There is a stigma that hovers over professional athletes that many of them are not all that intelligent because they did not “have” to attend a college or university in order to begin their careers. That perception, not all that surprisingly, is also had about those who work in the world of professional wrestling. Some casual observers, not to mention critics of the business, may simply assume that the athletes who sacrifice their bodies in rings on a weekly basis must not have degrees. Why else would somebody go through the physical tolls that come with training for and performing in matches if they could so something else with their lives?
As has been pointed out by World Wrestling Entertainment and also by ESPN, Xavier Woods has actively been pursuing multiple degrees for years. While Woods has been praised, and rightly so, for working to further his education while at the same time continuing to live his dream as a pro wrestler, he is hardly the only in-ring performer to, at one point or another, have earned degrees. This includes both males and female wrestlers, and also some of the biggest stars to ever work for organizations such as the WWE, World Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
15 Michelle McCool
Art imitates life, or so the saying goes, and that was the case for Michelle McCool during her early days in the WWE. She was given the gimmick of a “school teacher,” one that stemmed from her experiences before she was with the company. McCool, who has received her Master's degree in Education, was a legitimate schoolteacher before she became an in-ring performer and part of the “LayCool” team. She has since chosen to walk away from the business, and she is currently the wife of Mark Calaway – the man better known to wrestling fans as The Undertaker.
14 Wade Barrett
Before he was chosen to be the leader of heel group “Nexus” and before he was WWE royalty, Wade Barrett earned a degree in Marine Biology. He spent time, as he once described to the Lancashire Telegraph, “working on medical kits to diagnose diabetes and things like that.” Barrett wanted more. “It really wasn’t for me,” Barrett explained. “A lot of people had grown out of wrestling and moved onto the next thing but I had kept watching. Literally from the day I first watched wrestling as a nine-year-old boy it brought out emotions in me that nothing else I had ever seen had. It lit a passion in me that day that remains to this day.”
13 Eve Torres
Eve Torres has worn many figurative hats since her days at the University of Southern California. It was at USC where Torres earned a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering. An accomplished member of the school's dance squad, Torres has also trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The performer who spent time as a champion in the WWE and also as an authority has since walked away from the company and the business. She is married to Rener Gracie, she has dabbled in acting gigs, and she has spent time as a Jiu-Jitsu instructor.
12 Maria Kanellis
While she has not technically yet earned a degree as of the posting of this piece, all indications are that the former WWE Diva is taking her education very seriously as of the summer of 2015. It was reported in June of this year that Maria Kanellis registered a 3.83 GPA at Johnson and Wales University while working toward earning a Sports Entertainment and Event Management degree. This is not to suggest that Maria has completely abandoned her pursuit of glory, fame and fortune in the wrestling business. Maria continues to appear on Ring of Honor television and at ROH events.
11 David Otunga
It would be easy to understand why some wrestling fans out there may have forgotten about David Otunga these days. It has been some time since he has been an active character on the Raw and SmackDown brands. Before he was part of the first ever season of NXT and the Nexus heel faction, Otunga, who looks like a bodybuilder, was a practicing attorney. Along with that background, Otunga is also married to pop music star and actress Jennifer Hudson. Otunga is seemingly going to be just fine even if he never wins a singles championship while working in the WWE.
10 Chris Jericho
Years before he would emerge as “Y2J,” “The Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla” and the first Undisputed Champion in the history of the WWE, Chris Jericho first took steps to plan for a career that may not involve pro wrestling. Jericho attended Red River Community College, located in Winnipeg, and he earned his degree in Journalism before eventually finding his true calling. Outside of electrifying wrestling crowds for companies such as WCW and the WWE, Jericho has appeared on television programs such as Dancing With The Stars.
9 Matt Striker
Matt Striker is the second example of a WWE performer who was first a teacher. Striker earned a Master's degree in Educational Philosophy, and he spent time as an educator at the high school level before a new line of work called his name. He had many roles while under the WWE umbrella, working as an in-ring performer, a manager and an announcer. Striker has since parted ways with the WWE, but he is still working in the industry. He is currently an English commentator for the Lucha Underground promotion, one that could be gaining steam as 2015 rolls along.
