Mike Rallis played football for the Gophers and earned two degrees in marketing and entrepreneurial management from the Carlson School of Management. His experience in both endeavors has come in handy in his professional career.
If you want proof, he’ll smash a metal folding chair over your head and then yell into a microphone to draw attention to his brute strength.
And don’t call him Mike again. His new name is Crazy Moss, an aspiring WWE performer with long black hair, silver tongue and Zeus-like body.
The Edina-raised man once known as Mike Rallis frequented Timberwolves games at the Target Center.
On Friday night, the same person will enter the Target Center to music and flashing lights to take on his friend-turned-rival Happy Corbin in a Last Laugh match at the WWE SmackDown event.
“I’m thrilled to be able to show Minnesota what I’ve done to myself in my 10 years away,” Rallis said.
The answer is not what he originally imagined.
The former linebacker ended his career with the Gophers in 2012, followed by a tryout with the Miami Dolphins that ended after a mini-camp. He considered becoming a coach, but instead turned to professional wrestling.
As a child, Rallis enjoyed watching wrestling. He made a video of himself performing the “Diamond Cutter” move on his younger brother Nick at the age of 10, which in retrospect was a bad idea.
“It looks incredibly dangerous,” Rallis now says. “I’ll take this time to reiterate: don’t try what you see on TV at home.”
He signed with WWE after a tryout and audition on camera. He began working for a development group called NXT, learning the trade at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.
One of the first things was to choose a name with the help of the WWE creative team. They settled on Riddick Moss, who was changed to Crazy Moss during the character’s recent reincarnation. His last name is a tribute to his favorite football player, Randy Moss.
Teaching the art of wrestling became a full-time job. Every day, Rallis had to spend hours honing his moves in the ring, working out in the gym, and honing his verbal skills, which was the hardest part of the process.
Rallis was comfortable speaking in public after giving countless interviews as a college football player. But, as he noted, football players are taught not to give notice boards to opponents and not to say anything grandiloquent. Professional wrestling is the exact opposite.
It’s perfectly normal for him to say that he’s going to make his opponent give up and send this hillbilly crying home to his mom.
“You really have to get out of your head and let your personality come out,” he said. “There are times when it was difficult for me. Most wrestlers will probably tell you that when they find their voice, they can be sort of a version of themselves.”
His training included workshops with Hollywood acting coaches, on-camera talk sessions, and one-on-one sessions with the American Dream himself, Dusty Rhodes, a master public speaker.
On occasion, Rhodes would give Rallis 30 seconds to advertise a match. Or he threw an orange to Rallis and said: sell me that orange. He made him pretend to be another person or act like an animal.
“It was just crazy, different things to take you out of your comfort zone,” Rallis said.
Two serious leg injuries hindered his development, but he was finally promoted to WWE’s main tour in January 2020. He returned after an anterior cruciate ligament injury took him out of the game for several months, under the new name Mad Moss.
Now the intersection of life and career offers him a cool homecoming. Rallis remembers nearly choking with excitement in the first few minutes of his college football debut at the Metrodome. He learned a lesson in controlling his emotions.
It won’t be easy on Friday night. Forgive Madcap Moss if he’s acting a little wild on his way to the ring at the Target Center.
“I’m really starting to pick up the pace and have the time of my life,” he said by phone earlier this week. “I am very, very happy to be there. I think it will be one of the most memorable nights of my life.”