George Kittle in WWE: Is There a Future for Celebrity Wrestlers?

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers takes the field prior to a game against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Levi's Stadium on January 14, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers takes the field prior to a game against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Levi's Stadium on January 14, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Celebrities and WWE continue to go hand-in-hand, and many have found success as attractions for the promotion.  

TMZ Sports reported that George Kittle, the 4-time Pro-Bowler and San Francisco 49ers tight end, thought a career in WWE post-football sounded fun and even posted about what his name wrestling name would be (he landed on simply George, but he has some time to work it out as he signed a 5-year contract back in 2020).

At one time, the idea of signing a major sports star or celebrity wrestler, even in a promotion like WWE, wasn’t a serious prospect. However, the recent successful integration of A-listers and athletes like Pat MacAfee and Logan Paul adds some serious credence to a successful transition into the WWE later in your career.

Kittle himself is an obvious fit for the world of professional wrestling. The intensity and explosiveness you need to be a tight end are intangibles to perform in a wrestling ring. In addition, the training involved in creating a single match is extensive, but the time NFL players spend on tape and learning plays is probably a close comparison which is why football players are the athlete most likely to successfully make the jump. Also, his big personality indicates the possibility he could capture an audience’s attention on the microphone as well.

Crossovers are Becoming More Popular

Kittle would join a growing list of celebrities who have stepped into the ring and athletes transitioning into WWE. At WrestleMania 38 last year, boxer and influencer Logan Paul proved he was a natural, and football icon Pat MacAfee performed phenomenally in the ring. On the same card, Johnny Knoxville had a fantastic match and moment for the fans on the entertainment side of things and indirectly led to the Sami Zayn we got in Montreal fighting the Bloodline a year later. While musician Bad Bunny was not at Mania 38, he did have a prominent role at Mania 37 and was in the final five of the men’s 2022 Royal Rumble Match.

There is a secret ingredient that Kittle shares with athletes like Paul and MacAffe, musicians like Bad Bunny, and comedians like Knoxville, who all had universally acclaimed crossover moments. It is the same formula that worked back in the 1980s; the only other time that most people agree is when wrestling used most of their celebrity connections correctly. Almost all of the most successful celebrity crossovers have involved stars who are also wrestling fans.

Fandom is sometimes more important than their athleticism and in-ring ability. For example, comedian Jon Stewart got involved in a compelling one-off story where he never had a match. He did well because his involvement made sense, and as a fan of the show, he understood the characters and motivations at work. You wouldn’t let a guest star come on a scripted show without ensuring they knew the script, and wrestling should be no different. In the case of George Kittle or actors like Stephen Amell, the fandom might go beyond just WWE and into indy promotions or AEW.

There is Some Potential Downside

While the virality of including big stars on programming, particularly ones like Logan Paul and presumably George Kittle, is a good problem for WWE to have, These stars and athletes with a personality, understanding of the wrestling product, and immense athletic ability can be more than just a rating pop for Raw but a marquee matchup for their bigger shows. However, talented stars are left off the card when you get Logan Paul in the main event or even if you have a one-off match like the highly acclaimed Knoxville vs. Zayn fight at WrestleMania.

Wrestling promotions shouldn’t sacrifice their own stars for celebrities. While there certainly seem to be more athletes and A-listers who either watch or have watched wrestling and are eager to try it out, when you have that level of success before wrestling, it is doubtful you would sign on for life on the road for the long haul. In addition, it would be much harder to write a weekly episodic television show if your cast of characters keeps changing. Luckily there is a way to avoid the issuer where your only stars made their fame elsewhere.

Aligning the Stars is Important

Logan Paul vs. Seth Rollins is a perfect example of using celebrities in a way that works for everyone. Seth will almost certainly put on a match worth watching with Logan, and Seth’s energy matches the sort of coverage that the Paul brothers bring. His quirky look and dances will be fascinating to Logan Paul fans and, more importantly, the media outlets that follow him. Similarly, Bad Bunny’s first appearance was in a story involving The Miz. Despite his character’s over-exaggeration of this, Miz was legitimately a television guy before wrestling, and he does very well on camera and in the media. As a result, he offers the perfect WWE villain to present to the broader audience, and some of them may even know of his current or previous work in reality TV.

WWE, in particular, has been cautious about ensuring their crossovers make sense, the celebrities are talented at whatever they are asked to do for the brand, and the angle has a legitimate shot at producing quality content that appeals to popular media. It is the blueprint that AEW has also tried to emulate.

While it doesn’t help the men and women bumped off the card necessarily, it should help new stars develop among the more regular wrestlers, and those performers can work with and improve the visibility of everyone else on the roster. The rising tide should lift all boats, and this strategy’s early success signals a fundamental shift in the industry away from simply booking the most prominent name available for a rating pop.

The Future is as Bright as The Hollywood Sign

Whether George Kittle joins the ranks of celebrities that jump to wrestling is a mystery, but despite some misgivings from some fans, the move from the field, stage, or screen to a ring is good for everyone. The facts are this, WWE’s most watched YouTube video from two days ago has 1.3M views and is a carefully created top 10 list outlining the previous week’s Smackdown. In contrast, Logan Paul had a video about YouTuber KSI that same day, already at 4.6M views. Incorporating celebrities into WWE is vital to the growth of wrestling as a popular medium, and fans today are lucky. The “Summerfest” promos have been left behind, and wrestling is including more stars who are at the very least interested in the shows and, in the best-case scenario, can play a pivotal role on some of wrestling’s more prominent shows.

Next. It's time to correct Asuka's winless streak at WrestleMania. dark