Iowa State alumnus becomes pro wrestler

Travis Horn, Iowa State alumnus, dancing for DUBh hip hop dance troop.

Sydney Novak

The dance floor of his junior homecoming dance is where Travis Horn first recalls finding his confidence and passion for dancing that he still has to this day.

For Horn, high school usually left him feeling like an outsider or like he didn’t belong. After the night of that homecoming dance, he found opportunities, including dancing with his school’s drill team for a coed event, dancing at clubs that were 18+ on the weekends and joining Iowa State’s ISU Hip Hop Club (DubH) student club, the largest campus club. 

Among Iowa State’s notable and unique alumni network, Horn is a 2008 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in apparel, merchandising and design. Iowa State’s apparel, merchandising and design program allowed Horn to intern for Lip Service in Los Angeles, California.

Horn said he knew he wanted to go to Iowa State, and he wanted to do something he could use his creativity skills with. Before Iowa State, he obtained an associate arts degree from Iowa Central Community College.

In high school, Horn described himself as being “really artsy.” He decided to see where life would take him if he pursued art, even when some were skeptical. 

“People would tell me there’s not a lot of money in anything art related, so I never got my hopes up,” Horn said. “But I also felt I got the same reaction as when I was younger and told them that I wanted to be a pro wrestler; they would just kind of role their eyes.”

During his time in Ames, Travis danced for DubH, the campus-wide hip hop dance club. Horn said he loved the energy and performance aspect of dancing and still loves to dance. Despite loving choreography, his favorite thing is to freestyle.

When he wasn’t dancing with DubH, Horn built a career for himself DJing for the local bars in the Ames area. He continues to DJ in his free time today under the name “DJ Click N Play” and has a great appreciation for music and the role it has played in his life. 

“You experience things, and there can always be a song on in the background that you will associate that moment with,” Horn said. “So rather I look back on my time DJing, dancing or even wrestling; there are little bits of music that factor into these moments.”

Yes, wrestling. Horn now wrestles at the professional level after he began training at age 30. After graduating from Iowa State in 2008 when he was 23, he worked in the Ames area and continued to DJ and dance locally.

At one point, he worked in Des Moines and commuted from Ames. For several years, Horn worked in retail, DJed and danced, but he harbored a desire to wrestle professionally, despite having very little experience.

Recalling this time in his life, he said he remembers feeling as though he needed to make a change and that it was time for him to get serious about something. He knew he was not really using the degree he had worked hard to earn.

Six years ago, about the time Horn said he was feeling most stagnant in his life, he was gifted tickets to “WrestleMania,” which is the biggest World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) event of the year, and it was held in California. He said he felt as if this was the luckiest opportunity in his life, and it proved to be true.

The winner of WrestleMania in 2014 was Seth Rollins, Iowa native and, later, Horn’s mentor and trainer. Rollins was not even supposed to be in the championship fight; however, he ended up taking advantage of a “money in the bank” opportunity.

Money in the Bank is a specific type of match WWE fighters take part in by climbing a rope ladder to reach a briefcase. The briefcase contains a contract promising the winner a championship match, which they choose the time and place for, within a year. 

“[Rollins] won the WWE Championship when he wasn’t even supposed to be there or in that match,” Horn said. “I remember looking at him on the stage that night celebrating, and I knew I was meant to be there, that I was meant to see this guy from Iowa win, and this is a sign; I need to do this.”

Black and Brave Wrestling Academy is where Horn took the next steps in his career. He began training with Rollins three days a week, three times a day for three months while maintaining his own workouts outside of his training days.

The academy also trains all their students in cross-fit in addition to the wrestling practice. Most people will rarely experience the persistence it takes to train for any sport professionally. Horn said this kind of investment can be demanding and doesn’t come at any easy cost.

A normal week for Horn consists of getting a healthy amount of sleep, waking up and working, going to cross-fit and eating a healthy meal before going to bed. It’s extremely important he doesn’t stray from this routine to get the most out of his training regimen and the best for his body.

On the weekend, he will start Friday night off with a cross-fit class before having anywhere from one to three shows Saturday and Sunday. He is still working hard and persistently to take the next steps in his career. In the coming decade, he said he hopes to be contracted with WWE.

What Horn said he considers his proudest moment in his career was fighting for WWE when he was cast in a nationally televised match. He had also worked with WWE before. They filmed a live episode of Monday Night Raw and a holiday episode. Horn also had a match with Erick Rowan, a six foot, eight inches tall and 315 pound WWE fighter.

Horn said he was very humbled to have this experience. He has always wanted to work for WWE and looks forward to working with them again in the future.

“To go out, do something I thought was really cool, then come back and it’s over in a flash, which is just like what a good night of DJing feels like,” Horn said. “You can start at 10 p.m., and then you look down and before you know it, it’s 2 a.m. and you can’t believe it’s over because the night went so fast.” 

Although his wrestling career started only five years ago, Horn said he is excited to see where it will take him next. He said he hopes to take the recent publicity he has gotten from his Monday Night Raw appearance to move his career forward.

“I’m really proud of myself that I took a huge leap in life and become as healthy as possible,” Horn said. “That way I can do this as long as possible and inspire others through health and fitness.”

Of all his accomplishments, Horn said he is most proud of the fact he was able to turn his life around when he was 30 years old to pursue his dream career.