Anthony Bowens ’13 has come a long way from riding the “hell bus” up and down the East Coast with the rest of the Red Hawk baseball team, while working toward his Broadcasting degree at Montclair State. “Coach Schoenig didn’t like to fly, so I sat through a lot of really long trips with my teammates,” he recalls, with more fondness than you’d think. “You know, some of my best memories were from those rides! I miss that camaraderie to this day.”
Playing college baseball had long been a goal of his, but Bowens is a man of many ambitions. Shortly after graduation, a chance meeting with former WWE wrestling star Santino Marella planted the seeds for Bowens’ next move: pro wrestling. Marella, he says, saw potential and encouraged him.
Bowens took the plunge, becoming a solo act on the indie wrestling circuit. “I had a lot to learn,” he says. “I realized it was more than just staying in shape and learning moves,” he says. “I took acting classes and trained in comedy, and acted in commercials, too. I helped create a YouTube channel, Michael & Anthony, that now has 185,000 subscribers. All of these things helped me build my wrestling persona, and my confidence.”
While Bowens was developing the persona of a professional wrestling celebrity, he was also building the courage to bring his authentic self into the public eye. Four years ago, Bowens decided to come out as gay. The Michael & Anthony channel, which he produces with his boyfriend, Michael Pavano, was becoming increasingly popular, but he was worried about the response he might get from his wrestling peers and fans. But the wrestling community supported him, keeping his career on an upward trajectory.
In 2020, Bowens received his biggest break yet: he and his wrestling partner, Max Caster, signed with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) as the hip-hop wrestling duo, The Acclaimed. By early 2021 the team, which appears weekly on TNT, was the number four ranked team in the company.
With a plate this full, Bowens doesn’t have the opportunity to get back to campus much, but when he does, he is impressed. “I helped as a volunteer baseball coach not long ago and visited the new media production studios,” he says. “I was super jealous of the cool editing bays that students get to use!”
Bowens says Montclair State prepared him for success. “By the time I was working at internships with ESPN New York’s The Michael Kay Show, I was already comfortable with the studio environment,” he says. “When I started the YouTube channel and was filming commercials, I already had the skills to write, edit and produce material. I knew what to look for behind the camera and what to do in front of it.”
Bowens’ advice for students: “Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Follow your passion and learn something you love.”