What if your NFL Quarterback was a WWE superstar?
An exercise in comparing apples to oranges*
Writer’s note: One day, Mike Miccoli and Ben Fountain decided to wonder what it’d be like to associate each NFL starting quarterback to a professional wrestler. Two years later, they decided they should do it again. What you’re about to read is the result.
We love nostalgia.
We love nostalgia so much that we’re willing to relive in the present tense certain periods and phases throughout our life so that we may reach some type of nirvana convincing ourselves that yes, the good times still exist.
Professional wrestling is an excellent example of this.
So what do we do? We continue to watch. Pick up where we last left off and familiarize ourselves with some new faces and gimmicks and go. It’s a complete and utter waste of time, really. I know that. Ben probably knows that too, but for the time being, let’s pretend that it’s not a waste of time.
Ben and I go way back to college. He was a freshman, I was a senior, and together we wrote for our online publication together. He eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief, the position I held when he was a freshman. We stayed in touch, remained good friends, and still talk about sports, fantasy football, and the oh-hums of daily life.
We also talk a lot about wrestling.
Growing up, I was a wrestling fanatic. I had Monday Nitro parties with my friends, painted my face like Sting once, and waited in line to meet Stone Cold Steve Austin at a random bar in Cranston, Rhode Island. Then, I grew up.
The WWE was aware of people like me and capitalized greatly on an opportunity to win back some viewers who swore off professional wrestling. See, they loved nostalgia too. “Call up the Undertaker, see what The Rock is doing, bring in the New Age Outlaws.” My ‘oh, the battery must’ve died in the remote’ excuse when I stumbled upon Monday Night Raw wasn’t good enough anymore. The WWE Network didn’t help either.
So, yeah—every now and again, I’ll watch wrestling. You will, too. And so will Ben. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many old viewers still tune-in, even though their fandom is nowhere near what it once was. Still, I look forward to chatting with Ben about the WWE and would be lying if I said his annual live-text message play-by-plays during the Royal Rumble weren’t awesome.
But here? I have no idea how we got to here. Two years ago, Ben and I got bored and compared every starting NFL Quarterback at the time to a WWE wrestler. I found the list recently, shared a good laugh with Ben, and we decided to do it again and publish what we thought.
This is that list.
There are a few things you should know before we begin.
- Brock Lesnar is not on this list. Sorry. I don’t know what to tell you to make you feel better that we couldn’t find a current NFL QB that resembled a dominant, part-time wrestler like Lesnar. Related…
- The Undertaker isn’t either. This is more out of respect, but also because Tom Brady was unable to go 19–0.
- Tag-teams, however, are. You’ll see.
- We debated a lot but ultimately decided on only one wrestler per QB. Here’s the main blueprint we tried to follow: We started with NFL QBs and then tried to associate a wrestler with them, not the other way around. All WWE wrestlers need to be somewhat active (at least on the current active roster as of September 1, though there’s an exception or two here) and could only be assigned to one NFL QB, not multiple. The majority of NFL QBs on this list are starters except in some in some instances where they might be overtaken by their back-up (shout-out to Cleveland). QBs by committee were included (shout-out to Buffalo & Jacksonville) and only one injured starter was included because we had an awesome comparison for him (shout-out to Sam Bradford.)
- Everything included here was from our actual conversation. We did this online and over texts one night, and knew that anything we typed would be used.
- This is 100% subjective and shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. Like, ever. We’re probably dead wrong with some comparisons. Actually, we’re probably wrong on more than some. Still, it’s a list that we came up with to the best of our knowledge of the two sports put together. You’re free and encouraged to disagree.
The Main Eventers
Tom Brady — John Cena
Obvious, right? Because it was for us. When we first composed this list in 2012, this is what we started with too.
Ben: No matter the odds, he’s still determined to come out on top.
Mike: Still one of the best at what he does, too.
