Throughout his NFL career, Pat McAfee was known for his interesting personality and colorful interviews. Since retiring after the 2016 season, he's transferred those skills into a successful media career, including being a WWE analyst.
But in recent weeks, McAfee has gotten even more involved with NXT and has been a part of storylines; he even wrestled his first match. He's also been able to use his gift of gab on the mic, which is something he's always wanted to do. He talked more about always wanting to be a part of the wrestling business when he joined Busted Open w/Bully Ray.
"Obviously, there's a lot of people I looked up to in the past at being a-holes. I've always wanted to do this; this is something I've always wanted to do," revealed McAfee. "I don't want to say I understand the business because I learn more and more every single time, but I kind of understood the entertainment value of it - what's good, what isn't good, what you need, what you don't need.
"I think as I was watching from afar and through my careers, I was always kind of envious of the guys who got to wrestle in the armories and bingo halls because that's something I always wanted to do. For two and a half years, I had to sit on the Kick-Off panel, just asking for an opportunity to do this whole thing. Now that I have gotten a chance to go, I'm going to go as hard as I can and I'm going to do everything I think I should be doing. I'm going to try to make it as enjoyable as possible, and it's been really cool.
"The people at NXT let me do what I want to do. There's a lot of trusts, obviously. It's a lot of responsibility too, and I enjoy the hell out of Wednesday nights. It's my favorite thing to do on earth."
Unlike most other WWE talents, McAfee doesn't live in Florida, so he has to travel for NXT in Orlando every week. He talked about the process of getting to NXT, and the freedom that they allow him in terms of his character.
"There's a couple of conversations that happen. I get COVID tested on Sunday and Monday here in Indianapolis. Then, I get my results back Tuesday-Wednesday. If those two are negative, and as soon my show ends in Indianapolis, I hop on a plane," said McAfee.
"Whenever I get down there, the audience is already in the Capital Wrestling Center. There's a couple of quick conversations that have to happen. 'This is where we're at, this is what we need', and I have a really good relationship with the people down there. They're like, 'This is what we're thinking, you tell us.' There's been a lot of times where they're not going to tell me how to be Pat McAfee.
"I think that has been one of the coolest parts of the entire thing. It's like, 'Hey, this is what we think. We think this could potentially be this, but we're not going to tell you how to do it.' To be honest, it's been amazing. It has been very, very cool. I know that I'm in a very lucky situation to have that happen for me and I think I have to continue to take advantage of it. When I don't, that's obviously going to change.
"Every night when I go out there, I'm like, 'Okay, I have to prove that I'm worth having this responsibility of doing and saying whatever the hell I damn please.'"
Prior to joining WWE, McAfee hosted a show on Barstool Sports, and he also currently works for ESPN, so he's used to being in front of a camera which helps him when it comes to WWE. However, cutting a wrestling promo is something that some longtime wrestling veterans still struggle with, and McAfee is by no means a wrestling veteran. Even with that, he has still been believable and entertaining in his WWE promos, and he was asked if that's easy for him.
"'Easy' is interesting, because if you ever listen to my show, my show is a three-hour promo. I've done standup 27 times in theaters. I sold out a 6,000-seat theater in 10 seconds here in Indiana. Those are 97-minute promos," stated McAfee.
"I think the way I was baptized into entertainment was the Monday Night Wars and through wrestling, so I think the way I speak and the way I think is naturally a promo style of thinking and speaking. So, I didn't want to say it comes easy, because I think I realize from watching other people and everything like that that it is a very difficult thing. But I think my dumbass happens to be wired in a fashion that it does very natural for me to go out there.
"It's a lot easier to say true things as opposed to having to make things up. For me, it has come easy, but that is not an easy thing to do. I have a lot of respect for people who are great on the microphone. I don't think it's easy, but I think my dumbass brain is wired in the fashion to do a set of things. That is why I've always said, 'I think I'm supposed to be in this business because that's how my brain operates.'"
McAfee had a very public split with Barstool Sports, as he stated he wasn't happy with the business operations of the company. That led some people thinking he's difficult to work with and wouldn't be a fit everywhere. He talked about his relationship with WWE and how they embrace his different personality.
"A lot of people have told me, 'Some other places just might not be great for you.' I'm like, that's cool with me because the NXT folks are the only people who gave me an opportunity anyways," stated McAfee. "I have over 750,000 followers, my own show, my own merch. Since I retired, I've done standup comedy yours. I've said that I was a wrestling fan; I used to do independent shows in Indianapolis. That's how I got hooked up with the IWA East Coast.
"In Indianapolis, I would go to RAW and SmackDown and they would show all of my teammates except for me. I was the one actually getting them there. So NXT and Mr. H [Triple H] are the only people that ever been like, 'Hey, we want you in our community.' It's been very, very cool. I owe them a lot of gratitude, obviously. It's my job to go out there and hopefully make people either hate me or be entertained. And whenever it's time to fight, put on a goddamn show."
In recent weeks, McAfee has formed his own stable that initially was himself, Danny Burch, and Oney Lorgan. A week later, Pete Dunne made his first NXT appearance since the pandemic began and also joined the group. McAfee talked about their stable, what each person brings to the table, and why it reminds him of being part of a football team again.
