Let’s face it. Our parents always told us that it is important to finish school-high school AND college. I did it, I will want my kids to do it, and so many others will want the same for themselves and their children. It’s just the new normal nowadays, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you look around, certain professions don’t always require or even benefit from the completion of high school and college. Shocking as that may sound, not everyone is going to end up needing the degrees. So, there are of course the obvious career paths where guys do not go to college, or drop out before getting too far.
There are the usual and extremely obvious ones: professional football players-these guys often only complete the bare minimum of schooling before declaring for the draft. For the really good ones, they won’t end up regretting the leap, because after a couple contracts, the really good ones are set for life. The same goes for professional hockey players-many of whom never even make it to college, because as they get really good through major junior levels, they basically have to choose-hockey or school. Professional basketball is another well known sport that sends kids to the pros before completing college. They used to jump right from high school, but they implemented rules to prevent that. Major League Baseball, however, does not have rules restricting high school players from being drafted. The really good ones will get picked out of high school and will be paid handsomely to skip out on whatever college scholarships they had lined up. But while this jump works out for some, it flops for many, where they probably end up wishing they had a degree to fall back on.
One professional endeavor that may be overlooked, but which also sees it’s fair share of talent skip out on school to pursue their dreams? Professional wrestling. Many of these guys realize that training to break in takes hundreds of hours and tons of sacrifice, so they go all in and ditch school in order to chase the dreams. Plenty have done it and failed. These are the ones who have done it and enjoyed varying degrees of success.
21 Diamond Dallas Page
Yes, Diamond Dallas Page went to college. Actually, he went to several, bouncing around from colleges in New Jersey and winding up in the Carolinas. He was very good at basketball in college, so that kept him busy enough, and that is part of why he is just about the latest late bloomer in wrestling. While most of the folks on this list will be seen ditching as early as high school with an eye toward getting their wrestling careers started as soon as possible, Page took his sweet time. Which begs the question: how much greater could the 2017 Hall of Fame inductee have been, had he started his wrestling career in his teens or twenties? Unfortunately, we can only wonder and speculate at this point.
20 Becky Lynch
Yes, even the women get the urge to give up their schooling and chase their dreams. And that was quite true for the Irish Lass-kicker, Becky Lynch. Becky, like many on the list, tried the traditional route, but felt confined by the restraints of that wonderful formal education. After a year of college in Ireland, she had had enough of the books and began chasing the challenges in the ring. She worked all over the globe, honing her craft. She excelled in Europe and in Japan before she finally landed her dream gig, working for World Wrestling Entertainment. Obviously her choices have paid off extremely well: she was part of one of the best matches in Dallas last year at WrestleMania, and she was the first ever SmackDown Women’s Champion.
19 Rey Mysterio
Yes, even the short guys can have the desire to skip school, and Mysterio absolutely had that desire. Obviously, he was challenged and pushed more than most, considering what wrestling meant to his family and his culture. So it really should not come as a huge surprise that he had issues with school. That, and he effectively started his professional wrestling career and the wise old age of fourteen. Give him this much credit, however: he stuck it out in school till he was seventeen, giving it the good try. I think, looking at his career, he made the right call. Over his career, which effectively spanned the globe and covered stints in both WWE and WCW, as well as AAA, Lucha Underground, ECW and Japan, he proved he was basically the best cruiserweight wrestler we’ve ever seen.
18 Superstar Billy Graham
See, it’s not just these younger generation talents that liked to skip school to get a start on their careers. But wait till you hear this story: Graham decided to drop out during his junior year of high school. HIGH SCHOOL!! To me, that is just insane. But, what makes that decision even more massive? When opting to skip out on school, the legendary Graham also walked away from a college scholarship as well, as he was a top-ranked track and field talent at the time. So what did Graham do? He kept working out, and he happened to cross paths with none other than Stu Hart. He leveraged that into a WWE Championship and a WWE Hall of Fame career. I’d say things turned out nicely for him.
17 AJ Lee
Pretty and pretty honest, a Diva known for dropping a pipe bomb or two in her day. But let’s drop some knowledge on Miss Lee (Actually, Mrs. Brooks now). She grew up in northern New Jersey. Not the affluent area, either. Nope, she grew up in less than desirable neighborhoods, in a less than desirable class of income (relative to her parents). She did manage to graduate high school, and even landed at New York University’s Tisch School. But if you hadn’t figured it out yet, NYU is ridiculously expensive, and someone from AJ Lee’s upbringing was not going to have an easy time paying for it. She dropped out just six months in, opting to pursue her dream of becoming a world famous female wrestler. I think she did well by herself, though I think a few fans wish her career was still on-going.
