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The Many Faces of Roy Shire

Northwestern University is a pretty big deal. In the area of arts and entertainment, luminaries who spent time enrolled at Northwestern include Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and George R.R. Martin. Graduates of the university who’ve made their mark in the world of business include the founders of Arthur Andersen, Booz Allen Hamilton, Aon, Groupon, and U.S. Steel.

So highly regarded is a Northwestern education that attendance of the university is often written into the backstories of fictional characters as a way of tacitly signaling “Hey, this guy’s smart!” The list of alumni and faculty that proudly wear Northwestern purple only in the world of make believe includes Andrea Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada, Dr. Robert Doback from Step Brothers, Roger Porter from Carbon Copy, and Doc Sampson from The Incredible Hulk.

Somehow, legendary professional wrestling figure Roy Shire managed to cobble elements of all three of these worlds together into a purple-hued sports entertainment persona entirely his own. Appearing first as a fictitious wrestling character who enveloped himself in assorted false identities as a Northwestern scholar, athlete, and faculty member, Shire morphed into the real-life owner of a wrestling territory who frequently cited bogus Northwestern credentials as being at the nexus of his legitimate business accomplishments.

Beginning in 1949 and extending up until his death in 1992, Shire made public claims alleging a formal relationship with the unquestioned academic powerhouse of the Big 10 athletic conference. The registrar’s office of Northwestern University has confirmed that no one by Shire’s name—or any of Shire’s names—ever attended or graduated from Northwestern University or any of its component schools during the years that Shire claimed to have been associated with the school.

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