Surprised that forward Karl Malone is all gung-ho to hop in the ring for a pro wrestling debut against NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls?

You shouldn't be, since the Mailman has dropped several hints of his love for "wrasslin' " in years previous.A quick check of the Deseret News archives resulted in several early instances when the Utah Jazz power forward has talked about his love of the sport

In a 1996 issue of the SLAM magazine, Malone mused about pro wrestling as a possible post-NBA career.

"Yeah, it's something I would love to do," he said. "I think it would be fun when I'm finished playing to do something like that because although a lot of it's acting, a lot of it's athletic ability also."

The Mailman added that he and his wife are avid fans. "Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger, British Bulldog - I like 'em all. We know that it's not all real, but we just love to watch them. Pay-per-view, Halloween Havoc, you name it, we sit down and order it. And when they come here, we go see them."

Five years earlier, NBA accolades cost Malone a much-anticipated night - with VIP tickets, no less - to watch pro wrestling at the old Salt Palace.

Selected as a Western Conference starter for the 1991 NBA All-Star game, Malone was asked to arrive in Charlotte, N.C., a day early for a cover-photo shoot for Sports Illustrated. The magazine was planning to feature Malone, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing in photo of a potential starting five for America's 1992 Olympic basketball team - better known now as the original Dream Team.

"I wanted to go to the wrestling real bad," Malone said at the time. "Hulk Hogan, Earthquake, Legion of Doom - oh, man, I know 'em all. I've been a fan ever since I was a little boy, and I thought everything was real.

"Now," he added, "I know some of it isn't."