This Power Poll comes to you live just two days after WWE presented their Clash of the Champions event from Indianapolis. In honor of that event, and by popular request from some of the commentariat, this week the Power Poll brings you Champions of Professional Wrestling! I also asked noted OTE wrestling fan Jon Ross for some of his thoughts on the teams and the champions, so his responses are mixed in with Aaron’s. Try and guess whose is whose!
We’ve got 16 voters this week, so let the fake punching, belt winning, and well-reasoned discussion (lol) begin!
#1: Ohio State Buckeyes, Triple H, 222 points, 14 First Place Votes, Last Week: #1
Just like Triple H, the Buckeyes always find a way to put themselves over. Also just like Triple H, Buckeyes fans always find a way to make it about themselves. Even though they lost 14 starters to the NFL, did you really think OSU would just disappear from the main event scene? Even when they’re shockingly upset by a jobber like Virginia Tech, Ohio State gets itself another shot. As one of the great champions in WWE history, Triple H was known for politicking his way into every big match, even when most people just wanted him to go away. Sounds familiar. Besides, without the Buckeyes, wouldn’t we just hand the belt to Michigan?
#2: Michigan Wolverines, The Ultimate Warrior, 208 points, 2 First Place Votes, Last Week: #2
I know what you’re thinking. Jim Harbaugh is too much of a heel to represent a team of Ultimate Warriors, but both the wrestler and the football team are infused with an indomitable fighting spirit and enthusiasm unknown to mankind. They also both sport iconic headgear, whether that be a helmet or facepaint. Warrior will always be remembered as a great champion by wrestling fans, albeit a little overhyped, and the Wolverines will surely have some memorable seasons in their future if Harbaugh sticks around. On the other hand, Warrior shone really bright for a few years and then quickly burned out, but it’s not like Michigan has to worry about that with Harbaugh.
#3: Wisconsin Badgers, The Undertaker, 191 points, Last Week: #4
Undertaker may never have reached the staggering highs of some of his peers, but he was so steady and so reliable for so many years that his absolute floor was always upper mid-card, and he could always credibly main event in a pinch. Wisconsin may never win the CFP, but the infrastructure created by Barry Alvarez has left Wisconsin’s floor pretty high. Plus, we all left their playoff hopes for dead when we looked at the non-conference schedule and the crossover schedule. It seemed like five losses were a real possibility, but now that LSU and Michigan State are both resting in peace, we’re starting to wonder just how far this tombstoning machine can go.
#4: Nebraska Cornhuskers, Hulk Hogan, 177 points, Last Week: #5
Hey Brother, remember the early 1990s, when Nebraska was the best team in the nation and the Hulkster was on top of the wrestling world? That was awesome. Now that Hogan is a pariah and the Huskers are just getting their footing under second-year head coach Mike Riley, the glory days seem so far away, but the door isn’t completely shut on Hogan return to WWE or Nebraska becoming a national contender again. When either of those two things happen, the fan response will be enormous.
#5: Minnesota Golden Gophers, Brock Lesnar, 147 points, Last Week: #6
Minnesota hasn’t been as dominant as Brock Lesnar since before World War II, but this one is an easy comparison because Lesnar is a Minnesota alumnus. Both entities are only mediocre at football, so maybe the connection goes a little deeper than we first thought. Plus, both Minnesota and Brock Lesnar are known for having a trash talking hype-man whose act is wearing thin.
#6: Michigan State Spartans, John Cena, 144 points, Last Week: #3
You might not think of Sparty as the face that runs the place, but the facts say otherwise. Michigan State has won double-digit games in five of the last six seasons, a stretch that includes three Big Ten titles. Plus, every time someone mentions John Cena as one of Pro Wrestling's biggest stars ever, people are quick to mention he’s no Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold or The Rock. Perhaps a bit of disrespect? Anyway, both Sparty and Cena have suffered tough defeats lately, but both also have a chance to get the title belt back around their waists before the end of the year.
#7: Maryland Terrapins, Mick Foley, 121 points, Last Week: #9
Mick Foley might be better at the business of wrestling than he was as an actual wrestler. Sure, he won a WWE Championship or two, but he’s now the general manager of Raw, he has his own successful touring comedy show, his own reality show, and he’s a multi-time NYT best-selling author. Just like how ex-Maryland football player Kevin Plank left his athletic career behind to turn Under Armour into a sports apparel heavyweight overnight. Plus, Foley has been through nearly as many character iterations as Maryland has gone through uniform variants.
#8: Iowa Hawkeyes, Goldberg, 117 points, Last Week: #8
Just like with Goldberg’s undefeated streak, Iowa’s undefeated 2015 season ended when the Hawkeyes were tasered by Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game. Instead of getting revenge like Goldberg did, though, they got ran over by Christian McCaffrey in the Rose Bowl. Iowa played more like Gillberg in the game against Rutgers this week, but still managed to pull out a narrow victory. I guess that makes Rutgers the ultimate jobber. The comparison gets even deeper when you realize Goldberg’s last win in a WWE ring was a sloppy, boring affair that saw the fans turn on him mid-match and boo him out of the arena. What are the odds Kirk Ferentz ever experiences a home win like that? Pretty low I bet.
