Using celebrities and athletes in professional wrestling has long been a staple of the business to bring new awareness to the product. It harks back to WrestleMania 1 where Vince McMahon used Muhammad Ali, Billy Martin, Cyndi Lauper and Liberace in various roles on the show and even had Mr. T team with Hulk Hogan in the main event. This show obviously changed the course of the wrestling business, and a big reason was the cross-over appeal it created by having high-profile celebrities as part of the show.
During the Monday Night Wars, WCW brought in players like Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone and Jay Leno for matches and made David Arquette their world champion for some reason. And long before that, who could forget, when WCW themed an entire show to promote the movie RoboCop 2, and ridiculously RoboCop himself had to save Sting from an attack by the Four Horsemen. But in early 1996, WCW brought in an athlete who proved to be one of their more successful celebrities, and they did so on several occasions. That was none other than future NFL Hall of Famer and one of the greatest defensive players in football history, Kevin Greene.
Kevin Greene came to WCW during his successful NFL career
Kevin Greene had a long list of awards during his 15-year NFL career (1985-1999). Greene had 160 sacks (third all-time), was a five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and was selected to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. He was even named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by an outlet in 1996, the season after his WCW debut. But amid all of this, Greene — who was a big fan of the wrestling biz — decided to lace up a pair of wrestling boots for WCW when the NFL schedule allowed. He spent a lot of time training at the WCW Power Plant because he wanted to look like he belonged.
Greene made his WCW debut at Clash of the Champions XXXII in January 1996, where he only escorted Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage to the ring for their main event match against Ric Flair and the Giant. Hogan and Savage lost, although Greene announced his presence and helped Hogan repel an attack by Brian Pillman and The Zodiac. He would have his first match five months later at the Great American Bash, alongside former NFL player Steve McMichael against the Four Horsemen’s Flair and Arn Anderson.
For two guys having their first match, Greene and McMichael definitely looked pretty solid – and the match lasted over 20 minutes. It certainly helped to have two veterans like Flair and Arn to guide them through the match, but Greene certainly looked a little more natural than McMichael, showing lots of fire and hitting some high-impact attacks. Unfortunately for Greene, McMichael turned on him by hitting him with a briefcase full of money and a Horsemen t-shirt, costing Greene the match and joining the Four Horsemen. Greene would be back for his revenge a year later.
Kevin Greene Main Evented a PPV in his second match
Greene returned to WCW in May 1997 after leading the Carolina Panthers to the NFC Championship game. Before getting revenge on McMichael, Greene would team up with Flair and Roddy Piper to face off against the NWO team of Kevn Nash, Scott Hall and Syxx in the main event of Slamboree in Charlotte, NC – home of the Panthers. Of course the crowd was hot for Greene and he was impressive once again as he took the pinfall victory after a power slam on Syxx.
A month later, at the Great American Bash, Greene got his revenge on McMichael after Jeff Jarrett accidentally cracked McMichael with a briefcase — bringing the circle full of last year. Greene returned to WCW for the last time in June 1998. During an interview on Nitro, he was attacked by The Giant, leading to a main event match between the two. Greene would win via DQ when Curt Hennig and Rick Rude attacked him, but he was saved by Goldberg, a former Los Angeles Rams teammate. The altercation would lead to a match with The Giant at Bash at the Beach, which Giant would win after a chokeslam.
NFL teams have begun to include a “no wrestling” clause in Kevin Greene’s contract
Greene had five matches between 1996 and 1998 – including four on PPV – and he got to share the ring with some of the biggest names in wrestling history. He was just different from other celebrities in wrestling. He had the looks, the natural charisma, and most importantly, he really cared about him. Unfortunately, his short career came to an end when NFL teams began putting a “no wrestling” clause in his contract, and he finally chose football. Greene would only play two more years in the NFL, but he never stepped into a wrestling ring again. He is credited as one of the larger “What if?” in wrestling history when he was able to unleash himself and give wrestling a real shot like former linebackers Goldberg and The Rock. But what we got was certainly better than nothing, and Kevin Greene’s place in history will always be remembered. Rest in peace with the legend.