WWE and professional wrestling in general have both seen their fair share of “college boy” gimmicks. Superstars such as“The Genius” Lanny Poffo, Christopher Nowinski, and Damien Sandow have all performed as scholars, looking down on the unwashed masses who make up the WWE universe.
WWE has also been home to a whole lot of real life college graduates, such as Kurt Angle, Kane, and 15-time world champion John Cena. In fact, New Day member and one-third of the WWE World Tag Team Champions, Xavier Woods is currently pursuing a PhD in Educational Philosophy when not in the ring or playing a trombone.
Obviously, this is in stark contrast to that old stereotype of professional wrestlers as musclebound knuckleheads, unable to string a sentence together without using the words “crush,” “destroy,” or “Mean Gene.”
That being said, WWE have employed quite a lot of dropouts. In fact, many of the biggest names to ever step foot in the squared-circle have, for one reason or another, dropped out of university.
In many cases, the future superstar’s love of professional wrestling was a major factor in their early exit from education. Some dropped out for no other reason than they just didn’t want to be in college. This often led to them drifting from odd job to odd job before finally discovering “sports entertainment” (I feel dirty just writing that).
In this list, we are going to be looking at just a few of those performers. Here are 15 WWE superstars you may not have known dropped out of university.
15 Becky Lynch
WWE superstar – I’m so happy I no longer have to use the term “diva” – Becky Lynch took the long road to WWE. Prior to signing with the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, Lynch performed in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan; not to mention her home country of Ireland.
Before any of this, however, Becky tried her hand at living a conventional Irish life. After her high school years, Lynch spent some time in University College Dublin, studying History, Politics, and Philosophy.
However, Becky just couldn’t shake the feeling that she belonged in the ring, and after one year she dropped out of college to go and wrestle on the other side of the Atlantic.
While it was definitely a risky move, the decision to chase her dream paid of for Lynch in a big way, and at WrestleMania 32, she competed against Charlotte and Sasha Banks for the returning WWE Women’s Championship.
14 Karl Anderson
A career in professional wrestling was not always in the cards for former Bullet Club and current Club member Karl Anderson. In his teens, Anderson was pegged to be a huge baseball star, and was accepted into Mars Hill College on a baseball scholarship.
Anderson himself admits that he probably had a bright future in baseball, and hit a lot of “sweet home runs” during his time in Mars Hill. However, he just couldn’t stick three or four years in a Division II school and soon packed his bags.
Not long after he dropped out of Mars Hill College, Anderson left his home state of North Carolina for Cincinnati, Ohio, with the intention to begin training as a professional wrestler. He enrolled in Les Thatcher’s Main Event Wrestling Training Camp, where he learned the skills which would take him to Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and eventually, WWE.
13 AJ Lee
There have been few WWE superstars whose professional wrestling fandom was documented as well as that of AJ Lee. As a child, Lee was obsessed with professional wrestling and dreamed of one day being paid to step into the ring, which is more than can be said about some former Diva’s champions.
But before AJ decided to pursue her dream, she spent a couple of months studying in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Here, she studied film and television production, which she believed would give her some sort of outlet for her love of pro-wrestling.
A series of family and financial problems led to Lee dropping out of NYU because she just couldn’t afford the tuition. In many ways, this is the best thing that could have happened to the young woman as it provided the final kick she needed to start training as a wrestler.
AJ Lee went on to have quite an impressive career in WWE, where she became the second-longest reigning Diva’s champion of all time.
12 AJ Styles
Going from one AJ to another, AJ Styles is the former face of TNA, the current face of WWE’s “New Era,” and is considered by many to be one of the best – if not the best –professional wrestlers alive today. He is also a college dropout.
AJ Styles grew up in a family which rarely had any money and was headed by an alcoholic father. In high school, Styles excelled in amateur wrestling, which he used to expel his pent up anger towards his parents. His mat skills resulted in Styles going to college on a wrestling scholarship.
However, The Phenomenal One soon found that college was not for him, and also grew to doubt his future in Greco-Roman wrestling. At some point during his time in college, Styles was persuaded by friends to give professional wrestling a shot. Despite the fact his knowledge of the sport was minimal, Styles turned out to be a natural and soon realized that he had found his calling.
Not long after attending his first training session, AJ Styles left college to focus on his wrestling career.
11 Diamond Dallas Page
I can’t think of any former world champion who entered professional wrestling later in life than former WCW World Heavyweight Champion Diamond Dallas Page.
Page was in his mid-30s when he first stepped into the squared-circle, mainly because he spent a lot of time figuring out what he wanted to do with his life. After finishing high school, Page went to a couple of colleges hoping to find the one that was right for him.
