Babatunde Aiyegbusi: From the Line to the Ring
Babatunde Aiyegbusi may not have panned out as a long-term NFL option, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make an impact in the United States sports arena. In fact, the 6’9″ Polish athlete that most know affectionately as “Babs” is on to his next endeavor: the WWE.
Interestingly, the opportunity came through a connection Bair and Babs made in August when Jimmy Kimmel hosted Aiyegbusi on Jimmy Kimmel Live for an entertaining segment called “Can Babatunde Move It.” During the LA visit, Bair met talent scout John Carlin. A former long-time employee of ESPN, Carlin offered to introduce Bair to a few former associates, which quickly led to a correspondence with WWE Vice President of Talent Acquisition Canyon Ceman.
“Canyon was very excited,” Bair said. “They had been following Babs from the start of [Vikings] training camp because of his size and had been trying to reach him.”
Aiyegbusi attended the WWE tryouts in Orlando, and he generated even more excitement after auditioning and working out with a group of 40 hopefuls.
[pull_quote_center]They loved his size and athletic ability. They were also very impressed with his character,” Bair said. “Babs has a very witty personality when he relaxes, and [he’s] funny. On top of that, he looks mean because of his size. They like the fact that he could play either role—the villain or the good guy.[/pull_quote_center]
For Babs, this is just another adventure he’s more than ready to embark on.
Has he wrestled before? Not exactly. But then again, he had never played American football before traveling to the United States and getting a chance at an NFL roster, either. Aiyegbusi played only in European leagues prior to this summer, but his large frame and athleticism drew plenty of attention, and he spent the offseason in Minnesota before falling short of the final 53-man cut.
Despite his NFL career being short-lived, Aiyegbusi has no regrets about the time he spent with the Vikings, both learning from and bonding with his American teammates.
[pull_quote_center][The Vikings] was the best thing that happened to me in the States,” Aiyegbusi said. “The opportunity to learn more about the game will and already [does] help to develop this sport in Poland. People I met on and through the team are awesome—lifetime friendships.[/pull_quote_center]
The tackle announced his release from the team via Facebook, saying his “purple dreams end up right here.”
But where the Purple Dream ends, another dream begins. Just like before, Babs has the motivation to work hard, to seek out success and make his family—and his country—proud.
“I think my personality and work ethic will help me to become [the] next WWE Superstar,” Aiyegbusi said. “I always loved to watch wrestling; now I will have the opportunity to enjoy being [in] the ring.”
Aiyegbusi is accustomed to team sports, but he’s more than ready for the challenge of transitioning into a more individual sport that requires a lot of discipline and solo workouts. Aiyegbusi said it’s a different type of work than he’s used to, but he hopes to “transform” his body and promises that he’s in it for the long haul.
Making the transition from football to wrestling is not an unprecedented one; in fact, most will remember that current WWE star Brock Lesnar also played a stint with the Vikings as a defensive tackle. Others who spent time in both the NFL and professional wrestling include Jim Duggan, Leo Nomellini, Ron Simmons, Lawrence Taylor and Steve McMichael.
Aiyegbusi plans to be next on the list.
During his time in Minnesota, the former tackle garnered plenty of fans during the offseason and during training camp, and he hopes those same fans will follow his next journey as well. According to Aiyegbusi, you can start looking forward to watching him in the ring; he will probably start competing early next year.
Before then he will finish training and, of course, hopes to find his new WWE nickname. Since he probably won’t go by “Babs,” the 27-year-old said he’s currently taking suggestions.
“I don’t have any ideas yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be bad ass.”