What exactly comes to your mind when you think professional wrestler? I’m assuming it’s most likely the image of some larger than life personality like that of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, or maybe even John Cena. To many of you the term professional wrestler or sports entertainer may conjure up a completely different image of someone more like Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels but there is one constant. To most people the term professional wrestler or sports entertainer does not equate to a smart (or brilliant) individual. However, just because the majority of people tend to make this assumption, it does not mean that they are right.
The following article will go through the 10 smartest wrestlers in the history of the WWE. With that being said, let's first clarify a few things. This list will not be including wrestlers that merely had the gimmick of being smart like “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase’s personal accountant Irwin R. Schyster, Dean Douglas, “The Intellectual Savior of the Masses” Damien Sandow, The Genius (Lanny Poffo), or Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. This list will be covering wrestlers that actually furthered and completed their education at university or college and have used it to further their endeavors outside of the squared circle.
Before we begin, I’d like to give an honorable mention to the Hardcore Legend himself, Mick Foley who became an incredibly prolific writer when his days in the squared circle began to wind down. Foley has written several New York Times best sellers, including four autobiographies, two fiction novels and several children’s books (with another on the way). He is clearly one of the smartest individuals in the history of the WWE however as I mentioned before this article will be covering only those who completed their education at a university or college in high esteem.
10 Wade Barrett
It has been well documented that while living in Liverpool in his early 20s, Barrett became a bare-knuckle boxer champion, fighting in various locations throughout Europe. However, before the future NXT season one winner and current Intercontinental Champion made his way to the WWE he furthered his education at the University of Liverpool. It was at this university that the former Nexus leader earned a degree in Marine Biology. He even spent time working in a science laboratory and as a Recruitment Consultant at Venn Group’s London Office before deciding to join the rough and tumble world of professional wrestling. So if you’re looking for a man to describe the digestive tract of a bottlenose dolphin while punching you in the face, he’s your bloke.
9 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger attended the University of Oklahoma as a two-sport athlete, participating in both football and wrestling. He switched to wrestling full-time in his sophomore year, and in 2006, set the record for most pins in a season with 30 as an All-American. During his junior year, he was introduced to Jim Ross who was at that time, the WWE’s Head Of Talent Relations, through former OU defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, Swagger’s close friend and college roommate. Ross encouraged Swagger to contact him after graduating. In 2006, he graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance. Following his graduation, Swagger had a job with a firm in Dallas, but was offered a contract with WWE the day he was scheduled to start.
8 Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler is a graduate of Kent State University, where he majored in Political Science with a Pre-law minor. While attending Kent State he also wrestled collegiately, eventually setting what was then the record for most career wins in the team's history. Prior to his WWE tryout, he was living in Phoenix, Arizona, and had been accepted into law school at Arizona State University, where he was due to start his first semester.
Additional Fun Fact: The Showoff attended St. Edwards High School in Lakewood, Ohio, where he was an amateur wrestler, and holds the school record for most pins in a career with 82. During his time at St. Edward, the wrestling team won the National Championships on two occasions.
Glen Jacobs (also known as The Devil’s Favorite Demon) actually earned a degree in English Literature at Northeast Missouri State University, where he played both basketball and football. Most fans are aware that he is very outspoken in terms of politics and is even a member of the Free State Project. He hosted a podcast titled The Tiny Political Show under the pseudonym Citizen X (from March 16, 2007 to March 13, 2008) and ran a blog called The Adventures of Citizen X at AdventuresOfCitizenX.com and is also a contributor to LewRockwell.com.
If all that wasn’t surprising enough, he even owns an insurance company with his wife called The Jacobs Agency, which is located in Tennessee. The only real question is if they also offer fire insurance.
Fun fact: Kane was a winner on the Weakest Link's WWE edition.
6 Eve Torres
The winner of the 2007 Diva Search attended the University of Southern California on a full tuition scholarship. During college, she was one of the founding members of the Omega Phi Beta sorority chapter on her campus and held the vice president position for several years. While in Omega Phi Beta, Torres was awarded for Academic Excellence at the Order of Omega Greek Awards. She graduated with honors and a Grade Point Average above 3.5 in May 2006, with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Fun Fact: Eve Torres is trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and holds a blue belt from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Torrance, California. She is a spokeswoman and head instructor for the Gracie Women Empowered Self-defense program.
5 Matt Striker
After obtaining a Bachelor's degree in History and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology, Striker began working as a high school teacher. He worked part time as a substitute, filling in when other teachers were on leave. In 2004, he was hired full time as a social studies teacher at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Queens, New York, but continued to wrestle part time during his vacation time and on weekends. He resigned from his position as a teacher, however, when the school found out that he was using sick days as an excuse to keep up with his wrestling commitments. Matt Striker is best known for his time in the WWE where his competed in the ring prior to becoming a color commentator for the company.
Side Note: For any fans wondering what happened to Matt Striker, he is currently working as the lead announcer for Lucha Underground, which airs weekly on the El Rey network.
4 Michelle McCool
Growing up, Michelle McCool was an avid wrestling fan, going as far as knowing how to do Ric Flair’s signature figure-four leglock by age seven. Before and during high school, McCool played softball, basketball and volleyball. She also played first base at Pasco-Hernando State College. McCool later received her Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Florida State University.
Before becoming involved in professional wrestling, she taught seventh grade science for four years in Palatka, Florida. She also competed in National Physique Committee fitness contests, taught gymnastics and kickboxing, and worked as a personal trainer prior to joining Diva Search. In the summer of 2004, the 24-year-old McCool participated in the RAW Diva Search contest, becoming one of the finalists, but only finished 7th place, as she was eliminated on August 16; the winner of the contest was Christy Hemme. However, McCool and other Diva Search contestants were hired by WWE later.
3 Xavier Woods
The man formerly known as Consequences Creed (in TNA) graduated from Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia in 2004. That same year he began studying psychology and philosophy at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. While attending Furman University, he began training for a career in professional wrestling and in 2005 began wrestling part time.
On October 21, 2007, it was reported that Creed had signed a contract with TNA. He graduated from Furman University with two degrees—a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and Philosophy on May 29, 2008, all while he continued to perform with TNA until he was released in 2010. Then on July 22, 2010, it was announced that he had signed a developmental contract with WWE eventually making his way to the main roster. As of 2013, Woods has already earned a Masters in Psychology and is currently working on attaining a PhD.
2 Christopher Nowinski
Many people may recall Chris Nowinski as one of the three finalists on the first season of Tough Enough where he was given the nickname Harvard Chris. Nowinski is renowned for being WWE's first Harvard Alumnus, as he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. He is also recognized as the youngest Hardcore Champion in WWE history. Following his wrestling career, he wrote Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis, which examined the long-term effects of head trauma among athletes, and also became a documentary.
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 president on the board of directors for the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI). SLI 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.
1 David Otunga
We made sure to save the best for last with WWE Superstar David Otunga. He may be known better outside of wrestling as Mr. Jennifer Hudson or as a reality star (remember the VH1 television show I Love New York – he was on the second season of the show and given the nickname “Punk”), but believe it or not he has a much more impressive resume than you may think.
Otunga is the most educationally decorated WWE superstar on the roster. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. From there, he worked at Columbia University as a lab manager in the cognitive neuroscience center. Next, Otunga went on to attend and graduate Harvard Law School, passing the bar exam in Illinois. He left a very promising career at Sidley Austin LLP to pursue his dream of becoming a WWE superstar.