Wrestling with Success: WWE Superstar Beth Kocianski Copeland Writes Next Chapter, Earns Master’s Degree at Argosy University
Have you heard the story about the Argosy University student who earned her Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology degree with a concentration in Assessment and Treatment—but couldn’t attend her commencement ceremony because she was busy preparing for her induction into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame?
It’s a storyline as implausible as anything you’ll see in the ring—and it’s all true.
Welcome to the colorful world of Beth Kocianski Copeland, better known to millions of pro wrestling fans as “Beth Phoenix, The Glamazon.” For years, Copeland reigned as one of the world’s most popular female wrestlers. But after retiring from the ring in 2012, she decided to reinvent herself once again.
And that’s exactly what she’s done. Fast forward six years: Copeland is married to actor Adam Copeland—better known to wrestling fans as WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Edge—and is the mother of two daughters, four-year-old Lyric and two-year-old Ruby. Last year, she completed her master’s degree at Argosy University and has begun yet another degree program, with an end game of becoming a licensed professional counselor.
Copeland, a native of Elmira, New York, is no stranger to athletic—or academic—success. The first female wrestler ever named to the varsity team at her high school, she graduated at 17 and scored a scholarship to Canisius College in Buffalo. At 21, she completed her bachelor’s degree with honors, earning a duel major in Communications and Criminal Justice.
“While I was attending college, I was also going to a professional wrestling school,” she says. “My plan had been to go to law school, but I just couldn’t get wrestling out of my system. I went from being a 21-year-old college graduate on her way to law school to waiting tables in Louisville and struggling to become a pro wrestler.”
Her parents weren’t thrilled, but Copeland says it was a dream she needed to chase.
“I had been intrigued by the theatrics and athleticism of wrestling ever since I first watched it with my Grandma as a little girl,” Copeland remembers. “I always loved the epic showdowns between good and evil. I knew if I wanted to take my shot at a pro wrestling career, law school would have to wait.”
It was a gamble that paid off big time. After a tough two years in training competition leagues and “being told more times than I can count that I wasn’t going to make it”, Copeland was signed by WWE in 2005. She went on to become a four-time Women’s Champion and last year, at 36, became the youngest person ever inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Shortly after she retired, Copeland relocated to Nova Scotia, where her husband was shooting Haven, a Syfy network television series.
“Adam was working long hours, I was pregnant, and I really wanted to make that time count,” Copeland recalls. “I had thought about returning to school for a while and was interested in possibly pursuing a career in criminal justice, so I applied to Argosy’s master’s program in Forensic Psychology. An online program really appealed to me because I could do it from anywhere, at my own pace, and on my own schedule.”
Copeland says the qualities that helped her transform into a WWE superstar also helped her excel as an online graduate student.
“To be a successful wrestler, you have to be very focused and have a strong sense of commitment and self-discipline,” says Copeland. “The same is true when you’re pursuing an online degree. If you’re not focused, committed and disciplined, you’re likely to struggle, because no one is going to do it for you. You have to really want it enough to do the work and to keep moving toward your goal.”
Copeland, who now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, says her life is very different from her days as a famous wrestler—and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I always knew my wrestling career had an expiration date,” she says. “I still do some color commentary for WWE television, but my life today is much less self-focused. When you’re a wrestling personality, your life is all about your career. You’re a brand. You’re a commodity. It’s all about staying in shape and gearing up for the next big match. These days, my focus is on being a wife, a great mom to my daughters, and working toward a new career that I know will offer a very different kind of satisfaction.”
Copeland’s goal is to become a licensed counselor and therapist, and to specialize in working with children, athletes, and people with body image issues.
“I’m looking forward to helping people rather than simply entertaining them,” explains Copeland. “Before long, I hope to be working with clients who have no idea who I used to be—or what I used to do. And that will be just fine with me.”