The 20 Smartest Superstars in History
Many people think WWE Superstars and Divas are all muscle and no brains. While the rigors of in-ring competition do require a great deal of strength and athletic ability, the men and women who do battle in the squared circle each week aren’t just your average meatheads.
In fact, the WWE locker room has included Harvard-educated lawyers, Wall Street millionaires, tax accountants, teachers and more. Whether they came to WWE from the classroom, the courtroom or anywhere else, these 20 Superstars are among the most intelligent in history. But who received the highest marks of all? Page through WWE’s honor roll and find out. ( PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
Alberto Del Rio
The Mexican Aristocrat has no problems flaunting his wealth in front of the WWE Universe, showing off his fleet of expensive cars. While he was born into the money that allows him to possess such a convoy, it’s his intelligence inside and outside the ring that gives Alberto Del Rio the ability to add to it.
Since his arrival in WWE, Del Rio has outsmarted numerous Superstars, showing off an impressive knowledge of submission wrestling and a mean streak to match. When he won the WWE Title Money in the Bank Contract in 2011, he carefully analyzed every moment until the right opportunity came along for him to cash in and defeat CM Punk for the WWE Title at last year’s SummerSlam.
Fun fact: Before terrorizing the Divas division alongside Layla as a member of LayCool, Michelle McCool was an honest-to-goodness school teacher. Upon arriving in WWE, she kept her teacher’s garb and led a tag team called The Teacher’s Pets before deciding to pursue another subject and taking up the role of a personal trainer. Given that she eventually decided to embrace her mean girl side and take up with Layla, we think it’s safe to say that McCool was brains and beauty all in one package.
Like the sound of nails on a chalkboard, the dastardly Dean Douglas grated on the nerves of the WWE Universe during his brief enrollment in 1995.
A tough grader, Douglas often hijacked WWE broadcasts to hand out report cards, rating Superstars on their performance. His grading rubric is still quite confusing. During his tenure, he handed out marks of “E,” “N” and “IU.” What that translates to in terms of GPA has even the keenest members of WWE.com’s staff baffled.
Shaky grading system aside, Dean Douglas was crafty inside the ring, racking up victory after victory, quickly propelling himself to an opportunity at Shawn Michaels’ Intercontinental Title. Douglas did his research before the bout, knowing that when Michaels was unable to compete due to injury, he would be declared champion via forfeit. What he didn’t count on was being forced to defend the championship immediately. Razor Ramon defeated the snide Dean, who was expelled from WWE shortly after. (WATCH: DEAN DOUGLAS GRADES WWE)
Pop quiz: What did Wade Barrett major in while he was studying? Fisticuffs 101? The Sweet Science? Nope. The former Nexus mastermind and Intercontinental Champion was a bareknuckle brawler but also an absolute whiz when it came to marine biology, of all things, majoring in the ocean study. He even spent time working in a lab before deciding to join the rough and tumble world of WWE. 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 ( WATCH: "WADE BARRETT ASKS THE QUESTIONS").
Dean Malenko had an encyclopedic knowledge of wrestling holds. Carefully studying the craft under his father, Boris, Dean learned at least 1,000 ways to make his opponents submit. Rather than take on a flashy nickname when he entered the squared circle, Dean opted to take on a moniker that would simply let his opponents know what they were up against: “The Man of 1,000 Holds.”
Malenko’s mat mastery and cold, calculating demeanor brought him instant success. He was at the forefront of the revolutionary WCW Cruiserweight Division, winning the championship on four occasions. His dreaded Texas Cloverleaf also earned him the United States, WCW Tag Team and WWE Light Heavyweight Titles before hanging up his boots in 2001. (WATCH: MALENKO IN ACTION)
Irwin R. Schyster
"The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase’s personal accountant was as meticulous with finances as he was efficient in the ring. He famously knew the entire IRS handbook front to back, exploiting every loophole and write-off he could to help secure and maintain his opulent employer’s vast fortune. His finishing move was even called The Write-Off. (WATCH: IRS TALKS DEATH & TAXES WITH PAUL BEARER)
We’re not sure if you were aware of this, but newly crowned United States Champion Antonio Cesaro can speak five languages. Considering there have been more than a few Superstars in WWE whose grasp on the English tongue is tenuous at best (Hornswoggle couldn’t talk until about nine months ago, after all), this is a pretty impressive accomplishment. We’re fairly certain it makes the trash-talking aspect of competing against him much more interesting, to say nothing of having a conversation. In any case, there are certainly more veteran Superstars to be found in WWE today, but given his linguistic proclivities, this preening polyglot is certainly among the most intelligente ( WATCH: CESARO'S GERMAN VICTORY SPEECH).
