So late last I had turned to ESPN to watch the newest 30 for 30 “Nature Boy” which showed the life and times of wrestling legend Ric Flair, and to be honest it really took me back.
As a kid who grew up in the 606, the two most important things to me as a child were always my beloved Kentucky Wildcats and the Monday Night Wars with WCW and WWF. Basketball and wrestling were always the most exciting things to watch as child for me, they just always seemed to be these larger than life heroes, who would always put you on the edge of your seat. Whether it be Tayshaun Prince hitting a three pointer from the UK logo during a game against UNC, or Mankind getting thrown off the top of cell. There was nothing else really like it that would give me that type of excitement.
So naturally for me the two always coexisted, so enjoy this list of Kentucky’s coaches and the wrestlers whom I believe are their counterpart.
Adolph Rupp – Ric Flair
We start this list with The Baron of the Bluegrass and the Nature Boy, the two greatest ever in their respected fields. Whether it was Rupp being a strict fundamentalist on the court as a coach, or Flair being a fundamental in-ring technician, these two always learned how to master their craft. Whether it be Flair riding in his limousine or Rupp driving around in his big four door Cadillac, the two always knew how to go around in style.
Throughout both of their long careers, they both reached the pinnacle of success. Rather it being Flair winning the world heavyweight championship a record sixteen times , or Rupp winning a then record 876 career victories while applying the figure four leg lock to the rest of college basketball, on his way to winning four NCAA national championships.
Joe B. Hall – Dusty Rhodes
Joe B. Hall and Dusty Rhodes, two men who fully embodied the common man role. These two always seemed to have the blue collar fan base, they could always have the support of the working man. Always embracing the American Dream and everything that was right in the world. Never too flashy and never too fancy, but always just putting the work in to get the victory. Both of them a model of consistency, and always being at the top of their game. With both of them finally reaching their ultimate goal of a championship in the end.
Eddie Sutton – Ted DiBiase
The Million Dollar Man and the $1000 Man. Both men were excellent in their professions, and I don’t think anyone will ever argue that. Both, for the most part were always at the top of their game. But at what cost? If life has taught me anything its that you cant buy success. Now whether that be Ted DiBiase trying to buy the WWF Title from Andre the Giant at The Main Event, or Eddie Sutton sending money to then Kentucky freshman Chris Mills.
Let’s just be thankful that our basketball program eventually woke up from the million dollar dream that Eddie tried to put us in.
Rick Pitino – Val Venis
“Helllllooooo, ladies!” – Val Venis, and Rick Pitino probably.
Now the Big Valbowski, and the Lil Rickowski were always about two things, winning and women. Neither of the two were afraid to be a little scandalous throughout their careers, and to be honest they were both exciting to watch the entire time. Whether it was Val Venis climbing up to the top rope to deliver his devastating finishing move, or Rick climbing on top of a dinner table to deliver the “Porcini Piledriver”. The two never failed to leave an opponent or a program down for the three count.
Tubby Smith – Ron Simmons
Now I always think its important to remember someone who did it first, and who better to compare Tubby to than Ron Simmons.
Both are recognized as the first African Americans to win a championship in their respective fields. With Ron Simmons being the first African American to win a world heavyweight championship in the early 90’s, during his time with the World Championship Wrestling promotion. As well as Tubby being the first African American coach to win a national championship in basketball at Kentucky in 1998.
Billy Gillspie – Stone Cold Steve Austin
Good ole Billy Clyde came bursting unto the scene here at the University of Kentucky, like Stone Cold came bursting through the glass at WrestleMania 13. Both from the state of Texas and both having just a tad bit of rattle snake venom in them.
Stone Cold’s famous catch phrase was simply “WHAT?”. Which is exactly what I would always say to myself for the entire two years that Billy was the coach here. You lost to VMI Billy, What? You stole Alex Legions girlfriend Billy, What? You made Josh Harrellson sit in the bathroom stall during halftime Billy, What? You say this isn’t the University of Jodie Meeks Billy, What? You went to the NIT Billy, What? You got arrested for a DUI Billy, What?
Win or lose he always seemed to head to the local bar and have a beer bash as if he just won the title. But then again if my record was as pathetic as his was, I would wanna forget about it to.
John Calipari – Razor Ramon
Say hello to the bad guy.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Razor Ramon? He was the villain”. Yes he was the villain and that has always been the beauty of Coach Cal and Razor Ramon. They never pretended to be anything that they weren’t. They let you know that they were the bad guy and that they were gonna beat you. Sometimes its just cooler cheering for the villain, and to play by the rules on the very close razors edge.