Nowinski was one of the three finalists on WWE's first series of Tough Enough, which Maven Huffman won. After failing to win the competition, Nowinski made appearances in independent promotions before finally being hired by WWE and entering its developmental territories.
Nowinski competed as Chris Harvard, capitalizing on his status as an alumnus of Harvard University. Nowinski made his first major independent appearance in London, UK for the Frontier Wrestling Alliance promotion at its Lights Camera Action show on December 14, 2001. Nowinski competed in its main event teaming up with Alex Shane to defeat Drew McDonald and Flash Barker. Though this was the only show Nowinski did for the promotion, he regards it as the best promotion he has ever worked for outside of WWE.
On the June 10, 2002, episode of Raw, Nowinski debuted in WWE, helping William Regal beat Bradshaw in a European Championship match. Nowinski had a short-lived alliance with Regal, defeating Spike Dudley in his debut match the following week with Regal in his corner. Nowinski teamed with Regal on the June 24 episode of Raw, defeating Bradshaw and Dudley. Nowinski continued to feud with Bradshaw over the next few weeks, with their feud ending on the July 8 episode of Raw, where Nowinski teamed with Jackie Gayda in a losing effort against Bradshaw and Trish Stratus, while also trying to warming up Regal from his breakdown after he lost the European Championship to Jeff Hardy. Nowinski feuded with The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley and Spike Dudley) through the summer.
Nowinski entered a feud with Tommy Dreamer on the September 9 episode of Raw, where Nowinski defeated Dreamer. A week later, Dreamer attacked Nowinski in a classroom. Their feud ended on the October 14 episode of Raw, where Nowinski was once again successful in defeating Dreamer. Over the next few weeks, Nowinski claimed victories over Jeff Hardy and Booker T before starting a feud with his former Tough Enough trainer, Al Snow. After defeating Snow in two consecutive weeks, Maven began to help Snow against Nowinski. On the November 25 episode of Raw, Nowinski went against Maven in a match that ended in a no contest. Nowinski teamed with D'Lo Brown, where they defeated Snow and Maven on two occasions. Nowinski then continued his feud with Maven into 2003, where Test aligned himself with Maven for a few weeks, successfully defeating Nowinski and Brown on January 13, 2003 episode of Raw.
At the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Nowinski participated in the Royal Rumble match itself as the number three entrant, where he was eliminated by Rey Mysterio. On the January 26 episode of Raw, Nowinski interrupted a match between John Hennigan and Matt Cappotelli, the winners of the third season of Tough Enough, telling them to stop rubbing their victory in his face.
On the March 31 episode of Raw, Nowinski began a feud with Scott Steiner in a losing effort. The feud come to an end on the May 12 episode of Raw, where Nowinski teamed with La Résistance (Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier) in a losing effort against Steiner, Test and Goldust. On the May 26 episode of Raw, Nowinski aligned himself with Thuggin' And Buggin' Enterprises, an African American wrestling stable consisting of Rodney Mack, Jazz and their manager Theodore Long. At Insurrection, Nowinski teamed with Mack and Long in a losing effort against The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley and Spike Dudley). At Bad Blood, Nowinski and Mack defeated The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and Devon). Nowinski wrestled his final match with WWE, due to him suffering with post-concussion syndrome, on theJune 23 episode of Raw, in a losing effort against Maven. After a full year of post-concussion symptoms he chose to retire from wrestling.
On December 12, 2005 episode of Raw, Nowinski returned to the WWE, telling Vince McMahon that he should make the new General Manager of Raw a "Harvard Graduate", referring to himself.
In October 2006, Nowinski self-published a book, Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis, which details his career-ending injury and discusses the dangers of concussions in football and other contact sports; the book includes stories from National Football League (NFL) players and fellow wrestlers, and has an introduction written by former governor of Minnesota and professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura. Later in that year, Nowinski initiated an inquiry into the suicide of Andre Waters, a 44-year-old former NFL defensive back who shot himself on November 20, 2006. Waters had sustained several concussions over his career, and at Nowinski's behest, Waters' family agreed to send pieces of his brain to be tested. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist at the University of Pittsburgh announced that "the condition of Waters' brain tissue was what would be expected in an 85-year-old man, and there were characteristics of someone being in the early stages of Alzheimer's."
Nowinski played an integral role in the discovery of the fourth case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a former NFL football player, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk, who was killed in a fiery automobile crash in 2004 at age 36 after a 37-mile police chase at speeds up to 100 miles per hour on the wrong side of the highway. Julian Bailes, the chairman of the department of neurosurgery at West Virginia University and the Steelers' team neurosurgeon during Strzelczyk's career, insisted to Nowinski over a phone conversation that he thought Strzelczyk's death, which was precipitated by strange behavior that some had labeled as "bipolar", was worth looking into due to its similarities to the Andre Waters case. Nowinski contacted Omalu, who discovered the brain was still available, and Nowinski called Mary Strzelczyk, Justin's mother, to ask for permission to Omalu to examine it for CTE. Omalu's positive diagnosis was confirmed by two other neuropathologists.
Nowinski also collaborated with Ted Johnson, former New England Patriots linebacker, on symptoms of concussions after Johnson (who received over half a dozen concussions in his career) retired from the NFL after much controversy. Johnson was commissioned to write the foreword in Nowinski's book but at the last minute decided to pull what he had written.
Nowinski alerted police and the coroner of Chris Benoit, asking them to do a brain exam on Benoit's brain to see if concussions had any part in his rage or depression at the time of the double-homicide of his family and his suicide. In June 2007, Nowinski co-founded the Sports Legacy Institute (now the Concussion Legacy Foundation), an organization dedicated to furthering awareness of and research on sports-related head injuries, and increasing the safety of contact and collision sports worldwide. Nowinski's work was documented on ESPN's Outside the Lines on September 5, 2007. On the same day, Benoit's brain examination report showed extensive damage due to concussions that could have led to dementia. To further the Concussion Legacy Foundation's mission, the Concussion Legacy Foundation and Michael Benoit, Chris' father, have started the Benoit Family Fund for Brain Injury Research.
Since Nowinski's departure from WWE and the publication of his book Head Games, he has garnered a significant amount of media attention, making numerous appearances on networks such as ESPN and CNN to discuss sports-related head injuries. Nowinski continues to work as a consultant for Trinity Partners while serving as Co-Founder and President of the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF). The Concussion Legacy Foundation was founded on June 14, 2007 in Boston, Massachusetts by Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu in reaction to new medical research indicating brain trauma in sports had become a public health crisis. Dr. Cantu wrote the foreword in a 2012 update of Head Games to accompany the release of the documentary of the same name. Postmortem analysis of the brain tissue of former contact sports athletes was revealing that repetitive brain injuries, both concussions and subconcussive blows, could lead to the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In addition, an absence of awareness and education on concussions, specifically proper diagnosis and management, was allowing the disease to proliferate. Finally, with brain trauma becoming the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this research/education model could also be applied to the military.
Concussion Legacy Foundation, formerly named Sports Legacy Institute, according to Nowinski, was founded to solve this concussion crisis in sports and the military through medical research, treatment, and education & prevention. The initial vision of the Concussion Legacy Foundation was to formalize neuropathological research and develop and treatment, via partnership with a top-tier university medical school. To that end, the Concussion Legacy Foundation began such a partnership with Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) in September 2008, collaborating in formation of its Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE Center). Subsequently, Concussion Legacy Foundation has sought to develop ways to raise awareness of the issue and to directly educate coaches, athletes and parents. In 2009, SLI created a Coaches Concussion Clinic program. The Concussion Legacy Foundation has been featured in articles in The New York Times, on news programs such as 60 Minutes and Frontline, and has appeared in various segments on CNN, ESPN, and other networks.
In September 2015, the Sports Legacy Institute announced a rebrand and changed its name to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The rebrand aimed to align the evolution of the organization’s programs with its name. The organization is still led by its co-founders, Nowinksi and Dr. Robert Cantu. In the announcement, Nowinski states, “the original name reflected our singular focus on conducting chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research during our first year. The new name reflects the expansion of our programs – including concussion prevention and care, as well as accelerating treatment and a cure for post-concussion syndrome and CTE.” A new website (I can link this), logo and tagline were introduced in the rebrand. The new tagline is “Leading to a Safer Future.” Nowinski continues, “we look forward to creating change to ensure that children can participate in sports without worrying it will derail their life, and that parents and coaches are armed with the tools to help them provide a safer environment.”
Nowinski is a co-director at the CTE Center of BUSM, where he works closely with Ann McKee, M.D., and other center experts (see below), as a liaison making contact with athletes and families of deceased athletes, to further case studies that examine brain tissues impacted by CTE. Nowinski also makes public speaking appearances at schools and conferences, and occasionally, before audiences of medical professionals.
Nowinski's work on concussion research has led him to act as a spokesperson for his fellow experts at the CTE Center of BUSM (e.g., M.D./Ph.D. faculty members Robert Cantu, Ann McKee, Robert A. Stern, and Lee Goldstein); in this role he provides a voice for the field of concussion-related research and awareness. He continues to be an outspoken voice advocating against the dangers of sports related head injuries, with numerous television and newspaper interviews. He also continues to have a number of conflicts:*Conflicts arise in sports-related concussions fight The work being done at the SLI has been featured on 60 Minutes. Nowinski appeared on Stan Lee's Superhumans as a non-medical expert on concussions. Hockey News listed Nowinski on its 2011 edition of the 100 Most Powerful people in ice hockey as one of the Top 40 under the age of 40. This recognition was attributed to his ability in getting hockey players to donate brain tissue after death.Finishing moves
Harvard Buster (Full nelson facebuster)
Honor Roll (Swinging double underhook suplex)
World Wrestling Entertainment
WWE Hardcore Championship (2 times)
Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
Worst Worked Match of the Year (2002) with Jackie Gayda vs. Bradshaw and Trish Stratus on Raw on July 8