There's much value in having a quality education. After all, the old saying is true, knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, the better it will help you in many aspects of your life. However, a formal education isn't always necessary or, for financial reasons, even available and some people prefer to educate themselves or receive home-schooling. Many notable figures throughout history never completed their schooling, including some of history's greatest minds like Albert Einstein, Thomas, Edison, and Bill Gates, as well as celebrities like Hilary Swank and Mark Wahlberg. Being well educated isn't always a prerequisite for success.
In many professional sports an athlete not completing their education isn't all that surprising. The lure of a big money contract in the NFL, NBA, NHL and to a lesser extent, MLB is often more enticing for a high school or college aged player than staying in school to complete a degree. The world of professional wrestling is a bit different, though. It's a business where many struggle for years just to have a shot at being at the top of the business and it's often good to have an education to fall back on if things don't work out. Plus, the knowledge and experience from a formal education can come in handy for a superstar when it comes to building promos and storylines.
While some superstars, like The Rock, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, and Jack Swagger completed university degrees before pursuing their dreams, others were never able to and opted instead to take the Walt Disney route and leave school early. Here are the top 15 Wrestlers Who Dropped Out of School:
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15 Adam Rose
As revealed in the ESPN E:60 documentary, Behind the Curtain, Adam Rose grew up in the streets of South Africa. He dropped out of school and had to fight to survive, while living in abandoned buildings, before entering the wrestling business at the age of 16. Two decades later, he hasn't quite reached his dream. Rose was misused during his time in the WWE, first as a comedic character and then thrown into a stable of "Social Outcasts" which the company had little or no idea what to do with.
He was recently suspended 60 days for his second violation of the Wellness Policy, was later suspended indefinitely and subsequently released after he was arrested on domestic violence charges.
Ron Killings grew up in a poor family in which he and his father had to sell drugs just to support them. He attended Harding University High School and played football while also competing in track and field. He was adept enough at both sports to receive multiple college scholarship offers, but left school at the age of 16 to pursue a career in music. He continued selling drugs to finance his music career, but got arrested and spent 13 months behind bars. After he was released, Killings continued to focus on his musical pursuits, but eventually entered the wrestling business at the urging of the NWA's Jackie Crockett whom he had met at a halfway house.
13 Axl Rotten
In grade 11 Brian Knight, better known by his wrestling persona of Axl Rotten, quit Baltimore's Southern High School to pursue a career in professional wrestling. He trained in a boxing gym with some independent wrestlers and by age 17 was wrestling regularly. He got a brief taste of action with WCW before moving on to ECW, where he enjoyed his most success. After leaving ECW in 1999, Rotten moved back to wrestling on the independent scene before briefly joining WWE in 2005. He was on track to be a member of WWE's version of ECW in 2006, but was let go after failing to show up to an event.
Sadly, Rotten passed away from a heroin overdose in February of 2016 at the age of 44 after having battled drug problems for most of his career.
12 AJ Lee
The former Divas Champion was born into a poor family in Union City, New Jersey. They often had to stay in motels, crash at other people's houses, or sleep in their car to make ends meet. AJ Lee fell in love with wrestling at a young age and many of you may remember her tear filled meeting with her idol, Lita, at a New York autograph signing in 2001.
She graduated from Memorial High School and then went to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, but dropped out after six months due to a lack of finances. She then went into wrestling school while working full-time to pay the tuition.
11 Buddy Landel
The least famous wrestler to use the "Nature Boy" moniker, Buddy Landel attended Halls High School in Knoxville, Tennessee before transferring to Fulton High School. He was an amateur wrestler and had a letter of intent to play both football and baseball at the University of Tennessee, but instead dropped out of high school at age 16. Landel began his career in the squared-circle wrestling in regional territories before joining the NWA's Jim Crockett Promotions in 1985 and he went on to win the NWA National Championship at Starrcade 1985 with a victory over Terry Taylor.
After a brief stint with the promotion, Landel left but returned to the NWA in 1990 and had a "Battle of the Nature Boys" match with Ric Flair. He then went on to perform with Smoky Mountain Wrestling and briefly with the WWE before a serious knee injury derailed his career.
10 George Zaharias
Another wrestler who dropped out of school at the age of 16 to pursue his dream, George Zaharias went on to fight as the “The Crying Greek From Cripple Creek”, a sore-losing heel. Zaharias became well known by the public due to a legendary bout with Jim Londos in front of a sold-out crowd at Maple Leaf Gardens. After falling in love and marrying famous tennis star Babe Didrikson, Zaharias retired from professional wrestling at just 30 years old, choosing instead to manage his wife's career. He also went on to be a wrestling promoter, cigar store owner, and manager of a tailor shop, a women's clothing store and a golf course.