16 Karl Anderson
Clearly, Karl Anderson is not the most established wrestler-at least not when we are considering tenure within WWE itself. Nope, in that instance, Karl Anderson is a relative neophyte, only calling the Stamford offices “home” for about a year now. He and his tag team partner, a former WWE employee, showed up around this time last year, joining their Bullet Club brother, AJ Styles, in the big company. Anderson worked his way up through all the major indy federations, including Ring of Honor and New Japan. But before all that, Anderson went to college, where he was lined up to be a pretty good…baseball player? That’s right, but fortunately for us, Karl Anderson did not have the patience to stick around and see how that career worked out. He started to wrestle, and the rest, as they say, is history.
14 Dean Ambrose
Everyone knows by now that Dean Ambrose is from Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s quite proud of that, as most are of their hometown. What he does not always brag about is how he was brought up-he spent time in public housing and generally you could say he survived his childhood more than strived or enjoyed it. But, once Ambrose grew up and hit high school, his heart and mind were elsewhere. Specifically, he had dreams of fame and fortune in the squared circle, seeing that as his ticket out of the less than pleasant childhood. So, rather than earn his high school diploma, Dean ditched on high school and worked his way up through the wrestling business, doing anything he could to earn his keep before finally getting his big break. I think we can all say that it has worked out for him.
13 Kelly Kelly
OK, I know what you might be thinking: incredibly hot young woman? Of course she won’t need school, she can become a model, or a dancer, or a stripper or just about anything she wants and she would probably make a killing. And even though that’s a rather general and presumptuous statement, it can be true at times, too. And in all fairness, Kelly Kelly (real name: Barbie Blank!) actually was intent on going to school. Seriously, she was actually going to college for a degree in broadcast journalism when she was spotted by WWE staff, and they figured her youth and beauty would make her an excellent (and mold-able) addition to the WWE roster. I think she probably made the right choice, but it’s a fun thought to imagine her as a news anchor.
12 TJ Perkins
Here’s a guy who’s been wrestling for a long time, despite not looking the part. Though he looks like he’s a relative baby in the business, Perkins is actually in his thirties and has been all over the globe doing what he loves. As for his schooling? Much has been said, especially on WWE programming during his program with The Brian Kendrick that Perkins would ditch high school to train and work shows with Kendrick, back as far as when Perkins was as young as fourteen. Based on everything I could dig up, he appears to have actually finished high school, but college just was not in the cards. As with so many on this list, the decision to go all-in to the business of sports entertainment seems to have paid off handsomely.
11 Matt Hardy
Here is a slightly different, but still interesting, story of a wrestling star who dropped out of school. Matt Hardy, the older of the two famous wrestling brothers, had an unenviable childhood, losing his mother to brain cancer. However, as a teen he worked his tail off and had the fortune of earning a prestigious scholarship awarded to North Carolinians, allowing him to actually go to college. So far, so good, right? Right, except it wasn’t long before his father became sick too, and Matt dropped out in order to help take care of his father, as well as younger brother Jeff. It is worth noting, however, that Matt was eventually able to go back and earn an associate’s degree. But, that whole wrestling thing? That kind of worked out for him.
10 Ted DiBiase
This one almost seems like it can’t be true, right? I mean, you would expect for a guy named “The Million Dollar Man” to be well educated as well as well heeled. And, well, characters are made up, so that Ted DiBiase could have been from anywhere, with any old degree the storyline called for. But in reality? Well, he planned on staying in school, but things change. DiBiase, like so many others in pro wrestling, were rather accomplished amateur athletes. In his case, he was a star on the gridiron in college, but that whole career was derailed in his Senior season as he suffered what became a career ending injury. At this point, he decided to leave school in order to recover, and during that span decided he was done with football and with college, and would instead become a wrestler like his father.
Take one look at Lita, and you don’t think she’s the type to conform, to go along, or to do things just because it is expected. You do see a rebel, someone out to do her own thing and stand out. And you’d be right. She did give things the old college try, mind you. She enrolled and was, of all things, an Education major. Seriously, could you imagine Lita as a teacher? OK, mind out of the gutter! But, like I said, she gave it a try and it was not for her. She bailed on college, and found her way to professional wrestling. I think we can all agree that the decision seemed to work out for her, as she wound up having a WWE Hall of Fame career.
