Your favorite CFB players as WWE superstars
Need a break from so much Jimbo, Jameis, Gurley and College Football Playoff talk? Well, I'm here to help.
Because a lot of football fans just happen to be followers of pro wrestling as well (I'm not the only one, am I?), I thought it'd be fun to take a look at what current college football stars most resemble WWE superstars. Shockingly, there are some interesting parallels.
Let's dive right in...
Jameis Winston as John Cena: Hear me out. The Florida State quarterback is the defending Heisman Trophy winner, which essentially gives him the right to proclaim himself as the best player in the country. Massachusetts native Cena is the face of WWE and the Hulk Hogan of his generation. Both, however, are polarizing figures — there is no in-between for most sports and entertainment consumers. Football fans either love Winston for his strong on-field play and his swagger or dislike him for various off-the-field problems he has encountered in Tallahassee. Meanwhile, Cena is loved by children because he's the ultimate good guy and wears a crazy amount of neon in the ring, while adults appreciate a heroic figure who values strong morals and does a lot of out-of-ring charity work, including with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. However, Cena is also despised by the Internet Wrestling Community for his lack of a deep arsenal of in-ring moves. Below is a clip of Cena entering the Monday Night Raw arena the night after WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans and, well, the crowd lets him know how they feel about him. By the way, I was there that night in the Big Easy. Fans even chanted "John Cena Sucks" on the way out of the arena.
At the end of the day, both Winston and Cena have never been better at what they do. For a multitude of reasons, though — fair or not — they are lightning rods in their respective industries.
Taysom Hill as Daniel Bryan: The "Little Engine That Could" was chugging along at a rapid pace to start this season, as Hill was the catalyst for BYU's fast start and dreams of breaking through and being in the discussion for a berth in one of the New Year's Six bowl games. But after helping the Cougars rack up wins against Texas and Virginia, Hill was injured in an eventual defeat to Utah State and lost for the season with a broken left leg. His Heisman Trophy chances were derailed after he had entered the Utah State game with five rushing and five passing touchdowns in the team's first four games. Bryan, meanwhile, became the darling of the wrestling world for showing so much grit and determination in the WWE ring despite his small stature. The Aberdeen, WA, native was always well-respected for his great work on the independent scene, as Hill was the face of the Independent Cougars heading into the season. But Bryan struggled to break onto the main event scene and become a top guy on the card because Chairman Vince McMahon is well-known for putting over more muscle-bound grapplers. That all changed, however, when "the 'Yes' movement" took over, essentially forcing top WWE brass to put Bryan over as the top guy. After months of being beaten down and battered show after show, Bryan was finally crowned the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 30 after beating Triple H in a singles match as well as Randy Orton and Batista in a three-way dance for the strap. Below is the opening segment from the following night on Monday Night Raw, which captures the adulation that Bryan received since the beginning of "the 'Yes' movement" as well as the disgust Triple H has for the newly crowned champ.
Bryan's moment, however, was cut short. Like Hill, injury struck. A little over a month after capturing the title, Bryan announced that he would have to undergo neck surgery. The Authority, led by Triple H and Stephanie McMahon (daughter of Vince), would eventually strip him of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and he's primarily been off of WWE television since. "The 'Yes' movement," like Hill's underdog Heisman run with a then-unbeaten BYU squad, came to a screeching halt. Will Bryan ever be top dog again if he ever fully recovers?
Melvin Gordon as Dolph Ziggler: An argument can be made that Gordon is the most underappreciated star in college football. That would seem to be a ridiculous statement considering the Badgers tailback has 1,046 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns already this season one year removed from a 1,609-yard, 12-TD campaign. But, in my opinion, a lot of college football pundits and fans take him for granted because of the number of Wisconsin backs that have had strong seasons since the program was put on the map by Barry Alvarez. Fans just kind of expect big yardage totals from RBs in Madison. Meanwhile, Ziggler is arguably the best in-ring worker in the WWE yet is not someone you often see working the late-night TV circuit or on a ton of merchandise in department stores, fast-food chains, etc. Ziggler is kind of in Bryan territory as not being one of the biggest guys in the business, but he is super over with the WWE Universe. Below, you can hear the crowd pop Ziggler gets when his music hits, as the fans know that he's about to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and attempt to win the World Heavyweight Championship the night after WrestleMania 29.
Ziggler is the current Intercontinental Champion, but will he ever get his shot to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champ and the face of the company? He's had a good deal of matches recently with Seth Rollins on WWE TV, so perhaps he can get an eventual title shot down the road when Rollins ultimately cashes in his own Money in the Bank contract.
