THE BANK STATEMENT #2 - Pat McAfee: Living His Best Life
It works, I might stick with this.
Welcome to the second installment of the Bank Statement here on Hardway HQ. After last week’s inaugural piece here, I felt very at ease. Of course, views aren’t where I want them to be, but it’s a start. A growing process.
And yet, I was annoyed at WWE for a few days, which put me at great unease.
I understand the way pro wrestling truly works. Unlike the majority of fans, I get that this is a business. Sometimes, in business, you need to make a tough decision or two or fifty. Especially within an entertainment conglomerate like WWE, you need to make some signings and, sadly, some firings. But at the same time, I hate, as a fan, watching talent get released and losing their livelihood.
Samoa Joe, Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Kalisto, Bo Dallas, Wesley Blake, Tucker, Mickie James, Chelsea Green, and Mojo Rawley were let go this past Thursday. Obviously, these talents are tough, creative, and immensely talented. Yet, I’m not worried about any of these talents and their futures in wrestling. Why do you ask? Every single one of these talents have strong enough personalities and drive that, outside the WWE umbrella, they will land on their feet and be very valuable commodities elsewhere. All of them have charisma and character, so, as a fan, I’m not worried about their futures at all.
The big surprising release to me was “the Samoan Submission Machine”, however. Joe, to me, is a very multifaceted individual. A champion the world over, he has been known for his toughness and aggressiveness in between the ropes. However last year, due to his multiple concessions obtained over a few month span in the beginning of 2020, he was not able to wrestle.
Instead, Samoa Joe was moved over to the RAW commentary table, and became a fantastic host to the show. No disrespect to Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton, but Joe was the gem at the booth. His experience in between the ropes led to expert analysis, but his passion and underrated talking ability was showcased to the world. He was funny, charming, and, when the time was right, a phenomenal story teller with the headset on. Samoa Joe truly was this generation’s Taz as a color analyst (ironic with the comparison here is that for a short time in TNA in 2009, Taz managed Joe, so it surprisingly fits).
So after WrestleMania 37, with Joe at the booth, I figured that he would be there for as long as he liked. Well, apparently I was wrong, as Joe and Phillips were replaced by former ESPN and MLB analyst Adnan Virk and Corey Graves on RAW. Then, I figured that meant Joe was moving to SmackDown to work with Michael Cole. Well, apparently I was wrong again, as Joe was released Thursday.
Sad to see, as a phenomenal talent got back on the market, hopefully to either wrestle or commentate somewhere else. I personally wished he was kept aboard, but, as the saying goes, “business is business”.
That still left a wide open spot at SmackDown commentary. Who would replace the empty analyst chair? Would it be Wade Barrett or Beth Phoenix from NXT? The return of John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Jerry “the King” Lawler, or Booker T? Maybe someone from the active roster?
If you answered “none of the above”, you earned the golden star of the day.
The person to fill that seat was someone with loads of charisma. That person was someone with previous in-ring experience. That person was someone who has mainstream appeal as a broadcaster in the medium. Dare I say, that person was someone who personifies the word “rebel” in every way possible.
That person was PAT McAFEE.
Pat McAfee is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever seen.
Born outside of Pittsburgh, PA, McAfee went to West Virginia University as a kicker. He utilized his leg to set the all-time record at WVU of point scoring, overtaking former teammate Steve Slaton. He was a two-time winner of the WVU’s Scott Shirley Award, and, during the College Football All-Star Challenge in 2009, won the “round the world” kicking competition.
In the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, McAfee was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, where he would spend his entire NFL career. In his first season, his role as punter, kickoff specialist, and holder for field goals and extra points helped lead the Colts to the Super Bowl. He led the league multiple times for punting average per yard, and was a two-time Pro Bowler as a punter in 2014 and 2016, his final season in the league.
After retiring due to injuries and issues with the Colts front office on Groundhog Day 2017, McAfee began his broadcasting career with Barstool Sports. His quirky persona and unique charisma helped make him stand out, gaining notoriety with his views and spontaneous thoughts about sports, entertainment, and life. After breaking away from Barstool in the summer of 2018, he started his own small business and began his small empire with The Pat McAfee Show 2.0. Starting as a podcast, McAfee branched out quickly, signing a deal with SiriusXM and joining Mad Dog Sports in 2020.
At the same time, McAfee became an analyst for both ESPN and Fox Sports, covering both college and pro football. For a few short weeks during the revival of the XFL, McAfee was a sideline reporter during the game. Mixing in doing live and stand-up comedy events, as well as work in the community with his charity, the Pat McAfee Foundation, McAfee was a rising star in entertainment. He was brash, witty, and carried himself with poise and complete confidence.
That type of persona made him PERFECT for the world of professional wrestling.
Before being drafted by the Colts, McAfee actually wrestled in an independent wrestling match in 2009, cheating to defeat the WarPig at an IWA East Coast show. A fan of WWF’s Attitude Era, McAfee’s persona in the public eye was tailor-made for the industry. What was the tool that led him to success? His mouth. What is the biggest attribute you need to make it in pro wrestling? Your mouth.
