Though many of you devoted readers will often hear from me regarding college football, basketball and the like, one thing I love with all of my heart is professional wrestling. Not a week goes by that I don’t tune into Monday Night Raw and Thursday Night Smackdown, and every few weeks, my friends and I will get together and watch the monthly pay-per-view that WWE sponsors.
Now, let’s shift gears to SEC football which, if you ask me, is the closest thing to WWE in any … wow, I can’t believe I’m saying this … REAL sport.
The conference is easily the most competitive in college football, with each and every team working hard to put itself over and into championship contention despite any and all odds.
If you think about it, it very much is like the WWE week after week.
That being said, I sat down with fellow Campus Sports writer and WWE fan Caleb Bailey to discuss the matter and he, of course, completely marked out over the idea I had and happily contributed to this report.
So, without further introduction, if SEC football coaches were WWE superstars, who would they be?
Alabama: John Cena as Nick Saban
No matter what you may think, both Nick Saban and John Cena are two of the most dominant and respected individuals in their sport. Much like Cena, Saban is either adored by his fans or hated by everyone else. You still have to respect what Saban has done for football and what Cena has done for the WWE, no matter how “cool” it may be to have them now.
Plus, look at the accomplishments both men have.
Three national titles for Nick Saban and 15 world championships for John Cena. The resemblance is uncanny. Thankfully, though, college football has been kind to us recently and Alabama has not run the table the past few years.
Unlike Cena, who, despite WWE fans’ protests, still manages to win almost EVERY TIME. I MEAN, COME ON!!!!
Auburn: Seth Rollins as Gus Malzahn
Gus Malzahn entered into the proverbial frying pan when he took the job at Auburn. The Tigers had just fired Gene Chizik and were coming off of a 4-8 season when they had won the national title the year before. Mahlzahn had some success at Arkansas State, but in the SEC you are competing with the big boys.
Despite any doubt, he proved himself in his first year by winning the SEC championship, but falling short in the BCS Title Game against Florida State.
Seth Rollins had loads of success with NXT, WWE’s developmental program, and Ring of Honor (ROH, an indy company based out of Philadelphia. When he turned his back on The Shield and joined The Authority, he was put into a much higher position and was pressured to do a lot more. He has done just that after winning the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2014 and cashing it in to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania in March.
LSU: Dean Ambrose as Les Miles
Les Miles is unpredictable and one crazy dude. He will be faced with a fourth-and-fifteen at his own twenty yard line, make up some crazy, out-the-back-of-the-playbook type of trick play where the wide receiver throws a pass to the offensive tackle and somehow make it work.
Dean Ambrose, considered by some to be the second incarnation of the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper, is much of the same.
Ambrose pulls off some of the most unorthodox moves that fans have ever seen and still pulls out the win. And don’t be surprised if you see The Mad Hatter eating a handful of grass from the field or The Lunatic Fringe stealing a hot dog cart and spraying his opponents with mustard.
Missouri: Triple H as Gary Pinkel
Pinkel had a ton of success when Missouri was in the Big 12, but he was never able to make that next step towards the top. Maybe moving to the SEC was just what he needed. The Tigers have won the SEC East the last two years and they along with Pinkel are looking to to take over for the Big Guys of the conference.
Triple H had equal success when he was an active wrestler, being a 13-time world champion with the WWE. In the last few years, he has made the transition into the front office and has become COO of the company. He, along with his wife, Stephanie McMahon, daughter to the owner of WWE Vince McMahon, are taking over and once Vince is retired, it may just be, as Triple H often says, “what’s best for business.”
South Carolina: Stone Cold Steve Austin as Steve Spurrier
Time to go a little old school, as Spurrier is an old school guy that likes to talk a lot of smack, and he can usually back it up. He, like Austin, is bold, brash, and not afraid to speak his mind.
I would certainly enjoy seeing Spurrier give the Stone Cold Stunner to Mike Slive or just watch him and Austin have a toast on the Gamecock in Columbia.
Or, especially if he reads this, turn his press conferences into him just making one grand statement without taking questions, and punctuating each with, “And that’s the bottom line, ’cause SPURRIER SAID SO!”
Georgia: Ryback as Mark Richt
One of the most coveted honors in WWE is the Intercontinental Championship, which is often defended by the company workhorse. Currently, it’s held by Ryback, who won it inside the Elimination Chamber two weeks ago. The Big Guy isn’t the best man on the roster, but works his tail off each week and fans regularly show their appreciation with chants of, “FEED…ME…MORE!”
