They say that it is impossible to properly define intelligence. Because there are so many forms of intelligence in the world, it is sometimes not fair to hold everyone to the same standard of general intellect. As much as this argument makes sense, it is occasionally undone by the simple fact that being smart is best identified by placing it next to an example of absolute stupidity. Once you have appreciated the contrast, it is hard to not single out who, exactly, is intelligent and who is not.
The same is true for professional wrestlers. While an uninformed person might tell you that wrestling is stupid and everyone who works in the wrestling business is, therefore, stupid, wrestling fans know better. There are men and women in the wrestling industry who may have chosen a life of spandex and suplexes but could have just have easily thrived in a variety of professional environments due to how smart they really are. Of course, part of the reason we are able to appreciate their intelligence is because they worked side-by-side with some true idiots. Hey, nobody likes being called out for their intelligence, but when you get right down to it, these are the eight wrestlers who are incredibly smart in real life and the seven who are very dumb.
15 Smart - Hacksaw Jim Duggan
We are just as surprised as you are. Most fans remember Jim Duggan as that guy who carried around a big stick, yelled a lot, and stuck his thumb up. In many ways, he came across as... How to say this... A forerunner for Eugene. Apparently, it was just all an act.
Duggan was a bit of a nerd in high school - he was in the chess club as well as on the football team - and was accepted at the prestigious Southwest Methodist University. What did he study? Why, plant biology, of course! Yes, Duggan got a degree in biology which is not exactly easy to come by. Our best guess with him is that it just takes a really smart man to know there is more money in being really stupid.
14 Stupid - Lex Luger
Here is a bit of a complicated one. To be perfectly fair, most of Luger’s notable instances of stupidity can be blamed on the character he was playing. When he did things like celebrate after “beating” Yokozuna with a countout for the title even though it was established that the belt could not change due to a countout, that is because he was booked to do such things.
Then, you remember that Lex Luger’s character was not always booked to be stupid. So, when he did things like constantly interrupt Royal Rumble eliminations despite the fact that this strategy did him no good, that is all on him. You also have his history with drug abuse and an inability to hide his massive collection of pills from the cops that visited his home. Add to that Luger’s often bizarre way of speaking and... Well, you get the picture.
13 Smart - Kevin Nash
The argument for the intelligence of Kevin Nash is two-fold. Before he got into wrestling, he was both an accomplished athlete and accomplished student. Even though he was on the University of Tennessee football team, he found the time to major in psychology and minor in educational philosophy. Those are not exactly joke majors you occasionally attend in-between practices.
However, the surest signs of Nash’s intelligence can be found throughout his wrestling career. He has always been able to cut surprisingly intelligent promos for a big man, and he also seemed to have an uncanny ability to find himself in the good graces of the right people at the right time. Being a career-long wrestling politician requires a great deal of cunning at the very least.
12 Stupid - Ryback
Oh, Ryback. Where to start on Ryback. Well, let’s start with the fact that he never really came across as the smartest man in the room during his WWE run. As we saw with Hacksaw Jim Duggan, however, that does not necessarily mean anything. What does potentially mean something is when Ryback himself famously confesses that he is very stupid. The story goes that he injured CM Punk on a couple of occasions. One time, Punk confronted him about these incidents. Punk asked if Ryback is intentionally trying to hurt him, or if he is just very stupid. The Big Guy informed Punk that he is just "dumb as ****". If that is not enough for you, just take a look at some of Ryback’s post-WWE comments which feature some rather interesting thoughts on why he is not the biggest wrestler of his era.
11 Smart - Sheamus
Sheamus definitely is not the first one that comes to mind when you think of incredibly intelligent wrestlers. That is not to say that he comes across as stupid. He does not. It is just that Sheamus has never really had the chance to showcase any extreme intelligence as an Irish brawler. Those who have heard him give interviews outside of the ring, however, can tell you that the "Celtic Warrior" comes across as a pretty intelligent guy. As it turns out, that is exactly what he is. Sheamus worked an IT job while trying to pay the bills as an indie wrestler. Even though he says that he does not feel like he could have ever been a programmer, he clearly knows his stuff. He also has a diploma from the National College of Ireland.
10 Stupid - Brutus Beefcake
The smartest thing that Brutus Beefcake ever did was become friends with Hulk Hogan. His friendship with Hogan helped Beefcake stay employed for the better part of the 1980s and 1990s. Were it not for his friendship with Hogan, we shudder to think what would have happened to him. First off, it is usually not a good sign when you are the type of person who agrees to every practical joke gimmick that gets thrown your way. It is also not good when your rampant cocaine use causes a terrorist scare. Yes, while working as a subway agent, Beefcake accidentally left his cocaine sticking out of his bag. When someone spotted it while he was away, they rightly called the cops to report a possible anthrax attack. A very embarrassed Beefcake had to tell the cops that the substance was not anthrax; it was just his cocaine.
9 Smart - Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods is certainly a modern wrestler. He is not that big of a guy, he does not work a very traditional in-ring style, and he is a huge nerd. Woods has his own video game channel on YouTube, is a regular at conventions, and has essentially turned New Day into his glorified vehicle for pop culture references.
As it turns out, Xavier is also an exemplary student. Before becoming a wrestler, Woods graduated from the prestigious Furman University with a Masters in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy. That is impressive.
Equally awe-inspiring is the fact that Woods trained as a wrestler during his time at Furman. In fact, he has previously stated that he ultimately had to choose between pursuing his PhD and becoming a full-time wrestler. We think he made the right decision.
