What does it take to become a WWE Superstar? Our performers are highly skilled individuals who know what they’re doing when they step into a WWE ring. And while there are many different paths to WWE, the answer is simple: you go to school.
But these are no normal schools. Mats replace chalkboards, armbars take the place of loose leaf paper and The Wild Samoans might be taking attendance.
Where are these grappling academies? And who are these exalted professors of sports-entertainment?
WWE Classics set out to investigate the little known world of pro wrestling schools. During this back to school season, we spoke with current WWE Superstars and staff to hear their stories about some of the world’s most highly regarded wrestling training centers and their teachers.
NAME OF SCHOOL: The Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy (now called The Texas Wrestling Academy)
LOCATION: San Antonio, Texas
TRAINER: Shawn Michaels, Rudy Boy Gonzalez
OTHER CLASSMATES & ALUMNI: Paul London, Brian Kendrick, Lance Cade
After Shawn Michaels temporarily retired from active competition in 1998, HBK opened a training facility in his hometown of San Antonio. Among his students was former World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. WWE Classics spoke to Bryan about his experience there. “We trained six days a week,” Bryan said. “Only three days were mandatory, but Brian Kendrick and I would go in there to train six days a week. We set up rings, we did all kinds of stuff.”
To learn from the legendary Shawn Michaels was a thrill for the dedicated upstart and Bryan took advantage as much as he could. “It started at 9 and would go until 12, but Brian and I would stay until 2 or 3, learning new stuff,” Bryan recalled. “Then we’d go downstairs to a place called Dona Juanita’s, which had $1.25 tacos. And when you’re poor, that’s awesome.”
“Shawn Michaels was a huge part of it, and Rudy Boy Gonzalez would spend all kinds of extra hours there with us,” Bryan said. “He’d open the gym whenever Brian and I wanted to train. If we wanted to learn something crazy or strange, German suplexes, for example, Rudy would go in there and he’d show how to do it and let us try.”
Bryan also told us about his most terrifying moment at wrestling school. “One night I nearly killed Shawn Michaels,” he said. “This was before his return from his back injury. I was trying to do a thing where I’d spring off the second rope onto the top rope, spin and do a hurricanrana,” Bryan intricately described. “Keep in mind, at the time I was 175 pounds, and that’s a lot of weight to land on somebody’s shoulders. I was trying to do it on Brian Kendrick, and it wasn’t working. We thought Brian was too small. He was probably 150 pounds at the time,” Bryan continued. “Shawn watched us do it a couple of times, and he got in the ring and wanted to do it with me. I go to do the hurricanrana, land on him and he ends up landing right on his head and rolls right out of the ring. We all freaked out. That was the night I nearly killed Shawn Michaels.”