The connection between superheroes, comic books and wrestling is a profound one (and something we've written about before), and now with professional wrestling's biggest event of the year - WrestleMania - coming in less than a week, we are nailing down the superhero comic book counterparts of each major wrestler (and their manager).
Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman: Galactus and the Herald (Marvel Comics)
Who better for the Devourer of Worlds than the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar? Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created Galactus to break the mold of typical comic book villains, putting forth into the universe a heartless, hungry figure with motivations on a cosmic scale far beyond the petty concerns of average humans.
Typically heralded by the arrival of his advocate Paul Heyman (who probably lines up a little more with the bloodthirsty Morg than a morally conflicted herald like the Silver Surfer), Lesnar also turns up infrequently but delivers a big impact. He's a larger-than-life figure who can't be bothered with the petty week-to-week squabbles of the rest of the roster. He may not chow down on whole planets, but he'll chew up and spit out legend after legend like Goldberg and the Undertaker in his quest for another long title reign. Will Roman Reigns be his next meal at WrestleMania?
Roman Reigns: Apollo, The Authority/Stormwatch (DC Comics)
The Aquaman and Superman comparisons are too easy, and not quite right. Much like Roman Reigns, Apollo is often distilled down to the idea that he’s just a parody of a superhero ideal - in Apollo’s case, Superman, and in Reigns’ case, Vince McMahon's idealized wrestler, whatever you might think that means. Neither of them ever get enough credit for being extremely capable in their own right (though DC could stand to take a page out of WWE's book and push a Apollo solo title).
As evidenced by the sour attitude Roman's had for Brock Lesnar's long absences and laissez faire outlook on the WWE, Roman isn't quite the pure-hearted golden boy Superman is often held up to be. Apollo, though? He's fiercely loyal, brash but not reckless, and deeply averse to meddling authority figures pushing him around, not to mention a man doing his best to be a devoted dad. Sound familiar?
AJ Styles: Johnny Storm (Marvel Comics)
A blue-collar showboat who dreams of making it big: the phenomenal AJ Styles, or the scrappy little brother of the Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm? Both Johnny and AJ have outgrown their humble roots by becoming some of the most recognizable names on earth, or at least in AJ's case, professional wrestling. Johnny's even found himself in some morally dubious positions himself, such as his brief stint as the Herald of Galactus - though he enjoyed that a lot less than AJ Styles enjoyed leading the dastardly Bullet Club during his long tenure with New Japan.
These high fliers share a smart mouth and penchant for trouble, whether it's beating up John Cena or accidentally marrying a member of an undercover alien invading force. They're natural showstealers who would rather take a flashy risk than settle for the smart, safe choice - but AJ Styles may need to dig deep for some restraint to keep his championship out of Shinsuke Nakamura's hands.
Shinsuke Nakamura: Zatanna (DC Comics)
Flashy, charismatic, mysterious: Zatanna or Shinsuke Nakamura? Nobody in capes comics has quite the same panache as Zatanna, and Nakamura's magnetism is unparalleled in wrestling. He doesn't have the aloof precision of the Sorcerer Supreme or Constantine's broody cynicism, but he and Zatanna certainly do share a sense of tongue-in-cheek showmanship and their own unique (though very different) senses of style.
It's easy to imagine Shinsuke Nakamura wielding magic and tangling with demons - he already did it in NXT and elsewhere, after all. While he's likely not one to want to don a top hat and tails, check out his incredible Wrestle Kingdom IX entrance for a little taste of what you could get from Shinsuke Nakamura, homo magi and illusionist extraordinaire. He brings style and substance to the ring every time. Will "Kinshasa" be the magic word that ends AJ Style's reign as World Heavyweight Champion?
Charlotte Flair: Thor (Marvel Comics)
Much like the God of Thunder (Odinson, not Foster), Charlotte Flair was born into a difficult legacy that shaped the world forever as the daughter of the legend, the Hall of Famer, the Nature Boy Ric Flair. Charlotte is a highly skilled athlete in her own right who, despite only taking her father's name in the ring in the last year, could never escape "Second Nature." Beyond the obvious comparisons - blond, blue-eyed, and totally ripped - Charlotte and Thor share similar complicated family histories.
For years Charlotte seemed happy to coast on her father's coattails, taking advantage of his eagerness to interfere with her matches even at the cost of her friendships until finally casting him aside in a scathing speech where Charlotte excoriated Ric Flair for being an absent father. Though the two later reconciled, it was a much needed step for Charlotte to take in becoming her own person. As much as Thor is responsible for carrying on Odin's legacy, Charlotte has shouldered responsibility for her father's, and like Odinson, seems determined to do it in a way that's all her own.