#9: Indiana Hoosiers, Daniel Bryan, 91 points, Last Week: #7
The ultimate underdog. Indiana and Daniel Bryan don’t look like your typical champion at all, so when they win, it’s a big freaking deal. However, when both the wrestler and the program find themselves on top, the feeling is probably going to be short-lived. For that reason, Indiana and Bryan are hard to root against. Yes! Yes! Yes!
#10: Penn State Nittany Lions, Kevin Nash, 75 points, Last Week: 10
When Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, it was like a New World Order was beginning… just like the one that Kevin Nash helped start when he joined forces with Scott Hall and a mystery partner, which of course turned out to be Hulk Hogan. This would be like if Penn State, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland teamed up to take over the Big Ten. Unfortunately, the established WWE defeated the upstart WCW and its NWO faction, much like the Big Ten has done to the decades of conference dominance Penn State fans initially thought would be theirs in the ‘90s and beyond. Too sweeeeeet.
#11: Northwestern Wildcats, CM Punk, 71 points, 1 Last Place Vote, Last Week: #11
Northwestern is Chicago’s Big Ten team. C.M. Punk is Chicago’s favorite pro wrestler. The only thing we’re missing is for random Big Ten fans to start chanting Northwestern’s name at games they’re not even playing in. I might just start that myself if Penn State gets off to a slow start against Minnesota this week. Hopefully Northwestern doesn’t leave the Big Ten for the SEC and get totally humiliated the way Punk did in his first UFC match.
Candystripes: See, the thing about Punk and Northwestern...
BAH GAWD, THAT’S BIG TEN COMMISIONER JIM DELANY’S MUSIC! WHAT’S HE DOING HERE?
No, No, No, No, this cannot stand! We can’t have a losing MMA fighter in the pro wrestling Power Poll! Get me a real wrestler out here, right now! Someone like...
#11: Northwestern Wildcats, Terry Funk, 71 points, 1 Last Place Vote, Last Week: #11
Candystripes: Pro wrestling in its current form wouldn’t exist without legends of the industry like Terry Funk. The Funkster has been in and out of retirement (currently: in) for decades now, and in between all of those dormant periods he found the time to win 55 championships of various stripes and levels. Known mostly as a hardcore wrestler to the younger generations, you knew that as long as Terry could still stand on his feet, he was a danger to his opponent’s health (and often his own as well). After the start they’ve had so far, Northwestern could use someone scrappy like Terry Funk to break them out of their funk.
#12: Illinois Fighting Illini, Dolph Ziggler, 52 points, 3 Last Place Votes, Last Week: #12
Dolph Ziggler has spent most of his career in the mid-card except for that one night in New Jersey when he won the World Championship. The Illini might not find that kind of success in the near future, but they have a good chance of coming out of New Jersey as a winner. Or maybe they’ll just lose again like Ziggler has done in almost every match this year. Hey, if Illinois Football could dump stagnating Tim Beck for a name-brand coach like Lovie Smith, then maybe Dolph Ziggler can freshen up his perpetually stuck-in-neutral career with a long overdue heel turn.
#13: Purdue Boilermakers, Gillberg, 34 points, 5 Last Place Votes, Last Week: #14
Back when Goldberg (see Iowa above) was the big thing in wrestling for WCW, the WWE (then WWF) the best way to fight his popularity was to parody him. This gave rise to the "famous" Gillberg. Other than bearing a reasonable resemblance to Goldberg, Gillberg’s biggest claim to fame during his WWE tenure was his lone championship: a 15 month reign as Light Heavyweight Champion, the longest in WWE history. Around this same time, a little school from West Lafayette was making it to the Rose Bowl for just the second time ever. These definitively prove that even the guys you’d never expect to win anything can get out of their own way and do something once in a blue moon.
#14: Rutgers Scarlet Knights, David Arquette, 30 points, 7 Last Place Votes, Last Week: #13
Sagging ratings, complacent talent and a dying brand caused the WCW to make a series of shortsighted moves in the early ‘00s to restore its luster, one of which was crowning David Arquette (yes, that one) its Heavyweight Champion on an episode of WCW Thunder. Negative fan reaction was predictably immediate, and joke-storylines like this hastened WCW’s tailspin into irrelevance. Of course, while the addition of Rutgers won’t murder the B1G, maybe adding a team in the face of negative fan response strictly for its cable revenue upside will prove to be a shortsighted move in the era of cord-cutting and ala carte TV pricing?
And as a nice capper to everything, a more colorful illustration of everything we just said for the TL;DR crowd: