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Who Would Make WWE's World Cup XI?

Let's take this seriously, please.

I'm not sure if you've heard, but it's time for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. We've waited four years for this, football's coming home, three lions on a shirt, etc., etc.

I am well aware, before you point it out, that this is not a football website; this is a professional wrestling website.

I know this, but I also know that football holds the power to bring all of us together - far more than wrestling, with its divisive, pugilistic ways. As such, I thought it was a good idea to blend the two. I have, against all better judgement, selected a theoretic World Cup starting XI comprised entirely of current WWE Superstars.

A couple of things to mention before we get underway:

  • Nationality is not being taken into account here. This is predominantly a team comprised of American Superstars. In the great words of Tupac, that's just the way it is.

  • I've opted for the simplest and most inspiring of formations. Forget about 4-3-3, 5-4-1, 4-2-3-1, or any other passing fad. We're obviously playing 4-4-2, as God intended us to.


Now, without further ado, let's take a look at our WWE World Cup XI. Don't get too annoyed about the omission of your favourite Superstar, no matter how strongly you think Mojo Rawley would be an incredible right back. This is purely for fun, and to celebrate the 2018 World Cup. We're on the ball.

Goalkeeper: Roman Reigns


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Roman Reigns is a large man and an agile man. I have no idea how good he is at other aspects of the profession - catching, judging the flight of a football, or marshalling the back four ahead of him - but I just look at him and feel his effectiveness as a goalkeeper.

I also think he has the right mentality. 'Keepers are often said to be a special breed - gluttons for punishment and criticism, given their thankless task as the last line of defence. Goalkeeper blunders are remembered far more than an outfield player's misstep (unless that player is Steven Gerrard).

Reigns has been marched out as WWE's golden boy for a number of years now, and continues to face wall upon wall of loud vitriol on a weekly basis. Without question, he is the goalkeeper we need.


Right Back: Seth Rollins


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Seth Rollins' performance in that pre-Elimination Chamber gauntlet match established him as WWE's marathon man. We've seen few wrestle for as long as Rollins while maintaining such a high standard throughout.

While my old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation won't place the demands of a modern wing-back on Rollins, he'll still be expected to hurtle up and down the right flank for 90 minutes. I have no doubt that he's up to the task.

On the other hand, I've never seen Seth Rollins anywhere near the vicinity of a football. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who'd enjoy a kickabout after work with his mates. I have to concede that he's one of the biggest risks in this squad, and as we all know, the weakest players are shoved into full back positions. Tradition must be upheld.

Centre Back: Braun Strowman


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Sorry, but this is self-explanatory.

Centre backs are almost always over six foot, minimum. Braun Strowman would pose an incredible barrier for any set piece or long ball to overcome - and I don't even know how high he can jump. He wouldn't need to jump. He could remain rooted to the pitch and comfortably nod away any dangerous ball.

He's also utterly terrifying, which is a must for any centre back worth his salt. However, at WrestleMania 34 we also saw Strowman's compassionate side, as he carried Nicholas to the Raw Tag Team Championship. Most World Cup winning teams see at least one game go to extra time, and with pressure mounting all around, the togetherness he inspires should see us navigate dangerous waters.

Centre Back: Brock Lesnar


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Picture the scene:

You've exchanged a nifty one-two with your strike partner and burst into the heart of the WWE World Cup XI defence. You've rounded a lumbering Braun Strowman without evacuating your bowels, and you're bearing down on Roman Reigns in goal.

Hurtling across the pitch to cover is none other than former UFC Heavyweight Champion and human monster truck, Brock Lesnar.

I envision Strowman as the stopper in this centre back pairing, dealing with ariel threats from every angle. Should any loose balls fall in and around the box, who better to terrify opponents out of a 50/50 challenge than Mr. Lesnar?

(Note - may be a red card risk)

Left Back: Finn Balor


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Like Rollins on the opposite flank, Balor is a stamina machine. His extensive background in Japan and the UK independent scene have given him a toughness and endurance unmatched by most. He's also very quick and nippy, which should allow him to patrol the left wing for 90 minutes without breaking too much of a sweat.

He's also, crucially, European. I don't mean to cause offence, but every player we've named so far probably doesn't have too extensive a football background. Balor just looks like he spent his weekends kicking a ball around an Irish council estate, before going on to captain the school team.

Finally, as we'll see in a few moments, his partner on the left wing is a close friend. Effective partnerships can be forged on the football field, but friendship is truly invaluable.