8 Stupid - Booker T
Let us make one thing clear: we love Booker T. He is a great wrestler, a tremendous personality, and, by most accounts, a likeable guy. None of that changes the fact that he was supposedly a little on the dim side.
At a young age, he was found guilty of robbing several Wendy’s restaurants which certainly was not the brightest thing to do, but OK, we can chalk that up to a misspent youth. That does little to explain why it is that Booker T sounds like he is constantly lost on commentary and has to rely on the strangest assortment of catchphrases this side of a 1950s television comedy. It also does not explain why his famous appearance on the game show The Weakest Link saw Booker struggling to answer the question “Which famous October holiday celebrates the discovery of America?”
7 Smart - Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler appears made to be a professional wrestler. He’s got the look, he’s got the skills, he’s got the attitude, and he’s got that certain something that separates stars from the general pack of performers. It is hard to imagine Ziggler doing anything else. Well, unless you are Dolph Ziggler, that is.
We know that Ziggler graduated from Kent University with a major in Political Science and a minor in Pre-Law. According to him, he was not quite sure whether he was going to pursue a career in wrestling or whether he was going to attend Arizona State Law School in order to become a lawyer. Ziggler claims that it was a coin flip decision and the he feels that he would have made an excellent attorney. In fact, he has not ruled out getting his law degree one day.
6 Stupid - Scott Steiner
Historically speaking, there are two Scott Steiners. The first Scott Steiner was a collegiate wrestler who transformed the pro wrestling tag scene with his unique blend of high-flying maneuvers and power wrestling. However, many people felt that he did not have the personality needed to become a star. Years later, Steiner sacrificed some of his in-ring abilities in favor of becoming a personality and steroid-fueled force of nature. It was during his second phase that his stupidity came to light. Anyone who has ever tried to truly understand a Scott Steiner promo will immediately tell you that he is the kind of dim person that seems to believe he is much smarter than he actually is. Steiner’s attempts at math and basic sentence structure are nothing short of disasters.
5 Smart - Raven
You may be thinking that we have incorrectly placed Raven in the smart section of this list. We understand why you would think that. After all, his most famous gimmick saw him play what essentially amounted to an aging angry teenager who had no qualms about taking repeated chair shots to the head. How smart do you have to be do do that? Well, apparently, the answer is "pretty smart".
Raven is a well-known member of Mensa: the largest and oldest society comprised entirely of members with confirmed high IQs. That means that he has at least an IQ somewhere in the 130-140 range. There is a long-standing rumor that Vince McMahon feared Raven might become too influential in the WWE if he pushed him too high up the card, and Paul Heyman has always spoken about how the wrestler also known as Johnny Polo is one of the most creatively intelligent wrestlers he ever worked with.
4 Stupid - Sid Vicious
Sid Vicious rose through the ranks at a time when promotions were always looking for the next great big man wrestler. At first, he seemed like the total package in that respect. He had the size, he had a good look, and he was not even that awful in the ring. Once Sid cut a promo, however, fans and promoters everywhere knew why he was not being pushed to the moon. Vicious' seeming inability to string together enough words to form an actual sentence hinted that he might be a little cells short of a fully-functional brain, but his actions outside of the ring just confirmed that rumor. Sid is the guy who tried to attack someone with a squeegee. He is the guy who reportedly stuffed a squirrel down his pants on a bet. These are not the actions of a smart man.
3 Smart - Kane
What is it about wrestlers with traditionally dumb gimmicks turning out to be the smartest guys in the room? Before he was Kane, Glenn Jacobs played just about every awful gimmick you could ever imagine. He was Isaac Yankem (the evil dentist), Fake Diesel, and even the Christmas Creature.
So why would a man ever allow himself to endure a murderer’s row of awful characters? Probably because Kane always had his degree and general intelligence to fall back on. Yes, he earned a degree in English Literature at Northeast Missouri State. More important than his credentials is the way that Jacob’s fellow wrestlers speak about him. Daniel Bryan has stated that Jacobs is legitimately the smartest man he has ever met and he’s not the only person to share the sentiment. Recently, Kane has focused on establishing a career in politics and regularly gives insightful interviews that show just how smart he really is. He's actively running for mayor in Knox County, Tennessee.
2 Stupid - The Ultimate Warrior
Nobody ever said you have to be a rocket scientist to be a professional wrestling star, but as we have seen throughout this list, the business is filled with actual geniuses who went on to become household names. The Ultimate Warrior was not one of those geniuses. Right from the start, there were plenty of signs that Warrior was not that bright. For instance, he refused to stop working stiff with Andre the Giant until Giant knocked him out.
Warrior’s real-life exploits are what really earns him the top spot in this category, though. As if it was not questionable enough that Jim Hellwig had his name legally changed to Warrior, he went on to deliver motivational speeches and write blog posts which were both politically questionable and scientifically bewildering.
1 Smart -David Otunga
There are all kinds of intelligence in the world, but you really do get the feeling that David Otunga is the most “traditionally” intelligent person to ever wrestle for WWE. He graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA, which is impressive, but perhaps not jaw-dropping. However, he went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, become a lab manager at Columbia University’s Cognitive Neuroscience Center, and graduated from Harvard Law School. At this point, you are probably asking yourself why it is that Otunga decided to turn down a lucrative career in law in order to become a professional wrestler.
Well, he actually decided to become an actor and just kind of fell into wrestling when he caught WWE’s attention. However you define intelligence, you have to consider Otunga to be one of the smartest wrestlers ever.