Which brings us to Richt, who despite not being the best and most tactical of coaches in the SEC still manages to grind out wins by having his athletes play good old-fashioned blue collar football.
Since taking over the Bulldogs in 2001, he has gone 136-48 (78-34 SEC) and 9-5 in bowl games, plus two SEC titles. Those 78 SEC wins are the most Georgia has had under one coach since longtime sidelines general Vince Dooley.
The long and short of it is that Richt is probably the hardest working coach in the conference and, like Ryback was until recently, is long overdue for a push of his own.
Ole Miss: Kevin Owens as Hugh Freeze
Let’s go back to Cena for a bit, specifically his time over the last few months. One regular aspect of his TV time after Wrestlemania 31, at which he defeated the mighty and then-undefeated Rusev for the United States Championship, was giving an open challenge to anyone on the roster for his belt.
Sure enough, two weeks before Elimination Chamber, the man who answered this challenge was NXT Champion Kevin Owens. For those unaware, NXT is WWE’s developmental territory. To put it bluntly, the minor leagues.
But that didn’t stop Owens from telling Cena to stick the U.S. title where the sun don’t shine before silencing him with his signature pop-up powerbomb and then defeating him in a non-title bout at Elimination Chamber.
This man has the fans’ attention, and has a bright career ahead of him.
The same can be said for Freeze, who got every college football fan’s attention when he stunningly shut down and defeated Nick Saban and Alabama last year. He simply doesn’t care what opponent is put in front of him, for he’s going to give his best and shock the crowd each and every time. And, of course, the fans will roar.
Arkansas: Kane as Bret Bielema
Like Kane, Bielema has been around for a while. There are some people who are ready to give up on him for one reason or another, but he still sticks around because he still loves the sport and has plenty left in the tank.
Just how far he can take Arkansas remains to be seen, but he knows that he’s far from finished and will have to be dragged away from the game kicking and screaming.
Oh, and like Kane, he is just a MASSIVE human being.
Kentucky: Sheamus as Mark Stoops
Now that Sheamus has turned heel since his return from injury, he has fallen into a fine routine of playing the rough and brutish Irish brawler who refuses to back down in any fight, often pulling off surprise wins in the process.
Such is the story with Stoops, who has injected a mean streak into the Wildcats. In just his second year in Lexington, he turned his team from a 2-10 group that couldn’t buy a conference win into one that only went 5-7, but also managed to beat Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks.
Sheamus hasn’t done anything big since coming back right after Wrestlemania, but is in the Money in the Bank (MITB) ladder match this Sunday.
Like Stoops, he could soon get a HUGE push.
Florida: Neville as Jim McElwain
The Gators need to put the forgettable Will Muschamp years behind them, so the university decided to hire a fresh face and relative unknown in McElwain to take over the program. McElwain did well in three seasons at Colorado State, but the Rams play in the Mountain West. Not exactly a major hotbed of football competition, at least in comparison to the SEC.
Truly, much like Neville, McElwain is in line to be the conference’s “New Sensation.”
This works because before debuting in WWE the day after Wrestlemania, Neville was the NXT Champion. This weekend, the high flyer will participate in the MITNB ladder match. Win or lose, this likely means a push is in sight. Naturally, Florida needs exactly that.
Mississippi State: Wade Barrett as Dan Mullen
Dan Mullen has done quite well with the Bulldogs, going 46-31 since taking over in 2009, but only has 22 wins in the SEC. He’s a coach that knows how to win, but always stumbles on the grander stage.
Such is life in the SEC, and in WWE if you’re five-time Intercontinental Champion Wade “Bad News” Barrett. This guy has incredible talent and has been in line for grander titles before, but has always come up short either due to injury or the company deciding to reward somebody else.
But that could change soon.
Barrett recently won the legendary “King of the Ring” tournament and though he hasn’t really done anything significant since then, save for compete for the Intercontinental belt inside the Elimination Chamber and be the first one eliminated.
Just the same, both Mullen and Barrett are due a push at some point. It’s just a matter of when.
Vanderbilt: Luke Harper as Derek Mason
This one is pretty simple, though Mason is only about to enter his second season with the Commodores after going 3-9 in 2014. His team is scrappy and fights hard, but is really just one that shows up to lose because that’s how the cookie crumbles.
The same goes for Harper, who has been relegated to lower midcard/jobber status after being the Intercontinental Champion for a hot minute last winter.
