Wrestling news: Teacher Robert Anthony spends summer in AEW - Sports Illustrated

Schoolteacher Robert Anthony Spends His Summer Vacation Wrestling for AEW

The Week in Wrestling: Robert Anthony reignites his passion for wrestling during a break from his day job, Daniel Cormier expresses interest in pro wrestling and more.
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Jon Moxley on Robert Anthony: ‘In this world of psychopaths and wacky characters, he’s a teacher, which makes him a superhero’

Robert “Ego” Anthony kicked off his summer vacation with a June match on Dark against All Elite Wrestling world champion Jon Moxley.

“It was cool to share the ring with a friend of mine,” says Moxley. “It was only a couple days after Double or Nothing, which was an absolutely brutal, brutal match against Brodie Lee. I was having a hard time even walking, let alone even wrestling. But I wasn’t about to say I was too beat up, I still wanted to go in there and whoop Rob’s ass.”

An elementary school teacher in Illinois, Anthony has spent the past 18 years savoring his time in the ring. He grew close with Moxley during their time together in CZW, a career-altering run for Moxley. It was also one that presented an entirely different perspective of professional wrestling for Anthony, a stark contrast from his time in the WWE developmental system.

Moxley and Anthony wrestled in Philadelphia at the famed former ECW Arena in 2010, and each wore a chip on his shoulder to prove his worth to the wrestling business.

“Mox took me to a place where no one ever had,” says Anthony. “We did it in an amazing way. And we did this one amazing bump, one that the whole match built toward.”

A showcase of two hungry talents seeking to craft an unforgettable story in the ring, the match is compelling but remains overshadowed by a magical—and pain-inducing—spot, that saw Moxley powerbomb Anthony onto shattered glass.

“I remember that night very fondly,” says Moxley. “A lot of the guys in CZW were gnarly—guys like Brain Damage and Necro Butcher. But Robert looked great, like a prototypical WWE guy. He did a thing where he was wearing a mask, but he took off the mask and was doing this pretty boy thing trying to be anti-ultra-violence.

“We told a nice story with a lot of psychology, then I popped his cherry and sent him into the glass.”

Anthony has not forgotten that spot, one that still causes his wife to cringe every time it is discussed.

“It hurt like hell,” admitted Anthony. “But the pain was so much worse on the 12-hour ride home.”

The 38-year-old Anthony is a wrestling veteran in any locker room he enters. He has worked for indies and big promotions across the country. Originally scooped up by WWE in the winter of 2005, he trained under the guidance of Harley Race. For WWE, he took off the mask he wore as Egotistico Fantastico and wrestled as Robert Anthony. That was the period when WWE was in the midst of transitioning its developmental program to Florida under the FCW banner, and though Anthony benefited from learning from WWE’s top coaches, he never gained the momentum necessary to grow within the company. He was released in the spring of 2008, a devastating blow that ultimately led to the rebirth of his career in CZW.

Anthony then found his calling. He went back to school and earned his teaching degree. Over time, the child infatuated with stardom, just like his idol the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, grew up. He still wrestled on the weekends, but life’s priorities consisted of his responsibilities as a husband, father and teacher.

“I stayed in shape and I have always loved wrestling, but I was getting to the point where I was ready to retire,” says Anthony. “Then Mox texted me at 1 in the morning, telling me we were going to wrestle. I couldn’t believe it. That’s how I started my summer vacation.”

Moxley has been around the wrestling business long enough to know that genuine, caring friends are a rare, but treasured commodity. He also never stopped believing in his friend’s talent, even if there were moments when Anthony came close to letting doubts about his career destroy his incredible ability inside the ring.

“We’re part of that 2009, 2010 CZW crew,” says Moxley. “We called ourselves Team 74. We were the Midwest crew for CZW. Ego would rent a van in Chicago, then would drive south to Indianapolis and pick up Drake Younger, Scotty Vortekz and OMG, the Naptown Dragons as they were known. Then he would drive east on 70, and I would drive up to Dayton and meet them on the side of the road. Then we would ride throughout the night, that was a really special time.

“Rob’s a great wrestler, but he’s also an excellent father that is obsessed with his kids, and he is this amazing teacher. Teachers have the most underpaid, underrated job in our country. In this world of psychopaths and wacky characters, he’s a teacher, which makes him a superhero. They can mold lives and change lives and put people on track to have success. I hated school, but I still remember my good teachers. If he was my teacher, I think he’d be the coolest teacher in the world, and then he’s this badass wrestler at night.”

The AEW match with Moxley led to further opportunities for Anthony, wrestling Ricky Starks, Scorpio Sky and Brian Cage on Dark, as well as a standout match against Darby Allin. The opportunity to be part of AEW has reignited his hunger and love for the profession, a passion that has not wavered despite facing unrelenting obstacles over the past two decades.

“My whole career, I’ve been treated as extra talent,” says Anthony. “That’s not how I felt in AEW. I had matches, an entrance, a graphic on the big tron. This business beats you down, and I hadn’t felt like I belonged in a long time, but I kept working for a shot. That’s what I had in AEW.”

For Anthony, the juxtaposition between man and wrestler is remarkable. Anthony is a proud father of two, forever changed from his son being born with a rare form of skin cancer. His infinite respect and admiration for health care workers only grew from that experience, and he donates all the profits from his Pro Wrestling Tees store to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After experiencing the indescribable joy of seeing his son healthy, Anthony noted he is grateful to contribute to St. Jude’s.

