When it comes to combat sports there seems to be an unfortunate stigma that sticks in the air: that the only reason people are fighters is that they are not smart enough for any other type of work. While it is true that fighters take blows to the head for a living, many of them are much smarter then they may seem on the surface.
The same is true for professional wrestlers. While people have argued endlessly about the education of professional wrestlers because of their chosen profession, the truth is that these individuals are some of the smartest people in the world of professional sports. In fact, it is suggested that most aspiring wrestlers get a college education so that, should things not work out as planned in the squared circle, that there is always something to fall back on.
The following ten professional wrestlers are just a few that made sure that they had all their bases covered by proving they have the brains to back up their in-ring skills. From teachers to Harvard graduates, it may just surprise you which wrestlers could beat you with both their mind and their muscles.
- D’Lo Brown
While D’Lo Brown has not been seen in a WWE ring in quite some time now, he was one of the mainstays of the WWE’s “Attitude Era” in the late 90’s. During his time with the company, D’Lo was a multiple-time European and Tag Team champion, being part of the Nation of Domination stable as well as tagging with strongman Mark Henry.
Outside the ring, D’Lo attended the University of Maine, where he graduated as a Certified Public Accountant. This qualification allows the former WWE superstar to provide accounting services for the general public, meaning Brown is one of the few individuals around that could pop your head off your shoulders while managing your finances at the same time.
During the 90’s, few wrestlers captured my attention quite like Raven. While Raven’s style was very reminiscent of the times, his manner of speaking and dark demeanor enraptured young punk kids such as myself which were very much a product of the time.
All of the success of the Raven character, from the look to the attitude, can be attributed directly to the man behind it: Scott Levy. Given how smart the man behind the gimmick is, Raven’s success should come as no surprise.
Scott Levy possesses a real-life IQ of 143, which is high enough to put him into the elite, high intelligence group known as Mensa. In addition to the high IQ, Levy also possesses a degree in criminal justice. Both of these aspects have lead the Raven character to be one of the most well-spoken, mysterious characters in recent memory, and one that can outsmart you just as well as leave you broken.
- Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett was one of the most criminally underused wrestlers during his time with the WWE. Leading the Nexus during their initial invasion angle, Wade Barrett had a very up-and-down career in the company that saw him both win championships and be frequently injured or jobbed out to other wrestlers. After several years of this, Barrett asked for, and was granted, his release from WWE 2016, where he has since pursued an acting career.
Prior to all the lights of Hollywood or the turnbuckles of professional wrestling, Barrett made his living as a marine biologist, having received a degree in the field from the University of Liverpool. While training for professional wrestling, Barrett earned money as a laboratory recruiting consultant, as well as partaking in bare-knuckle boxing.
Say what you will about the ill-fated WWE career of Barrett, the man certainly knows how to keep busy!
- Kurt Angle
While Kurt Angle is famous for his in-ring accolades, as well as winning an Olympic gold medal with “a broken freakin’ neck”, what is often not stated among Angle’s accomplishments are those of his academic pursuits.
Prior to his Olympic and WWE career, Angle had attended Clairon University of Pennsylvania. While there, Angle not only competed on his college wrestling team, but also was a member of the college’s student senate. Before moving on to the big time, Kurt finished his college term by earning a degree in Education.
No matter how his name comes up in conversation, chances are Kurt Angle will mostly only be remembered for his athletic achievement. For those that know Angle, however, they know that he is one of the smartest men to ever grace the squared circle, and one who lives up to his mantra of “Intensity, Integrity, and Intelligence”.
- Jack Swagger
One of the things many people may remember hearing quite often during the WWE run of Jack Swagger are the proud words of Jim Ross, who exclaimed on a regular basis that Swagger was an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma. It was here that Ross actually discovered Swagger and brought him into the world of professional wrestling.
While attending the University of Oklahoma Swagger, in addition to wrestling for the Sooner collegiate team, was majoring in the area of finance, earning a degree in the profession in 2006. At the time he graduated, Swagger’s original plan was to pursue a career in the finance field, with a WWE career far out of his realm of possibility until the day Jim Ross sent the young man a WWE contract in the mail.