8 The Rock
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was an accomplished collegiate football player for the University of Miami, where he earned a Bachelor's in General Studies. Rock, needless to say, will not be needing to use that degree anytime soon. One of the most-popular acts in the history of the WWE, Rock made his name and millions of dollars thanks to the wrestling industry. He has since moved on to Hollywood and the film world, and The Rock has been part of numerous blockbusters and summer hits. His days at “The U” must seem like a lifetime ago for the superstar actor.
Glenn Jacobs, who has mostly been known as “Kane” during his decades in the WWE, was a multi-sport athlete in college. He earned his degree in English Literature at what was, at the time, known as Northeast Missouri State University. It took a few runs and some failed gimmicks before Jacobs was presented with the role of Kane, one that he has portrayed in the company for nearly two decades. Kane is also a known political activist on the side, as he has attended numerous events for multiple parties. He is currently part of the heel faction “The Authority” and he serves as an active in-ring performer.
6 Kurt Angle
The native of Pennsylvania attended Clarion University and he graduated with a degree in Education in 1993. It would turn out that Kurt Angle was meant to be more than just a teacher. Angle went on to famously win gold at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, and a very brief stint in Extreme Championship Wrestling was followed by Angle signing for the WWE. The rest, as they say, is history. Angle has won numerous championships while working for the WWE and later on TNA Wrestling, and he is widely perceived as one of the best overall performers of his time.
5 Dolph Ziggler
Before anybody had ever heard of the name Dolph Ziggler and before the Spirit Squad was formed in Ohio Valley Wrestling, Nicholas Nemeth studied both Political Science and pre-Law at Kent State University. He also achieved success as a collegiate wrestler, winning multiple honors before graduating with a pre-law degree. Rather than attend law school or use his degrees for other purposes, Nemeth instead linked up with the WWE. Ziggler, who is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, is now a mainstay on weekly WWE television and he is also involved with programs that air on the WWE Network.
4 Evan Bourne
Matt Korklan has worked under multiple names in the wrestling business, most notably Evan Bourne while in the WWE and Matt Sydal on the independent scene. While he had been given opportunities to wrestle at a young age, Korklan still desired to pursue additional education past high school. He gained a Bachelor's Degree in Business-Marketing from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2005, and Korklan did earn a job as a a sales and marketing vice president for a mailbox company. The wrestling itch never left him, however, and parting ways with the WWE in 2014 has still not stopped Korklan from performing inside of rings.
3 Jack Swagger
It has, since he was first introduced to WWE audiences, been pointed out that Jack Swagger set records while wrestling at the University of Oklahoma. What is not as sexy a story as it pertains to the WWE is that Swagger also earned a Bachelor's degree in Finance. Swagger could have chosen to take a gig in that field of work, but the WWE came calling at the ideal time for the collegiate wrestler. He has mostly been an afterthought in the WWE universe throughout the majority of 2015, but Swagger does have a World Heavyweight Championship victory on his resume. Nobody can take that away from him.
2 John Cena
The superstar who is the founder and leader of the “Cenation” sect of fans did not always know that he was going to be a WWE champion. John Cena played football in college, he earned a degree in Exercise Physiology and Movement Studies, and he also pursued a living as a professional bodybuilder. Life and the fates had different plans for Cena, however, and he went on to become the top babyface in the business for over a decade to date. Some fans may not appreciate all that Cena has sacrificed to the wrestling business, but there is no doubt that he is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
1 Vince McMahon
The head man of WWE who has held multiple titles in his own organization was not, in his own words, always destined to work in the wrestling business. McMahon's father did not want Vince to work as an in-ring performer, so the future CEO instead attended East Carolina University. It was there where McMahon earned a Business Administration degree in 1968. McMahon has, since taking over for his father, turned the WWE into a global media brand that has spread out into the worlds of music, television and movies, and he has also done well to swallow up any significant competitor that has existed in North America.