For many, professional wrestling isn’t high on the list of “intellectual” sports. Some would even argue the validity of it being labeled a sport in the first place. It’s a sport that is populated by hulking brutes who want to smash each other using whatever means necessary. After all, how intellectual can a person be after they’ve been smashed over the head with a metal chair?
The answer may actually surprise you. While the WWE’s roster of superstars certainly look the part of the dumb jock, many don’t fill out the role quite as perfectly as you might imagine. In fact, there are a wide variety of rather intellectual people who have found their way into the world of professional wrestling by one way or another.
Whether you measure intelligence by college diplomas, political prowess, or business acumen, plenty of WWE superstars have interesting backgrounds outside of wrestling that may prove surprising. Just because these individuals have chosen a career path that involves funny costumes and over the top drama, doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent. Heck, they probably make more than most of us combined.
We’ve gathered a list of some of the more prime examples of intellect affiliated with the WWE. The superstars we found range from Harvard graduates to self-defense instructors, and what you’ll discover is guaranteed to make you look at them in a different light the next time you see them take to the wrestling ring.
What follows are the ten of the smartest WWE superstars:
We’re as surprised as you, but Sheamus is much more than a muscle flexing Celtic warrior. In fact, the man is rather smart, and has a background in computers. Before donning spandex and flexing his muscles on national television he was attending the National College of Ireland. It was there that he earned his National Diploma, and began working in the IT field.
After a few years of fixing computers and other gadgets, Sheamus went on to try his hand at wrestling. He quickly found success, and apparently a much more exciting career path. It’s hard for us to imagine a more stark contrast between professions, but Sheamus has proven his efficiency in both subjects, and if he ever needs a backup plan for his post-wrestling career, we’d say the IT department is a pretty smart choice. We just hope he’s wearing a shirt.
9 David Otunga
Otunga is probably a lesser known figure in the league, but when it comes to academic achievements he stands out from the crowd. Graduating from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s in psychology. He then went on to work for Columbia University at their cognitive neuroscience laboratory.
That in and of itself may have been enough for most people, but Otunga kept going! He then was accepted to Harvard Law School where wound up earning his degree and passing his bar exam. He then spent some time as a lawyer for the Sidley Austin law firm before giving it all up on the shot of making it big in the WWE. Then comes the cherry on top: the man met and married celebrity Jennifer Hudson! To us, that’s probably the smartest move of them all.
8 Mick Foley
Mick Foley may just be the most laid-back wrestler of all time. Sporting a sweaty gym sock and grungy plaid shirts, this man was a champion of a wrestler as well. He’s well known for taking a beating in some of the more brutally intense matches in recent memory. He once even lost an ear! Fortunately, he managed to hold on to the majority of his brain cells along the way.
Foley has had quite the post-wrestling career. He’s an avid supporter of children, donating thousands towards education centers and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Foley has had some intellectual pursuits as well. He penned his 200,000 word memoir titled Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks in only 50 days. Afterwards, he had it published and it simply shocked the literary community. The book lasted 26 weeks in the number one nonfiction spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
7 Paul Heyman
Heyman is widely considered one of the greatest businessmen the WWE has ever seen. He’s managed an incredible amount of WWE champions, and his influence in their marketing is a big reason for that. When Heyman takes the microphone in center stage, he guides storylines to his will. He can amp up a crowd in the blink of an eye, and his awareness of the social perceptions of his wrestlers is one thing he capitalizes on in order to create the most pre-match drama.
Prior to joining the WWE, Heyman was a big part of the upshot ECW league. He singlehandedly controlled the creative approach of the league, and branded a new more extreme genre of wrestling. The league shot up in prominence, and nearly buckled the WWE at one point in time. Heyman’s incredible business acumen and CEO like instincts clearly put him in a league of his own, making him one of the more intelligent men in the WWE.
6 Eve Torres
Torres is a bonafide butt kicker, and she’s no slouch in the intellect department either. The winner of WWE’s 2007 Diva search, Torres was hitting the books long before she was hitting other wrestlers. She attended the University of Southern California on a full-ride scholarship, and approached the opportunity with as much tenacity as fans are used to seeing from her inside the ring.
While in school, Torres studied Industrial and Systems Engineering, eventually graduating with honors in 2006. She was also heavily involved in the university Greek life, and is a founding member of the Omega Phi Beta sorority. An advocate of physical fitness and self-defense, she even instructs self-defense classes from time to time.
5 Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler attended Kent State University where he was a big part of the team’s wrestling program. Collegiate wrestling is an entirely different animal than the WWE, but it was here Ziggler earned his first taste of wrestling success. At the time, he set the record for most wins in team history.
Any student athlete will tell you the difficulties of balance academics with your training obligations, but Ziggler apparently dominated on both ends of the spectrum. He graduated with a degree in Political Science and a minor in pre-law. In fact, his initial plan was to head to Arizona State after graduating. He’d been accepted to law school and was excited about becoming a lawyer. The WWE had something to say on the matter. Just before leaving he received a WWE tryout and, well, the rest is history.
He may not look it, but Kane has a lot going on upstairs. One thing’s for sure: he’s an avid reader. In fact, he attended Northeast Missouri State University where he earned a degree in English literature.
Kane has also remained very active in the political realm. He has a very clear stance in today’s political climate, and maintains a voice that is unwavering in its views. He was a big supporter of Ron Paul when he ran for President in 2008, and lists the man as one of his political inspirations. In fact, some Tea Party affiliations have even tried to gauge Kane’s interest in running for the Tennessee Republican Primary. Imagine this: a demonic, monstrous pyromaniac man clad all in red…standing behind a podium.
3 Michelle McCool
Yes, the current wife of The Undertaker is considered to be one of the smartest women in all of professional wrestling. She’s the first woman to ever hold both the WWE Diva’s and the WWE Women’s Championship titles at the same time, and she’s a four time champion overall.
But her accolades extend beyond the square wrestling ring. She earned her degree in Educational Leadership from Florida State University, and even taught seventh grade for some time. Teaching was something she was rather talented at, as she also instructed people in kickboxing and gymnastics and was a personal trainer. Let’s put it this way: she was so smart and had such a passion for wrestling, that she learned Ric Flair’s patented figure-four leg lock before she turned 7 years old.
2 Steve Austin
Those familiar with Austin are probably scratching their heads at this one. Austin may even have his doubts, but when a wrestler finally hangs it up and goes on to have a successful career outside of wrestling, well, that’s a sign of business smarts in our book. Unfortunately, many wrestlers can’t say the same.
Austin has continued to market his character through social media and podcasts. He’s even starred in a few movie roles, making notable appearances in The Longest Yard and The Expendables. He portrays a hard-nosed tough guy in most of his flicks, and his filmography continues to grow. His podcast show The Steve Austin Show has received rave reviews, and listeners have begun to flock and hit the download button. The man has finagled his way toward celebrity status through clever marketing and a penchant for being noticeable. For a man who would probably admit he’s not the smartest, it sure seems the opposite on paper.
1 Xavier Woods
Woods was training for a professional wrestling career all while attending Furman University in South Carolina. There, he refined his wrestling skills as well as earned two degrees, one in psychology and another in philosophy. After he graduated in 2008, he was already making a name for himself in the smaller independent wrestling circuits.
But Woods gets the highest ranking because he’s continued his education, all while managing his professional athletic career. Keeping track of one’s affairs can be hassle enough, especially when dealing with bookings and sports agents, but Woods has managed to earn a Master’s in Psychology from Walden University, and is currently working towards his Ph.D. Our hats go off to him, and he will certainly continue to have a solid foundation whenever he calls it quits in the WWE.