First, DDP studied in New Jersey’s Stockton State College. From here, he enrolled in Ocean County College, where he impressed in basketball. Hoping the third time would be the charm, Page relocated to South Carolina to study at Costal Carolina University, who had offered him a scholarship.
However, Page eventually came to realize that it was not any particular college that was his problem; it was the education system in general. Deciding his scholarship was not enough to justify several hours of boring note taking a day, he left college in favor of the working world.
After carving out a nice life for himself in the nightclub business, Page decided to switch careers once again. This led him to WCW’s Power Plant.
10 Kelly Kelly
Let Kelly Kelly be an inspiration to attractive, blond 20-year-olds everywhere: You don’t need a college education to be a success, girls.
After completing high school, Barbie Blank (yes, that’s actually her name) went on to study Broadcast Journalism in college, intending to become a news anchor. It was around this time that the then nineteen-year-old was discovered by officials from World Wrestling Entertainment.
Naturally, Vince McMahon and his cronies saw the inexperienced and completely untrained model as the perfect addition to WWE’s already failing diva’s division.
After minimal training, Kelly Kelly debuted on WWE television as part of the Extreme Exposé on the recently revived ECW brand. Somehow, Vince McMahon’s version of Extreme Championship Wrestling was a resounding failure and Kelly Kelly was moved around the company’s main shows. During this time, she began to wrestle more and more, and went on to become the contoured face of the Diva’s division.
9 Ted DiBiase
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase very nearly became a normal guy with a normal job. As a young man, his strength and athleticism earned him a football scholarship at West Texas State University. While here, DiBiase fully embraced college life, becoming a member of notorious Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
By all accounts, The Million Dollar Man enjoyed his time at West Texas State University and had no plans to dropout. However, DiBiase suffered a serious injury while playing football and was forced to leave the university to recuperate. To add to the young man’s heartbreak, the injury occurred in his final year.
Ted decided against returning to both college and football, instead choosing to enter the world of professional wrestling. By doing so, he was following in the footsteps of his biological mother, Helen Nevins, and his adoptive father, “Iron” Mike DiBiase. Years later, The Million Dollar Man’s son would do the same.
Ted Dibiase went on to have an incredibly successful career in professional wrestling, and achieved his greatest fame in the then World Wrestling Federation. DiBiase’s in-ring skill was so great that he was at one time scheduled to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Backstage politics got in the way, however, and he was awarded the Million Dollar Championship as a consolation prize.
8 Matt Hardy
Much like his wrestling career, Matt Hardy’s family life has had its ups and downs. Matt, along with his brother Jeff, was forced to get by without his mother after she succumbed to brain cancer when he was a child. Professional wrestling provided a release for the two boys and they soon achieved local fame for their backyard organization, where they showcased the same reckless abandon which would make them famous.
However, Matt put his wrestling aspirations on hold towards the end of his teenage years when he was nominated for the Morehead Award, which grants the winner a scholarship to any university in North Carolina (essentially a Scholarship in the Bank).
Hardy wound up attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he studied engineering. Matt’s future looked pretty bright during this time, and everything was running smoothly until his father fell ill. With his brother Jeff still in school and nobody to look after his old man, Hardy was forced to dropout and return home.
The story has a happy ending, however, as Matt Hardy later returned to college to gain an Associate degree (not to mention all the championships and millions of dollars).
7 Bray Wyatt
Before he was Bray Wyatt, he was Husky Harris. And before he was Husky Harris, he was William Rotunda and played football for the College of the Sequoias.
The son of former WWE superstar Irwin R. Schyster, Bray Wyatt never really wanted to do anything other than follow in his father’s footsteps. Like many wrestlers, however, Wyatt first attempted to secure a fallback, in case his career proved unsuccessful.
After spending some time at the College of the Sequoias, Bray Wyatt took his talents to Alabama’s Troy University. Here, he played Division II football, but found himself spending most of his time on the bench. Obviously, this was just another in a series of frustrations for Wyatt, who was more eager than ever to see the inside of a wrestling ring.
Though he tried to stick it out, Wyatt just couldn’t wait any longer to begin his training as a professional wrestler. He dropped out of college and soon after signed with the WWE; he was twenty-seven credits shy of his degree.
Amy Dumas was the poster girl for rebellion in the early 2000s. With her fiery red hair, distinctive piercings, and punk attitude, she was the antithesis of the kind of woman we had grown to expect from the World Wrestling Federation.