Asuka: Loki (Marvel Comics)
If Charlotte is Thor, then certainly Asuka is Loki, her devious, dangerous rival. These two may not share the same longstanding history as the brothers, but this match-up is already so immediately intense and thrilling that it makes up for their short rivalry. Asuka doesn't come into WrestleMania with Charlotte's name and legacy, but she's forged her own path with the longest undefeated streak ever in the WWE.
Asuka is a ruthless opponent who will do whatever it takes to win. Much like Loki, Asuka knows she deserves all the accolades and recognition Charlotte's been racking up, and like Loki, Asuka absolutely has the power to take them right out from under Charlotte's nose. She's not quite as underhanded as Loki (no presidential campaigns for Asuka) but as evidenced by her rekindled rivalry with Ember Moon in the Royal Rumble, Asuka has the same dangerous intensity and disregard for social niceties. Like Loki, she's here to prove definitively that she deserves the spotlight by almost any means necessary. Nobody's ready for Asuka.
The Miz: Booster Gold (DC)
Booster Gold is a showboating, gimmick-snatching fame hound who snatched everything from the Metropolitan Space Museum but a sense of self-awareness. Is there anyone in WWE more likely to turn themselves into a self-styled superhero than the Miz? He's already turned himself into a self-styled A-Lister, after all. Like Booster Gold, The Miz spends most of his time desperate to be taken seriously, though The Miz doesn't have the cooler head of Ted Kord around to help him reign in his worst urges. (Though he does have his very own Skeetz-style sidekicks in his loyal Miztourage lackies, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas.)
The Miz is one of the all-time great Intercontinental Champions. Only Chris Jericho has held the belt more times (nine reigns to Miz's eight) and only Pedro Morales has held the belt for more days. Still, it never seems to be quite enough for The Miz: much like Booster Gold, he's always desperate to find one more thing that will make fans finally appreciate him. Maybe, like Justice League Unlimited's Booster Gold, he'll learn the support of someone as amazing as Maryse is worth more than the support of fickle fans any day.
Finn Balor: Etrigan/Jason Blood (DC)
Okay, yes: we all know Finn Balor's Demon paint is often inspired by Venom, but Finn Balor isn't just the Demon King - he's also often a man, and Etrigan's host Jason Blood is a much better match for Finn Balor than either Eddie Brock or Flash Thompson. Calculating, kind-hearted, and reluctant to invoke the power he holds unless absolutely necessary, Balor, like Blood, is a formidable and dangerous opponent as much because of his own impressive technical skill as because of the demon that lives inside him.
Blood and Balor both have their own allies, be it Batman, Zatanna, and the rest of the League, or the OGBC in Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, who help keep them focused and able to resist the temptation of succumbing fully to the demons within. We haven't seen the Demon since TLC 2017, just over five months ago. The Demon King eked out a victory against Seth Rollins two years ago to make Balor the first Universal Champion. With the Intercontinental Title on the line at WrestleMania, will Finn let the Demon loose again?
Seth Rollins: Bucky Barnes (Marvel Comics)
Just under four years ago - the same year Captain America The WInter Soldier debuted, coincidentally - Seth Rollins took a steel chair to the backs of his brothers to cement his place as the golden boy of the Authority, the undisputed future of wrestling. The rise and fall of the Shield, and Seth Rollins, packs the most emotional punch of almost any arc in recent wrestling history, and his slow burning reconciliation with his Shield brothers recalls all the turmoil of Bucky Barnes' tumultuous past.
(And yes, Bucky is a one-time member of Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. like Seth is of WWE's Shield.)
Bucky and Seth have both done terrible things, and while Seth was certainly more, uh, misguided than brainwashed, both men have shown themselves to be both deeply remorseful for their actions but still willing to operate outside the lines of what their closest allies (be it Captain America or Dean Ambrose, who's more of a Midnighter, for the record) might call 'good behavior'. One year after he took down his former mentor Triple H at WrestleMania, Seth is hungry for another singles title win on his own terms, with no help - but whether he's hungry enough to dish out a few curbstomps in his quest for redemption remains to be seen.
The Bar, Cesaro and Sheamus: Captain Cold and Heat-Wave (DC), Braun Strowman: King Shark (DC)
From the MCU to the DCEU, The Bar's Cesaro and Shaemus are absolutely Captain Cold and Heat Wave. Leonard Snart and Mick Rory are lovable rogues who put aside their differences to come together for a common cause. While Sheamus and Cesaro may not be dead set on defeating the Flash, they've powered through tag team after tag team in their quest to retain the Raw Tag Team Championships with the same ruthless enthusiasm.
