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Brawn with brains
By Phil Speer

Albert is visiting  Jack Yates High School in Houston, Texas, to encourage students to set goals and stay in school. When he walks through the curtains to introduce himself, students gasp at his unbelievable size. When he's done talking, the students are still amazed, but for a completely different reason.
The students might never have imagined that this 6-foot-7, 350-pound man, who has head-to-toe piercing, could be so intellegent--but he is.

Albert graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in special education and a minor in sign language. Before becoming a World Wrestling Federation Superstar,  he taught special education and the giant superstar plans to return to education after retiring from the ring.
Albert is just one of several Federation Superstars who are changing the perception that wrestlers are just dumb jocks who yell and scream on TV every week. The fact of the matter is a certain level of intelligence is required to be a Federation Superstar.

" We take you on an emotional roller-coaster with everything we do," Says HHH " To do that, you have to have to be very intelligent. It's not easy to manipulate peoples emotions. If you're an idiot you're not going to make it in this business.

It's difficult to label somebody as "dumb" when all the evidence points to the contrary.Every time HHH appears on the Drew Carey Show, or any other program, perceptions change. Every time Bradshaw is on the CNBC financial talk show Squawk Box, perceptions change. Every time Mick Foley puts pen to paper and the result rockets to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, perceptions change.

Albert is certainly not the only Superstar who has a college degree. Mick Foley, The Rock, Ivory, Chyna and Stephanie McMahon are just a few of many. And nearly every competitor in the Federation's talent development organizations--Ohio Valley Wrestling and Memphis Championship Wrestling--has at least some college education. Many Superstars are just a few credits shy of their degree.

Trish Stratis, for example, was on her way to becoming a doctor when a professors strike ended her quest for a degree in Biology and Kinesiology at York University (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.)
Spike Dudley graduated from Sidmore College (Saratoga Springs, New York) with a degree in English Literature.  He taught third grade at a San Francisco Catholic school and also worked at a financial printing company before getting into sports-entertainment. Even today, he say's, he rather read a book than go out and party.

Kurt Angle earned a degree in Geography from Clarion University (Clarion, Pennsylvania) and planned to become a geography professor at a school where he could coach wrestling. He also studied business and uses that knowledge extensively.

In his private life, Angle is an adept businessman. He's part owner of a company that produces therapy belts and another that makes wrestling gear, as well as being part owner of Ostrim, a company that makes officially licensed Federation meat snacks. He and his wife also own a nail and Tanning salon.
Upon signing with the Federation, Angle received a lot of backlash from the amateur wrestling community. "When I signed, everyone else kind of stood back and said 'I can't believe he did that,' " Angle says. " Then they gave it a little time and said, 'well if he did it, I can do it,' Now we've signed six or seven amateur wrestlers, and you're going to see a lot more. Whether they make it or not, they're going to try. I broke the mold for them"

Angle continues to break the mold. Despite portraying a Heel on television, away from the mat, Angle, like Mick Foley, acts as a Federation goodwill ambassador. The Olympic champion is currently honorary chairman for the Smackdown your Vote! campaign, the Federations initiative to encourage young people to get involved in the political process. Angle has given speeches at the National Press Club in Washington DC, while secretaries of state from across the country looked on.
" Many people are surprised when they see a wrestler at a function," he says. "People are starting to give us the same respect they give a lot of actors and actresses, and that's a good thing."

Indeed the entertainment industry  has smartened up to the Federation perhaps more than any other field. Three years ago, The Rock or Chyna never would have appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Now a World Wrestling Federation Superstar is on once every few months.

Likewise, gone are the days when Superstars could only get roles on low-brow, low-rated syndicated shows. Today the WWF is considered prime-time material. As the minutes ticked away on The Rocks attention-grabbing turn hosting Saturday Night Live, Besides the applause and the positive reviews being typed by TV critics across the country, there was another sound coming from the studio--the sound of glass ceilings being shattered. The performances by The Rock, Big Show, Triple H and Mick Foley seemed to surprise everyone, except for Federation fans and their fellow superstars.

" It wasn't surprising," Triple H says. " Many of our guys would be very good on that show, because what we do is very similar. Our programs are live; there's no room for mistakes. And we do it every night."

With every interview that The Rock does to promote The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King, he educates the press. Not one article has failed to mention how down to earth and well-spoken the People's Champion is. As if that should be a surprise.
".....this World Wrestling Federation Star proved to be a disarmingly candid and surprisingly vulnerable, with anunabashed charm and low-key sense of humor," wrote Stephen Scheafer in the Boston Herald.

Like the Rock, Triple H has also done his share of educating Hollywood. "When they meet you, they know they're going to meet a wrestler, and they have this predetermined concept of what you're going to be like," he says. "And when you do meet them, they say, 'Wow, I didn't expect you to be like this or have this personality, or speak this well, or be intelligent."

And Just like the entertainment industry, the financial community is starting to come around. Stockbrokers asking Federation Superstars for stock tips? It has happened. It occurred in the last few years when Superstars started taking their personal finances more seriously. The leader of this "financial generation," undoubtedly is Bradshaw, although several Superstars dabble in the stock market.

"There used to be a lot more partying," says The Big Boss Man, a veteran of over 15 years. "Now all the guys are reading books and on their computers. In the old days, nobody had a computer, and everybody was 'sleeping it off.'"

Bradshaw studied ancient history at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, Texas), where he also played football. His football ability resulted in an invitation to training camp with the NFL's Raiders. He received a signing bonus, and then made more money playing in the World League of American Football (now called NFL Europe). But like many young athletes, he spent his earnings almost immediately. Later, as he embarked on a career in sports-entertainment, he promised himself that if he ever made a decent amount of money again, he'd know what to do with it.
"So I read for years, watched everything I could about finances, and tried to learn about money,and how to take care of it," he says.

His studies paid off. The value of his portfolio increased 88% in 1998, and 83% in 1999. When Mick Foley happened to mention Bradshaw's stock-picking acumen to a Fortune magazine reporter, word got around. Bradshaw was soon invited on Squawk Box, and since has been a favorite guest. He's appeared on the show several times, either in person or via phone.

" That's fun," he said. "I see stockbrokers in airports and everyone of them will approach me and give a stock tip or ask for a stock tip. I enjoy talking stocks a lot. It's funny to see these guys---who would normally by me a beer if they recognize me---come up and start talking to me about what they do for a living."

His knowledge has served to impress more than just stock analysts. One day, the big Texan was on a plane, sitting next to a Pentecostal preacher, who asked about his career. A student of the Bible, Bradshaw told him that wrestling was mentioned several times in the good book.

"He was surprised that a wrestler would know anything about that. Many people expect monosyllabic grunts," He says. "I enjoy taking down some of those stereotypes and destroying some of the walls, but it really doesn't matter that much to me. If a person who I don't know believes I'm a dumb jock, that doesn't change me at all. It doesn't make me dumber or smarter, it's simply their perception. And it doesn't hurt me."

 Bradshaw plans on becoming a financial advisor after his time in the Federation comes to a close. In the meantime, he's working on a book that he hopes will be released later this year. It'll have financial advice, but it'll also be an entertaining read.
More than likely, when people take time to read that book, or listen to him, Mick Foley or the Rock, they will join a growing number whose perception is changing.

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