NFL Stars That Gave Up Gridiron for the Wrestling Ring | Smark Out Moment

NFL Stars That Gave Up Gridiron for the Wrestling Ring

Posted by Smark Out Moment Friday, March 26, 2021

The following article was written and submitted by Alexander Powell:

It takes a lot of physical effort to become a professional football player. The NFL is one of the most demanding sporting leagues on the planet. Week after week, players engage with one another in some of the most powerful duels outside of a boxing or wrestling ring. As a matter of fact, many NFL athletes have opted to explore careers in wrestling after hanging up their boots in the gridiron locker rooms.

American footballers undoubtedly have the physique, the showmanship, and the drive to make it in the wrestling world. Within this article, we celebrate some of the best NFL players-turned-wrestlers in the history of the sport.

Brock Lesnar

43-year-old Brock Lesnar is best known for his time in WWE as well as the mixed martial arts franchise UFC, but he was also a professional football player. In fact, Lesnar started out as a wrestler before leaving WWE to pursue a career in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings in the mid-2000s. He secured a place on the Vikings' practice team as a defensive tackle but never eventually secured a place in the main roster. He would then switch his focus to UFC before a return to WWE after an eight-year hiatus.

Leon White

The late Leon Allen White passed away aged 63 in June 2018. He was one of the finest examples of someone that had the drive and personality to transcend the NFL and WWE scene. He was a third-round pick in the 1978 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, who recruited him as a center. White bagged an NFC Championship ring with the Rams that year, helping them to the Super Bowl. He was later recruited by wrestling talent spotters and first gained exposure in the AWA and in Japan's NJPW before entering WCW full-time. CBS Sports labelled "Big Van Vader" on of the finest super-heavyweight pro wrestlers of all time .

Monty Brown AKA Marcus Cor Von

It's fair to say that Monty Brown is one of the most decorated NFL athletes to have made it in the big time of wrestling. Brown spent five years as a linebacker with the Buffalo Bills and even appeared in the Bills' team that reached Super Bowl XXVIII. As a matter of fact, that Bills era saw Buffalo reach four successive Super Bowls - losing each one. If the NFL betting on next year's Super Bowl is anything to go by, Buffalo could be back at the NFL top table in 2022, with FOX Bet rating them as +1400 joint-fifth favorites to win the Lombardi Trophy for the first time. If that happens, Brown will almost certainly watch on with envy, but he did go on to enjoy a successful wrestling career under the name of Marcus Cor Von. Cor Von was part of WWE, wrestling under the ECW brand and performed with the nickname of "The Alpha Male".

Steve McMichael

Steve "Mongo" McMichael turned out as a defensive tackle in the NFL, appearing for the New England Patriots, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. He spent 12 years in Chicago and a year each with the Patriots and Packers, before indulging in a professional career in wrestling over four years. He joined the WWF in 1995, initially as a color commentator and indulged in various rivalries including feuds with The British Bulldog who is considered by many fans to be one of the best wrestlers never to have won a world championship.

Ron Simmons

Ron Simmons was a huge American Football talent at high school. When Florida State secured his college football services, it was considered one of the university's finest recruits. He would go on to have a short but sweet career in the NFL, having been picked in the sixth round of the 1981 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Two years later, he played for the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL before trying his hand at wrestling in the late 1980s. He would go on to wrestle in the WCW and ECW under various guises, including Doom and Faarooq. He was the first African-American to win the WCW World Heavyweight belt.

William "The Refrigerator" Perry

William "The Refrigerator" Perry was one of the NFL's most imposing defensive linemen. He spent eight seasons with the Chicago Bears before a two-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and a brief sojourn to the London Monarchs in the World League of American Football - later known as NFL Europa. In 1986, gridiron fans were stunned to see Perry enter the WWF ring in a battle royal at WrestleMania 2 in Illinois. 20 years on, Perry was eventually formally entered the WWE's "Celebrity Wing" of its Hall of Fame.

Lawrence Pfohl AKA Lex Luger

62-year-old Lawrence Pfohl was a promising college football player. After graduating from the University of Miami, Pfohl went undrafted in 1979 and opted to join the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League for a couple of years. He would then get his break in the NFL with the Packers in 1982, but despairingly never played a game having been on Green Bay's injured reserve list for most of the regular season. After a handful of nomadic season in the USFL, Pfohl was enticed to NWA Championship Wrestling, when he adopted the ring name of "Lex Luger". He was a huge hit in the early 1990s, with Wrestling Illustrated naming him their Most Popular Wrestler of the Year in 1993. Luger is still affiliated with the WWE in some shape or form, having helped the franchise to shape its "Wellness Policy" to help "counsel" the athletes and help them to take better "care of their bodies".

Brian Pillman

Last but by no means least, the late Brian Pillman was another prime example of how athletes with personality could transcend the NFL and WWF. Pillman was on the roster with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills before a fleeting spell with the Calgary Stampeders. Pillman then tried his hand in the wrestling world and was considered something of a loose cannon in the industry. His unpredictable personality made him dynamite for franchise promoters. He was close friends with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Hart Foundation before tragically suffering a heart attack in a Bloomington Motel the night before a WWF pay-per-view with Dude Love.

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