The Grand Wizard
Though he was never physically imposing, standing in at 5-foot-7, The Grand Wizard’s flair and willingness to stoop to any low made him a threat to numerous WWE Superstars.
Clad in brightly colored turbans and the most garish suits you’ll ever see, the gravelly voiced Grand Wizard led an army of Superstars, trying to take down Superstars like Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales. Almost immediately after his arrival in the early 1970s, The Grand Wizard achieved success, guiding Stan Stasiak to the WWE Title.
The Wizard also had a keen eye for talent, scouting some of the most legendary competitors to join his ranks, including Superstar Billy Graham, who won the WWE Title under his tutelage. He also guided Pat Patterson, Ken Patera and The Magnificent Don Muraco to the Intercontinental Title, making him one of the most decorated managers in WWE history. (WATCH: THE GRAND WIZARD WITH BILLY GRAHAM)
At every turn, the conniving Damien Sandow reminds the WWE Universe that he is, in fact, "The Intellectual Savior of the Masses," sent from on high to relieve the doldrums of everyday life and usher us into a new era of enlightenment. The snarky brainiac has routinely berated the intelligence of the WWE Universe and Superstars alike, making a point of his own superiority by using the “Hallelujah” chorus as his entrance music and naming his signature elbow drop in Latin. But all his intelligence doesn’t stop him from using underhanded tactics to steal wins from the likes of Brodus Clay. You know what they say: You can pay for school, but you can’t buy class. (WATCH: SANDOW LECTURES THE WWE UNIVERSE)
Mr. Perfect was, in his own words, absolutely perfect. Given the gift of athleticism, he had the smarts to perfect any sport he put his mind to. Perfect had no qualms about showing off his skills. He often wowed the WWE Universe and professional athletes alike with his talents in baseball, football, basketball, diving, bowling and numerous other games.
However, Mr. Perfect fancied himself the perfect Superstar. He wasn’t too far off in that assessment. His every move in the ring was graceful, yet packed a wallop for his opposition. Perfect went undefeated for more than a year after his WWE debut in 1988 and continued on to win the Intercontinental Title on two occasions. (WATCH: MR. PERFECT EXCELS AT POOL)
Eve may very well be one of the most well-rounded Divas in WWE history. After attending the University of Southern California and getting a degree in industrial systems and engineering, she won the WWE Diva Search in 2007, earning a spot on the SmackDown roster. On top of that, she trained at the world famous Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, ensuring she’s prepared for any attack in the ring.
She’s also shown she’s prepared to use her brains and beauty to get what she wants. The former Divas Champion weaved a web of deceit in early 2012, stringing the lovesick Zack Ryder along in a scheme that helped John Laurinaitis unseat Teddy Long as SmackDown GM. For her work, Eve earned a place in Laurinaitis’ administration as his executive assistant. She currently holds a similar position in the administration of SmackDown GM Booker T. ( WATCH: EVE DEMONSTRATES HER PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS))
“Leaping” Lanny Poffo was no doubt one of the most intelligent Superstars in WWE history. “The Poet Laureate of WWE” regaled fans around the world with rhymes mocking the evildoers of the era or recapping the latest goings-on in sports entertainment. However, he was on the losing end of matches more often than not.
By 1989, though, Poffo’s demeanor became nastier as he embraced his education, demanding to be called The Genius. Clad in cap and gown, “The World’s Smartest Man” looked down on the WWE Universe as he recited vile verses.
Though his wily ways won him no fans, The Genius’ newfound aplomb found the formula for success in the squared circle. With Mr. Perfect in his corner on Saturday Night’s Main Event, The Genius took on WWE Champion Hulk Hogan. Taking a break from the action, he rolled to the floor, pulled out a pen and worked out an equation for victory, the solution read: “Hulk Down!” The Genius’ algebra was impeccable. With Mr. Perfect’s aid, “The World’s Smartest Man” outwitted The Hulkster and handed Hogan a rare defeat by count-out. (WATCH: THE GENIUS RECITES A POEM)
A calming voice among the chaos of sports-entertainment, Gordon Solie’s careful, precise commentary earned him the title “Dean of Wrestling Announcers.”
Solie started out in Championship Wrestling from Florida, trying to help viewers make sense of characters like the devilish Kevin Sullivan, while trying to prod on heroes like Dusty Rhodes and the Brisco Brothers.