McAfee started doing work with NXT for their kickoff shows in 2018 and was a major part of building up the Watch Along series in 2019 on WWE’s social media accounts, which was a “second screen” to those either watching or not watching the pay-per-view events on the WWE Network. One of the more notable moments on the show was when, during the Extreme Rules event in July, Baron Corbin, a former teammate of McAfee’s on the Colts, got Matt Hardy to hit Pat with a Singapore cane to his sun-burned back, causing pain and hilarity to everyone watching.
But his break-out moment began on a spur-of-the-moment opportunity on the November 1 SmackDown in Buffalo, NY. When the talent got stuck in Saudi Arabia due to travel and other issues after the Crown Jewel event, a boatload of NXT talent was flown in to save, and “take over”, the live show on Fox. McAfee handled color commentary duties with Renee Young, and helped showcase NXT’s uniqueness. His personality was one of the major bright spots, and brought a different eye to fans and critics inside the wrestling business.
Over the next several months, McAfee was a voice heard on the pre-show of NXT TakeOver events through the summer of 2020, but it wasn’t until an incident during The Pat McAfee Show that made McAfee’s wrestling journey CAN’T MISS.
A fallout on McAfee’s show with Adam Cole, former NXT Champion and leader of the Undisputed Era, built to a feud on NXT television. A scuffle on the August 5 show led to McAfee getting the best of Cole, figuratively and almost literally “punting” his head off his shoulders. Three weeks later, at NXT TakeOver XXX on August 22, Cole beat McAfee in a one-on-one encounter. However, it wasn’t as one sided as many would think. Thanks to the training given to him by legendary pro wrestling mentor Rip Rogers, McAfee held his own. He kept it simple with wrestling holds, but was flashy when needed, including a backflip off the top rope and then a springboard superplex to Cole. He even did a somersault dive to the floor, taking out the Undisputed Era, WWE security guards, and McAfee’s football buddies. In the end, Cole delivered a Panama Sunrise and pinned the former NFL punter to win.
The feud didn’t end there, as McAfee returned in the Fall, forming his own gang of performers - Pete Dunne and the NXT Tag Team champions Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch - to rival the Undisputed Era. “The Kings of NXT” and the UE kept their rivalry hot, leading NXT General Manager William Regal to make a 4-on-4 War Games at NXT TakeOver: War Games 2020 on December 6. McAfee held his own, being a dastardly villain and flying all over the place, including a somersault dive off the cage onto the pile of humanity. McAfee’s team ultimately lost, and the Undisputed Era stood tall at the end of the night.
Although McAfee’s 2020 led him to winning the Wrestling Observer Rookie of the Year Award, we all thought that was the end of his WWE run. I held out hope that at TakeOver: Stand and Deliver, McAfee would return and symbolize a union with an evil Adam Cole once again, but that was not the case. I thought McAfee was one and done.
And then, this past Friday, #PatsUpToSomethin came to fruition.
For months on the Pat McAfee Show, McAfee repeatedly alluded that he was “up to something” with his career. Some thought that it was a return to the NFL, possibly signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Others thought it was to schedule a boxing match with Jake Paul, after his fight with Ben Askren in the Triller Fight Club. Hell, others believed it was something involving a major move regarding his broadcasting career. The trend #PatsUpToSomethin even trended worldwide on social media due to the hype of McAfee’s future.
On Friday morning, a video was released to McAfee’s YouTube channel. At the 57 second mark, a clip went to the “gorilla position” of the WWE backstage area with executive Adam Pearce, “the Voice of WWE” Michael Cole, and VINCE McMAHON. Vince made the official announcement with 4 simple words:
“Pat McAfee...YOU’RE HIRED!”
Pat McAfee was signed on to work alongside Michael Cole on Friday Night SmackDown on Fox, starting that Friday night. The seat that sat Corey Graves now sat the unfiltered voice of a generation. I knew what I was doing at 8PM that night.
I watched WWE to listen to Pat McAfee.
For the first time, Cole and McAfee instantly clicked together. To everyone that had, has, and will forever give Michael Cole grief, he has proven to be able to work together with anyone he sits next to. He’s a consummate professional, and his straight man style of broadcasting led Pat to do his thing. Of course, there were some growing pains, as McAfee went on a little too long at times, and Cole had to reel him in, but the chemistry was there. McAfee stood up and watched the matches as they happened, not so much on the monitor, and gave some fun banter to the broadcast. He zinged Sami Zayn on his ability to not fully follow through on a punt kick to Kevin Owens. He admired the Street Profits as the red solo cups fell from the sky. And most importantly, he chimed in when needed during the Cesaro vs Jey Uso main event match. His passion was unmatched. His love of the industry came through. He felt natural doing it, as I admired his ability doing a tough role so well.
Pat McAfee was home.
In the coming months, I can’t wait to see McAfee balance his radio show, his football analysis, and his wrestling commentary. His star power is needed in WWE, and the WWE platform will elevate him to be more fine-tuned as a broadcaster. Within the next six months, in my opinion, Pat McAfee will become the closest thing to Jesse “the Body” Ventura: a mainstream name that enhances everyone and everything around him. I can’t wait to watch his evolution further in pro wrestling and in entertainment.
Pat McAfee is living his best life. And it’s only going to get better from here.
BANK ON IT.