The many weird and wonderful links between the Premier League and WWE
In many ways, football and professional wrestling are quite similar. Rough and ready in the 70s and 80s, both exploded in global popularity during the 90s and 2000s.
Now they are at the height of decadence, storytelling and drama for die-hard audiences. In wrestling, you have the face, AKA the good guy, and the heel, the baddy.
The same applies to football. Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson is a prime example of a heel team, doing everything in their power to win. Diego Costa is the Ric Flair of footballing heels. You want to see them lose at any cost because they’re such bastards.
Sides like Borussia Dortmund or Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers are the ultimate faces, beloved by fans.
The crossovers between football and wrestling are surprisingly storied.
Perhaps the strangest instance of a wrestler being a football fan is Shawn Michaels’ love of Blackburn Rovers.
In April 1995, Michaels popped during Rovers’ trip to West Ham to show his support for Kenny Dalglish’s side for a crunch fixture in the title race. Oh, and also promote WWF’s two shows in the UK later that year. Still, it was one of the biggest names in wrestling turning up to watch Tim Sherwood take on Don Hutchison.
The Heartbreak Kid claimed that a “distant relative” was a Blackburn fan. Michael’s real surname is ‘Hickenbottom’, so who are we to suggest otherwise?
He does give Alan Shearer some excellent advice, telling him to score 35 goals, which to be fair wasn’t bad seeing as Shearer smashed 34 in that season.
TELLY GOLD: It’s 1995 and the title race is hotting up. Blackburn Rovers go to Upton Park in need of a win, cheered on by one of their biggest fans…
… WWF superstar Shawn Michaels.pic.twitter.com/Jzl40GzIY2
— It’s A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) September 1, 2020
While Michaels showed a passing fancy in football, his DX stablemate Triple H has been much more passionate about it.
In an interview with ITV back in 2015, Triple H, aka Paul Levesque, revealed why he supports West Ham.
“West Ham is probably the closest to what we do, with the passion of their fanbase and their loyalty, right? That’s the closest to what we do.”
When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense; Triple H is always carrying around a sledgehammer.
Every now and then he pops up with something to say about the Hammers, most recently urging Declan Rice to stay.
Despite his West Ham allegiance, he did congratulate Chelsea on their 2016-2017 Premier League win by gifting John Terry and co a replica title belt. You’d have hoped Terry would have donned full-on wrestling attire to accept it.
Of course, we can’t forget Triple H and Andy Carroll have a back-and-forth on Twitter, with the human trebuchet ready and waiting to throw down with the nine-time WWE champion. You can take the boy out of Gateshead etc etc.
Another Hammer is current WWE star Seth Rollins, who came to love them thanks to FIFA 18. To be fair, they did have a decent team that year.
Soccer AM actually has a lot to do with wrestlers and their bizarre football team choices.
For example, Mick Foley pulled Dagenham and Redbridge out of a hat back in 2012 while sitting next to Robbie Fowler and Sue Johnson in what was surely the strangest Soccer AM line-up of all time.
While not knowing too much about football, he was able to reel off Pele’s full name, something which most of the audience couldn’t.
The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin also popped up on the show in 2009, pulling out Macclesfield Town and Bolton Wanders respectively.
While they all seem very much bandwagony, there is one who seems like a genuine fan: Sheamus.
His love of Liverpool is thanks to the club’s Irish connection through John Aldridge, Ronnie Whelan, Steve Staughton and Ray Houghton.
He was even at the Champions League final win over Tottenham in 2019.
Wrestlers being football fans is one thing, but footballers being wrestling fans is a completely different kettle of fish. But, again, it totally makes sense when you think about it.
Maybe my favourite appearance was Jose Mourinho’s cameo on Monday night Raw in April 2007. Shane McMahon spotted him in the crowd before taking the Special One down a peg or two.
“That’s Jose Mourinho. The head coach, if you will, of the Chelsea football gang.” *Booing intensifies*
Mourinho played it off cool with his two sons, but he hasn’t been the same since this happened to be honest.
Flashback to that time Jose Mourinho got roasted by Shane McMahon on WWE Raw 😂pic.twitter.com/cqjCbf9xSU
— 32Red (@32Red) May 5, 2019
We can’t forget Wayne Rooney, whose appearance at Raw made Roy Keane blow a gasket. Rooney got into it with Sheamus and Preston fan Wade Barrett.
After a big of hoo-har, Wazza slapped Barrett so hard he broke his fingers, at least that’s what Barrett told Alan Brazil back in 2015, but Keane was typically unimpressed.
“I saw Wayne last week getting involved in slapping a wrestler and I’m thinking, ‘Why is he getting involved in all that nonsense?’” Keane told ITV. “There’s no benefit to him. I’d have a look at that.”
— Pablo Iglesias Maurer (@MLSist) April 2, 2019
The rumour that wouldn’t go away
Long-before football Twitter was the lawless hellscape that it is today, one story completely ruled the roost. Well, at least for a few months back in 2011, after it emerged WWE owner Vince McMahon wanted to buy Newcastle United.
Every few years when it looks like Mike Ashley is about to sell up at St James’ this rumour comes around. Vince started his own NFL competitor which failed after one year and lost $35million, so at least he’s used to wasting his money.
The rumour resurfaced again in 2014, with the Metro reporting that Vinnie Mac wanted to buy a Premier League team. The official response from the club was that it was nonsense.
Oddly, however, wrestling journalist heavyweight Dave Meltzer actually claimed that it was Vince’s son Shane who was the one interested. However, this wouldn’t have had anything to do with WWE and would have been solely a Shane O’Mac investment.
When footballers don the tights
It’s been quite commonplace for American sports stars to make the crossover to wrestling.
The Macho Man Randy Savage played four seasons of minor league baseball. Kevin Nash was a star of college basketball before he got injured. WCW stars Goldberg and Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael were both stars in the NFL, with the former eve winning the Super Bowl.
Former Burton and Port Vale keeper Stuart Tomlinson might be the first to make the switch. Being a bit of a big bastard, it made good sense for Tomlinson to get into the ring.
He made his debut in 2014 under the name ‘Hugo Knox’, wearing a rather dashing pair of polka dot trunks. His music was borderline softcore pornography and late-night pizza shop.
Another from the goalkeepers union, Tim Wiese joined WWE a year later. The German shot-stopper made a guest appearance at a house show in Frankfurt. After two years in developmental, he finally made his debut at a show in Munich in 2016 but hasn’t done anything since.
Even stranger was former Norwich striker Grant Holt. The one-time England hopeful signed with Norwich-based promotion World Association of Wrestling, which is owned by the Norwich City-supporting parents of WWE superstar Paige.
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In fact, Paige and Holt worked with Norwich in 2019 to promote her film. As for Holt, he won the Crusher Mason Memorial Trophy in 2018 and is continuing to wrestle while working as a coach for the Canaries.
As we pointed out back in 2018, he does sort of look like a geography student on a night out. Come on, Grant, a polo shirt and some jeans aren’t wrestling attire.