Former WWE star Doane puts on a Nichols jersey.
Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
DUDLEY – When a 26-year old enrolls into a college and decides to try out for the football team after not playing since he was 18-- and then makes it-- it’s a story.
Imagine if that same 26-year old is a professional wrestler who has wrestled in main events for the WWE and against some of the biggest names in the business, including Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H? Doesn’t seem possible does It? Well believe it, because it’s happening as we speak at Nichols College.
Ken Doane was born in Southbridge and grew up living in Dudley, Oxford, and Charlton. He attended Shepherd Hill in the seventh grade and Oxford Junior High in the eighth grade before attending, playing football, and graduating from Bay Path Regional.
He watched his family move from house to house during his youth and saw his Mom go through hard times first hand. “She told me to find something that I like to do and get paid to do it and then I will be really happy. I was about 12 when she said that and I loved football and I loved wrestling, so that’s what I did.”
Most twelve-year-old kids, however, wouldn’t do what Doane did next. “I got a ride to the WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, and I went in and asked for an application and they laughed at me. They looked at me like I was crazy. It was a long ride home.”
Actually, the WWE told him he was too young to apply and that he should look into going to wrestling school instead, so he went home and looked up wrestling schools online.
“I heard that the hardest school and the most successful school was Killer Kowalski’s school in Malden.” Now most kids would probably continue to go to school and play football and at least get a little older, but not Doane. Now 13, Doane found a ride to Malden and sought out Kowalski, who told him he couldn’t train because he was too young, but when the wrestling trainer saw that Doane wouldn’t take no for an answer he told him he would need a note from a lawyer to train with him because of his age.
Doane convinced his mom that he needed this note and they went to a lawyer and got it and somehow he was able to start attending the gym in Malden whenever he could get a ride there.
“The first six months he (Kowalski) wouldn’t let me in the ring and he made me learn the basics of wrestling on the side so I would do that over and over again.” Eventually he started wrestling and would make tapes of all his moves and matches and started sending them to the WWE.
Dr. Tom Pritchard, who was one of the company's top talent scouts, saw some of his tapes and called him when he was 16 and told him that they wanted to bring him in and take a look at him regardless of his age.
Before long, he started wrestling on TV shows as Ken Phoenix or Ken Doane and would have to miss school every Tuesday after wrestling at Monday Night Raw shows on Mondays in New England. Eventually teachers and fellow students at Bay Path started finding out what he was up to.
One time his history teacher called him out on it after seeing him wrestle on TV, but no one at the school could object because this was his job and he had his Mother’s permission. Somehow he maintained his grades, played football under head football coach Al Dhembe and wrestled when the WWE needed him.
He said that neither Dhembe nor assistant football coach Tony Salvaggio thought he that he would make it as a wrestler and didn’t take what he was doing seriously.
“I saw Tony Salvaggio a few years ago and he said they doubted me then, but that I was the only person that played football there who said they were going to do something and actually did it.”
He continued to do wrestling shows, when WWE’s executive John Laurenitis found out he wasn’t 18 and tried to stop him from wrestling. Once again Doane’s persistency allowed him to stick around and when he graduated from Bay Path, Laurenitis gave him a WWE contract and he was sent to the company's camp in Louisville, Kentucky, to train.
It didn’t take long for the WWE to recognize that Doane was a real talent and he became Kenny in the Spirit Squad, a storyline that was created by none other than Vince McMahon, the head of the company.
At WrestleMania 22, Doane worked a match between McMahon and Michaels where he tried to help McMahon beat Michaels. “That didn’t end up working out so well since Shawn won.”
“The next night on Monday Raw I pinned The Big Show. I also beat Shawn in a cage match.”
Soon Doane began wrestling under the moniker of Kenny Dykstra and had a long and successful story line with legend Ric Flair, in which he became the only wrestler ever to beat Flair in three consecutive matches. “It was amazing, when you think of Ric Flair you think of the best of all time, that was really cool.”
“At New Year's Revolution I came out in a cape just like Flair wears and no one knew I was going to do it, the crowd was hating on me so bad.”
As Dykstra, Doane also worked with another legend, Triple H (Hunter Hearst Hemsley), who also trained with Kowalski before turning pro.
“Triple H is a very smart. Any time I had a question, whether it was personal, business, whatever, I would ask him.”
In 2008 Doane was released from his WWE contract because “they were going through a lot of different layoffs and a lot of us were getting paid a lot of money and they didn’t have a story line for me at the time, plus my body was breaking down; traveling 270 days a year is really hard.”
He continued to be successful wrestling independently, as he still does, but decided to move home to Dudley to be close to his family. “My brother and my sister both ended up having kids and I wanted to see them grow up so I moved back to Dudley. When you get older you get wiser. I am still wrestling on the side and making good money, but I thought, what is going to happen if I get hurt. So I figured since I was going to be here for the next four years, there is a college (Nichols) right near my house, why don’t I go and have my plan so if I do get hurt I can still do something that I like.”
“I have always loved football and I always set goals for myself. My first dream was to get to the WWE and I set that and my second goal after wrestling was to get a degree and play college football.”
Doane now has this opportunity and plans to take full advantage of it. “I can make my own schedule and I can slow things down work-wise with wrestling, and financially I am set. I can take 10 weeks, 12 weeks, however long the season is, into this and go full force. That is where I at now.”
Once he was accepted at Nichols, Doane sought out Nichols head football coach Kevin Loney and told the coach of his intentions, and he made the team.
“He (Loney) has his beliefs and as a team we have to follow him. If we go against him, the team will be 0-10 again. If I am on the field, I expect greatness from everyone else, including myself, and I told the coach I would play wherever he puts me.”
Last week Loney spoke highly of Doane and he called him his tight end. Doane will be majoring in Sports Management at the school.
Doane left us with these words of wisdom. “Life is always a journey, it's always going to throw curve balls at you, I am not looking four years down the road right now, I have to get through today and do the best I can do today, and then tomorrow I have to compare myself to yesterday and make sure tomorrow that I am better than I was yesterday.”
- Monday, 03 September 2012
- Posted in Categories: : News