One of the highlights of Wrestlemania 33 took place before the official start of the show. During one of the “Kickoff Show” matches, Rob Gronkowski got involved in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, clotheslining wrestler Jinder Mahal after Mahal snatched Gronk’s drink from the NFL player’s front-row seat.
This was far from the first time that Gronk has attended a WWE show. The New England Patriots tight end is good buddies with wrestler Mojo Rawley, who played football at Maryland with two of Gronk’s brothers and later befriended Rob. This has resulted in Gronk attending NXT and WWE shows over the past few years where Rawley was performing.
This was, however, the first time that Gronk was physically involved with a match. And judging from how Gronk is still playing into the act on social media after WrestleMania, it may not be the last.
Of course, whether Gronk would be able to take part in a match is in question. While the Patriots gave Gronk permission to take part in WrestleMania 33, his part involved little risk. Gronk performed one offensive move and didn’t take any bumps in return. The chance of injury was relatively minimal.
A full match, however, is another matter. Active NFL players have wrestled in matches before. NFL Hall of Famer Kevin Greene wrestled in a few matches for WCW during the waning years of his playing career. William “The Refrigerator” Perry took part in a match at Wrestlemania II during the offseason following his rookie year in the NFL. Pat McAfee reportedly once wrestled a match at an indie promotion show in 2009.
So there’s precedent, but that still doesn’t exactly mean the Pats would sign off on it, especially considering Gronk’s difficulties staying healthy being what they are.
But for the sake of indulging our imagination, let’s say the Patriots are okay with it. How should WWE use Gronk? From the looks of things, Gronk is teasing what could be a possible match with Jinder Mahal. On Instagram on Monday, Gronk posted the video of his altercation with Mahal with a message suggesting a still-fuming rivalry.
So it seems like WWE is building toward a singles match between Gronk and Mahal, presumably to take place at a future major pay-per-view. Almost certainly, that would be next year’s Wrestlemania, as the annual event is the only major WWE PPV that occurs during the true lull in the NFL offseason before the draft or OTAs. SummerSlam takes place during the preseason, so that’s out. And Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble are scheduled during the NFL season and postseason, so those are obvious non-starters.
Conceivably, Gronk could wrestle in a singles match at Wrestlemania 34 with no significant risk. Unless he suffers a truly catastrophic injury, he would have more than three months to recover before training camp began.
But why Mahal? He’s been a marginal figure throughout his WWE career and remains there, as evidenced by the fact that he’s part of a pre-show match. In a way, that does make him an intriguing possibility for a match with Gronk. It gives Mahal an easy and immediate push to relevance, and it doesn’t tie up one of the company’s better-known wrestlers for a match that needs little extra promotion.
The whole point is “Rob Gronkowski is wrestling in the WWE,” so it hardly matters who he goes against. That’s not the type of thing you waste a superstar’s time with when they could be carrying another match higher in the card, though this is the WWE where they wasted an AJ Styles WrestleMania match on Shane McMahon.
It would make sense to pair Gronk with his buddy Mojo Rawley in a tag match. Given that WWE had no better use for the New Day this year than ceremonial hosting duties for WrestleMania, that could be an option, with Mahal perhaps interfering and getting into it with Gronk during the match. Rawley isn’t much of a star in the WWE, but his bro gimmick could get an easy shot in the arm by being paired with Gronk, perhaps the most famous and celebrated of all the athlete bros.
Barring that, either as a solo or a tag match, get Gronk going against Enzo and Cass and drive the loud personality factor to 11. Mahal is a fine wrestler but hardly has a well-crafted persona in WWE. Having Gronk go against Cass matches their similarly impressive size while providing the appeal of both sides riffing well on the mic.
Perhaps this ends up being like Shaq’s rumored upcoming match after Wrestlemania in 2016 and nothing comes of it. Gronk however has planted seeds for another appearance. Will Gronk be the latest superstar player to wrestle in WWE, the company that had Lawrence Taylor headline its biggest event one year? It sure seems that way.