Right Midfield: Neville


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We haven't seen him on TV for quite some time now, but for all intents and purposes, Neville remains a WWE Superstar. As such, he walks into this squad. He's possibly the first name on the team sheet.

Neville is everything you want in a footballer: intense, quick, strong, and fiercely competitive. Maybe too competitive, in all honesty.

He's also from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and we're raised on football up here. With the North East of England being a true hotbed of the sport, he should infuse the team with both talent and passion. The only potential drawback could be his selfishness; expect to see a few jinking runs with no intention of passing the ball to one of his teammates.

Centre Midfield: Kevin Owens


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Every good team needs a spoiler, somebody to really take the fun out of the game. Our defensive midfielder will be expected to break up the opposition's play, joylessly dump a sideways pass to one of his nimbler teammates, rinse, and repeat.

The ideal man for this job is Kevin Owens - a Superstar who seems to live for ruining other people's fun. He also has the intelligence to read the game, the right amount of physical heft, and - I imagine - a deceptive turn of pace.

Another key part of football is the mental game, and who better to get in the other team's heads than one of the finest trash-talkers on the WWE roster?

Centre Midfield: Kofi Kingston


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With Kevin Owens sitting back and disrupting the opponent's attacks, we need somebody to provide our own creative spark. Obviously, the answer is Kofi Kingston.

Kofi has oozed creativity for much of his WWE career - from daring Royal Rumble escapes to self-reinvention as a member of the New Day. He's also entirely loveable, a must for post-match press conferences and team-building exercises.

Many attacking midfielders are often entrusted with taking set pieces, but not in this case. Free kicks and corners will be left to Balor or Neville or somebody; Kingston is absolutely expected to make a late run into the box and utilise his jaw-dropping vertical leap.

Left Midfield: Noam Dar


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I'll be honest - Noam Dar is the only person on this list I've ever heard mention football. In his UpUpDownDown appearances, he's been very open about his love of the FIFA video game franchise, and mentioned playing the beautiful game as a child.

As such, he could well be the most experienced footballer of this starting XI - and I'm pretty sure he also utilises a nice left-footed penalty kick as part of his regular move set.

If that's not enough for you, consider also the fact that every good team needs a wind-up merchant - somebody to really get under the skin of the opposition with constant chitter-chatter. If anybody's going to get the opposing team's star player sent off, it's Mr. Dar.


Number 10: AJ Styles (C)


WWE


Like many on this list, I have no idea if AJ Styles can kick a ball straight. However, there's one thing I know he's good at - and that's winning.

All Styles does is win, win, win, no matter what. For that reason, I'm making him the captain of this ragtag bunch. He's also fulfilling a loose role as some sort of no.10/second striker hybrid - mainly because I haven't decided what's best.

Styles is also impossibly agile, constantly energetic, and possesses perhaps the best technical ability of any WWE main-eventer today. Whether wrestling technique translates to footballing technique, I'm not entirely sure. For the sake of this article, let's assume so.

If you doubt AJ's eye for goal, consider his signature Pele kick. Does any more need to be said?

Centre Forward: Shinsuke Nakamura


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Shinsuke Nakamura is absolutely unscrupulous. He's an opportunist, seeking out the perfect moment to drill his opponent in the groin - or, in footballing terms, score a scruffy poacher's goal in the 90th minute.

Yes, Nakamura is this team's primary striker and goalpoacher, loitering on the shoulder of the last defender, doing nothing for the vast majority of the match, and somehow scoring an ugly winner off his shin or knee.

Questions will be rightfully raised about the effectiveness of Styles and Nakamura as a strike duo, given their very open hatred for one another. I'd like to think that all animosity would soon melt away thanks to the next man on this list - our glorious manager...

Manager: Daniel Bryan


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I considered putting Stephanie McMahon here, I really did. Who better to terrify and emasculate a team of XI ego-driven Superstars at half time than the RAW commissioner herself.

However, modern footballers need a softer touch. Bryan can be intense when needed - as seen in his overarching feud with The Miz - but he can also be a relatable and down-to-earth presence. He is every inch an inspirational leader for 2018, and has tasted glory for himself. Not footballing glory; WWE-based glory. But I'm hoping there's not much of a difference.

Does Bryan know anything about football? Does he know his false 9s from his sweeper-keepers? Probably not, no. But if the SmackDown man knows anything, it's overcoming adversity.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]