Bo Wallace as Dean Ambrose: Coming into the season, the one aspect of Ole Miss that a lot of college football pundits thought would hold back the Rebels was the play of their quarterback. So when Wallace had an up-and-down start to his season in the opener against Boise State, "Good Bo" and "Bad Bo" took on a life of its own. While I never fully subscribed to that #narrative, it is perfectly applicable for a comparison to Ambrose. Nicknamed "The Lunatic Fringe" for his unpredictability, Ambrose was a key part of The Shield, which was a faction in WWE that almost immediately was thrust into the main event scene after arriving from NXT, which is WWE's developmental territory. Ambrose was a long-tenured holder of the U.S. title and immediately began a feud with Seth Rollins upon the breakup of the group, which had consisted of Ambrose, Rollins and Roman Reigns. Ambrose has been known to show up pretty much anywhere Rollins is headed. He has jumped out of a car trunk, a jumbo birthday gift box and blended in with live WWE crowds — all efforts to g et his hands on Rollins.
That unpredictability seems to bode well for Ambrose in WWE, while Wallace has become the Rebels' ultimate X-Factor.
Shaq Thompson as Brock Lesnar: The first word that comes to mind when thinking of the Washington star defender is "beast." Lesnar just so happens to be nicknamed "The Beast Incarnate." The Huskies linebacker has five touchdowns this year, four of which have come on defense. The 6-1, 228-pound junior defender is an athletic freak who may be best suited to play safety at the next level. Wherever he lines up in the NFL, he will be a playmaker. Meanwhile, Lesnar has been an NCAA Division I wrestling champion, a WWE champion, a UFC champion and saw preseason action with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. He broke The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania 30, destroyed John Cena at SummerSlam this past summer in the most lopsided main event I have ever seen and is the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Watch his Titantron and listen to his theme song below, and you will get the chills.
Stefon Diggs as Tyson Kidd: I was going to give the nod to Kofi Kingston here, but I think Kidd makes more sense because he's even less heralded than Kingston. And while diehard college football fans are familiar with the Maryland receiver, I still don't think Diggs gets enough credit. He was an electric playmaker from Day 1 in College Park, but not playing at a big-name program has made him less visible. Meanwhile, Kidd was stuck in NXT and off of WWE TV for many months after recovering from a horrible knee injury, getting most of his airtime on the E! show Total Divas, where he was shown either being bossed around by wife Natalya or being more interested in rehabbing and watching wrestling than being a husband, as you'll see below.
Diggs is a big play waiting to happen, while Kidd is pound for pound one of the more talented wrestlers in WWE. Both don't get nearly enough credit for their talent.
Marcus Mariota as Sheamus: The Celtic Warrior is a former WWE Champion, World Heavyweight Champion and current United States Champion, while Mariota has been the leader of Oregon's high-octane offense and a Heisman Trophy contender both this season and last season before a knee injury hobbled him down the stretch in 2013. But I'd argue that both are taken for granted. Many wrestling fans want Sheamus to become a heel again because they think he needs that edge to be more enjoyable to watch, while Mariota's stock has seemingly been devalued because of the Ducks' loss to Arizona — which I would argue was more a product of terrible offensive line play — as well as the fact that he plays out West. They are both two of the best at what they do, but do they get as much love as they deserve?
J.T. Barrett as Seth Rollins: I mentioned previously that Rollins will likely be the new WWE World Heavyweight Champ at some point because he holds the Money in the Bank contract. Before The Shield broke up, wrestling fans wondered which member of the group would get the biggest push. Roman Reigns was likely being groomed to win the federation’s main title over Brock Lesnar before hernia surgery shelved him. But Rollins is going to be the No. 1 guy at some point, as he’s being groomed as the new face of the company by Triple H and The Authority. It’s just a matter of when that will come to fruition. Barrett, meanwhile, is looking like the quarterback that Urban Meyer made his first QB commitment after arriving in Columbus. After the poor effort behind a subpar offensive line in the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech, Barrett has played like one of the best signal-callers in the country. And the Buckeyes’ matchup with Michigan State on November 8 is relevant once again in relation to the College Football Playoff. But what about Braxton Miller, the star quarterback who was shelved for the season but vows to return in 2015? How can Meyer and his offensive staff sit Barrett next year after what he’s doing this fall? It will be interesting to see what happens to both Rollins and Barrett when Reigns and Miller, respectively, return.
And, finally, because every team needs a head coach...
Jimbo Fisher as Triple H: Despite being semi-retired, The Game is still on top of the company. And he always will be as Stephanie McMahon's husband. Meanwhile, as the head coach of the defending national champions, Fisher reached the pinnacle of his career and is leading an undefeated Seminoles team as it tries to repeat. Triple H, as noted previously, is the head honcho of The Authority. After his team beat Notre Dame on Saturday night, Fisher made sure he was an authority figure in his postgame embrace with Jameis Winston below.
Have a great Wednesday!
Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave