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.
Near the end of the match, Marshall delivered a briefcase full of cash to McMichael. The payoff came from the Four Horsemen and McMichael was more than willing to accept the bribe. He closed the briefcase, clobbered Greene over the head with it and joined the prestigious Horesemen, perhaps the most influential stable in wrestling history.
McMichael was now a member of a group that many felt he had no businesses belonging to.
Worst Horseman Ever?
To smart wrestling fans, The Four Horseman are the most beloved wrestling stable ever. Led by Flair, the Horsemen always had the best matches, the best interviews and the best characters. When McMichael joined, longtime fans were puzzled. The former NFLer couldn’t wrestle, cut boring interviews, and came across as a dud despite his best efforts to sound cool.
Many in the wrestling community rank McMichael as one of the worst, if not the worst member of the Four Horsemen in the stable’s almost 30-year history. My guess is the only reason McMichael became a Horseman was because he was friendly with Flair and Anderson in real life.
During a shoot interview (an interview where wrestlers discuss behind-the-scenes decisions and other industry gossip), Flair said that McMichael liked to party and have a good time and that McMichael got to know many of the wrestlers by partying with them whenever the promotions traveled through Chicago. Since the Horsemen were hard partiers in real-life, and also bragged about their partying through their wrestling characters, perhaps they figured McMichael was a good fit.
Greene’s Wrestling Career
Surprisingly, Greene was fairly subdued during his wrestling debut. He didn’t run to the ring like a crazed maniac and start attacking everybody. He calmly walked down the aisle and appeared focused instead of fanatical. Greene picked up the intensity as his sporadic wrestling career progressed, but for the most part, he adopted more of a focused and intense character instead of wild and crazed.
Unfortunately, Greene never appeared comfortable in the ring. Perhaps it was because what made Greene lovably insane on the football field didn’t quite translate to a wrestling arena. There are probably other reasons:
- Professional wrestling is hard. Most people see the absurdity of wrestling and assume any schmuck can do it. Not true. It takes a lot of work and a lot of years for wrestlers to not only develop their in-ring skills, but also their characters and persona. Beyond that, wrestlers also have to develop chemistry with opponents and endure a grueling travel schedule. Greene simply didn’t wrestle enough to consistently get better.
- Greene entered WCW at a strange time. The company was experiencing a huge boom in business thanks to the NWO, but behind-the-scenes politics and a lack of vision were threatening that success. Besides the angle with McMichael and brief run with The Giant, Greene was never put in a well-thought-out program where he was allowed to shine. Instead he became one of many guys that showed promise, but didn’t go anywhere because WCW didn’t know how to develop them. The fact that Greene was a part-time wrestler due to his football career probably played a role in this, but it would have been nice to see what Greene could have done if he was given a consistent program over an extended period.
- Even though the Macho Man Randy Savage and Terry Taylor helped train him, Greene never developed an in-ring repertoire beyond the typical “football player moves.” When football players appear in wrestling, their moveset usually consists of shoulder blocks, tackles and body slams. Greene was no exception. Unless you’re dripping with charisma (like Hulk Hogan) you need a bit more to truly get over with fans and build a career.
Neither Greene or McMichael will be remembered by wrestling historians for making any significant contributions to the industry. But it is interesting to note the number of memorable moments that the two were around for:
- McMichael was one of many NFL players in Lawrence Taylor’s corner for his Wrestlemania match against Bam Bam Bigelow.
- Greene and McMichael participated in the match that led to McMichael becoming a Horseman.
- McMichael wrestled and defeated Reggie White at WCW’s Slamboree in 1997.
- McMichael was one of Bill Goldberg’s first victims. Goldberg, who had a cup of coffee with the Atlanta Falcons, became one of the most popular wrestlers of the late 90s and early 00s.
- Greene and McMichael frequently crossed paths with the NWO, the stable that revived wrestling in the mid 90s.
- McMichael returned to wrestling 2008 when he refereed a match at TNA’s first pay-per-view.
No, Greene and McMichael might never be inducted into the wrestling hall of fame, but it’s fun to look back on their careers in the squred-circle anyway. They entered wrestling just as it was becoming cool again and were able to ride that wave and enjoy a little bit of success (in McMichael’s case, probably a little more than he deserved).
But most importantly, Greene’s time in WCW inspired Aaron Rodgers’ title belt celebration, or at least that’s what the QB says (even if his tongue might be planted firmly in cheek).
Forget the actual world title belt. I’ll take the Kevin Greene-inspired Rodgers’ version every time.——————
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .