North Texas against SMU in the Safeway Bowl is actually just the opening act Saturday night at Apogee Stadium.
The Mean Green open their season against rival SMU at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, but after the game ends, part of the turf at Apogee Stadium will be covered with a wrestling ring. The Denton County native Von Erich family, who became household names in the professional wrestling world in the 1980s and 90s, will return to Texas for a special event through World Class Revolution, UNT announced Aug. 14. The event will feature Fritz Von Erich’s grandchildren, Ross, Marshall and Lacey. Ross and Marshall are sons of Kevin Von Erich, who played football at UNT and also had a successful pro wrestling career.
WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross, who is a longtime friend of UNT coach Seth Littrell, is also scheduled to appear.
“You’re not only going there watching two teams compete at a high level, but also getting the opportunity to see some of the former greats put on a show, I think maybe at halftime and after the game,” Littrell said. “I think you’re getting, as a sports fan, I think you’re getting a full day of excitement. If I had the opportunity to go do it, that’d be something I’d be very interested in taking my family, my children, and going out there and having a great day.”
Littrell and Ross, both Oklahoma natives, grew up in neighboring towns. Littrell also played fullback at the University of Oklahoma, which Ross has been a well-known supporter of.
“We have a great relationship, so to get the opportunity to see him on TV was very exciting, especially a person in that sport who’s very famous; it’s fun to watch him on TV, especially if you know him and that relationship,” Littrell said. “… I’ve always wanted to get J.R. to let me go down there and maybe do something. I don’t know what my finishing move would be, but I think like a DDT or something. I just don’t know if I can get that big sucker up that high. I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.”
But despite having a close friend in the business and wrestling since he was 5, Littrell said he isn’t the biggest wrestling fan on UNT’s coaching staff.
“It’s probably (offensive coordinator) Graham Harrell,” Littrell said. “Ask him, he knows everything from who knows when. Him and (Athletic Director) Wren (Baker), I think they’re gonna get out there and mix it up a little bit, which would be awesome. Maybe we ought to put them against each other. I could tell you this, if Graham can weather the storm for about 30 seconds, I think he has a chance. If not, don’t let big Wren get his hands on you.”
Harrell’s fandom is so well-known, it’s not just common knowledge in the coaches’ room but also the locker room. Just like Harrell teaches his position group how to be better quarterbacks through film and sharing new wisdom, they often get the same routine for wrestling when there’s been enough football talk for the day.
“He talks to us quarterbacks about it all the time,” Mason Fine said. “… I’m not the biggest wrestling fan, but if he’s talking about something and we don’t know, then he’ll get mad at us for not knowing or something, then he’ll pull it up on the internet and we’ll have to watch it and stuff like that. He catches us up on it.”
But talk can be cheap. Every sports fan watches their favorite competition, but the proof of Harrell’s fandom is in three letters, well, actually one, but three times. Harrell’s favorite pro wrestler is Triple-H, which led to his son having the initials, “H.H.H.”
“I know Coach Harrell is a big wrestling guy, so I’m sure he’ll be there enjoying it,” Fine said. “It’ll be fun. I’ll have to stay after the game and watch it and just enjoy being around people. It should be a fun, entertaining night.”