Wrestling and football have a long history with one another.
Dating back all the way to Bronko Nagurski, a multi-time pro wrestling champion and Chicago Bears star in the 30’s and 40’s, football and wrestling have been linked at the hip.
While it’s true most wrestlers who started out as football players exchanged throwing pigskin for throwing fellow athletes after less than successful stints in the NFL, there have been a few exceptions.
Ron Simmons, perhaps better known to wrestling fans as Farooq, is an inductee in the College Football Hall Of Fame, for example. In addition, you have athletes like Ernie Ladd who helped lead the San Diego Chargers to 4 AFL Championships in the 60’s before going on to enjoy a WWE Hall Of Fame recognized wrestling career.
For every Ernie Ladd though, there’s been a Bill Goldberg. For every Ron Simmons or Bronko Nagurski, there’s been a Lex Luger or Tito Santana. All wrestling greats who spent more time toiling on practice squads than seeing in-game competition.
That’s what made Steve McMichael’s unlikely wrestling career so unique.
Instead of being an NFL castaway who made it big in wrestling after his football career dried up, McMichael was a football great. McMichael, of course, cemented his legacy on the Super Bowl Shufflin’ 85 Bears before beginning his professional wrestling career.
On top of that, McMichael achieved a level of success in his grappling career akin to the crossover sport greats like Ernie Ladd and Ron Simmons.
It all started with a brief WWF appearance as a part of the Lawrence Taylor, yes that Lawrence Taylor, versus Bam Bam Bigelow feud in 1995. McMichael provided commentary for an episode of Raw as part of the build-up for the feud, before eventually getting physical with one of Bigelow’s compatriots.
His WWF stint, however, was short-lived. After Wrestlemania XI, McMichael’s WWF career reached its conclusion. Fortunately, it wouldn’t be long until McMichael joined WCW as a member of the company’s commentary team.
As a member of the WCW commentary team, McMichael played the traditional role of foil to Bobby “The Brain” Heenan’s antics. McMichael would be destined for more than just commentary though. In early 1996, McMichael began to feud with the incomparable Ric Flair from the TV booth. Flair had begun hitting on McMichael’s wife, Debra, which naturally enraged the Bears legend.
This led to a match at The Great American Bash in 1996 where “Mongo” teamed with fellow football great Kevin Greene to face-off against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. McMichael’s wrestling stint would prove itself to be far more intensive this time.
At the conclusion of a long fight at The Great American Bash, McMichael accepted a briefcase full of cash from Flair and Anderson in exchange for joining the legendary Four Horsemen. McMichael turned on Greene then, smashed the briefcase on his fellow football star, and began his wrestling career in earnest that night with a good ole heel turn.
Once he joined The Four Horsemen, McMichael and his new compatriots were thrust in the middle of the WCW versus NWO feud that was shaking the company to its core. Defeating enemies with his signature "Mongo Spike" Tombstone Piledriver, McMichael proved to be real asset to both WCW and The Four Horsemen during the feud. Unfortunately, The Four Horsemen's war with the NWO would eventually draw the attention of guitar-swinging WWF star Jeff Jarrett. Before long, Jarrett too was a member of The Four Horsemen.
Jarrett’s inclusion in the group proved to be incredibly controversial. He frequently invoked the anger of all the members of the incredible team, especially Steve McMichael, due to his playboy, wild card persona.
After weeks of flirting with Debra McMichael and just generally enraging his other stable mates, Jarrett was kicked out of The Four Horsemen. This inevitably led to a drag-out feud between “Mongo” and “Double J”.
Unfortunately for McMichael, Debra would turn on “Mongo” in order to manage the treacherous Jarrett during their rivalry. Eventually, McMichael would have enough of Jarrett and Debra terrorizing him, which lead to their feud boiling over in the form of a match for Jarrett’s WCW United States Heavyweight Championship match in 1997.
After a little accidental assistance from Eddie Guerrero, who was also pursuing the title on his own at the time, Steve McMichael would claim his first and only professional wrestling championship that night.
With that win, McMichael assured himself a spot, alongside the likes of fellow Chicago football legend Bronko Nagurski, as one of the rare breed of athletes capable of capturing gold both on the field and inside the ring.