Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wrestling with politics

Donald Trump & Hulk Hogan
Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Through the years there have been staged runs for the White House in the world of professional wrestling. "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan once declared his candidacy for President of the United States on Monday Nitro. Mr. Bob Backlund had done the same thing, even calling out a Bill Clinton impersonator prior the 1996 election.

Trump & Jesse Ventura
Then there's the real side of wrestlers getting involved in politics. As you see by the main picture Donald Trump is going to be discussed, just hang on, I'm getting there. Jesse Ventura served as the mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and eventually ended up running as the Reform Party candidate for Governor. He won the race and shook up things in the Land of a Thousand Lakes. He's teased runs at the White House in the past, but has never made the move. Most recently he's endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson as he runs for President again.

Ventura is clearly staying away from Trump, who at one time seemed to be an ally of the Body. In 2004 after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Ventura told Trump during a ringside interview "we may need a wrestler in the White House in 2008." Donald told Jesse then that he's support him 100%.

Trump at WrestleMania 23 with Vince McMahon & Bobby Lashley
Courtesy: WWE
Trump is now the Republican nominee for President. But did you know he has more of wrestling connection than his interview with Ventura 12 years ago? Trump Tower hosted back to back WrestleManias in the late 80s. And in 2007 he actually got into the ring and scuffled with WWE owner Vince McMahon. The two each had a wrestler represent them in a match in which the losing billionaire would also lose his hair. Trump and his man Bobby Lashley prevailed and Mr. McMahon looked like Daddy Warbucks in the weeks that followed.

In 2013 I was on hand in Madison Square Garden as Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. If you're not a wrestling fan and still reading this, thank you. But also for clarification, many years ago WWE created a celebrity wing to honor those non-wrestlers who have helped to give the company main stream media attention.

Donald Trump's WWE Hall of Fame induction
Courtesy: WWE
Trump was a good sport that night. You could tell he was a fan of the business or at least WWE. In the past, WWE has done a campaign called Smackdown Your Vote in an attempt to get members of the WWE Universe (wrestling fans) involved in the political process. Candidates have been invited to tape messages to air on the flagship shows. It'll be interesting to see if WWE does anything extra this year since a member of the Hall of Fame has made it to the final ballot.

Others who have served or attempted to serve in politics after life in the ring include B. Brian Blair who served as a Hillsborough County Commissioner in Florida. Jerry "The King" Lawler wanted to rule Memphis politics, but came up short in his bid for Mayor of that city. And Linda McMahon, the now former WWE CEO, ran two unsuccessful campaigns for the United States Senate. She wanted to represent Connecticut in Washington, D.C.

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