John Morrison. Johnny Nitro. Johnny Mundo. John Hennigan ’02 has been known by many names as a pro wrestler and actor.
A standout wrestler in high school, Hennigan was on the wrestling and track teams at UC Davis, as well as a member of the gymnastics and kung fu clubs. He majored in film studies. It all combined to create a multi-faceted career.
“The last several years at UC Davis, I was a Rec Hall gym rat,” he said. “I was there five hours a day. There was a variety of talented people and a sharing of physical movement skills and ideas. That type of environment laid the foundation for my success athletically and professionally.”
In fact, Hennigan segued to pro wrestling right out of college. When his classmates were entering the job force or graduate school, he went to film season three of MTV’s wrestling reality television series Tough Enough. He won the season and the prize: a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment.
With WWE, he competed in tag team and as an individual, appearing on both SmackDown! and RAW. He won the ECW World Championship, among many other titles, and headlined multiple pay-per-views for WWE.
In 2011, Hennigan left WWE, and began wrestling overseas and on the U.S. independent circuit.
“I still get goosebumps because you’re never short of adrenaline when you are about to walk out in front of a building full of people in your underwear — very sparkly underwear,” Hennigan said.
He’s also pursuing an acting career, notably starring in and co-writing action film Boone the Bounty Hunter in 2015. Last year, he appeared on CBS’ Survivor. And he has produced and acted in live action shorts, along with his wife, Taya Valkrie, who is also a pro wrestler.
But he teased that his wrestling days are not over. As part of the independent circuit, he’s a free agent. Another persona could be in the works.
“Essentially I’m playing myself with the volume turned up. But toggling between a babyface aka the good guy and a heel aka the villain.”
Editor’s note: After press time, Hennigan confirmed that he signed with WWE after eight years away. His return has been documented for an episode of “WWE Chronicle,” airing Jan. 25.