"It's awesome. So Oney and Danny weren't a part of the original plans. It was supposed to be Ridge Holland, and then, they take out Ridge Holland. The story is what do we do now? Pick up Oney and pick up Danny. So, I didn't really know them in my mind. I hadn't really had much interaction with them. Getting to know them has been awesome," stated McAfee.
"You're talking about guys who have just grinded. Here, you got 30 years of wrestling experience between both of them. Danny Burch looks like he's been in the best shape of his life at this moment. He lost a bunch of weight. Getting to know those guys have been fantastic, and it's been cool to be a part of them and being a part of main eventers now. It's been very cool to kind of see that.
"Pete Dunne is a consummate legend. I always knew whenever he came back, there was something we had in the works behind the scenes for a while. I knew it was going to be big. I knew people weren't going to love it, but getting to meet him and learn about him has been fantastic. I really enjoy the dudes. I think that's a big part of it by the way. In my world – in the NFL – if a team likes each other, it's normally going to be a lot better. If a team doesn't like each other, normally, not going to be great. I assume that translates to the wrestling business as well. We get along really well. It's been a lot of fun kind of getting to know each other and shoot ideas. They taught me a lot, obviously, but it's time to make a run and continue with our dominance."
McAfee has numerous things he's doing outside of WWE including working for ESPN, hosting his own podcast, and doing standup comedy. Wrestling has always been something he wanted to do, and now that he's doing it, the question is how long will he continue to do it?
McAfee talked about if this is just a bucket list type of thing or if he'll be with WWE for the long-term.
"I think after years and years of asking to be in the business-- for years, I've been asking to be in the business. I was reaching out to a lot of people and they're like, 'Oh sorry, we don't have time.' For years, I've been asking, 'Is there anything I can do for you?' So finally, when I got an opportunity, in my head, it was, 'I'm probably not going to get another chance to do this. So, I'm going to go ahead and prove to myself and everybody who told me I'm supposed to be in this business.' If I wanted to, this could have been my full-time business. That was my initial thought for TakeOver 30," revealed McAfee.
"Then, whenever came an opportunity of continuing to do things, I was like, 'F--k yes, let's keep it going.' Although it originally was because of how long it took for me to get welcomed into the community and allowed to do anything, it was like a bucket list of proving to everybody what I'm doing. But now, the opportunity has been, "Hey, do you want to keep going?' Those planes are not cheap for me to fly down. It is costing me a lot of money to do this, and it's because of how much I enjoy it, how much respect I have for it, how much love I have for it, and ultimately, how good I am at it.
"It started as a bucket list and now it's like, 'Let's go ahead and keep doing this thing' because of how much enjoyment I have out of doing it. It's been really, really cool to see."
Just as wrestlers on NXT can get promoted to the main roster, the same can be said for all talents, whether it be referees, commentators, or managers. With the success he's had in NXT within his role, McAfee was asked about the chances of him doing something similar on Raw.
"Yeah, probably not. I'm in such a lucky situation - I have a business. The employees, my guys and I, we go to work every single day trying to do our show. We have a merch business that does well. Literally, everything I've said in promos is true. I'm in a very lucky situation for everything that I've been in, and I understand that a lot of professional wrestlers aren't," said McAfee.
"So I'm in a situation where I don't want to say I can pick and choose, but it really is. If something gets pitched to me, that I'm not 100 percent cool with, I'm very much in the situation where I can go, 'No, it's okay. I appreciate that. We'll see if something else happens down the road.'"
McAfee seems to be aware of his own limitations, and cited them as a reason why he wouldn't be a great fit given a script on Raw.
"I can't read; I'm not a good reader. I literally never read a book in my entire life," admitted McAfee. "That is not something to brag about. Obviously, I don't think kids should do that. I've gotten really far in life not doing it, but it's not something I can do. I'm more of a visual and I can hear things, so when I hear about the script or anything, I don't think I'm that good of an actor that I can pull that off.
"I don't think it will be good for them nor me. So, it would have to be a decision where it gets made where it's like, that doesn't seem like the right decision for me. Even though I know that at the current time - the ratings are higher on those shows. We are coming for that ass on Wednesday nights! I want everybody to know that is the goal. Even though that is the bigger platform at the moment, it doesn't feel like that would be good for me or for them to be a part of."
McAfee received his WWE opportunity courtesy of Triple H, who saw something in him that no one else in wrestling did. He offered praise to The Game for the help he's given him so far in his pro wrestling career.
"I love that man; I do. Now, granted, we kind of look similar. He has 50 more pounds of muscle, and he's obviously much better in the ring, and we both have massive noses. Mine was almost screwed last night when Danny Burch hit me right in the sniffer. I thought I was going to be bleeding all over the damn commentary table," said McAfee.
"But yeah, Triple H has been very, very good to me and I'm very, very thankful for him. So, if Triple H asked me to do something, there's a very good chance I'll do it for him because of how much faith he has put in me, which I very much appreciate in return."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.