Published on April 22nd, 2017 | by Bobby Mathews0
Strange Bedfellows: Politics, a Playground for Ex-Wrestlers
Pro wrestling is an industry fraught with backroom deals and double-crosses, shady associations and enormous egos. So maybe it’s no wonder so many wrestlers pursue politics after their days in the ring come to an end—it’s familiar ground.
Glenn Jacobs—better known as former WWE world champion Kane—is the latest pro grappler to throw his hat into the, ah, ring, announcing his candidacy for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, where he owns an insurance business and lives with his wife, Crystal. While this is technically his first political race, Jacobs has been active in espousing Libertarian viewpoints, and was approached in 2014 by a group of Tea Party Patriots who tried to persuade him to run against incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.
Ultimately, Jacobs chose not to run against Alexander. But with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett nearing the end of his term limit, the local political landscape looks very different.
Despite labeling himself an outsider, Jacobs hit familiar conservative values during his announcement speech.
“Now this is the part where many politicians will stand up here and tell you all the grandiose things that they’re going to do just by snapping their fingers,” he said. “I’m not going to do that because that would be unrealistic and disingenuous.”
Jacobs will face at least two other candidates. Knox County Commissioner Bob Thomas announced his intentions to run before the grappler made his own announcement, and the county sheriff, Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, has filed paperwork that signals his intent to run as well.
Whether Jacobs will be successful is anyone’s guess. Wrestlers have often pursued public office, but they’ve met with varying degrees of success (and often a great deal of ridicule). Some consider running for office only to back out at the last minute.
Take Ric Flair, for example. In the late 1990s, the Nature Boy explored the possibility of running for governor of North Carolina on multiple occasions. Flair has been active in fundraising for GOP politicians in the state, and has had a good relationship with past legislators and governors.
Flair even went so far as to announce his intention to run in 2000, and 2004. But a campaign never materialized. As late as 2008, Flair was still mulling his options, but a conversation with another blonde bomber may have stopped him from pursuing elected office.
Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, a retired wrestler and maverick politician unexpectedly elected governor of Minnesota from 1999-2003, revealed during a podcast that Flair had sought his advice, but Ventura convinced him he shouldn’t run, due to some of Flair’s own legal challenges.
“He told me he had something like 143 speeding tickets,” Ventura said. “I told him ‘you can’t be governor, you can’t run, they’ll kill you. That’s total disregard for the law, and as governor you’re the head law enforcement officer in the state.”
While the political climate in 2017 is different than in the early to mid-2000s, Ventura believed Flair would have trouble adjusting to the transparency needed to win the governor’s mansion in the Tar Heel state.
“This game is much more harsh and much dirtier than wrestling ever was,” Ventura said he told Flair. “If you have any skeletons in the closet, you better expose them beforehand. If they find out after, you’re dead.”