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This Is Star Power? | On “Celebrity” Pat McAfee in NXT

Brand new NXT tag team champions were crowned recently on the October 21 edition of WWE NXT. Oney and “Twoney” AKA Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch defeated Breezango to capture their very first championships with the company after paying their dues as a midcard tag team for the better part of the last three years. This was a good television main event between four very solid workers that was somewhat deflated by its random finish. 

Returning to make the difference for the Brit and Brawler was WWE’s own Pat McAfee; complete with the Jeff Jarrett Memorial slow-motion mask reveal and soy face combo. As the company’s in-house manufactured celebrity, he was instantly enough to turn the tide in favor of his new friends(?) and just like that, we have new champs. 

The last we saw of Pat McAfee, he was losing a much, much better than expected bout with Adam Cole at Takeover 30. With the benefit of hindsight, this worked out okay. At the time, however, it didn’t make any sense. No, not that he would be working with Cole. That part made a lot of sense. Who better, besides maybe AJ Styles, to be in the ring with a novice and make them look like a million bucks? No, no. What didn’t make sense was:

Who the heck is Pat McAfee?

NXT’s Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch with Pat McAfee

Now, look. I know who he is. I’ve watched football my whole life, and McAfee was about as high profile as you can be for a punter. He made a couple of Pro Bowls. He played in a Super Bowl. He once tweeted a photo of his quarterback nude. He was arrested for public intoxication. However, one major thing I would have stopped from saying about Pat McAfee was that he was famous. 

Granted, I was familiar with the guy. Now, do most people have any idea who was punting for the Indianapolis Colts almost five years ago? Probably not. Without his work in wrestling, I don’t think I would have been able to pick him out of a lineup. Earlier when I referred to him as WWE’s own Pat McAfee, it’s because he’s probably best known at this point for his match with Adam Cole, working pre-show events for WWE pay-per-views, and being screamed at by Michael Cole for wearing tuxedo shorts to Wrestlemania.

With that, we’ve arrived at the logical conclusion for WWE and celebrity involvement. They have gone so far as to create their own, someone who wasn’t actually famous outside of a WWE context, repackaged strictly for a WWE audience as a famous celebrity. Pat McAfee’s gimmick is that he is a person you should definitely know and be familiar with. 

The idea to have Pat McAfee work with Adam Cole likely wouldn’t have happened without the global pandemic forcing WWE to consolidate talent. Thus, we were asked to pretend that this person wrestling was a big deal, when this was really more the 2020 equivalent of a heel working a program with a commentator. Miz briefly feuding with Jerry Lawler during his WWE title run comes to mind. I wonder why?

I want to be clear: I like Pat McAfee. I think he is the kind of person and personality that should be doing these hokey pre-shows. He is practically Howard Cosell compared to Sam Roberts or Peter Rosenberg. This does not excuse the fact that walking into WWE and getting a marquee match with arguably the top guy in the whole promotion is a strange way to go with a guy who chit-chats with Charley Caruso before Backlash. Just because you were in the public eye before you got to WWE doesn’t make you a celebrity. Without being a wrestler, it’s hard to see how WWE is going to help change that. 

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