Ben: And this would make the Authority…Belichick. Imagine it. ‘Two rookie WRs? Do your thing, Tom. Now, I’m gonna trade your best OL. Why? Because it’s what’s best for business!’ Not a problem for TFB! Shitty defense for years? TB12 still lights ‘em up.
Mike: Brady’s either adorned or hated. No in between. No one has ever said, ‘Yeah, Brady, he’s okay. Don’t mind him.’ Never. He’s a perennial contender, too.
Which brings us to…
Peyton Manning — Randy Orton
With good reasoning, we promise this makes sense.
Ben: The multi-generational talent who has dominated in ways not even his own father could have wished for. Another perennial contender that was groomed with the right talent around him, too. Manning has always had great offense given to him. Name me one year he didn’t have solid WRs or a good OL?
Mike: Dropped out of the championship picture, but will always be the chosen QB here, similar to Orton.
Ben: When something doesn’t go his way, he whines non-stop. (We’re from Boston, what do you expect?)
We were also thinking Shawn Michaels or The Rock, but with The Authority angle and the family name, Orton just seemed like a lock.
Drew Brees — Daniel Bryan
This was an easy one, and another comparison we made correctly back in 2012.
Ben: This looks even better now, especially him winning the title in New Orleans. Ding, ding, ding.
Mike: This is perfect. Undersized, popular, shouldn’t be in the big picture.
Ben: But still was disrespected.
Mike: Shouldn’t have been in the same conversation as Manning and Brady, but here we are.
Ben: Took on all comers throwing BOMBS. I just pictured Orton & Batista setting up the RKO/Batista Bomb spot. And pictured Brees getting lit up by Manning & Brady. And then Brees/Bryan winning a championship.
Aaron Rodgers — CM Punk
Remember the whole exception thing? This is a prime example. I objected, but Ben did not.
Ben: I don’t give a damn, he’s active to me. It’s simple, they’re both arguably the best in the world. Both of them have been disrespected since jump and have been determined to shove it in their faces since they arrived. Both of them revitalized and make their franchises really relevant and both of them have rabid fanboys that will defend them to the death. Pipe bomb or or Jordy bomb. All the same. Best. In. The. World.
Mike: What about Big Show here?
Ben: I need CM Punk on this list. Best. In. The. World.
The Next Big Things
Russell Wilson — Dean Ambrose
Let’s start with Russell Wilson here. We debated the most regarding Wilson and the next two QBs on the list but ultimately decided on Ambrose for Wilson. Of course, they’re all connected too.
Ben: Ambrose is the old school guy that everybody loves. No one reeeeeealllly thought that he would take off like he did.
Mike: I like it. Wilson is a great interview, Ambrose is gold on the mic. Plus, he’s won before and could have a few more championship runs in him.
Ben: Yup. The right combination of skills put them as someone to watch out for. Some old school technique with new school flare has fanboys drooling over their potential.
Colin Kaepernick — Seth Rollins
You had to have seen this coming, right? What could be the best QB rivalry in the NFL paired alongside what could be the best rivalry in the WWE right now just made too much sense to us.
Ben: Kaep is Rollins. Who’s the riskiest player there? Kaep, right? He’s a high-flyer who takes the biggest risk and that’s Rollins to a tee. They both give a holy shit moment every time they are out
Mike: Kaepernick is one of those guys you didn’t see coming but when you watch him play, it’s all there. All of the tools, but no championship to show for it…yet.
Ben: They both have emerged as power players in the title hunt. Both have a hectic style that we’ve seen before but are unique enough on their own to stand out. You see something every time they’re out.
Mike: I can’t stand listening to Kaepernick speak much like I can’t stand listening to Rollins.
Ben: He’s cocky, but still raw. While they make for decent good guys, they’re so much better as heels.
Which must mean…
Andrew Luck — Roman Reigns
Mike: Luck was groomed for success. The whole Suck-for-Luck thing and then, when Indy drafted him, trading away Peyton Manning. They traded away Peyton Manning for Andrew Luck! If that doesn’t scream “We believe this guy is a future champion!” I don’t know what does.
