As is the case in every profession, the majority of wrestlers and those who make their living in the wrestling industry are dumb, dumb, dumb, stupid as heck idiot bags of hammers and lard who would perish almost instantly were they not born into a society where individuals can meet their basic survival needs with little to no thought or effort.
Luckily, food and shelter is plentiful enough to keep most of these knuckle-dragging humps alive, but more importantly, a few pillars of the wrestling business wield relatively impressive intellectual chops. Here, we honor those select few smarty pantses, for without them, wrestling would be a realm populated exclusively by mindless, subhuman troglodytes. WWE entertains millions of people every week, but were it not for those herein listed who demonstrate shimmers of genius, wrestling would not be entertaining.
Keep in mind there's more than one way to be smart. Some of what follows focuses on accomplishments outside of the ring. Other entrees showed off their intellect by clever behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Some of those who make our collection of wrestling geniuses pulled down an impressive college degree or two before they launched their careers in the squared circle.
Let us, as quasi-journalists and readers, observe these paragons of brain power and hope to someday be savvy enough to perhaps approach their mental abilities. Should we follow in their examples, eventually, the whole world will be just as exciting as wrestling. We will all be pretending to hit each other in the back with chairs, cutting snarky promos, and switching from faces to heels depending on how our individual lines of merchandise are resonating with the fans. All of the fighting will be pretend. Wars will cease to cause anyone any unscripted damage and steroid use would be mandatory. We will all be muscular and sexy, unless being fat is part of our gimmicks.
Antonio Cesaro speaks five languages. Five. Granted, that degree of multi-lingual-ness is not at all uncommon in his home nation of Switzerland, but learning a new language is still pretty tough! Between high school and college, I’ve taken four years worth of French classes in my life. The only phrase I remember is “J’aime la glace.” On the last day of my second French class in college, the woman who sat in the desk next to me throughout much of the semester commented, “Billy, you have not pronounced a single French word correctly this entire time. Every word you tried to say was wrong. You are pathetic.” I failed to learn French, because learning new languages is impossible unless you’re a super genius like Cesaro.
11 Shane Douglas
Not everyone agrees that Shane Douglas deserved his old Dean Douglas persona. Some of those people say it was a horrible gimmick and Douglas required better. Others argue that Shane Douglas is dumb and therefore isn’t smart enough to live up to a cartoony “smart guy” routine. There’s some evidence to support the latter theory - There was the Extreme Rising debacle and that he firebombed his bridge to WWE in numerous worked "shoot" promos during his ECW heyday. However, it’s not unreasonable to say burying Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair probably seemed like brilliant ideas at the time. Maybe Extreme Rising looked good on paper. Plus he was a double major honors grad from Bethany College and would’ve been a doctor had he not chosen a pair of yellow spandex briefs over a lab coat as his professional garb. The Franchise is smart! Kinda!
10 Erick Rowan
According to WWE, Erick Rowan’s IQ is all the way up at 143, which depending on what kind of test he took, could qualify him for a Mensa membership. We can’t say for sure whether that’s a legitimate IQ score or something WWE exaggerated to make his character more compelling. But we know for sure he can solve a Rubik’s cube pretty fast - or at least much faster than the average person! Plus he still gets to hang out with the rest of The Wyatt Family despite not being the biggest, the best talker, or the best worker of the quartet. Is that because he’s secretly the smartest? Maybe.
9 Bray Wyatt
If Windham Rotunda wasn’t an especially smart man, he’d still be wrestling as a Husky Harris-type character at indie shows. Instead, he managed to reinvent himself under the radar of his notoriously micromanagement-crazed WWE overlords as his own creation, Bray Wyatt. Now, he’s probably making at least $500K a year and will be able to retire wealthy and professionally fulfilled in 15 or 20 years. Plus, as he announced back when he was in FCW, he set Irwin R. Shyster on fire and ended his father’s life whilst IRS embarked upon a side career as a shrimp boat fisherman, which was an astute way to distance himself from the Tax Man’s legacy.
11. Shane McMahon
Everybody knows that without the protective umbrella of the WWE and the McMahon family fortune, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H would both be starving in the streets, sleeping in pools of their own urine and misery, brandishing cardboard signs that read "Will Job For Food." Shane-O-Mac, on the other hand, left WWE to go do his own thing and, by all accounts, sounds like he’s better off for it. Wikipedia tells us he’s currently the Chairman of the Board of something or other called You On Demand, a position he can probably hold without ever getting suplexed through glass or having his testicles rigged up to a car battery by a libertarian horror movie monster. Way to not have your testicles electrocuted, Shane!
Scott Levy would be higher on this list if everyone didn’t already know that he’s a big ol’ Smarty Pants McGoo. But the whole world knows that! Like all of the best gimmicks, Raven the psychological manipulator and tactical expert is more-or-less based in reality. Dude’s a Mensa member, which means his IQ is at least higher than Erick Rowan’s IQ, which is pretty darn high. Raven was held back and kept from becoming a massive superstar in WWE because Vince knew Raven would take over his family company if he got too high on the card and influential backstage. If Raven had become the new CEO of WWE like he should have, the PG Era never would’ve happened, every match would end with a crucifixion, Stevie Richards would have a job for life, and ratings would be at an all-time high. Raven is the smartest wrestler.
