If every Big West basketball team was a pro wrestler from the early 90’s

Updated: January 21, 2018

The Big West is not top-heavy this year. Or maybe it’s all top-heavy. There is no one team that has clearly separated itself from the rest. UC Irvine has the pedigree. UC Davis has Chima. Cal State Fullerton has a big three. Long Beach State has history and the conference’s most experienced coach. Hawai’i has a steady hand and a bunch of steady dudes on a roster that makes sense. UCSB may have the best overall talent and a fresh new coach that is probably both an advantage and disadvantage early in the conference season. 

On a given night there are 2-3 AMAZING games in the conference. Basically, this race is shaping up to be a mid-major Royal Rumble cage match where only one team will be left standing. 

So let’s continue the metaphor (not a simile — I didn’t use like or as). Which team matches up with which WWF early-90’s wrestler?

Hawai’i (4-1)

Hawai’i is 3-1 in conference play. Eron Ganot’s program has transitioned into one with players who also know their roles and play mostly sound basketball. For me, they are Shawn MichaelsThe Heartbreak Kid was a solid wrestling personality. Hawai’i is a solid basketball team. (I picked them 4th going into the season.) That said, they are also very confident. They like to jaw and trash talk. They maybe think they’re better than they are, though they might be just that good. 

While you could probably say it about any wrestler, the irrational confidence and all-around classic personality of this team reminded me of Michaels. 

Cal State Fullerton (4-2) 

The Titans are off to their best start in years. They have three very good players at their core with a supporting cast that understands their roles. Fullerton knows exactly who they are and aren’t. They do a few things really well and playing against them is like staring into the cold eyes of The Undertaker. The Undertaker is big and physical and knows exactly who he is. He joined WWF in 1990 — a sort of new kid on the block at our targeted time period. So, too, are Cal State Fullerton. 


Long Beach State (4-2)

I used to never pick Dan Monson’s team out of the top 4. They were always in the hunt for a conference title and a chance at the conference’s NCAA tournament bid. Some of the sheen is off Long Beach State. Recent years have brought transfers in and out, but they still play the toughest non-conference schedule and probably have the biggest overall revenue of any program in the conference. For that, this team is the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase. DiBiase’s upfront capitalist attitude (“Everybody’s got a price!”) made so many people uncomfortable and made him a classic heel. 

DiBiase’s character didn’t just elicit emotional responses. He made you introspective about why you did or didn’t like him. He brought all your own moral defects to your conscious mind. In the end, you had to respect the character because he did what he did. At some point, as a fan, you knew what was coming.

UCSB (3-2) 

In a week, UCSB could be right back on top of the conference. For me, they are still the team to beat, though currently they’re in SIXTH place. SIXTH. 

Because of their big start, UCSB is Hulk Hogan. Even into the early 90’s, Hogan was still dominant and still a good guy. Eventually he turned, but the bright yellow hulk tank from ’92 screams Isla Vista to me. 

Oh yeah, Brother!

Really though, Hulk Hogan was a centerpiece of WWF for most of two decades and UCSB has a rich history and is still the favorite in my mind. The Gauchos as Hulk just makes sense to me. 

UC Davis (3-2) 

UC Davis was my preseason #1 pick. Jim Les has an intense game demeanor that, under the surface, I know is basically Ric FlairThe Nature Boy was a top-3 dominant personality in the sport for years. Kids at my high school used to put up both hands and go WOOOOOOOOOO on a regular basis. One of our student body presidents used to read the announcements in homage to Flair just about every morning. 

A few years ago, I might have picked Long Beach State to be Flair. They were the team who was always there — year after year. Davis has become that team now. They have the marquee talent in the conference in Chima Monecke. They have worked hard to get relevant and they’ll do everything they can to stay there, even if it means turning heel sometimes. 


UC Irvine (3-3)

Russell Turner continues to amaze. He’s lost two seven-footers in recent years, but still boasts the biggest team in the conference in the paint. Between Jonathon Galloway, Tommy Rutherford, Elston Jones, and Brad Greene, UCI’s power forward nearly always has a post-up advantage against the opponent. Last night, the Anteaters outscored Cal Poly 44-16 in the paint. UCI has talented guards too, but for me they are Big Boss Man. 

Big Boss Man was, first and foremost, big. He didn’t let anybody get away with anything, and that’s the way UCI has played over the past 3-5 years. The Anteaters take advantage of opponents’ mistakes and don’t let them get away with anything either. To beat the Big Boss Man, you had to be on the top of your game. Same with UCI this season. 

CSUN (2-3)

I didn’t really know where to put the Matadors, so I enlisted some help. Ghizal Hasan, their radio voice, said Razor Ramon would be a good choice. So we’ll go with Ramon. 

Ramon was good times. CSUN can be good times too when things are going well. The hair is amazing. I had one other person vote for Hardy Boys for CSUN. 


Cal Poly (1-4)

The Mustangs won their first game in wild fashion, and thank goodness they did. Cal Poly has since lost three straight including last night in Irvine. They are at their best when their games are a little weird. They have some very specialized skills, and also some very specific weaknesses. 

I couldn’t find anywhere to put them, so maybe they’re Sgt. Slaughter. Maybe it works. Cal Poly is a pretty conservative campus overall. 

As a Cal Poly fan, I’ll say this — Sgt. Slaughter isn’t afraid of anybody. Neither is Cal Poly. Sgt. Slaughter is self-made. Lots of Cal Poly guys are too — many are JUCO transfers or transfers from other larger programs. Yeah, I think Sgt. Slaughter is a decent proxy for the Mustangs. 

UC Riverside (0-5)

I don’t want to pile-on. This group lost their head coach on New Year’s Day. They’ve been without their star point guard for all of conference play so far. What wrestler should UCR be?!

I thought about this one not very much, but the guy who I haven’t gotten on this list yet is Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Since it’s pretty unorthodox to fire a coach midseason, and having a huge python in the ring is also pretty uncommon, maybe this is a match made in heaven. Jake the Snake. 

Dude, how did they let Macho Man get bit by Jake’s snake? Holy crap.