Ben: And when it comes to playoffs/big time, he kinda chokes it a bit…
Mike: He’s definitely missing that one element, whatever it is. He’ll be great, an all-star, an MVP, a Super Bowl champion, but it just feels so forced.
Ben: Both were always poised as the next big thing. Both have shown flashes of dominance and have penchant for making spectacular comebacks but when the pressure is on them and they’re up against tested veterans, their weaknesses are exposed. We’ll be hearing their names a lot over the next years.
Wilson, Kaepernick, and Luck all burst into the NFL at the same time, much like The Shield. And, as Ben noted, have been wreaking havoc in the league since, much like The Shield. The spots that Brady, Manning, Brees, and Rodgers, occupy today will soon belong to these three and maybe even the next few QBs, too.
Robert Griffin III — Dolph Ziggler
Sure, RG3 burst onto the scene at the same time as the previous three, but his one year of greatness seemed like a bit of an anomaly all due to injuries. Let’s be clear—RG3 had the best first year out of any of those previous three QBs, but since? It’s been rocky, to say the least. Of course, you have to look at the injuries and how he’s been limited because of that. While his trajectory is pointing in the right direction, time will tell. Reminds us both of a certain wrestler.
Ben: RG3 is definitely Dolph Ziggler. Should be destined for greatness but injuries are a concern.
Mike: Popularity through the roof, too.
Ben: Really wanted to include RG3 in The Shield trio, but this is much more apt. Both incredible talents and fan favorites but major injury risks due to their style. They leave it all out there and really put their bodies at risk.
Mike: Hard workers, will be remembered as great athletes in their sport when all is said and done, but will always wonder what if, right? It’s so soon to even think that, but still.
Ben: RG3 refuses to slide, picks up that extra couple of yards the very way Ziggler sells every bump so violently.
Cam Newton — Bray Wyatt
I remember when Wyatt was feuding with Cena and JBL mentioned that Wyatt didn’t care about wins and losses. He just cared about being the best and beating the best. That’s a good way to describe Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Follow our train of thought here.
Mike: Gets put over by top guys.
Ben: …is ridiculously fast for someone who is so massive.
Mike: …realistically won’t be in the title picture for sometime, but a gifted athlete and is becoming a big star.
Ben: 6' 5", 245. He’s a big boy, hence all the Culpepper comparisons and a little controversial. Whether it’s Bray and his cult or Cam and his tattoos, people respect his ability.
Mike: Cam has tattoos?
Matt Ryan — Cesaro
Mike: Has the talent and you keep wondering when he’s going to be that guy and win…something. He could really have been a legitimate superstar but there’s just too many others in front of him and no matter how big of a push, he can’t break through.
Ben: Time’s running out, too.
Ben Roesthlisberger — Big Show, but also Batista
There was a lot of talk at the veteran stage. Here’s an instance where one QB could be two WWE wrestlers.
Mike: You forget how successful Big Ben has been because he’s sort of boring and has seemingly been around for awhile.
Ben: I like it. Can take a beating, still go out there hurt. But I’m really thinking Big Ben is Batista.
Ben: Multiple-time champ that no one really likes yet still respects for some of his performances. WWE botched Batista’s latest return much like the Steelers botched their season with the atrocious offensive line.
Jay Cutler — Chris Jericho
Mike: SMOKIN’ JAY. Do we make the obvious RVD reference here?
Ben: Might be crazy, but I have a name: Y.2.JAY. Does great things, but in the end, always puts over the other team.
Philip Rivers — Sheamus
Ben: I want to use Sheamus for Rivers.
Mike: Why would Rivers be Sheamus? Go.
Ben: Both big, built guys. Trash talkers.
Mike: I’ll chime in and say that neither really should have gotten the push that they did, but hey, sports! They’re both at least somewhat solid…I guess? Plus, total gimmicks. Remember the bolo tie last year?