Jack Swagger really deserves to be called the “All American American”, as he is proof that hard work and pursuit of a good education can sometimes lead you to some unexpected places.
When you think of Kane, what do you usually think of? The brother of the Undertaker? The man who set Jim Ross on fire? The maniac that hooked Shane McMahon’s goods up to a car battery? How about English Literature major?
If that last part threw you for a loop, then you may be shocked to know just how educated Glen Jacobs, the man behind the Kane mask, really is. Before his career in professional wrestling got started, Jacobs pursued, and obtained, a degree in English literature from the Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University).
Jacobs applied this knowledge in his many pursuits outside of the ring, which includes many libertarian activities, owning an Allstate insurance branch, and running under the Republican banner for the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
My only question now is, should Jacobs lose his bid for mayor, will he chokeslam his opponent through the podium?
- Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods is one of the busiest men on the current WWE roster, without question. While wrestling in the ring alongside Big E and Kofi Kingston as part of The New Day, Woods takes time out on the road to work on his gaming YouTube channel, Up Up Down Down, as well as travels to various media events for both wrestling and gaming.
This kind of busy life is nothing unusual to Woods, as he has had to juggle many things in his life prior to his WWE debut. While training, traveling, and competing for companies such as NWA Anarchy, Deep South Wrestling, and TNA, Woods was also pursuing his doctorate in educational psychology from Capella University. He eventually reached this goal, earning his PhD in 2017 while at the height of The New Day’s WWE popularity.
That’s right: Woods juggled a successful WWE career, a YouTube channel, and college classes all at the same time. No matter how you feel about Woods or The New Day, the man certainly knows how to multi-task.
With a shock of red hair and a braided beard, Sheamus’ style choices have often been called “stupid” by the WWE Universe. The truth is that what lies underneath that hair inside of the pale-white dome of the “Celtic Warrior” is anything but that.
While building himself up towards a career in the squared circle, Sheamus attended college at the National College of Ireland, earning a National Diploma in his native country. After earning his diploma, Sheamus started work as an IT Tech, fixing up computers and other technical devices for various companies and individuals.
Sheamus probably doesn’t have to worry anytime soon about the need to find gainful employment, being in the middle of successful tag team run with Cesaro, but should the need arise he can always give the Irish Curse to someone’s computer.
- Christopher Nowinski
Christopher Nowinski had a very short-lived career in the WWE, winning the Tough Enough competition and wrestling for the company until concussions put a stop to his career before it got started. While short, there is one thing that many people remember about Nowinski’s run with the WWE: that he was a Harvard graduate, a fact that he was not afraid to let people know.
While professional wrestling and sports were always Nowinski’s first love, Christopher decided to continue his education in case his dreams didn’t work out. This had lead to him earning his degree BA in Sociology before putting on the tights and jumping into the ring.
Nowinski may be known for his time in the WWE among fans, but it is his pursuits outside of the ring that makes him truly stand out when compared to his wrestling peers. Since his departure from the WWE, Nowinski has helped draw attention and awareness to the severity of sports-related concussions, starting the Concussion Legacy Foundation. This foundation has helped to identify brain trauma caused in contact sports as a public health crisis, and has paved the way for concussion testing and preventative measures being taken in many popular sports, such as football, hockey, and, of course, professional wrestling.
- David Otunga
It seems that the smarter the wrestler, the worse the wrestling career. Such is the case with David Otunga, who, despite being one of the most intelligent men to grace the squared circle, has failed to gain much notoriety in the WWE aside from being known as Jennifer Hudson’s husband.
Outside of the ring, Otunga pursued a degree in law from Harvard, making him one of only two Harvard graduates to wrestle in the WWE. He had since used this degree to join the Sidley Austin law firm between 2005 and 2007, and still practices law on occasion today, having appeared in a Pro-Bono case as recently as 2012
Otunga’s law background has been used several times in WWE as well, with him displaying his legal expertise in “cases” involving personalities such as John Laurinaitis and The Big Show. One has to wonder, however, if David Otunga will be able to flex his legal muscles in the pending Concussion lawsuit that WWE is now facing down.