Ever since it was rolled out, I've been trying to do my best to not just watch the latest episodes of NXT or the pay-per-views, but to wind back the clock and watch some of the things that I've missed out on. For a few years (from roughly 2000-2007), I had stopped watching the product, so there are some great characters that I never really saw. With WWE teasing a possible match in the future between The Ascension and one of the best tag teams ever, the APA, I've been checking out some of the latter's old stuff that went down in those years. I only knew them as The Acolytes, but from what I've been seeing, I definitely enjoy the beer drinking, roughhousing Acolytes Protection Agency a lot more, and it's a shame I didn't go along for the ride when it was happening.
But that brings me to the topic at hand. Typically, I turn on the retrospective episodes when I'm either trying to sleep or I'm bored and my mind is wandering, so anything can get the wheels turning in my brain to make me think of new topics for the Smack Talk podcast or this website. After watching John Bradshaw Layfield and Ron Simmons playing cards backstage numerous times, I got to thinking: which people in WWE would probably be legitimately good at poker?
Obviously, I don't know the intimate details of these superstars' personal lives to have the real answer to that, but we've speculated about random topics before, so why not this one? As we always do, we need to clarify that some of the examples below are taken in a kayfabe sense while other, reality-based elements are factors as well. I'm keeping this WWE-specific as well, so we can ignore any discussion about TNA's Aces & Eights faction or even folks like James Storm in general. Also, to keep things simple, my suggestions are based solely on the current roster. We all know the character of Mr. Perfect would destroy his opponents at this game, but when speaking about the ones in the company right now, who could I see being difficult to beat at a poker table? Let's take a look at some suggestions, ranked in no particular order:
1. Triple H
First off, the guy is not only nicknamed The Game, but also The Cerebral Assassin. While he's meant to be formidable in the ring, a big aspect of his character has always been that he's a conniving, intelligent person who is good at manipulating people. More often than not, Triple H succeeds at what he's trying to do, which has led to him winning 23 different championships along with numerous other accolades during his tenure. Perhaps most importantly, the man behind the gimmick - Paul Levesque - is one of the primary heads of the company today and will assume an even bigger leadership role in the future. During his interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin, he mentioned that he prefers the patient approach to booking. He'd rather see a slow burn with a big payoff than to rush and make a mistake. Many times during this podcast, you could see how he carefully navigated the waters of the discussion, tossing out some white lies and avoiding answering what he didn't wish to say. These skills would translate well in poker, as he would be the type of person that could goad you into thinking that you are in control, but he's really just setting you up for a big loss a couple of hands down the line. It's all about the game and how you play it, and Triple H has a way with words.
2. Seth Rollins
In the end, poker is all about winning money, so we can't leave Mr. Money in the Bank out of the discussion, can we? This is a guy that many (myself included) wrote off way too early, predicting that he would be the weak link of The Shield. One year later, he's won nearly every big match that he's been in - which is more than Dean Ambrose can say - has not been injured like Roman Reigns, and is essentially guaranteed to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the next few months. The character is smart and manipulative, just like his protégé Triple H. The story that WWE has been telling with Rollins is that he is "the architect" who can see several moves ahead of everyone else and will strike while the iron is hot. Imagine facing someone like that in poker, where he could know exactly just when to fold and when to press on, make a bold bluff, or even a rebluff. Every time the fans chant "you sold out," he replies with "no, I bought in." When Rollins decides to buy in to a poker tournament, I'd take my chips and leave.
3. John Cena
If Total Divas has shown us anything, it's that the meme of "lol John Cena wins" is true in more ways than one. During his playful decathlon with his girlfriend, Nikki Bella, Cena won every competition in a clean sweep. He made a mockery of it with how easily he took her down, which is something that we see quite often, actually. Virtually everything Cena tries to do, it seems as though he succeeds at it. He's been the top of the food chain for 10 years and it's because he delivers. Talking a good game is one thing, but it doesn't matter unless you can back it up. Judging by his track record, if I were to sit across the table from John Cena, I would just assume he would find himself getting a better hand than I had every time. If I had one pair, he'd have two. If I had a straight, he'd pull off a straight flush. Just like with his wrestling career, as much as you'd hate to see him win all the time, you'd have to respect his ability to do so.
4. Undertaker and Kane
For the Brothers of Destruction, I feel like they would be a classic case of underestimation. If you were to see these two behemoths, you might overlook them and think that they would be a classic case of dumb giant syndrome. However, both men are deceptively intelligent. They are masters of mind games and intimidation, both of which could cause you to ruin your own game without them having to do a thing. Psyching your opponent out is a huge element of poker, so while you're trying to plan your next move and are distracted by these enormous guys that could tear you apart with a flick of their wrists, they're busy getting in your head and feeding into your fear. The Undertaker went undefeated at WrestleMania for 21 years, so you're not going to beat him. The man behind the Kane character, Glenn Jacobs, could be preparing himself to run for the some sort of political office in the Libertarian Party in the future given how well versed he is in that field, and we all know how politicians are good at lying and manipulating people into getting what they want.
5. Dolph Ziggler
This guy has a chip on his shoulder and wants to win more than anyone else out there. I'd imagine that he would study up on everything he would need to know in order to position himself at the top. Once he learns how to do it, he'll do it better than the rest. After all, that's his schtick as The Showoff. Ziggler is the type of threat that would take to poker like riding a bike where he gets good at it and is just wiping the floor with everyone any time he plays from then on in. He's also not afraid to speak his mind and is a risk taker, so he would be bold enough to make those moves that could win or lose a game - but more often than not, he'd come out the victor. That would make him a dangerous, cut-loose kind of player that you couldn't bully into submission or try to predict the moves of. He'd be calling every bet to the point where nobody would know when he had great cards or awful ones until that hand was over. Whenever I'm at a table, I like my games to be a little more in my control and a little less chaotic as I would imagine playing with Dolph Ziggler would be.
So there is a little insight into some of the random things that run through my mind while catching up on the wrestling shows that I missed out on. Instead of living in the moment and wondering what happens in the future, as I already know what happened, I get to ponder about the kind of "what if" scenarios that I'll likely never learn the answers to. Still, it's fun to speculate, so what do you think on this topic? Which wrestlers could you see taking the pot at a poker tournament or for that matter, some other strategic games? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.