Backyard football and bed (or couch) wrestling are two childhood pastimes that kids used to indulge in all the time. Get a group of your friends together (along with a football) on a field and you could play for the Lombardi trophy. Wake up after a sleepover at your cousin's house and you could reenact that year's WrestleMania (though you would likely definitely get yelled at by adults later on).
It's natural for kids to want to transform into the larger-than-life figures they see on TV, and few figures are bigger than NFL stars and pro wrestlers. The Checkdown is combining these two worlds to bring you Your Favorite NFL Stars and Their Wrestler Equivalents.
Disclaimer: The following comparisons are strictly based on their wrestling personas, not their personal lives.
Rob Gronkowski = Randy "Macho Man" Savage
Every team needs an intense character who isn't only physically imposing, but brings an energy that everyone can feed off of. Since 2010, Rob Gronkowski has filled that role for the Patriots. Gronk bulldozes defenders on the field and provides plenty of sound bites for reporters in postgame pressers.
Wrestlers don't have postgame pressers, but they do have promos and the late, great Randy "Macho Man" Savage has given a few of the best. He brought the perfect mix of intensity and unintentional comedy to make his interviews must-see TV.
Macho Man was much more than all talk though, over his 32-year career, Savage held over 20 titles including the World Heavyweight Championship Title six times (4 WCW and 2 WWF). Savage's intensity and charisma transferred over to the squared circle and culminated in his finishing move -- the flying elbow drop.
If you needed any further proof that Gronk is the Macho Man of the NFL, check out this commercial where the four-time Pro Bowler channels his inner-Savage.
Antonio Brown = Shawn Michaels "The Heartbreak Kid"
Shawn Michaels is easily one of the most charismatic and talented wrestlers of all time. As soon as fans heard the beginning of his ridiculous, yet amazing theme song they knew they were in for a show that would include some dancing, trash talking, and likely a bit of Sweet Chin Music.
The four-time world champion has been a part of a few of the most memorable matches in WWE history. His 1992 Intercontinental Championship vs. Bret Hart was the WWE's first ladder match.
Michaels was billed at 6'1" (suspected to be shorter than that), but he didn't let that obstacle prevent him from a Hall of Fame career. "I'm always slightly amused by how people talk about how so-and-so 'isn't big enough.' And how someone is fighting an uphill battle because of his size," Michaels told WWE Magazine. "You don't know the first thing about an uphill battle. Try doing it in 1994 and 1995, even earlier than that."
Seven years later business is truly boomin', Brown is arguably the best WR in the league and earlier this season he became the fastest (104 games) player to reach 650 career receptions. The undersized WR is one of the league's mega stars, appearing in commercials for Madden and Pepsi.
Cam Newton = Ric Flair
When you mention sports stars with the most swagger of all time a few names are on everyone's list: Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Ric Flair. Before you start to say that The Nature Boy couldn't compare in any form or fashion to legends like Ali or MJ, you should know that he is the G.O.A.T. of professional wrestling. Over four decades, he won 16 world heavyweight championships and his influence across various sports and pop culture is still being felt today.
Tell me if you've heard any part of this clip below or if you're just unfamiliar with one of the greatest speeches in American history.
Cam Newton hasn't reached the iconic status of Ric Flair, but the three-time Pro Bowler is closest the NFL has to offer in terms of charisma and unconventional style. Flair would wear robes worth $10,000 that featured diamonds, feathers and came in a variety of colors. Newton has a huge collection of hats, some feature feathers, others crocodile-skin, and even rabbit's foot.
It takes a certain amount of bravado to wear a pink feathered robe or a suspected romper, a certain confidence that both Flair and Newton have seemingly had since birth.
Ndamukong Suh = Andre the Giant
The two big men have a bit more in common than being huge. Andre Rene Roussimoff played a key role in wrestling's golden age which made household names out of the WWF's stars. However, at his peak, Andre the Giant was anything but a fan favorite -- he was the heel who feuded with Hulk Hogan, and attempted to take the Hulkster's WWF World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania III. Hulkamaniacs rejoiced as Hogan defeated Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 at the Silverdome.
Suh's impact on quarterbacks (and the NFL in general) was felt immediately, the No. 2 overall pick won Defensive Rookie of the Year and made the All-Pro team. In his first two seasons, Suh racked up 14 sacks, but also started gaining a reputation for overtly aggressive play. Suh's passion made him a fan favorite among Lions fans, but a villain among the opposition. Much like Andre the Giant in the ring, you don't have to root for Suh but you have to respect his ability.
Jalen Ramsey = Triple H
People may not admit it, but deep down everyone loves the "bad guy," he's necessary to keep things interesting. The NFL's current "bad guy" is second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The Jaguars have the No. 1 pass defense in the league and Ramsey has played a huge part in that. In addition to his play on the field, Ramsey has brought All-Pro level trash talking back to the game too -- getting in the heads of the league's most seasoned veterans.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley didn't respect his elders either, Triple H was one of the WWF's biggest heels during the "Attitude Era." When Triple H and Shawn Michaels led D-Generation X, millions of fans would tune in to see what new antics the DX crew was up to. Triple H has won 14 WWE World Heavyweight championships during his career proving that he can back up all that talking.
Ramsey hasn't reached that level yet, but he's proven himself thus far and has been near or at the top of the NFL's weekly 2017 CB rankings.
Marshawn Lynch = Stone Cold Steve Austin
You have the "bad guys" and then you have nonconformists; Marshawn Lynch and Stone Cold Steve Austin seem to be part of the latter group. They never seem like they're playing a role, they just appear to be doing things their own way, a way that's pretty different from Average Joes. Whether he's having his own dance party on the sidelines or making NFL players look like elementary kids trying to tackle a grown man, Marshawn is always in Beast Mode.
Steve Austin moved in similar ways during the WWF's Attitude Era. He gave out Stone Cold Stunners and spoke to his boss in ways many disgruntled employees fantasize about. That "care free" attitude made Austin one of the biggest stars in WWE history.
J.J. Watt = The Rock
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Stone Cold Steve Austin made the WWF reach new heights in the Attitude Era -- the two headlined Wrestlemania XVII which became the first pro wrestling event to break one million pay-per-view buys.
He brings intensity, a dash of comedy, and a whole lot of heart every time he suits up.
Mix elite performance with tons of mass appeal and a dash of spontaneity to create a star athlete on par with The Rock and J.J. Watt.