Pick Six: From gridiron to squared circle

Jets LB Bart Scott made his professional wrestling debut Thursday night on “TNA iMPACT!” on Spike TV and was given a not-so-warm welcome by former Olympic champion Kurt Angle, who slapped on the ankle lock for his troubles. It’s true, it’s true!

And I guess that goes to show you what winning a Super Bowl title means. Clay Matthews helps lead the Packers to championship, heads to WWE television and assists Edge in retaining his title on Smackdown! Scott’s Jets were eliminated in the AFC Championship Game, and he’s jobbing to Angle in pro wrestling’s version of the UFL.

NFL players are no stranger to the squared circle, but who are the best to have come from the NFL to excel in the realm of “sports entertainment?”

I’m talking about careers here, so while Lawrence Taylor headlining Wrestlemania XI against Bam Bam Bigelow was impressive, L.T. didn’t make a career of it. The Rock has a football background, but he wasn’t an NFL player.

So before you go and rip me in the comments make sure you realize… Oh who am I kidding? You’ve already jumped to the list.

Also considered: Darren Drosdov, who played two seasons with the Broncos and went on to be known as Puke in the WWF (you might remember a little “Monday Night Football” incident involving him and, well, puke). And Ron Simmons, aka Faarooq, who spent one year with the Browns, just missed out. Damn!

6. Brian Pillman
Peter King, then of the Cincinnati Enquirer, said Pillman had the most desire of any player he had ever seen. Pillman was known as as the “Loose Cannon” both during his walk-on career at Miami (Ohio) and in professional wrestling. Pillman played six games for the Bengals in 1984, but he is most known for being fired for his “Mr. Bookman” comment to Kevin Sullivan during his stint with WCW. Pillman was a member of the famed Four Horsemen, Hart Foundation and Hollywood Blondes with “Stunning” Steve Austin.

A couple of Super Bowl champions, Steve McMichael puts Reggie White in a headlock at WCW Slamboree in May 1997. (Rick Havner/Associated Press)

5. Steve “Mongo” McMichael
McMichael was a defensive tackle for the Bears during their Super Bowl XX championship run (although, I don’t remember him in the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video). McMichael appeared in Taylor’s corner at Wrestlemania and eventually landed in WCW as a commentator. His big wrestling moment came when he turned on Kevin Greene at Great American Bash in 1996 and became a member of the Four Horsemen. He defeated Jeff Jarrett for the US Title in 1997, before losing it to Curt Hennig.

4. Bronko Nagurski
Nagurski is a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is one of the NFL’s first true heroes as a member of the Chicago Bears. Nagurski retired from football in 1937 to become a pro wrestler — imagine Adrian Peterson retiring right now to join the WWE — and became the National Wrestling Alliance champion in 1939, when he beat the legendary Lou Thez. He was a two-time world champion and even captured the NWA tag team championship with Verne Gagne.

3. Edward “Wahoo” McDaniel
McDaniel seemed like a perfect fit for the more colorful AFL, playing for the Oilers, Broncos, Jets, and Dolphins. McDaniel once recorded 23 tackles in one game for the Jets. He wrestled in the offseason, and his career took off during his feuds with “Superstar” Billy Graham. Known for the Indian-strap matches (which he never lost), McDaniel battled all of the greats — Ric Flair, Harley Race, Greg Valentine — and he was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010.

2. Ernie Ladd
The Big Cat was another AFL player who started wrestling on the side while playing for the Chargers in the early 1960s. Ladd was a four-time AFL all-star and a member of the Chargers’ 1963 AFL championship team before becoming one of the era’s most hated heels (bad guy). Ladd’s most famous feud came against Andre the Giant, though he also squared off against greats such as McDaniel and Bruno Sammartino. Ladd won numerous titles as a wrestler and was eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.

1. Bill Goldberg
Goldberg didn’t have a standout NFL career, but he was the biggest draw for WCW during the late 1990s when “Monday Nitro” was winning the Monday night wars against WWE’s “Monday Night Raw.” Goldberg won 173 consecutive matches (nearly double the wins of the Connecticut women’s basketball team) before dropping the WCW title to Kevin Nash. Goldberg eventually joined the WWE and enjoyed world title runs before retiring in 2004.

Who could be the next NFL player to successfully make a career in the squared circle?

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