Former NFL star and regular on-air personality for WWE, Pat McAfee, was recently interviewed by DAZN about his unexpected role commentating on this past Friday's SmackDown on FOX. McAfee spared no details about the process, explaining that Triple H texted him nearly 6 hours away from show time to ask if he was available in Buffalo, NY that evening.
"So on Friday night, I commentated SmackDown on FOX; not FOX Sports 1, not FOX Sports Ocho, not FOX news, actual FOX," Pat clarified. "Network television! It made no sense to me, I had no idea it was happening... At 1:42 [on Friday], we were waiting for a pizza company to deliver to the office that we had been waiting an hour and forty-five minutes for. The only reason I was still at the office [in Indianapolis] was because I was starving. I get a text from one, Triple H. 'You home?' And I had heard the news about what happened with their planes breaking down in Saudi Arabia and all their talent, commentators, producers, everything basically being stuck in the Middle East due to a plane malfunction. The internet was abuzz about this.
"I get a 'you home?' text from Triple H, and I look at it and I go, 'Oh, damn.' I go, 'Yes, I am home.' I get a phone call from him and he goes, 'Hey, have you heard what happened over in Saudi Arabia with our planes?' I go, 'Yeah, I absolutely have.' He goes, 'I haven't pitched this to Vince McMahon yet but if you were to come in and do some commentary and kind of just do your thing, would you be up for it tonight in Buffalo? Would you be able to get to Buffalo?' I said, 'Absolutely!' He said, 'Okay, I'll get back to you.' So I hang up; now, I have no way of getting to Buffalo. I have a plane that's taking me to Memphis five hours from now but that plane's in Florida because they last-minute scheduled it to go to Memphis because I was going to be on Game Day. So I text said plane and I say, 'Hey, is there any way you guys can get me to Buffalo by six o' clock tonight?' They go, 'No way, plane's in Florida.'"
Pat refused to give up on trying to find a plane to get him up to Buffalo. In his desperation, he called on a favor from some powerful friends from his past in the NFL - Pete Ward and Jim Irsay.
"So I call another plane company, I start calling around other plane companies, I call commercial flights - is there any plane that can get me from Indianapolis to Buffalo in time for this SmackDown FOX debut, life-long, dream event? No. So, I go deep into the playbook, page 140 of the playbook that nobody opens, nobody sees, wiped the dust off and I threw a hail Mary to Pete Ward who's the COO of the Indianapolis Colts," Pat explained. "I go, 'Pete, I would never ask for anything.' I get a phone call back from Pete, he goes, 'You never ask for anything! What do you want? To what do I owe this communication?' says Pete Ward. I say, 'Well, here's the story.' I tell him the whole story about Saudi Arabia, said I have an opportunity to call SmackDown tonight. Mr. H said that if I get there' - by the way, at this point, I'm still not sure if it's 100% or not. I did not know if this was definitely going to happen but I had to get the wheels in motion so I can get there if it does happen.
"I go, 'Is there any way Jim Irsay would lend me a plane to get there and then get to Memphis?'" Pat recalled. "He goes, 'Oh, great question; I'll call you back.' I'm like, 'You got it.' So his immediate positive reaction was like, 'Oh! Maybe we got shot here.' So then he calls me back, he says, 'Jim says pack your bags, Brother!' I'd assume. He said, 'You got a plane, where do you need to go?' I said, 'Well I need to get from [Indianapolis] to Buffalo and then from Buffalo to Memphis for College Game Day.' He goes, 'Pack your bags! What time you taking off?' Still, at this point, I don't definitely know if I'm in the show so I got Jim Irsay's plane literally on standby but I have no idea if I'm actually in the show."
Once he had the plane secured, all it took was the green light from Triple H to get everything in motion. Pat revealed that he rode in luxury while on Jim Irsay's plane, eating a steak dinner and having a flight attendant to address any needs he had.
"So fifteen minutes later, I get a text from Hunter that says, 'Let's go.' I'm like, 'My man!' I text Pete and say I need like 30 - 45 minutes, is that good? And he's like, 'Got it.' He got a flight attendant for us, two pilots, we had steaks on the plane, got on his G4 - me, Foxy, and Zito were sitting on his G4 with DirecTV... I land like an hour and forty-five minutes before the show starts and there's nobody there, nobody," Pat emphasized. "Everybody was stuck in transit. I see Mr. H, he's talking to Brock Lesnar. So as soon as I turn in, Triple H stands up and kind of cuts off his conversation with Brock. I'm like, 'Oh no, I don't want to make that guy mad.' So I get over to Brock immediately and shake his mit. Are you kidding me? That thing engulfed my arm all the way into the middle of my forearm. Massive, massive ham hocks there. 'Nice to meet you, Sir. You're a legend.' He goes, 'Uh, you too.' I was like, 'Oh, well, you said it.' And I just walk away."
Pat recalls Triple H and Michael Cole being excited about the plans for his appearance on SmackDown, however, he felt like one of the last to know. He also made sure to bring a change of clothes in case there was controversy about his outfit like at WrestleMania 35.
"So, I talk to Mr. H and go, 'What's the plan?' And he goes, 'We got a good one for you.' I'm like, 'Alright'. I get a text from Michael Cole and he's like, 'Have you heard the plan yet?' I'm like, 'No'. And he's like, 'We've got a good one for you.' Nobody had told me the plan still. It's an hour before the show, I get told the plan, and then we immediately go into Vince McMahon's office," Pat said. "I'm wearing a sleeveless hoodie and jorts. I had a sport coat and a button down just in case what happened at WrestleMania happened here. Just in case I was going to get kicked out.
"Vince McMahon has still got his fast ball by the way - still got his fast ball in a meeting. Still sending zingers out there, runs through the entire thing, and about an hour before the show, I go out there. At about 8:30, the last hour and a half, doing commentary with Tom Phillips and Renee Young and I had the time of my life out there. When I say I had a blast, I had a blast!"
Pat feels like his role as a commentator on Friday night SmackDown was an overall success. He admits that he did receive notes from Vince and Stephanie McMahon during the broadcast, however, he thinks he also caught them positively laughing at his work.
"Vince McMahon was in my ear a couple times and I think I even heard him laugh once. Stephanie McMahon was in my ear a couple times and I think I even heard her laugh once," Pat recalled. "It was a success, and I had a blast, and it all came to be in five hours. And Jim Irsay, honestly, you've given me a lot. A lot - too much! You grossly overpaid me to kick balls, to drop your G4 just like that to let me do that is so cool. I don't know how many other owners would do that. I don't know how many people could be that lucky, but for me, I did a bunch of, 'Yeah, I can do that, yeah, I can do that, yeah, I can do that,' and had no idea if 'yeah, I can do that.' And it all came together very last minute and I had a great time.
"[My favorite moment] was Stephanie McMahon waving and blowing a kiss to Triple H, who's right in front of me. And then me waving back. I didn't know if they caught it but I knew it was going to be a magical moment."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit DAZN with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.