Eli Manning — The Miz
Ben: The Miz?
Mike: Has to be.
Ben: There are times you wonder how they were champs, but given the right circumstance, they can shine.
Mike: Appears in more ads than touchdowns. Big buzz outside of the sport, too. Eli will always have Dunkin Donuts and Double Stuf Oreos and The Miz will always have The Real World.
Matthew Stafford — Kofi Kingston
Ben: Stafford is Kofi. High-flying act, but always dependent on a gimmick to look good.
Mike: Like what gimmick? Stafford relies on Megatron, what is Kofi dependent on?
Ben: The Royal Rumble. Fun to watch, but won’t win anything major. Both have been around awhile and took some time to get going. Still, good for the ooh’s-and-aah’s.
Mike: How many Monday Night Football appearances have the Lions had? Can we make the connection between Stafford being a perennial mid-carder aka not headlining anything anytime soon?
Carson Palmer — Kane
Ben: Is Palmer…Kane?
Mike: Each comeback becomes more annoying.
Ben: Both are up there in age. Not his prime self but every now and again, they can both light it up.
Mike: YES. The Big Red Machines!
The Mid-Carders Trending Upwards
Nick Foles — Bo Dallas
Who is Nick Foles, anyway? Newer guy, unseated Michael Vick and is someone who could make a pretty good run with the right directions. Originally, we thought Fandango, Seth Rollins, The Miz and instead settled on…
Mike: Still unproven, but won the fans over. Nick Foles is Bo Dallas.
Ryan Tannehill — Rusev
We originally had Tannehill and Jake Locker in similar situations—just two ordinary QBs with some upside who are beginning to gain momentum. Except there was one difference.
Ben: I want to make Matt Schaub Rusev purely for the fact that he gets the shit booed out of him so badly. The Pick-6 is like waving the Russian flag.
Mike: I was thinking Tannehill/Locker for no reason than they have been unexpectedly solid with boring gimmicks and wives who get plenty of attention.
Ben: RUSEV IS TANNE.
The Mid-Carders Trending Downwards
Joe Flacco — Jack Swagger
Another comparison we kept from two years ago. It just works.
Ben: I’d love to see Flacco do a “We the People!” chant. You forget that both were champs in the past.
Mike: Both had a good run, but yeah, no. They’re just not what they once were and they won’t be back to that soon.
Tony Romo — Ryback
In our first draft, Romo was Christian due to the whole, playing-through-injury thing. Then we realized that Romo started more games in the last three years than Christian wrestled matches in the last ten.
Mike: To be fair, Ryback was wrestling through injuries, too. Main eventer, even though he wasn’t really ever a main event.
Ben: You just want to write ROMO RULES.
Mike: FEED ME MORE 8–8 SEASONS.
Ben: They both botched shit pretty easily. SOLD.
Alex Smith — Curtis Axel
Alex Smith was once Wade Barrett to us. The guy who talented but couldn’t stop getting injured. Good news, Alex! Not anymore.
Ben: He kind of proved a bit last year, even though he had a cakewalk. Recently repackaged guy.
Mike: Curtis Axel. Big push all of a sudden and then…nothing. A mere afterthought.
Ben: There we go! A cakewalk when paired with Paul Heyman/Andy Reid. Now, not much there.
Andy Dalton — Damien Sandow
Two years ago, we listed Andy Dalton has Santino. We have no idea why.
Ben: How about Damien Sandow?
Mike: Based on the fact that you never know what you’re gonna get?
Ben: He’s good, but he’s been getting buried. People don’t think he’s elite.
Mike: Both had chances to prove themselves when Dalton and the Bengals won the AFC North and then Sandow won Money in the Bank. Now, Dalton’s new contract and Sandow’s booking both look terrible.
Matt Cassel — Zack Ryder
Remember when Matt Cassel was supposed to be good two years ago? Not really, right? Remember how Evan Bourne was supposed to be good two years ago? Not really, right?
Ben: Can we just agree that Matt Cassel is Zack Ryder?
Mike: Another guy who was supposed to be really good and rabidly popular and is about to get buried shortly by a new guy. Sounds about right to me.
Josh McCown — R-Truth
Josh McCown was not on this list two years ago. We also had a debate between assigning Mark Henry, Luke Harper, and even Sheamus to him. We settled with R-Truth.
Ben: R-Truth is McCown. Both are older, both had chances earlier and squandered them. R-Truth actually had a shot at the WWE title #neverforget. Both are now just glad to be around. And also, R-Truth was K-Kwik back in the day.
Mike: McCown had a shot at Bears’ playoffs.
Ben: McCown was a starter before, and then he was a career backup who was needed to fill a void and somehow kept the team afloat when called upon. I think we found a winner here.
Mike: Terrible winner
Ben: It is, but hey.
Michael Vick — Rob Van Dam; Geno Smith — Fandango
Ahhhhh, the New York Jets quarterback situation. Not quite at the tag-team division just yet, because the two individuals are more like fading mid-carders than anything. Let’s investigate.
Ben: I feel like in 2004 RVD and Vick were dominant. High-flyers. Now? No thanks.
Mike: Shells of their former selves, really. What about Geno Smith? Who has RVD teamed with recently? Anyone?
Ben: Who was a guy people were ranting as the next big thing only to see him stumble? Really, it was just overkill…FANDANGO.
Mike: Okay. I love that.
Ben: I believe that if Smith wasn’t a Jet, he’d be pretty solid. He just got a raw deal peaking AFTER Wrestlemania. The system failed him and in this case, WWE was killing us with the whole “Fandango-ing” meme. If they just let that ride out, it would have pushed him naturally. Both athletes have the ability and had the promise, but no.
The Tag-Team Division
Some great one-liners for these not so great pairs.
Brian Hoyer & Johnny Manziel — Goldust & Stardust
Ben: Hoyer is effective at what he does and can produce a bit, but we all know who the star is here, no matter what wacky things they do.
EJ Manuel & Kyle Orton — Xavier Woods & Big E
Ben: One had some success but got dumped unceremoniously and no one really knows about the other one.
Blake Bortles & Chad Henne — The Usos
Ben: I feel like Bortles & Henne will be tagging each other in a lot this year.
Mike: The Usos wear weird trunks. The Jaguars wear weird uniforms.
Ryan Fitzpatrick & Ryan Mallett — Los Matadores
Ben: Fitzpatrick & Mallett are Los Matadores because no matter who’s under the helm, yawn.
Mike: I don’t even know who Los Matadores are so this works.
The dredges of the position. Here are some more one-liners because really, how much are you going to debate these. It’s painfully obvious we were out of ideas and coming to the end of the line.
Jake Locker — Heath Slater
Ben: Jake Locker is Heath Slater. Won’t wow you, but reliable in the role.
Teddy Bridgewater — Luke Harper; Derek Carr — Erick Rowan
Ben: Two of the bigger QB prospects left. This is interesting to me. I think Bridgewater is Luke Harper because he might wow you with his freakish talent, but is just waiting for the chance.
Mike: Next big thing. What about David Carr? Want to make him Erick Rowan?
Ben: Still a little raw, but has the ability, I guess? Maybe?
Matt Schaub — David Otunga
Ben: Is Schaub David Otunga? Generated cheap heat? You wonder why both of them are still doing it since no one really likes them anymore.
Shaun Hill — Adam Rose
Ben: I think Shaun Hill is Adam Rose because if you’re relying on him, you’re in trouble.
Mike: I want to leave out Adam Rose completely because he’s the absolute worst thing about wrestling right now.
Honorable Mention Because We Had To
Sam Bradford — Bad News Barrett
We’re afraid we’ve got some bad news for you, Sam.