Even if the future is bright, both for Harper and Mason, it isn’t blatantly obvious.
Tennessee: Dolph Ziggler as Butch Jones
Jones has only gone 12-13 (5-11 SEC) since taking over in Knoxville in 2013, but he has accomplished more than meets the eye. For one thing, in 2014, his leading the Volunteers to a TaxSlayer Bowl victory was the team’s first bowl win since 2007.
It may seem like showing off, but Jones can back it up at this point.
That just happens to be a take on Ziggler’s motto of “it’s not showing off if you can back it up”, and the four-time Intercontinental Champion often fights back against the odds and manages to pull off the win. He’s currently an upper midcard guy but if he can win the briefcase in the MITB ladder match, he’ll be able to get another world title shot.
If Jones can take a similar step forward this year, Tennessee football could officially be back.
Texas A&M: Roman Reigns as Kevin Sumlin
Kevin Sumlin is a special kind of coach, but one that hasn’t quite gotten over the hump yet, just like Reigns. Both know how to fight and are capable of getting to or close to the main event, but the opportunity of taking the next step is so close that they can taste it.
Sumlin came close in doing that when the Aggies almost beat Alabama in 2013, but came up short.
Similarly, Reigns was on the verge of defeating Brock Lesnar in a match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania in March, but failed after Seth Rollins cashed in his MITB contract and defeated both men to walk out with the belt.
Hopefully, at MITB on Sunday, Reigns can climb the ladder and put the belt within his reach, and Sumlin can do the same with Texas A&M this season.
AND NOW, since Caleb and I were feeling a little bad about leaving coaches from other conferences out, here are some honorable mentions!
ACC: Brock Lesnar as Jimbo Fisher
Jimbo Fisher is the epitome of dominance of the football world when it comes to the last few seasons. Fisher took over for Bobby Bowden in what was a long time coming and, in five seasons, he has accumulated a 58-11 record, four ACC Championships, and a national title.
Brock Lesnar is one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of wrestling. Not only is he a four time WWE Champion, he is also the first and only person to be WWE Champion, NCAA Champion and UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Fisher “ended” the streak of Bowden’s tenure as head coach at Florida State and Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak that had stretched to 21-0 before the two met at the thirtieth anniversary of the event in 2014.
Big Ten: Paul Heyman as Jim Harbaugh
Though they run in different circles, Paul Heyman and Jim Harbaugh are very similar individuals. Both carry themselves with giant chips on their shoulders and have advocated for some of the best in the game.
Heyman had CM Punk and Brock Lesnar, while Harbaugh had quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick under his watch while at Stanford and then with the San Francisco 49ers.
But let’s be honest with ourselves, ladies and gentlemen. If there’s one reason to put Heyman with Harbaugh, it’s that they both make amazing faces. Plus the fact that if he tried, Harbaugh could REALLY cut a promo.
Pac-12: Randy Orton as Mark Helfrich
I feel that watching Randy Orton and Oregon’s offense are two of the most fun experiences anyone could ever have. They both have personality, are often flashy and often provide moments that make you go, “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!”
Oregon’s offense has shown that it can do that many times.
Just when you think the play is over, the quarterback makes a pretty move with his feet and takes off for the end zone, or a receiver magically gets open. Suddenly, touchdowns out of nowhere.
Similarly, Orton turns random moments into legendary ones, and I can just hear Michael Cole screaming it now: “RKO OUTTA NOWHERE!!!!!”
Big 12: The Rock as Charlie Strong
The Rock is one of the most legendary wrestlers of all time and with the help of guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H, he helped rescue the WWE from going out of business by ushering in the Attitude Era.
Strong has similarly done that in just one year with the Longhorns, after Mack Brown couldn’t turn the team around after losing the BCS National Championship Game back in January 2010.
Simply put, Strong has brought attitude back to Austin as he dismissed a total of nine players from the team with his tough, no-nonsense approach. It’s as if the Rock walked into the locker room and said “Know your role and SHUT YOUR MOUTH,” and the concerned players just opted to leave right then and there. And if people still thing Longhorns football is dead, Strong is simply going to tell them that their opinions don’t matter.
He’s there to win it all, nothing more and nothing less. When he’s completed his rebuild and the dust settles, he’ll be there to say, “Finally….THE CHAMPIONSHIP, HAS COME BACK TO AUSTIN!!!!”
Thus ends our little WWE meets the college football fun. What do you think of the comparisons? Sound off in the comments section below.