Inside the Panthers

Here’s why DeAngelo Williams is leaving pro wrestling after just one splashy match

Free agent running back DeAngelo Williams has no plans to return to the ring after his pro wrestling debut this week, but he still hopes to play again in the NFL.
Free agent running back DeAngelo Williams has no plans to return to the ring after his pro wrestling debut this week, but he still hopes to play again in the NFL. AP

While DeAngelo Williams flashed enormous potential in his pro wrestling debut, the former Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers running back has no plans to return to the ring. And Williams isn’t ready to stop playing football.

Williams, 34, teamed up with another former NFL player, Quinn Ojinnak, who goes by “Moose” in the ring, to defeat Eli Drake and Chris Adonis in Monday night’s Impact Wrestling Slammiversary.

Williams pinned Adonis (known as Chris Masters when he was in WWE) after leaping onto him on a table. Williams overshot the splash and the table didn’t break as plotted. But Williams’ other moves impressed ESPN’s Terrence Williams enough to declare the running back’s one night “what I would call the best performance we’ve ever seen from a celebrity” in a pro wrestling match.

Think about that, better than Mr. T, Lawrence Taylor, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather and the current president, Donald Trump.

And that’s after just three days of training.

Williams’ debut impressed pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer enough that he said “ It was freaky how good he was. This guy probably has the potential to be one of the greatest wrestlers I’ve ever seen.”

But Williams apparently has and likely never had plans to make pro wrestling a career. He was simply fulfilling a departed uncle’s dream.

“It was my debut and my retirement all at the same time,” Williams said on Adam Schefter’s “Know Them From Adam” podcast.

The uncle Williams mentioned “got me into wrestling.” Williams took his uncle to his first WrestleMania, and they started attending each year. His uncle urged Williams to try wrestling.

“I was like, ‘No, I’d never do that. I respect the sport too much for that. ... I just couldn’t do it,’” Williams said he told his uncle. “He’s like, ‘Well nephew, it’d be great to see you wrestle. That’s one of my dreams.’ I’m like, ‘If I get that opportunity, I’ll wrestle for you.’”

For now, Williams is waiting for a call from his first calling.

“I’m definitely playing football,” Williams, now a free agent, said. “I’m waiting on the phone call with a GM, or head coach, or whoever decides they need my services. I’ll be ready.”

The Panthers cut Williams, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, in March 2015. The former Memphis Tiger played two seasons for the Steelers, who chose not to re-sign him.

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