In a sport that emphasizes physical dominance more than any other, football was made on rivalries. It’s why the NFC Central was known as the Black and Blue Division during the 1990s. It’s also why 70,000 people cram U.S. Bank Stadium when the Green Bay Packers come to town.
Some of those grudges even exist in the same locker room. It’s a type of rivalry that can’t be settled on a football field. They need to be worked through inside a ring, surrounded by a steel cage, locked inside until their differences are hashed out.
I’m talking about Hell in A Cell.
For those of you who don’t speak wrestling, Hell in A Cell is a match introduced to World Wrestling Entertainment in 1997. The 20-foot tall steel-cage cell has housed some WWE’s most intense rivalries. It was the ultimate “Oh s***, they’re going there” match until it turned into an annual gimmick pay-per-view in 2009.
After Cody Rhodes and Seth Rollins beat each other to a pulp inside the cell on Sunday night, it’s fun to wonder which Minnesota Vikings feuds could have made an intriguing undercard.
MIKE ZIMMER VS. NORV TURNER
If this were a possibility, Mike Zimmer would have an anthology that would rival The Undertaker. After being fired last January, there’s a long list of candidates Zimmer could throw hands with.
Imagine Zimmer finishing his Week 4 confrontation with Kirk Cousins. Or hashing out his differences with Rick Spielman over the Kellen Mond pick. Maybe he would brawl with Stefon Diggs over his offensive philosophies or challenge members of the media to the fight of their lives.
But while there are many possibilities, there’s only one logical answer: Norv Turner.
When Zimmer arrived in Minnesota, he wanted a great offensive mind to go with his defensive brilliance. He got Norv. The two were destined to be the Mega Powers of NFL coaching staffs. But like all great tag teams, someone finds the will to create their own path.
According to the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling, Zimmer reached out to Hue Jackson after the 2014 season to learn more about the offensive side of the ball. While Zimmer was trying to learn more about offense from a guy whose offense he once called “a pain in the rear end,” his goal was to evaluate Turner’s performance properly.
Eventually, Zimmer went to find backup. He added Tony Sparano and Pat Shurmur to accelerate his vision, and suddenly it was a three-on-one situation. If Turner didn’t resign midway through the 2016 season, we might have seen the biggest turn since Shawn Michaels put Marty Jannetty through the barber shop window.
Wrestling puns aside, this rivalry never got a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps this could devolve into a tag-team match, with Turner rumored to be trying to set up his son Scott for an offensive coordinator position. Zimmer could enlist his son, Adam, who he promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2020. It could even be a triple-threat match if Gary Kubiak returned to team with his son Klint after a turbulent 2021 season.
ANTHONY BARR VS. AARON RODGERS
There were plenty of things that went right for the Vikings during the 2017 season. With the heavens opening up in front of them, the Vikings had a runway to play the Super Bowl in their backyard until — well, you know what happened. But the biggest thing that landed in Minnesota’s favor was Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers.
The balance of power shifted in the NFC North when Rodgers landed awkwardly on his shoulder. The Packers started pondering the end of their era while the Vikings took that momentum and ran all the way to the NFC Championship game. It was the turning point of the season, a fact not lost on Rodgers.
Rodgers used every avenue to let the world know that he was victimized by the hit. While he admitted muttering something as he was leaving the field, he also said Barr was basking in his glory, flipping him off and dropping the “Suck it” gesture.
Barr later denied the accusations, saying that Rodgers had everyone fooled and was dropping his own F-bombs at Barr after the hit.
“I don’t care if [you’re] Aaron Rodgers or Mr. Rogers,” Barr said in a since-deleted tweet. “If you say something like that, you’re going to get a response from me.”
A lot has changed since that hit. Rodgers has gone from likable face to full-heel anti-vaxxer. What wouldn’t be better than to see Rodgers shovel handfuls of ghee into his face before getting the type of pounding reserved for a Packer playoff game? Rodgers’ friend Pat McAfee could also get involved, perhaps turning on Rodgers just so he can do the SKOL chant.
It’s been five years since the NFL instituted a rule that has made Barr’s hit illegal, but it’s time to bring this thing into the cell.
JOHN RANDLE VS. BRETT FAVRE
Nothing builds a fight like a good promo. Whether it’s two players chirping at each other or coaches slinging strays during a press conference, both are cause to make fans want to see two people tear each other apart.
When it comes to trash talk, there was no Viking better than John Randle. He had the persona of a professional wrestler on the field, patterning his eye black like the Ultimate Warrior. While some people thought he was literally insane on the field, Randle also had an especially intense hatred for the Green Bay Packers.
A 1998 Nike commercial showed Randle sewing a Favre jersey only to throw it on a chicken and chase it around. During training camp, Randle brought a larger Favre jersey and wrapped it around a tackling dummy.
“Some of the guys were looking at Brett Favre like he was Dhali Llama,” Randle recalled. “They were going ‘Ah, man! Brett Favre! I want to get his autograph!’ I’m going ‘Oh, really? F*** Favre. That f***** come here to whoop our ass.’ That’s why we got that jersey up in practice. Just another number. Just another man. He’s up there in Wisconsin with a bunch of cheese and stuff. Don’t mean s***.”
While this rivalry had some epic trash talk, it lacks the same level of animosity of some others on the list. During a 2018 Hyundai commercial, Favre and Randle expressed admiration for each other. They even still talk, according to Randle.
“I keep in contact through Brett, through a guy named Frank Winters,” Randle told PopCulture.com last July. “I don’t want my Vikings followers to think that I have Brett Favre’s number, but I talk to Brett through Frank and we were actually talking about trying to get to do a little Packers-Viking golf tournament.”
If Randle’s Purple Fridays on the golf course are any indication, that tournament would be a blast. But it wouldn’t be as exciting as watching him use the same intensity he brought to a schedule reveal to drive Favre to the ground one more time inside the cell.