8 "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
Ah, the late, great Rowdy One. He was truly rowdy and a bad guy, even from a relatively early age. And that is how he and school ended up not being best friends. See, as we all know from Piper’s legendary, Hall of Fame career, he wasn’t exactly big on conforming. So, show of hands, how many are surprised that Piper was actually kicked out of junior high school? And, once I read the story, I have to admit I was a bit surprised. Not on the being kicked out part, but the reason (bringing a switchblade to school). So, in Piper’s case, he hadn’t really decided to bail on school, but rather, school kicked him out. He took an odd job to wrestle, and the rest is sweet history.
7 Bret Hart
This one just screams out as someone who in no way, shape or form would ever attempt to go to college. I mean, in Calgary, the Hart Family IS wrestling, right? Which basically means that, growing up, Bret was effectively Canadian wrestling royalty, right? Fair enough, but for one reason or another, Bret Hart actually did make it to a college campus, and hit the books. But, he decided after a short stint there that he would much rather be hitting opponents as opposed to those pesky books, and just like that his life as a college student ended, and I think you can kind of guess where this story ends. After all, Bret Hart will go down as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, so really…who needed college?
6 Ric Flair
OK, stop me if you have heard this one before: talented, good looking, athletically gifted young man goes to college and plays football. Right? It’s indicative of several people on this list, and it’s also true of Ric Flair. When he was enrolled at the University of Minnesota, he was a pretty good football player too. What he wasn’t good at? Studying, taking tests and making those pesky required grades in order to be a student. So, Flair dropped out of college, and after an odd job or two, eventually found his way to a wrestling ring, and I am pretty sure everyone reading this knows how it all ended. Sixteen time world champion, two time World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame inductee and plenty of other accolades. Clearly, he did not need college.
5 Shawn Michaels
Good old HBK, Mr. WrestleMania himself, he too had issues with college. He, like many on this list, was a star athlete growing up in Texas. Even though you look at him and might not immediately peg him for a football player, that was his sport of choice in football-crazy Texas. He was a high school star, and figured it would translate to continued success at college. Only, college is hard, even for someone as great as Michaels was. He realized he was not cut out for the hallowed halls of higher learning, and ditched the text books early on for a chance to get taught from the school of hard knocks. Considering the success he has enjoyed through his Hall of Fame career, I’d say the decision worked out for him.
4 Steve Austin
Another Texas kid, and another football star, too. And, like a few others on this list, he had a good football career going until an untimely injury altered his plans a bit. Based on how many former high school or college football stars who lost their career to injury are on this list, you’d think WWE has talent scouts specifically looking at the injury reports and picking out talent from it. You never know, right? But back to Austin. Like DiBiase, Steve suffered an injury which cut short his college playing days. Unlike the Million Dollar Man, however, Austin did not completely walk away from college. He actually came close to finishing, but like many of us, he had issues with certain subjects and decided to focus his energy elsewhere. He landed at a wrestling school, and the rest is history.
3 AJ Styles
The face that runs the place. One of the best wrestlers who, until 2016, had never wrestled in WWE. But he’s been setting the place on fire since his debut in the 2016 Royal Rumble. As with many on this list, he was a star high school athlete, though Styles was into wrestling even back then. He was so good he earned a college scholarship based on his wrestling performances. But, as anyone who has been in college knows, college classes and responsibilities are a lot harder than high school, and he was not feeling it. But, he was convinced to give pro wrestling a try anyways. And, as it turns out, the fit was natural. It was a pairing like peanut butter and jelly. And looking at AJ’s career and accomplishments, I’d say things worked out wonderfully for the Phenomenal One.
2 Bray Wyatt
SmackDown’s World Champion (as of this writing). The Eater of Worlds. The… ditcher of schools? Yes, that is basically what happened. Like many before him, Bray was a good football player in high school, which translated to a chance to play at the college level too. Unlike others, he had two things working against him. First? He was not playing in college, often relegated to a bench role. Second? Not many others on this list had a very famous father who was a big wrestling star. And Bray only wanted to follow in Dad’s footsteps. So, put that all together, and the only school Wyatt began to focus on was wrestling school. He dropped out of college and has become a huge star in the wrestling world.
1 Hulk Hogan
Yes, even the Immortal Hulk Hogan lands on this list. Notice how he has his Demandments, but none of them are “stay in school” or “graduate”? There is a very good reason for it-to do so would be hypocritical, because Hulk Hogan himself did not finish college. Unlike many on the list, his reasons had nothing to do with football, or injuries, or even actually wrestling school. Hogan has long been talked about as musically talented as well, and back in his stint through college, it was rock n’roll, not pro wrestling, that got in the way and ultimately had him bailing on his studies. Of course, we all know how that turned out for him, as he and Vince McMahon together altered the trajectory of pro wrestling forever.