With Booker T announcing his intention to run as the Mayor of Houston and the President-elect being a WWE Hall of Famer, it seems as good a time as any to take a look the list of people who have tried to make a name for themselves in both politics and professional wrestling.
Lies, backstabbing, secret handshake deals, scandals, arguments and hatred. These things that I have mentioned could easily be centered around a ‘Wrestling with Sin’ piece about the darker side of pro wrestling. Instead, I was referring to politics and how some of it works. Politics and professional wrestling aren’t really that much different from one another. I guess that is why there is a history between both subjects. Wrestlers and promoters have tried their hand at the political game. Some have succeeded, while others have failed.
No, I am not talking about the phony campaigns by Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund when they announced on WCW and WWF television respectively that they were running for President of the United States. I am talking about wrestlers and personalities that really got involved in politics one way or the other. Let’s kick things off at the very beginning…
‘Honest’ Abe didn’t exactly come to the ring wearing a sequined robe and hit his opponents with chair shots but make no mistake, the future 16th President of the United States was a badass. He wrestled a total of 300 matches, only losing one of them. He also was a big talker who would actually taunt the audiences watching his matches.
Abraham Lincoln’s biographer Carl Sundburg says that Abe once challenged the crowd: “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.” Lincoln’s wrestling exploits were legendary and earned him an induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. It was an honor that Lincoln was extremely proud of and used several times on his campaign trail to becoming president. Granted, not exactly pro wrestling as we know it today but it needed to be mentioned.
Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura
Jesse Ventura’s active pro wrestling career spanned over a decade. He later transitioned from wrestler to commentator, where he spent another 8 years. After retiring completely from wrestling, Ventura ran and won the mayoral race in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
He would parlay that victory as Mayor to “shock the world” and become Governor of the entire state of Minnesota. It was Ventura himself who decided to not seek a second term as governor.
He was known as B. Brian Blair, one-half of ‘the Killer Bees’ tag team in the WWF. His career started in 1977 and Blair has wrestled all over the world. After his career slowed down, Brian Blair ran for County Commissioner in Florida and after losing in his first try, was elected to the position in 2004.
Brian Blair would run for re-election but lost the position in 2008.
Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler
We all know of the legendary wrestling career of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler. A former AWA world champion and Memphis wrestling legend, Lawler decided to get involved with politics. He first ran for Mayor of Memphis, Tennessee in 1999 and lost as he came in third.
In 2009, Lawler ran for the same position again and once again was defeated in the elections.
Tony Halme wrestled all over the world, but he is best known in the WWF as ‘Ludvig Borga.’ After his career ended, Halme ran and won a seat in his native Finland’s Parliament. He would hold that seat from 2003 until 2007.
He would surrender that seat in the Finnish parliament after a series of scandals and he decided to go on disability.
Linda McMaho, the wife of WWE head honcho Vince McMahon and mother to Stephanie and Shane was the CEO of the WWE. She decided to step down from her position with the wrestling/sports entertainment company to focus on a political career.
Linda ran for the Connecticut state senate twice in 2010 and in 2012. Losing by a rather large margin each time. Many believe that the WWE’s ‘PG Era’ was brought on because of Linda’s aspirations for political office.
Antonio Inoki had an outstanding pro wrestling career that spanned close to 40 years. He was also the founder of Japan’s leading wrestling promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling. Inoki would later follow in his father’s footsteps and enter Japanese politics.
He was elected into Japan’s House of Councillors and served there on and off from 1989 to the present day.
Known in the ring as Rhino, Gerin has worked for several promotions including ECW, WWE and TNA. In 2016, Gerin announced he was running for the Republican ticket for Michigan’s House of Representatives. Gerin wound up losing the election.
Bob Backlund is a former two time WWF/E world champion. As mentioned at the top of this article, Backlund ran a phony campaign to be elected president of the United States of America. In 2000, however, Backlund did run for Congress representing the state of Connecticut but lost.
Josip Perusovic, better known as Soviet Union wrestler ‘Nikolai Volkoff’ – even though he’s really from Yugoslavia, had a career that lasted over 40 years. In 2006, Perusovic unsuccessfully ran for office. He lost a bid to represent the Maryland House of Delegates.
Corey Maclin was a pro wrestling commentator, play by play announcer and promoter for Memphis Wrestling. In 2010, Maclin ran for the office of County Clerk in Memphis, Tennessee but lost.
Murkawa is best known wrestling under a mask as ‘The Great Sasuke.’ Having wrestled in Japan and various promotions all over the world including the WWF. Murakawa turned to politics in 2003. He was elected to Japan’s Iwate Prefectural Assembly. His election victory made history as the first ever masked legislator in history.
Onita was credited for introducing “death matches” or hardcore wrestling matches to Japan. He was also the founder and owner of FMW (Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling) In 2001, Onita was elected to Japan’s House of Councillors. An office he held until 2007.
Hase’s career spanned over 20 years in professional wrestling. Hiroshi Hase would then turn to politics. He was elected to Japan’s House of Councillors in 1995 and served in Japan’s House of Representatives, Senior Vice-Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and currently works under Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
While Donald Trump was never a pro wrestler or promoter, he was heavily involved in pro wrestling, specifically for the WWE. He hosted two Wrestlemania’s at his Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was involved in storylines involving his good friend Vince McMahon. Trump was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2016, Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America.
Others who have been involved with both wrestling and politics include actor and WWE Hall of Famer Arnold Schwartzenegger, who was elected governor of California from 2003 to 2010 while the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, was a huge Georgia Wrestling fan.
Although the 44th President Barack Obama is not known for being a fan of pro wrestling, the former Senator from Illinois still saw a great opportunity to help his presidential campaign by cutting a wrestling-esque promo on WWE TV back in 2008.
Politics and pro wrestling do have many similarities. With wrestling personalities in elected offices, do not expect any fili-brainbusters or vetoe holds. What you can expect is this trend to continue in the coming years. There are even rumors that Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson is considering a run at the presidency in the year 2020. Can you smell that?
I am Brian Damage and I approve this piece….