George Kittle’s WWE, wrestling fandom shows fire in 49ers tight end

Stephanie McMahon/Twitter

George Kittle’s WWE, wrestling fandom shows fire in 49ers tight end

SANTA CLARA – George Kittle’s love for wrestling became well-known last Sunday after the 49ers tight end ran out of a postgame news conference to attend a live WWE show.

He’s not just a huge fan, though. His ideas for how to improve ratings could land Kittle in the industry when he eventually decides to hang up his football cleats.

“I think the script is a little messed up right now,” Kittle said this week of the WWE. “They said they were going to fix it, and I believe them. I'm looking forward to see what they do. You have Dean Ambrose back, and his feud with Seth Rollins is great.”

“One of my favorite things is when I see guys flying out of the ring 24-7. Ladders matches, stuff like that. I love when there's not a single second of down time. Everyone getting pushed, fight, fight, fight, fall out of the ring, and the next guy comes in. He falls out, next guy comes in. It’s like a rotation of six guys.”

Kittle’s current favorite performer is Rollins, with whom he shares a common history in Iowa. In fact, Kittle’s Twitter profile picture is from a visit to Rollins' wrestling school, Black and Brave, in Davenport, Iowa.

Don’t worry, 49ers fans: Per his NFL contract, Kittle isn’t allowed to take any hits or falls off the football field. He still did learn enough to deliver a “stunner,” which is what his profile picture shows.

“Yeah,” Kittle explained, “I’m not allowed to really do anything. I obviously can’t get hurt.”

Kittle unfortunately didn’t make it into the SAP Center crowd in time last week to see Rollins face off with Ambrose, but he watched it backstage on the television monitors. The event was scheduled to start at the same time the 49ers’ game against the Seattle Seahawks hit the fourth quarter, but when that stretched into overtime, it messed up Kittle’s timeline.

Kittle and 49ers teammate Earl Mitchell, a fellow wrestling fan, did make it into the crowd for the “Tables, Ladders and Chairs” main event of Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Asuka, which Kittle enthusiastically described as “absolutely insane.”

Other favorite Kittle moments of the evening: Meeting Stephanie McMahon and Triple H backstage. Daniel Bryan being thrown into a wall, close enough to give Kittle a fist bump. And seeing Lynch jump off a ladder onto Flair -- and going through a table in the process.

“It was pretty epic. It was super cool,” Kittle said. “That was one of the most fun times I’ve had watching a women’s match because they killed it. They did a lot better than a lot of other things I’ve seen. Definitely the best main event I’ve seen in a long time.”

Flair is a close second favorite of Kittle’s, behind Rollins.

“She does things that no one else does,” he said. “She does a moonsault from the top rope to the ground. That's awesome.”

Kittle was a late-developing wrestling fan. An Iowa teammate, George Manders, knew Kittle wasn’t a big fan and “made” him start watching older matches during the summer before his junior year. They would stream anywhere from two to four hours of matches every day.

That’s when Kittle got hooked. 

[RELATED: Kittle's breakout season earns him a Pro Bowl spot]

It started with Ric Flair promos, then matches with Macho Man Randy Savage, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They watched the origination and development of the characters and storylines. They consumed so many wrestling videos that Kittle had data overage fees for three months straight.

But Kittle’s love for wrestling goes beyond the WWE. He’s also a fan of Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, which has combined for a super show called War of the Worlds. More non-stop wrestling action in the ring, like what you see in those shows, is what Kittle believes could give the WWE a needed ratings boost.

WWE's flagship show, Raw, had its lowest viewership ratings in 25 years in October. It has yet to regain its audience. In contrast, Kittle described what makes Ring of Honor shows so exciting.

“The fast-paced stuff is what really interests me,” Kittle said. “… In Ring of Honor, they have guys that do 25-minute matches, but they feel like 5 minutes because there is so much stuff going on. You're just like, 'Oh my goodness. This is incredible.’ ”

While stories need to be developed and new characters introduced in wrestling, Kittle believes more championship matches also would get wrestling fans interested in the WWE again.

“I hate it when there is a champion that doesn’t wrestle every week,” Kittle said. “Brock Lesnar wrestles maybe three times a year. I think that’s kind of hard for fans to watch because you’re not really a champion if you don’t wrestle.

“A championship match. That’s what really excites me.”

Kittle and the 49ers hope they’ll make it to their own championship match in the coming years. That would excite wrestling and NFL fans alike.

Eric Reid, Torrey Smith react very differently to 49ers' $1M donation


Eric Reid, Torrey Smith react very differently to 49ers' $1M donation

With protests taking place in numerous cities nationwide, 49ers CEO Jed York announced Saturday night that the team would be making a $1 million donation to local and national organizations seeking social change.

Two former 49ers teammates had different responses to York on Twitter shortly after the announcement was made.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who played for the 49ers in 2015 and 2016, praised York for his commitment to fighting injustices.

York even responded to Smith.

But safety Eric Reid, who was drafted by the 49ers in 2013 and played with the team through the 2017 season, was not a fan of York's donation.

Smith and Reid were teammates on the Carolina Panthers during the 2018 season.

Reid and former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick led the charge in 2016 to take a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustices plaguing the United States.

Kaepernick opted out of his contract after being told he would be released, and the 49ers didn't re-sign Reid, who would join the Panthers early in the 2018 season.

Smith defended York's handling of Kaepernick's protest, but Reid wasn't having it.

Smith could only agree with what Reid said.

The protests across the nation are in response to recent deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Louisville at the hands of police.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Jed York donates $1M to local, national organizations for change


49ers' Jed York donates $1M to local, national organizations for change

CEO Jed York announced Saturday night the 49ers will be donating $1 million to local and national organizations committed to social change.

In September 2016, the 49ers made a $1 million donation, matching the commitment of the-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, to two Bay Area charities that address social issues in collaboration with law enforcement.

Along with the organization's latest donation, York also committed support for the Players Coalition, which was co-founded in 2017 by Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins. The coalition’s goal is to make an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education and allocation of resources.

York’s announcement comes as protests take place across the nation. George Floyd, 46, died after being arrested by Minneapolis police on Monday. Video later surfaced that showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he told officers he was struggling to breathe.

“People throughout our country are hurting,” York wrote in a statement. “Emotions are raw, and rightfully so. Heinous acts have been committed in recent weeks. Before we are able to realize impactful change, we just first have the courage and compassion as human beings to come together and acknowledge the problem: black men, women, children and other oppressed minorities continue to be systemically discriminated against.

“The 49ers organization is committing to support the legislative priorities of the Players Coalition and to donating $1 million dollars to local and national organizations who are creating change.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]