“I keep my circle pretty small and tight, but we’ve been tight since we first hung out,” says Moxley. “He’s just this real, genuine, nice guy.”

Anthony’s “Ego” persona is altogether different. Arrogant, angry, and bitter about younger talent surpassing him, Anthony showcased that edge in matches against Allin and Starks.

“You can put me in the ring with anyone and you’ll believe what I do,” says Anthony. “I’ll give you a story and I’ll give you emotion.”

Anthony wrestled Brian Pillman Jr. earlier this month in Warrior Wrestling’s return to Chicago, helping headline the show. Now at a crossroads in his career, Anthony is willing to risk his livelihood for a shot in AEW.

“I love working with kids, and there are kids that I taught that have grown up and we still keep in touch,” says Anthony. “One of the kids is working on his music career, and he’s told me that it meant a lot to see someone who was successful. I want to show them what is possible.

“This is my last chance in wrestling. I’ve upped my training and I have never felt better. This is my opportunity, and I’m out to prove I belong in AEW.”

Moxley is among those interested in what comes next for Anthony.

“It’s never been a hobby to him, and he knows the window is open,” says Moxley. “He’s in great physical shape and smarter from experience. He’s entering his prime. At this point in his career, he’s ready to take the next step and turn heads.”

If Anthony returns to Dark, his first win in AEW will encompass far more than a successive three-count. Those three seconds will prove a point to the industry, one he has been working to make since he took his first bump.

“I’ve adopted the mindset that your story is only over if you quit,” says Anthony. “I’m living proof of that. I’ve been told no so many times that yeah, it makes you want to quit. As a performer, you start to look down about yourself and abilities. You compare yourself to others and their journey and success. Once that happens, mentally, you’re finished.

“But what picked me up was the conversations I had with Mox. He knows my journey more than anyone, and he opened my eyes to what I have to offer and what I need to work on. I know this can end tomorrow, and that is the mindset that makes me the strongest I’ve ever been in my life. When someone is threatened with losing everything, they become more motivated and more dangerous than anyone you’ve ever met in your life. I’m going to attack every chance I’m given.”

Daniel Cormier ready for his WWE cameo

Daniel Cormier was unable to regain the heavyweight championship on Saturday at UFC 252, losing by unanimous decision to Stipe Miocic.

Following a legendary fighting career, the 41-year-old Cormier seems destined for retirement. There are no title bouts on his horizon, and he will need time to heal a torn cornea he suffered in his left eye against Miocic. 

“A year from now at 42, I can’t decide I want to fight a high-level mixed martial arts fight again,” Cormier told Sports Illustrated before last week’s fight. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Now that his schedule has some openings, Cormier, a devoted wrestling fan, is open to a few appearances in WWE.

“That’s not my retirement,” says Cormier. “That would be a vacation.”

Cormier would make the most sense for the Royal Rumble match in January, and his involvement would certainly bring more mainstream attention to WWE.

“I’d love a Royal Rumble moment where I throw a dude into the ropes and I clothesline his ass over the top, or I dropkick somebody over the top rope,” says Cormier. “And I’ll take my bump and get thrown out.

“Let me chase somebody down, clothesline him with a Bradshaw-Layfield clothesline from hell and eliminate somebody from the Royal Rumble, then throw me over the top. Pro wrestling? I’m all in.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Yes, 2020 has been a miserable year. But Bret Hart's dancing with his granddaughter is certainly a happy, lighthearted moment. 
  • If you were watching Raw on Monday, you knew Shawn Michaels was going to eat an RKO from Randy Orton. But the show would have benefited from ending on that note, instead of Michaels getting up following what is supposed to be wrestling’s most devastating maneuver. 
  • Even in 2020, with wrestling such an open business, it is still fun when wrestlers from WWE and another top promotion—in this case, AEW—tweet back and forth. I still can’t imagine this happening in 1998.
  • Asuka has high-profile matches at SummerSlam against Bayley and Sasha Banks. I would imagine she wins one title (likely from Banks), but regardless of the finish, I sincerely hope we see three of the most talented wrestlers in the business get the time necessary to tell their story in the ring. 
  • Due to NBA playoff games airing on TNT, this week’s Dynamite has been moved to Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. Not the ideal slot, and if the playoff game runs late, AEW will go head-to-head with NXT TakeOver XXX. The show is highlighted by Cody Rhodes–Brodie Lee, and the finale of the Women’s Tag Team Cup Tournament pitting the Nightmare Sisters against Diamante and Ivelisse. 
  • We have witnessed seemingly every different iteration of a wrestling faction. Retribution would have a different edge to the group if it were all-female. CM Punk shared a different idea, which was yet another reminder why he is a must-follow on social media. 
  • There is nonstop wrestling this weekend. KENTA–David Finlay in the finals of New Japan Cup USA highlights NJPW Strong on Friday, which also includes the return of “Switchblade” Jay White. SmackDown will unveil the “WWE ThunderDome” on Friday, Saturday is NXT TakeOver XXX and Dynamite. Sunday is SummerSlam, which I will live-blog for SI.
  • Condolences to the family and loved ones of former Ring of Honor champion John “Xavier” Jirius, who leaves the world far too soon at only 43. 

Tweet of the Week

Wave goodbye to the WWE’s Performance Center era as we welcome in the ThunderDome.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.