Stars from the so-called “legitimate” sports world have been making guest appearances on professional wrestling for decades. There was Muhammad Ali getting airplane spun by Gorilla Monsoon in 1976; Joe Frazier “training” Mr. T. for his boxing match against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 2, and Lawrence Taylor taking on Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event of WrestleMania XI.
Last night, controversial New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott became the latest star of the sports world to make the crossover into the squared circle. But in doing so he took a very different role than any of the men listed above—the role of a villain.
Scott appeared on Total Nonstop Action Wrestling’s Impact! program last night, aligning himself with the most sinister group of “heels” in the company—Hulk Hogan’s Immortal faction.
Scott laughed and partied with Hogan and his fellow baddies Eric Bischoff and Matt Hardy, and even got involved in a scuffle with the members of rival “babyface” faction Fortune, led by AJ Styles.
And, as all good heels do, Scott got his come-uppance at the end of the show when he found himself on the receiving end of a Kurt Angle ankle lock.
Scott did a fine job immersing himself in the pro wrestling show world last night. And considering his reputation, maybe it was the right call to cast him as a bad guy. But there’s a bigger trend at play that’s worth looking at. Far removed from the days of LT, crossover celebrities often choose these days to play the role of the villain rather than that of the heel.
Dennis Rodman pioneered this trend 14 years ago when he joined the New World Order. Since then, we’ve had Mike Tyson join the rule breaking D-Generation X (although he later turned on DX and helped Steve Austin win his first world title), and many other stars deliberately choosing to get booed during their wrestling cameos, rather than cheered.
Maybe a shrink could psychoanalyze what would make a sports hero choose to play the role of a villain. Maybe it’s a fun escape from their real lives, where they typically are adored by hometown fans. Maybe they think, by their nature, anti-authority bad guys are cooler and tougher than good-two shoes baby faces.
Or maybe I’m just over thinking-this.