It was Solie’s inimitable vocabulary that made him an in-demand announcer. Fans fondly remember his description of a busted open competitor as “wearing a crimson mask” or his unique pronunciation of suplex as “su-play.”
He had a scholarly knowledge of sports-entertainment that made him an asset to promotions throughout the southern United States and eventually WCW. After his untimely passing in 2000, Solie took his rightful place in history, joining the WWE Hall of Fame’s Class of 2008.
Yes, his ubiquitous bowtie and Herculean physique are his most immediately visible traits, but give the guy five minutes on the microphone and you will be promptly informed that he went to Harvard Law School. What you may not know is that, despite his time as a WWE Superstar, Otunga also handles pro bono (free) cases and has yet to lose a trial in which he is involved. Impressed yet? We thought so ( WATCH: OTUNGA EXPLAINS HIS BOWTIE).
If you were to look at Bradshaw prior to 2003 you wouldn’t think he was a prolific stock investor. The beer guzzling, bar fighting Texan was the last person the WWE Universe would expect to be up on the latest Wall Street news. Many were shocked to find that Bradshaw’s portfolio was quite impressive and would ensure his financial security if wrestling didn’t work out. The brawler even shared his secrets with the world, penning the bestselling book “Have More Money Now.”
By 2004, though, Bradshaw began to embrace his inner tycoon. Trading in his T-shirt and jeans for a suit and tie, JBL was born. Flaunting his wealth in the face of the WWE Universe worked for the burly Texan. He steered his white limousine straight to the WWE Championship, making his portfolio (and ego) just a little bit bigger. JBL later added the Intercontinental and United States Titles to his mantle, strengthening his claims of being a “Wrestling God. ( WATCH)
You might not expect it from a man who made a living being back-dropped by Terry Funk onto explosives across Japan, or who employed a finishing maneuver that involved producing an anthropomorphic sweat sock from his pants, but Mick Foley is among the more quietly intelligent WWE Superstars of all time. Notable for his frenzied rages and near limitless capacity to absorb pain in the ring, The Hardcore Legend 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). What Foley lacks in teeth, he clearly makes up for in the brains department. ( WATCH)
They say that those who can’t do, teach, but what about those who can do and teach anyway? Before he came to WWE, Striker was actually a high school history teacher who was fired from his job after it came out he was taking days off to compete in the ring. Eventually, Striker put his educator acumen to use when he finally did make it to WWE, rocking a mean shirt/tie combo and, when necessary, backing up his classroom clout with some gritty performances in the ring. Bet your old social studies teacher never did that. (WATCH: MATT STRIKER'S CLASSROOM)
We understand that the nickname “The Cerebral Assassin” must be, in part, just a way to strike fear into the minds of opponents. That’s how those things work. Triple H has certainly lived up to that hype in any case; when the wheels in his head keep turning, they send him into some pretty devious directions. The King of Kings has exploited every possible method with which to attack his opponents, racking up championships and records along the way. He’s even applied his killer intelligence to the corporate world as well, securing himself a prime office job as WWE COO in addition to his in-ring duties. ( WATCH: TRIPLE H FIRES KEVIN NASH)
Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
While WWE has been home to numerous managers, including Jimmy Hart, Mr. Fuji and others, none ruled the roost like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
The man the fans loved to call “Weasel” carefully structured his Heenan Family to ensure that every championship in WWE was always within reach. And while his charges were more than capable of getting the job done in the ring, the crafty Heenan was never afraid to lend a helping hand or foreign object.
“The Brain’s” biggest coup, perhaps, came in 1987, when he convinced longtime fan-favorite Andre the Giant to turn his back on Hulk Hogan and the WWE Universe to pursue The Hulkster’s WWE Title.
Heenan led a who’s who of Superstars to championship glory in WWE, including Ric Flair, Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude and Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard. When he stepped down as a manager, Heenan’s quick wit in the announce booth alongside Gorilla Monsoon made him a favorite to a generation of fans.
When running a company as wild and unpredictable as ECW, it’s safe to assume that, at some point, things will take a turn for the unexpected. Good thing that Paul Heyman was the driving force behind the Land of Extreme, then. Heyman’s nickname back in those days was the “mad scientist,” but it’s pretty evident from his resume that he’s crazy like a fox, guiding ECW’s legacy and masterminding the career of Brock Lesnar on two separate occasions ( WATCH: HEYMAN SUES TRIPLE H).