By Aaron Oster
5:21 PM EDT, April 14, 2014
Former NFL and University of Maryland linebacker Shawne Merriman signed a contract with WWE late last week, ending months of speculation and adding another Terps player to the wrestling world.
In November, Merriman had a workout at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., but it seemed like nothing developed and a contract wasn't offered at the time.
But then Merriman took part in WrestleMania weekend, including appearing on camera in WWE's preshow panel for WrestleMania, as well as WWE Raw on Monday. Later in the week, it was announced that he had signed a contract with the company.
Merriman has been a longtime wrestling fan, and the camera always seemed to find him when he showed up at events. Many people don’t remember that Merriman actually has been physically involved at a previous WWE event. While sitting in the front row for the One Night Stand pay-per-view in June 2008, he was given a Singapore cane by CM Punk to use on Chavo Guerrero.
WWE signed Merriman to eventually become an active wrestler. However, for those of you who were professional wrestling fans in the mid-1990s, WWE plans to use Merriman similar to how WCW used Steve “Mongo” McMichael.
McMichael was signed after his NFL career ended, and he immediately became a (admittedly mediocre) commentator. While he was working in the booth, he was also training to get into the ring and wrestled for a few years before retiring in 1999.
WWE will use Merriman in a similar way. He will appear on panels, and possibly work as an announcer while training in the Performance Center.
Merriman isn’t the first Terps player to move from the football field to the squared circle. In the late-1990s, Darren Drozdov jumped from the NFL to the ring, first becoming Puke and partnering with the Legion of Doom before taking the ring name of Droz. He was a solid mid-card performer until an in-ring accident left him paralyzed.
Former Terps defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi joined WWE about a year and a half ago, and is currently working in NXT as Mojo Rawley. The WWE constantly refers to Mojo’s Maryland past while he’s in the ring, so it would be interesting to see if they partner the two up at all when Merriman does hit the ring. I don’t expect Merriman to spend a lot of time in NXT, instead training off-camera until he’s ready for Raw.
It’s not completely unrealistic that Mojo and Merriman would hit the main roster around the same time, so could a Fear The Turtle tag team hit WWE?
It’s interesting that so many former Terps are joining the squared circle. With those three, and A.J. Francis making it clear that he’d love a WWE future after his NFL career is done, Maryland is quickly becoming Pro Wrestling U.
Few other colleges can claim as many WWE wrestlers as Maryland has in the past 20 years, and who knows if that number will grow in the future.
Will "Lights Out" succeed in the WWE? What will his ring name and finishing move be? While I don’t expect those answers soon, it will be fun to watch and find out.
Any ideas on how Merriman should be used? Post comments below or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster
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