In reality, Adamle had been hoping the opportunity would present itself for more than 20 years. His road to WWE began with a chance meeting with Mr. McMahon on a beach in Antigua of all places.
“I went and introduced myself, and he knew that I played football,” Adamle told WWE.com. “ I said, ‘Hey, one day, who knows? I might be working for you.’”
Adamle grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and has fond memories of seeing squared circle icons like Bobo Brazil battle at the Cleveland Arena. But his life took a different path once he put on a helmet and pads and stepped onto the gridiron. Even though he was less than six feet tall and didn’t even weigh 200 pounds, Adamle had a passion for the game.
“It’s such a great sport,” he said. “Not being the biggest guy in the world, I loved playing the ‘guy who can’t possibly make it, makes it’ role, and that was part of what fueled the fire for me.”
After a standout career at Northwestern University, where he received All-American honors as a fullback, served as team captain and was named the MVP of the Big Ten Conference in 1970, Adamle was drafted in the fourth round of the 1970 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Over six years in the league with the Chiefs, New York Jets and Chicago Bears, Adamle rushed for more than 100 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ vaunted “Steel Curtain” defense, and had the chance to play with football legends like Joe Namath and Walter Payton.
“That’s the show,” Adamle said. “That’s the highest you can go. I got to play for some great coaches and played with some great players.”
Yet as his gridiron career began to wind down, it wasn’t his ability to bust through a defensive line that led him to his next gig, but his skill at poetry. Adamle’s poem about his Chicago teammates, “The Ballad of the Special Teams,” ended up being set to the Bears’ highlights at the end of the 1978 season.
“Men of all different shapes and sizes committed to a common goal, hurtling their bodies in a combat where fractures take their toll,” he rhymed.
Adamle’s way with words made him a perfect fit in broadcasting, and he soon joined NBC’s NFL pregame show and Olympics coverage. His experience on the field made his new job a snap.
“The transition from being an athlete to talking about being an athlete was pretty simple,” Adamle said. “Although, to this day, I would much rather do it than talk about doing it.”
Adamle was presented with one of the most unique opportunities in sports broadcasting in 1989, when he was asked to host and provide play-by-play commentary for “American Gladiators.” The show that featured hulking bodybuilders and ex-football players bulldozing over regular Joes with military pugile sticks and giant metal spheres was a phenomenon in the early 1990s, and Adamle was in the middle of it all.
The former NFL player even got to tackle events like the Joust and the Eliminator when he took part in a special celebrity edition of the show, as a last-minute replacement for actor Dean Cain.
“They jumped at the chance to beat the crap out of me,” Adamle said with a laugh. “That was part of the fun. It was a riot.”
After “Gladiators” came to an end in 1996, Adamle went on to work for ESPN before returning to Chicago as an anchor for the local NBC affiliate, until WWE came calling in early 2008, looking for a new member of the broadcast team. Adamle jumped at the opportunity to call the exciting action, but quickly learned that working at WWE was unlike any other job in broadcasting.
Making his debut at Royal Rumble 2008, Adamle reported from ringside in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden. Though he had been working in broadcasting for more than a quarter-century at that point, the veteran reporter admitted there were some jitters.
“It was kind of petrifying, to tell you the truth,” Adamle recalled. “You would think that with a lot of the live experience that I had, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but that place was packed and I learned from the get-go that WWE fans were a different breed. They know more about their sport than football fans know about football and baseball fans know about baseball. They know everything.”
During his first on-camera appearance, Adamle tripped over his words, referring to Jeff Hardy as “Jeff Harvey.” Even though he immediately corrected himself, the WWE Universe in New York City was quick to accost him over his mistake.
“If you messed up, they let you know,” he recalled. “I corrected in mid-sentence, but they beat me to it and started booing like crazy.”
Despite the early miscue, Adamle soldiered on, moving from an interviewer role to play-by-play man on both ECW and Raw. His unique style — turning phrases like “Jamaican me crazy, Kofi!” — never seemed to mesh with WWE, though. After play-by-play didn’t work out, Adamle took on a completely new position as the General Manager of Monday Night Raw. Even though he gave it his all, it did not seem as though this partnership was going to fly.
“I’m not quite sure they knew what they wanted me to be, and I wasn’t sure I knew what they wanted me to be,” he explained. “They couldn’t find a niche for me that I was good at, and I couldn’t quite seem to find the right thing for myself.”
Even after he created “Adamle Originals” like the Championship Scramble Match, WWE officials decided it was best for both parties if Adamle left WWE.
“It was pretty devastating to be let go,” Adamle told WWE.com. “Mr. McMahon had brought me into his office and said, ‘We’re going to end this, today is your last show.’ “
With that, Mike Adamle resigned as GM on that night’s Raw. Even though his WWE tenure may not have gone how he would have liked it, he would jump at the opportunity to return and work with the Superstars, for whom he has tremendous respect as athletes.
“I would come back in a heartbeat,” Adamle said. “It’s something I wanted to be a part of and wanted to be successful at. I still think about the people at WWE, because they were great. I miss a lot of them. I miss the atmosphere.”
After leaving WWE, Adamle returned to the NBC affiliate in Chicago, where he has been the sports anchor to this day.
“It’s enjoyable, it’s fun,” Adamle said. “I call doing sports the toy department of life. And I think people still watch it on the news because the first 20 minutes can make you very depressed, like ‘God, how much more of this can I take? Do you have a therapist? Because I would need one if I did what you did there.’”
When he’s not at the sports desk, Adamle enjoys training for triathlons. In fact, the 64-year-old headed out for a mile-long swim after talking with WWE.com. The former NFL player has done at least four Ironman triathlons.
“It’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon back to back to back,” he explained. “When you’re done at the end of the day, you have a chance to brag for the rest of your life.”
That extreme athleticism keeps Mike Adamle going. While he won’t get to show off the top-rope backflip he perfected during his time with WWE, the sports anchor will keep on pushing the limits of his body.
“I will never stop being an athlete, ever,” he declared.