A Ring To It: A Look At Professional Athletes Who Made Appearances In Wrestling Rings

Eric Urbanowicz
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Like NBA and NFL players, professional wrestlers are athletes as well. They put in the training both in the ring and in the gym, to put in the best performance they can for tens to thousands of fans. However there has been crossovers between the big four major sports leagues’ athletes and professional wrestlers.

Names like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Roman Reigns, Baron Corbin and Goldberg have appeared in the NCAA and in some cases the NFL before taking on a career in the wrestling business. Even a Super Bowl winning tight end, Steve McMichael, would lace up the boots for a nice four year career.

However we’re not looking at them, we’re going to take a look at athletes who you probably didn’t know had stepped in the squared circle and played a role in a wrestling storyline:


Floyd Mayweather Jr.

A man who is used to being on pay-per-view, professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. has made a couple of appearances in the World Wrestling Entertainment. The first came when he defended Rey Mysterio after he was attacked by the Big Show at No Way Out in 2008. It would set up a no disqualification match at Wrestlemania between the two.

While he was originally penned to be the hero, fan reaction would change that given Mayweather’s reputation. Mayweather would ultimately knock out the Big Show with the help of brass knuckles. He would return a year later as a guest host for Monday Night Raw where he would interfere in a tag-team match, coincidentally featuring the Big Show.


Karl Malone

The 1998 NBA finals featured the Chicago Bulls taking on the Utah Jazz. It would become the last NBA Finals that shooting guard Michael Jordan would ever play in as he announced his second retirement in January of 1999. However, there was another story bubbling that happened on the court.

After verbal jabs on and off the court from Utah power forward Karl Malone and Chicago power forward Dennis Rodman, World Championship Wrestling invited them to face off at the pay-per-view Bash At The Beach in 1998.

The match pitted Rodman with his friend Hulk Hogan (more on that shortly) against Malone and Diamond Dallas Page. The match would go 23 minutes and would feature basic moves such as clotheslines, slams and headlocks. Despite criticism from many wrestling critics, the match would help lead the PPV to a massive draw and huge financial success. Speaking of Rodman…


Dennis Rodman

Even before his match with Malone, Dennis Rodman had ties to WCW. He was good friends with Hogan, even to the point he became a member of the New World Order.

His debut match would feature him and Hulk Hogan losing to Lex Luger and The Giant (the future Big Show) at Bash at the Beach in 1997. A year later, he would famously skip a practice during the 1998 NBA Finals to hang out with Hogan and appear on WCW Monday Nitro. It would eventually set up the Hogan and Rodman vs. Page and Malone match.

Rodman would have one more match in WCW with “Macho Man” Randy Savage at the 1999 edition of Road Wild. He would retire after a match against Curt Hennig at a small promotion in 2000.

He resurfaced in 2008 as part of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling. He was ultimately declared the winner of the reality show, defeating fellow celebrity contestants like actor Danny Bonaduce, 80’s singer Tiffany and boxer Butterbean.


Shaquille O’Neal

Even Shaquille O’Neal stepped into the ring. The former Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat center has been a wrestling fan for years, making appearances in both WCW and WWE. However, he first stepped into the ring as a guest host in 2009, where he went face to face and even teased a chokeslam to the Big Show.

Seven years later in 2016, O’Neal would reappear and take part in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 32, where he would lock up with the Big Show. They wound up being eliminated together.

The original plans were to lead to a Shaq vs. Big Show match at the next year’s Wrestlemania but they were ultimately scrapped. One side claims it was scheduling conflict, the other side says it was a breakdown in contract negotiations.


Adam “Pacman” Jones

Probably the strangest person on this list, former Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, was technically a champion in a wrestling company.

During his suspension in 2007, he would sign a deal with Total Nonstop Action. There was an issue, though: the Tennessee Titans made a deal with TNA that he could appear and have a role, however he couldn’t be hit with weapons and he couldn’t touch or be touched.

So what did he do? Well they teased a feud between him and Ron Killings, only to have them form a tag team the next week. Over the next few weeks, the newly minted “Team Pacman” would attack wrestlers and spray paint “PAC” on their backs.

They would soon receive a tag-team championship match against Sting and Kurt Angle at No Surrender, which they would win. However, Killings did all the physical work and took all the hits. The only thing Jones did was make the pin.

From then on, Jones would be teased to take part in in-ring action only to dodge, duck, leapfrog and attempt to tackle. Most of Team Pacman’s title defenses ended in disqualifications. After a month, Team Pacman would add “Consequences” Creed as a physical fighter for Jones against A.J. Styles and Tomko at Bound for Glory. They would lose the match and the championship and Jones would disappear for six years from the company.

In 2013, Jones would make one more appearance when he and Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad player DeQuin Evans hopped the guardrail and body slammed Christopher Daniels and Kazarian. Other than that, we’re still waiting for that Team Pacman Reunion.

Eric Urbanowicz


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