26

June

The Complete History of Green Bay Packers in Professional Wrestling: Chapter 2 — Kevin Greene, Steve McMichael and the 4 Horsemen

The legendary Mean Gene Okerlund interviews Kevin Greene.

We continue our “Sunday Storytime” with chapter 2 in a series examining the history of the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and professional wrestling. The introduction to the series can be read here. Chapter 1 can be read here.

Watching Kevin Greene sack quarterbacks was sort of like watching a pale, blond-haired Tasmanian Devil chase Bugs Bunny. Of course the main difference was Greene often caught the quarterbacks he chased. Taz typically ended up getting an anvil dropped on his head.

Greene played with the type of energy and attitude some may have considered reckless if he wasn’t so damn good. His mouth moved almost as fast as his legs. He flung his body around without fear of injury. And you could usually find him before the game high-fiving the mascot, kissing his wife or banging his head against something.

Greene brings that same energy to the Packers as a linebackers coach. Who can forget Greene’s “It’s Time” speech to Clay Matthews moments before Matthews forced a key fumble early in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLV?

Given Greene’s personality, it’s easy to see how Greene ended up in professional wrestling.

Teaming with McMichael
Greene made his in-ring debut for WCW at the Great American Bash on June 16, 1996. His first angle involved former Chicago Bear and Green Bay Packer Steve McMichael, McMichael’s real-life wife Debra Marshall, the legendary “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen.

Flair was hitting on Marshall, and naturally, McMichael was mad. McMichael brought in Greene to team up against Flair and his longtime partner in the Horsemen, Arn Anderson. The stage was set for the gridiron greats to meet the squared circle legends in a make believe fight to the finish. (Note: Marshall eventually divorced McMichael and became the real-life wife of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.)

WCW was extremely popular in the South, especially in the Carolinas. Since Greene played for the Carolina Panthers at the time, bringing him in to team with McMichael seemed like a good fit. The actual match was nothing memorable, but the swerve at the end led to a blip in wrestling history that angered many passionate (geeky) wrestling fans like me.

19

June

The Complete History of Green Bay Packers in Professional Wrestling: Chapter 1 — The Football and Wrestling Connection

That's Packers great Reggie White wrestling Steve McMichael in WCW.

This is chapter 1 in a series examining the history of the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and professional wrestling. The introduction to the series can be read here.

In 1986, Vince McMahon, Jr. was in the middle of transforming the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from a regional promotion in the northeast to a national powerhouse that would eventually wipe out every other wrestling territory in the United States. McMahon used his deep pockets to lure away top wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper from rival promotions. He also used his marketing and promotional skills to develop many of his wrestlers into larger than life characters with mainstream appeal.

But McMahon was not satisfied with running a successful wrestling promotion. He wanted to create an entertainment empire that happened to involve wrestling. He wanted the WWF to be viewed on the same level as a major movie studio that produced blockbuster films, or a record label with bands that released No. 1 hits.

To achieve this, McMahon knew he needed more than top-level wrestling talent. He needed something that could make wrestling “cool,” something that would appeal to a younger generation and people who normally did not pay attention to wrestling.

The Rock ‘n Wrestling connection was born.

Wrestling Becomes Cool
McMahon partnered with MTV in the mid-80s to reach the younger and hipper audience he was targeting. He also brought in rock singers and celebrities like Cyndi Lauper to broaden the WWF’s brand beyond the scope of traditional professional wrestling.

To be fair, McMahon was not the first promoter to incorporate celebrities and musical acts into the wrestling world. To sell tickets for larger-scale events, wrestling promoters occasionally brought in musicians to perform after matches or local celebrities to make some sort of appearance. But nobody did it like McMahon.

McMahon used celebrities to build the WWF for the long term. In addition to selling tickets, McMahon wanted the celebrities he used to establish the WWF as mainstream entertainment. He had a vision of where he wanted to take the WWF, and he recognized that celebrities could help get him there.

The WWF’s flirtation with celebrities came to a head at the first Wrestlemania, held at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 31, 1985. Celebrities like Lauper, Mr. T, Liberace, Muhammad Ali and Billy Martin helped Wrestlemania reach over a million people through closed-circuit television and establish the WWF as “hip” and “cool.”

12

June

The Complete History of Green Bay Packers in Professional Wrestling: Introduction — Blame Aaron Rodgers and the Title Belt

I hope Aaron Rodgers keeps the title belt celebration for a while.

Like most Packers fans, I have a list of favorite Packers moments that will remain etched in the green and gold portion of my brain forever. The list includes the Packers Super Bowl titles in 1996 and 2020, my first game at Lambeau and watching the Packers win the NFC title live and in-person in Chicago.

The full bank of memories are too numerous to list here, but there is one particular memory that is probably unique to my brain and my brain only: I remember the first time I noticed Aaron Rodgers do the championship belt.

(Editor’s Note:  Today begins a very different and interesting series by Adam Czech, a self-professed professional wrestling geek and Packers fanatic. For the next month of Sundays, we’ll be having a “Sunday Storytime” with new installments of this series. Even if you’re not that into wrestling, I think you’ll find plenty of interesting Packers stories that you will enjoy (I know I have).  So, as the Monty Pythoners’ used to say, “And now for something completely different…)

It was 2008 and my wife and I were watching the Packers play the Titans on a snowy TV in a friend’s basement in Madison. Rodgers scrambled for a first down, dashed out of bounds, let the ball fall to the ground, then gave a quick title belt before jogging back to the huddle. I kept asking myself if I really saw what I thought I just saw. Did the quarterback of my favorite football team just pretend that he was the WWF world heavyweight champion?

Rodgers might have done the title belt before and I just didn’t notice it, but it doesn’t matter. I noticed it on this particular day, and I have noticed it ever since. It’s my favorite sports celebration ever and probably always will be.

Read on and maybe you will understand why (maybe).

Obsessed with wrestling
Some people take the NFL too seriously. Others let shopping, home projects or rebuilding cars take up too much of their lives. I’m obsessed with professional wrestling – specifically wrestling from the 1980s and early 90s. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I am a 29-year-old man that still watches old-school professional wrestling.