Which former professional wrestlers once flirted with the Washington Commanders throughout the team’s illustrious franchise history?
The current Washington Commanders fanbase is not particularly fond of Bruce Allen. But we old-timers all loved his dad George. Edward Bennett Williams brought him in to build on the work begun by Vince Lombardi after he died in 1970. There was a one-year dalliance with Bill Austin between the two Pro Football Hall of Fame coaches, but we don’t talk about that.
Allen took the team now known as the Commanders to their first Super Bowl. He instilled an infectious enthusiasm that continues to bowl you over when you watch old film clips. The figurehead also traded away virtually every draft pick in the 1970s and overspent on what his owner had called an “unlimited” budget.
He understood as well as anyone that the modern NFL was becoming big. The NFL-AFL merger. The Super Bowl. National television contracts. Professional football was in the process of delivering a knock-out punch to baseball. It was in the process of supplanting it as the most important sport in the country, and as we all now know, that dominance would only grow more pronounced over the next 50 years.
Allen and Williams, both consummate showmen, understood that the potential NFL juggernaut could not be merely a seasonal interest. So they, along with several other visionaries, set about creating storylines throughout the off-season as well as during the season.
One of Allen’s more audacious storylines involved Andre Roussimoff.
There’s a famous photo of Roussimoff and Joe Theismann taken at Duke Zeibert’s restaurant during the summer of 1975. You can find it online. Just do a photo search for Theismann and Andre the Giant.
Even non-wrestling fans know Andre the Giant, such was his fame. He was one of the few professional wrestlers about whose size no one had to exaggerate. He was enormous.
He stood 7-foot-4 and his strength was legendary. So was his ability to consume food and beverage. Everyone in the world of wrestling knew that if Andre ever really wanted to, there was no one he couldn’t have crushed in less than a minute.
Allen wanted that physical magnificence suiting up for Washington. Or at least he said he did. What he truly wanted was the news cycle and publicity that would accompany his professed interest.
Andre the Giant was never going to sign or play with the team we now call the Commanders. He would have taken a pay cut. He would have been a freak instead of a star. Football is the ultimate team game and the pro wrestling pioneer was always a solo act.
So Allen got his short-term news story but Washington did not get its wrestler. However, that doesn’t mean the Commanders franchise has not flirted with other professional wrestlers over the years. Here’s a brief rundown of three such flirtations.