WrestleMania: American football star Rob Gronkowski embracing new WWE adventure

The chance to walk the same steps as his childhood heroes was too good for American football great Rob Gronkwoski to turn down.

The former New England Patriots tight-end is the newest member of World Wrestling Entertainment, which recently announced he would serve as host for WrestleMania next week. 

For the first time ever, WWE's biggest show will be held over two nights from various locations, including the Performance Centre in Orlando, Florida.

Originally scheduled for Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, WWE called an audible and will now stage the event without fans in attendance.

But for Gronkowski, who made his first official WWE appearance on the Smackdown TV show last week, just being inside the squared circle is surreal.

"I have been a fan and watching since I was in second grade," he told Newshub. "My dad brought me to the matches when they came to Buffalo, and I was a huge fan of 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, D-Generation X and Val Venis. 

"To be part of an atmosphere that I grew up watching is an honour. 

"On top of that, to get the chance to work with my good friend Mojo Rawley is a dream come true."

Rawley (real name Dean Muhtadi) is also a former NFL player, who played for the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, before signing with WWE in 2012.

Rawley's biggest moment as a WWE star came in 2015, when he won the Andre The Giant 'battle royal' at WrestleMania in California.

Gronkowski was ringside for that event and actually got physical during the match. His appearance went viral worldwide, with ESPN, Fox Sports and BBC among the major news organisations to pick up the story.

"The global fanbase that WWE has is incredible," he says. "Since my appearance at WrestleMania 33, it’s been insane how many people bring up that appearance wherever I am. 

"Whether I am here in the States or in another country, the fans always remember that. "WWE is a global phenomenon and to be part of the first-ever two-night WrestleMania is truly an honour."

Gronkowski, Mojo Rawley and Michael Cole
Gronkowski, Mojo Rawley and Michael Cole Photo credit: WWE
Gronkowski squares off with King Corbin
Gronkowski squares off with King Corbin Photo credit: WWE

Watch WrestleMania Sunday 5th April & Monday 6th April at 11am (NZST) on WWE Network & Sky Arena.

NFL history prepared me for WWE

The 30-year-old is used to rubbing shoulders with big stars, after spending his entire NFL career as star quarterback Tom Brady's preferred receiving option at the Patriots, winning three Super Bowls in the process.

Gronkowski was regarded as the best tight-end in the game and that recognition came as no accident.

The New York native told Newshub his history as one of the most tireless trainers in the NFL was sure to serve him well as he transitioned to the world of sports entertainment. 

"Playing football in the NFL and being around the best of the best has definitely prepared me for WrestleMania. 

"You can’t just walk out on the field and expect to be ready to compete - you have to practice, work out and know your plays. 

"It’s the same thing for WrestleMania. I can’t expect to go out there, and jump off the top rope or cut a promo. Everything is about practice and that’s what I’ve taken from my time in the NFL.

"If you want to be great in any industry, you have to do the work and prepare. In the time I have been with WWE, I can see the superstars are the same way and they want it just as bad."

Gronkowski also appreciates the comparisons between the Super Bowl and WrestleMania, which WWE often refers to as the 'Show of Shows'.

"The Super Bowl is the biggest stage in sports and WrestleMania is the biggest stage in sports entertainment. 

"One of the main similarities is they are both a team game. In order to win the Super Bowl, you have to be a team. 

"In order to have a successful WrestleMania, everyone has to work like a team from the beginning to the end."

Join us for live updates of WrestleMania from 11am Sunday, April 5, and Monday, April 6.