9 Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose grew up in the east end of Cincinnatti, Ohio and spent much of his younger years living in public housing. Wrestling was his way of escaping the struggles of his rough childhood and after he began training in the business, he left high school to focus on it full-time. Ambrose then took jobs selling popcorn and setting up rings to make enough money until he got a job wrestling regularly on the independent scene. The Lunatic Fringe then spent seven years wrestling for various promotions before finally signing a developmental contract with WWE in 2011.
One of the greatest women's wrestlers of all time, Lita went to several different schools before graduating from Lassiter High School in Marrieta, Georgia six months ahead of time. She then attended Georgia State University where she majored in education, but dropped out because she felt it was too similar to high school. After that, Lita moved to Washington, D.C. and played bass guitar in numerous bands and worked as a roadie before a boyfriend got her interested in wrestling. She then traveled to Mexico to begin training for a career in sports entertainment.
7 "Superstar" Billy Graham
WWE Hall of Famer "Superstar" Billy Graham was born in Phoenix, Arizona and began taking an interest in weightlifting in the fifth grade. He'd often play hooky from school so that he could tan on the pool decks of strangers. He had the opportunity to attend university on a discus scholarship, but quit high school in his junior year. He eventually moved to Santa Monica, California and met Arnold Schwarzenegger while training at Gold's Gym and later had a very brief career in the Canadian Football League. After that, Bob Lueck, a friend who had gotten him into football, also convinced him to try professional wrestling and he moved to Calgary and began training in Stu Hart's dungeon.
6 Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio entered the business of professional wrestling at the young age of 14 and trained under his uncle, Rey Mysterio, Sr. For several years, the younger Mysterio tried to balance sports entertainment and school at the insistence of his parents. However, with the help of fellow wrestler, Konnan, Mysterio was eventually able to convince his parents to allow him to drop out of school and focus on his career full time at the age of 17.
He was still only 21 years old when he made his WCW debut in 1996 and within a month won his first WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
5 Gorgeous George
The legendary Gorgeous George was born in 1915 in Butte, Nebraska and also lived in Waterloo and Sioux City, Iowa before Houston, Texas became his home at the age of seven. At the age of 14, he quit school, began wrestling at the Houston YMCA, and took jobs to help his family get by. At 18, he performed at a carnival for 35 cents and won a seven minute match, much to the chagrin of his wrestling coach who, along with other amateur wrestlers, disapproved of professional wrestling. George, however, preferred the entertainment focused style and pursued it as a career, winning his first championship in 1938.
4 "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
The late Roddy Piper's dropping out of school wasn't entirely his own decision. Hot Rod was expelled from junior high after showing up to school with a switchblade. He then left home at the age of 13 and lived on the streets and in youth hostels. Piper took a $25 wrestling job simply to help him pay his rent, thus beginning his Hall of Fame career. He then went on to become one of the greatest heels in wrestling history. Sadly, he passed away from a heart attack at age 61 in July of 2015.
3 Ric Flair
The Dirtiest Player in the Game grew up in the Tennessee Children's Home Society and suffered through a lot in a place that went through multiple kidnapping scandals. After finally being adopted, Flair moved to Edina, Minnesota where he spent the rest of his childhood. After completing high school, Flair attended the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship, but left school before completing his degree to become a professional wrestler. He began training under AWA World Champion, Verne Gagne, before going on to become the 16-time World Heavyweight Champion.
2 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Born in Austin, Texas, the Texas Rattlesnake spent much of his childhood in Edna, Texas where he was raised by his mother and stepfather. Austin finished Edna High School and earned a football scholarship to the University of North Texas. However, an injury ended Austin's football career, but he nearly completed his undergraduate studies with a major in Physical Education.
He dropped out of university a few credits short because he struggled with his math and accounting classes. He then took a job working on a freight dock before entering wrestling school, which only required five months of training before he was ready to step inside the squared circle.
1 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan didn't begin taking interest in professional wrestling until he was 16 years old. A talented musician, he spent a decade playing for various bands in Florida and after finishing high school attended Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida. However, his music gigs began getting in the way of his studies and Hogan quit school before completing his degree.
He formed a band called Ruckus and began training at Hector's Gym in his down time. After meeting Jack and Gerald Brisco at a bar where his band was playing, Hogan began training for a wrestling career under Hiro Matsuda. The rest is history.
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