26

February

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Sundays are rough without football, especially after how the Packers season ended.

I love Sundays, but I love Sundays more when football is on. Football makes you forget about your hangover from Saturday night and the fact that you have to go back to work on Monday. Football also makes you feel less guilty for lazing around on the couch all day, eating food that raises your cholesterol and swearing at your TV.

Now we’re stuck with the NBA, NHL, MLB and golf on Sunday for the foreseeable future. I like all of those sports, but none of them makes a Sunday like football. Those other sports are for the other six days of the week.

Sunday is for football.

To kill the time on these offseason Sundays, I’m going to publish Surviving Sunday: Packers New, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived.

It’ll be a regular notebook-style column that opens with a random thought or rant (like the one you’re reading now), followed by some quick opinions on a couple of key issues related to the Packers that I didn’t have a chance to cover with a full post during the week. From there, I’ll include links to must-read/must-see stories, videos and blog posts from the previous week and a preview of possible Packers storylines for the upcoming week. I’ll close each Surviving Sunday with a few words on a subject unrelated to the Packers.

I hope you enjoy reading Surviving Sunday as much as I enjoy putting it together. Anything to get in a little football on Sunday, right?

Scott Wells, Bryan Bulaga and the NFL Combine

  • Ted Thompson needs to sign Scott Wells. Unless Wells is asking for the moon because he wants his comeuppance after the Packers were mean to him early in his career, Thompson needs to make this one work. Wells is an upper-echelon center. If there’s one thing that occasionally rattles Aaron Rodgers (or any QB), it’s pressure up the middle. Wells does a good job of setting the Packers pass protection and keeping those interior pass rushers out of No. 12′s face. For what the Packers need him to do, he’s worth a 3-year deal in the $17-20 million range.
3

July

The Complete History of Green Bay Packers in Professional Wrestling: Chapter 3 — Dick “the Bruiser” Afflis

Da Crusher from Milwaukee and Dick the Bruiser, a former Packer, dominated wrestling's tag team division for over 10 years.

We continue our “Sunday Storytime” with chapter 3 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 and Chapter 2  can be read here.

Remember when pro wrestlers had barrel chests and round bellies instead of bulging biceps and chiseled physiques? Remember when wrestlers looked like larger and meaner versions of your dad’s drinking buddies? Remember when old ladies used to sit in the front row at wrestling events and swing their purses at the bad guys?

If you do, then you also probably remember Dick the Bruiser. Dick the Bruiser’s wrestling career began in the mid 50s and lasted until the late 80s. He won multiple titles in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and started his own promotion in Indianapolis called the World Wrestling Association.

The Bruiser used his wrestling career to become a cross-media star and local celebrity in the Indianapolis area. But the first step on his rise to fame came with the Green Bay Packers.

Scary, Heroic and Goofy
Dick the Bruiser was born William Richard Afflis and played on the Packers offensive and defensive lines from 1951-54. Titletown was a ways off in Green Bay’s future as the Packers went 15-32-1 in Afflis’s 48 games. This group of Packers were more interested in drinking beer than winning. And Afflis fit right in.

The 6-foot, 251-pounder left Purdue after clobbering his line coach with his helmet and was kicked out of Miami after bookmaking allegations. He lasted a couple of weeks at Notre Dame and Alabama before settling at Nevada-Reno. The Packers drafted him in the 16th round (somewhere along the way, he also officially changed his first name to Dick).

Afflis was a decent lineman, but most people remember him more for his colorful personality than his on-field play. Some Afflis stories are scary, some are heroic, and some are goofy. All of them are entertaining.

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.”