Between Cesaro's cool, collected precision and Sheamus' brawling strength and unpredictability, there are few tag teams in the division right now that can really hold a candle to their partnership.
Maybe that's why their current opponent isn't even a tag team. Instead, these two will face off against the Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman, and what feels like a very inconsequential partner of Strowman's choosing.
Of course, when you're King Shark, who really needs a partner anyway? He's big, supernaturally strong, and a man of few words.
Just the entrance says it all: BRAAAAAUUN...
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: Hal Jordan and Barry Allen (DC)
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn may not wind up facing off against each other after all, sparing us the emotional turmoil of seeing these best friends turned rivals turned best friends again forced to put their fragile friendship on the line yet again just to satisfy Smackdown General Manager Shane McMahon's petty streak. Even if they're on the wrong side of the law, since they rekindled their friendship these two have stuck by each other through thick and thin - just like one of DC's most iconic friendships, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and The Flash, Barry Allen.
Bold, brash Kevin Owens and kind, dedicated Sami Zayn seem like a strange partnership, but these two have never been able to escape each others' orbits for long. Betraying Sami in NXT changed Kevin Owens forever, and it's been strangely endearing to see the two of them come full circle, standing together against Shane McMahon despite the odds being increasingly stacked against them. Hal and Barry see the best in one another, and have always pushed each other to be better. No matter what happens at WrestleMania, with luck, the same will hold true for Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens for a long time.
Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon: Agent Coulson and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Marvel)
Much like the revival of Phil Coulson helped boost the prospects of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the return of wrestling legend Daniel Bryan to the ring has singlehandedly made this a WrestleMania to watch for fans around the world. He’ll be taking on his troublesome former employees Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens this Sunday, April 8, with Smackdown commissioner Shane McMahon by his side. Level headed and trying to make the most of a ragtag roster of wrestlers who don’t always want to listen to him, D.Bry has a lot in common with Coulson - even down to their shared rebellious streaks. He’s a great fit for the more down-to-earth half of the original MCU odd couple.
There’s not many better fits in the Marvel universe than Tony Stark for Shane O’Mac - rich, charming, a troubled family history and some probably irresponsible coping mechanisms (though building a suit of armor to fight crime honestly seems more reasonable than jumping off a giant steel cage). Though more often than not Shane is on the side of good, he’s a little out of touch with the average’s wrestler’s situation, and isn’t above being petty or flouting a few rules to get what he wants. These two aren’t always on the same page, but with a common cause in defeating Sami and KO, they may be able to pull out a win.
Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali (Duke Thomas, Dick Grayson, DC)
Battle of the Robins! After climbing through the brackets of the Cruiserweight Championship tournament, fan favorite high-fliers Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali are set to face off for the title on the grandest stage of them all. These two are known for their breathtaking aerial style, and who better for these daredevils than Duke Thomas and Dick Grayson?
Thomas is a newcomer to the Batfamily, a civilian who caught Batman's eye during the Robin Wars event and has recently been charged with protecting Gotham by day as The Signal - a positive force for good overcoming tough odds, much like Cedric himself.
Rakish, charming, clever acrobats: Mustafa Ali and Dick Grayson certainly do have a lot in common.
While both men (and Robins) are generally seen as a force for good, they're comfortable taking big risks when it counts. This is one Robin War you won't want to miss.
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H (Hawkeyes, The Pride, Marvel)
Protege and mentor versus the dastardly authority figures - this is crossing the Marvel wires a bit, but this comes down to the Hawkeyes versus the Pride. Rowdy Ronda Rousey probably has a little more of Guy Gardner's fighting spirit than Kate Bishop's cool, collected demeanor, but Rousey and the younger Hawkeye share the same determination to make it in a field that doesn't necessarily want to see them succeed.
Lucky for Rousey, she's got an ally in Kurt Angle, an elder (not too elder) statesman of wrestling willing to go to bat for Rousey when Triple H and Stephanie McMahon start throwing their weight around to get Rousey under their thumbs.
Trips and Stephanie are most like Victor and Janet Stein, devious geniuses determined to maintain a carefully-crafted image of control and perfection by any means necessary. If there's anything the Hawkeyes chafe again, it's that kind of overbearing know-it-all attitude. This should be an interesting match, to say the least.