Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has officially signed with WWE, an insider told TheWrap exclusively. The ex-NFL great is set to debut one week from Friday on the March 20 episode of Fox’s “SmackDown.”
Gronk is also due to appear at April 5’s WrestleMania 36 in Tampa, Fla., the insider told TheWrap. Current plans call for that appearance to be part of a build-up to a future match. In other words, the three-time Super Bowl champion will not have a match at the Super Bowl of professional wrestling — this year, at least.
The “SmackDown” debut makes sense for Gronk, who joined Fox Sports in October as an NFL analyst. Gronkowski’s Fox Sports deal spans multiple years, a Fox Sports spokesperson told TheWrap, and the expectation is that his football gig will continue.
Gronkowski has previously appeared on WWE programming, most notably at WrestleMania 33 as reinforcement for his real-life friend Mojo Rawley, who also played in the NFL.
On Wednesday, a WWE spokesperson declined to comment to TheWrap on Gronkowski’s status with the Stamford, Conn.-based company.
Gronk retired from the NFL just under one year ago. WWE, which has suffered Nielsen ratings declines and posted lackluster financial results over recent quarters, has courted Gronkowski since then. Vince McMahon’s pro-wrestling organization has been seeking more mainstream-crossover appeal, which Gronk certainly has to offer.
During his nine seasons in the National Football League, Gronkowski recorded 521 career receptions, 7,861 receiving yards, 79 receiving touchdowns, the most 1,000-yard seasons by a tight end (four) and the most postseason receiving touchdowns (12). His 79 career touchdown catches rank him third all-time among tight ends.
With a postseason record of 1,163 receiving yards, Gronkowski ranks ninth all-time in playoff receiving yards, regardless of position.
News that Gronk was near a deal with WWE was first reported on Tuesday night by Ryan Satin on FS1’s “WWE Backstage” series.
See Satin’s report below.
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) March 11, 2020
“WWE SmackDown” airs Friday nights on Fox from 8 p.m. ET to 10 p.m. ET.