Toronto Argonauts running back James Wilder Jr. might be trading in his cleats for some wrestling boots as the 2017 Most Outstanding Rookie revealed on Twitter (with a tip o’ the cap to Wrestling Inc. for bringing it to my attention when I woke up Sunday morning) that he has received a tryout with WWE.
— James Wilder Jr (@IAm_Wilder32) March 23, 2019
Wilder’s CFL career has been an interesting one. From replacing Brandon Whitaker as the Argos’ lead back, to winning rookie of the year and a Grey Cup in 2017, to going public with his demand to be released because he had an NFL deal lined up, Wilder has not led a quiet CFL existence.
Now he might be headed to a place where being loud is not just accepted, but encouraged.
Wilder wouldn’t be the first CFLer to leave the gridiron behind for the squared circle. Plenty of CFL players, from Angelo Mosca to The Rock to Roman Reigns, have done well in the world of professional wrestling. There is no guarantee or anything, but I think Wilder does have the tools to be successful in WWE.
Forget the physical aspects of it for a second because if you don’t think Wilder can handle that grind, you are crazy. The rosters of WWE (and, when they existed, WCW, the AWA and NWA), is littered with former college and pro football players. If you can handle the physical nature of professional football you are ideally suited for life in WWE. But the other aspects, the (pardon the pun), wilder aspects of WWE that I think Wilder could also be good at.
He has a personality, and while not having one isn’t a hindrance (see Brock Lesnar, who is about as verbally charismatic as a piece of drift wood), having one certainly does help. Talking to reporters and talking on a microphone in front of 15,000 people is clearly different, but I think Wilder has the chops to become pretty good on the mic.
His personality, or at least the one he has displayed while in the CFL, makes him a top candidate to be heel in WWE. He could talk up his football accomplishments, both at the pro and collegiate levels, to get under the skin of the fans. Maybe a pairing with fellow Florida State alum Ron Simmons — aka Faarooq — could work as well. Simmons, who was two-time All American and Heisman finalist during his time with the Seminoles, parlayed his collegiate success into a very successful run in both the NWA/WCW and the WWE. In 1992 Simmons become the one of the first African American world heavyweight champions when he defeated Big Van Vader for the WCW title in Baltimore. Wilder might never achieve those heights, but a pairing of the two based on their common background could make for some interesting TV.
He would also need a name, and while James Wilder is a pretty darn good wrestling name already, Vince McMahon usually likes to create his own names for his stars (because that way he owns the name). The Wildman is out because that was used by a fellow named Marc Mero decades ago. Jimmy Wild sounds like a bad indy wrestler name, so that’s out, too. Honestly, it would not surprise me if they just went with Wilder or even something like JWJ. Vince McMahon turned Bryan Danielson into Daniel Bryan, so maybe something like Junior Wilder could be in the cards. His “Get Wilder” slogan is tailor-made for WWE, so I can’t see Vince not finding a way to use the Wilder name.
Wilder has a long way to go before he has to worry about a name, and an even longer way to go before joining the ranks of some of the greats who made the transition from the CFL to pro wrestling, but just getting a tryout is a huge accomplishment and I am sure many CFL fans will follow Wilder’s career in WWE with a keen eye.
Given his physical prowess and natural charisma, I would not be surprised if James Wilder Jr. was one day a big star in WWE.