played for a season for the Green Bay Packers, before signing on with the Arizona Cardinals. He even earned the nickname “The Iron Sheik” from the Cardinals coaches and players due to his impressive strength, which seemed to foreshadow his move into pro wrestling two years later.
Could Kyle Kalis become the next Brock Lesnar? The Michigan offensive lineman already has a similar look and build, as he stands six-foot-five and weighs in at 308 pounds. The news and rumors also suggest he has a pretty good endorsement on his resume for his future career. Michigan offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Tim Drevno just said that “he needs a costume” but would “do a good job from the top of the ring.”
Perhaps Kalis will find himself among the WWE superstars entering the ring at the 2025 Royal Rumble!
[Featured Image by WWE]