UPDATE: Rob Gronkowski officially announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday, March 24, 2019.
Starting in 1987 with Phil Simms, quarterback of the New York Giants, a player or players on the Super Bowl championship-winning team have been asked the question, “So (insert player name here), you’ve just won the Super Bowl. What is the first thing you are going to do?” To which the player of course replies, “I’m going to Disneyland/Disneyworld!”
I imagine that if asked that question after winning Super Bowl LIII, New England Patriots tight end and now three-time champion, Rob Gronkowski‘s inner monologue may have gone a little something like this:
Interviewer: “So Rob, you’ve just won the Super Bowl, what is the first thing you are going to do?”
Gronkowski: “I’m going to Disneyworld, which is in Orlando, Florida, which just so happens to be the same place where the WWE Performance Center is. Huh, isn’t that a coincidence? Yo soy fiesta!”
For several years now, rumors that Rob Gronkowski would retire from the NFL to join his longtime friend Mojo Rawley in the WWE have been all the talk at the end of each season. It started in 2016 when Rawley, while during an interview on Good Morning San Diego, said that Gronk was “dying to get into the ring.” In some ways, that announcement shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone as a year prior, Gronkowski channeled his inner-Macho Man and Ultimate Warrior to become “Gronkasaurus” in a commercial for BODYARMOR sports drink. Unfortunately, the scene didn’t air as part of the ad, but the footage exists nonetheless.
Gronkowski’s love of WWE has never been something the 4x All-Pro tight end has been shy about. Like Rawley, he grew up watching wrestling and was always a huge fan. Both he and Rawley ended up pursuing another love of theirs, football, with the two having varying levels of success in their NFL careers. Rawley never made it into an NFL regular season game, landing on both the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals practice squads after going undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft. While with the Cardinals, Rawley suffered an injury that required 18 months of rehabilitation at which point he had NFL offers to return but ultimately, decided to pursue WWE instead. That’s when Papa Gronk, Gordie Gronkowski, called his former college roommate, Mike “I.R.S.” Rotunda, to help get Rawley’s foot in the door. Now, some seven years later, Rawley hasn’t looked back.
Meanwhile, his good friend was putting together a stellar career on the gridiron after being drafted in the second round by the Patriots in the 2010 NFL Draft. Gronkowski went on rewrite the record books for NFL tight ends and still holds many of those marks today. In addition, in nine seasons in the league, he’s a 4x First-Team All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl selection, 2014 NFL Comeback Player of the Year and as mentioned, a 3x Super Bowl champion. Gronk has also recorded over 1,000-yards receiving in four of his nine seasons, including most recently in 2017, and has five seasons of double-digit receiving touchdowns including 17 in 2011, which led all receivers.
This season, Gronkowski’s production was limited as he slotted more into a pass protection/run blocking role than as a pass catcher. He also dealt with some injuries, playing just 13 of 16 games. In his career, Gronkowski has missed 24 games due to injury with a list of ailments that almost reads like a rap sheet. Gronk has had injuries to his ankle, hip, forearm, back, knee, hamstring, head and has twice dealt with a herniated disc. It’s no wonder then that the 29-year-old is considering a life away from football.
In 2018, following the Patriots Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and just a few months removed from his WrestleMania 33 moment helping Rawley to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale, Gronk began to talk about retirement and what his future might hold. Not helping matters in the speculation area were Rawley, who said to TMZ, it’s not a matter of if but when his friend would join WWE, and Triple H, who told media outlets that Gronkowski has his number. The “call when ready” comment really started a firestorm that coupled with Rawley’s comments, Gronk’s own pro wrestling interests, and the recent transition of UFC fighter and mainstream celebrity Ronda Rousey from the octagon to the squared circle, not to mention him having all the natural charisma, athleticism and personality to succeed in the wrestling business, all signs pointed to Gronkowski heading to WWE.
“Rob is very close with one of our stars, Mojo Rawley…We’ve met a few times, and he’s actually come down to the Performance Center and even done stuff with us at WrestleMania. He’s a great guy, an incredible player, and it’s hard not to root for him. I’ll be watching him, but that’s also because my wife is a massive Patriots fan. Gronk has mentioned WWE before, that he loves it and said had so much fun doing it. I don’t know if it’s something he’d be seriously interested in, but that’s how the conversation started with Ronda Rousey, too. Certainly the door is open for him at WWE.”
Ultimately, the tight end opted to return to the NFL with his focus on winning another championship. He made it clear his drive was still there and he still had passion and goals in football. Returning turned out to be the right move as Gronk hoisted yet another Lombardi Trophy after the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LII on February 3rd. Hours later, he was once again asked about his future to which Gronk told reporters, he’d need a few weeks to decide.
While Gronkowski chose to return to the NFL in 2018, something about this year seems different. And there’s always something to be said about going out on top as opposed to going out feeling you still had something to prove and accomplish much as New England did last year. At this point, Gronk has pretty much done it all in football and no one would fault him for walking away at this point to pursue some of his other passion and interests.
— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) April 12, 2015
If he does choose to walk away from football, two options await: a career in Hollywood or a career in WWE. Or perhaps, as Rousey has done, he could forge a career in both at the same time. Time will tell what Gronk decides to do, but if wrestling is in the cards, WWE will have a mainstream star who will no doubt make FOX happy as they begin their partnership to air SmackDown Live on national, non-cable television starting this October.
But right now, Gronk is merely soaking in his victory and Triple H is merely prepping a Universal Championship belt fitted with Patriots side plates to send to the team. Chances are Gronk will hold that belt in New England’s sixth Super Bowl parade, much like he did in the team’s victory in 2017, celebrating in a fashion that would have made Steve Austin proud.
And if things go the way many believe, perhaps, it won’t be the last time Gronkowski is in possession of WWE hardware.