7 Lanny Poffo
Is “The Genius” Lanny Poffo truly a brilliant man or did he merely wear a graduation cap and gown for many years, thus convincing the world that he was constantly receiving college degrees when, in fact, he was too busy being a professional wrestler to earn repeated, gratuitous degrees? No one in the world will ever know for sure. But here’s a more interesting question - is there a meaningful difference between being intelligent and the ability to appear intelligent to others? Lanny Poffo might not be a shoot genius, but he did a good enough job as a kayfabe genius to make us wonder.
6 CM Punk
Some would argue that a man who walks away from a multi-million dollar pro wrestling job to participate in an unscripted sport in which he may get killed is not demonstrating a remarkable degree of intelligence. We contend that leaving WWE was, in fact, a wise move. Jealous of his clearly unmatched talent, Vince McMahon had instructed backstage doctors to slowly poison Punk with steroids laced with arsenic and was forcing fans to cross out “CM Punk Rules” on their T-shirts, and write “John Cena Rules” underneath, so he could give Cena all of Punk’s merchandise royalties. That's obviously not real, but CM Punk knows a lot about proper grammar and will probably do just fine in UFC.
5 Eve Torres
One of the interchangeable placeholders that was on TV during the post-Trish Stratus and Lita/pre-NXT doldrums of WWE’s Diva’s division, Eve Torres winds up on all of these “Smart Wrestling People” lists via her impressive academic accomplishments at the University of Southern California. While not necessarily one of WWE’s most memorable female athletes, we definitely can't take away her impressive smarts.
4 David Otunga
An individual does not earn a degree from Harvard Law by being a dummy. Nor does one secure a job at World Wrestling Entertainment despite unremarkable in-ring skills without an exceptional amount of professional tact. But the real zenith of Otunga’s smarty smarts occurred during I Love New York 2, when he brutally rejected New York’s sexual advances and called her a “Stupidface McMorronButt who could never eat a delicious law degree” as he had and immediately proposed to Jennifer Hudson as New York collapsed and wept hysterically, realizing she’d never find a man who emotionally or sexually satisfied her as much as Otunga.
3 Mick Foley
Call him Cactus Jack, Mankind, or Dude Love, it doesn’t matter, Mick Foley is the greatest wrestler of all time. He’s also a multi-time New York Times bestselling author, which takes some smarts. But it was only by utilizing his staggering intelligence and wisdom that, with the most subtle of manipulations and machinations, he annihilated Al Snow’s mind and soul. Snow was once a famous pro wrestler, but today, he lives in a cardboard box and is hopelessly addicted to huffing air duster. Al Snow’s children thank Mick Foley every day for demolishing their father and sparing them the horror of the Al Snow-ish parenting they would’ve been subjected to without Foley’s intervention.
4. Christopher Nowinski
Getting hit in the head, especially on a regular basis, is seriously dangerous. For some bizarre reason, professional sports - including and especially wrestling - went about their collective business as if it wasn’t for decades upon decades. “Repeated blows to the head aren’t a big deal,” said Football and Wrestling. “Well, we guess you must be right,” said us. “No sense in worrying too much about head trauma if Wrestling and Football says not to.”
In bold defiance to Football and Wrestling’s apathy and the public’s blissful obliviousness, Christopher Nowinski said, “Actually, getting hit in the head all the time is, y’know, preeeetty not cool. I’m going to start an entire foundation devoted to helping athletes with lifelong debilitating injuries from all those blows to the noggin Wrestling and Football said weren’t a big deal. F@#$ all of you guys.”
2 Xavier Woods
The man who single-handedly makes every WWE show entertaining by standing outside the ring and yelling stuff is on his way to earning a PhD, but compared to his other feats of intellectual prowess, the doctorate looks like a trifle. Ever since Eric Bischoff invented pro wrestling in 1943, every single one of the sport's many performers sought to incorporate trombones into their nightly spectacle. Because he succeeded when literally every other wrestler has failed, Xavier Woods is a genius.
Rachel “MsChif” Frobel does work in microbiology that we here at The Sportster could not even begin to comprehend. We know “micro” means “small” and “biology” means “science things,” but that’s the extent of our understanding of MsChif’s day job. Maybe she shrinks things? Kind of like how Michael Douglas did in the Ant-Man movie or how Ray Palmer does in the Justice League? We tried to read a book on microbiology to write this blurb, but the words made us so confused and angry that we set it on fire, because all science is witchcraft. But because we’re patriotic Americans who love diversity, we accept MsChif and her practice of “science.”
1. Joey Ryan
With an innovation whose name we’re not allowed to publish (It rhymes with YouKoRn Plex), Joey Ryan has done what was previously thought completely unthinkable - unseat The People’s Elbow with the most simultaneously bonkers and devastating maneuver in all of professional wrestling. It required a supreme degree of creativity and marketing acumen to not only create the move not actually known as the “YouKoRn Plex," but to exploit the professional connections necessary to parlay it into a lucrative sponsorship deal. Many men have thought about using their privates as weapons, but only Joey Ryan succeeded.