However, there were signs of Lita’s rebellion long before she joined Vince McMahon’s traveling circus. In the early 90s, Dumas finished high school and enrolled in Georgia State University. While here, she majored in Education and got a taste of life as a student.
Though a lot of people say the college life is something everybody should try to experience, the future - Lita was not all that captivated by it. The classes and the stress, not to mention the drama, did little to impress her and she dropped out in 1993. In later interviews, Lita would described her time in university as being far too similar to her time in high school. Bored with it all, she set out to find a more exciting way of life.
5 Rosa Mendes
Believe it or not, Rosa Mendes is still employed by WWE, meaning her stint with the biggest wrestling promotion in the world has lasted far longer than her time in college.
After graduating high school, the Vancouver native enrolled in the University of British Columbia, where she studied Business. However, Mendes quickly decided that she had little interest in any of the jobs promised by a Business degree and so dropped out to pursue a career in modeling. Mendes’ gamble paid off and in 2005 she was declared “Ms. Indy 500” by Hawaiian Tropic.
Like many women who leave college early to become a model, Rosa Mendes soon found herself with a WWE contract. Despite her lack of a degree (or experience), Rosa Mendes has competed for the Diva’s Championship, managed Primo and Epico, and appeared on the reality television series Total Divas. She has even performed at WrestleMania. In other news, Bayley remains in NXT.
4 Bret Hart
It really isn’t any surprise that Bret Hart couldn’t hack college life. Being the son of Stu Hart and growing up just a flight of stairs away from the most famous wrestling dojo of all time, The Hitman was always going to be a professional wrestler. However, Bret briefly tried to set up a life for himself outside of wrestling and enrolled in Mount Royal College.
In college, Hart studied film making, but really impressed in his amateur wrestling performances. Hart’s trainers saw such promise in the young man that they suggested he begin training for the Commonwealth Games.
Bret, however, was already growing tired of college wrestling by this point. In fact, he was growing tired of college altogether. What little interest he had had in film making had all but evaporated and he was finding it increasingly difficult to ignore his desire to get involved in professional wrestling.
Hart ultimately gave in to the family sport and dropped out of Mount Royal College, where his grades were dismal anyway. We should all be thankful Bret’s time in college was unsuccessful, as the man went on to produce some of the finest wrestling matches the business has ever seen.
3 Ric Flair
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair has had a wild and colorful life, with his flamboyance and zany antics well-documented. However, Flair’s life could have gone in a very different direction had he been a little bit more interested in his school work.
Like many wrestlers on this list (and many who actually went on to graduate) the 16-time world champion went off to college on a football scholarship. Flair studied at the University of Minnesota, where he was a sporting hero. Unfortunately for Flair, his inability to apply himself to the academic side of things created a lot of problems for him.
Rather than force himself to do something he didn’t want to do, Flair took a gamble on his future and dropped out of college. In his autobiography To Be The Man, Ric says he took a job as an insurance salesman to stay afloat after dropping out. It wasn’t long after that he began his training and became The Nature Boy.
2 Shawn Michaels
Despite his relatively “normal” size, Shawn Michaels was so impressive playing football in high school that he was named captain of the team. From high school, he went on to study at South West Texas State University, in San Marcos, Texas.
The Heartbreak Kid wanted to make his strict military father proud by working hard and earning his degree, but that proved to be a lot more difficult than he had anticipated. Not long into his stint at South West Texas State University, Michaels was forced to admit that he was in over his head and dropped out.
Shortly after this, HBK decided to pursue a career in professional wrestling. Much like when he played football in high school, Michaels did not let his smaller physique stop him from succeeding in a business dominated by giants. After spending a number of years in a tag-team with Marty Jannetty, Michaels went out on his own and captured the Intercontinental Championship before winning the big one at WrestleMania XII.
1 Hulk Hogan
A common complaint about college students in 2016 is that they are too politically correct. However, if Hulk Hogan had completed his time at the University of South Florida, he probably could have avoided the irreparable damage to his image which occurred around this time last year.
Surprisingly, it was not Hulk Hogan’s love of wrestling, but his love of music that got in the way of his studies at the Florida university. Hogan was an avid bass guitarist and played in a number of bands during his time in university (one of which may or may not have been Metallica).
The Hulkster decided to abandon his degree and chase musical stardom after the frequency of his gigs increased. Somehow, this resulted in the abnormally large Hogan getting involved in professional wrestling. After spending some time performing around the world, Hogan was signed by Vince McMahon, who wanted to make him the face of his World Wrestling Federation.
Of course, all we have to go on for this information is the word of Hulk Hogan, so take it with a grain of salt.