Wrestling and Politics: A Look at a Turbulent Relationship

Wrestling and politics have a long, turbulent history together, dating back as far as the Roman Empire. In the year 192, after a failed attempt to assassinate him via food poisoning, Roman Emperor Commodus was strangled to death by professional wrestler (and Commodus’ wrestling partner) Narcissus (not to be confused with the Narcissist). Talk about a heel turn! That one makes Shawn Michaels’ sweet chin music through the Barbershop glass window on Marty Jannetty look pretty tame!

Looking a bit closer to home, President Abraham Lincoln was touted as a beast of a professional wrestler back in his youth before entering politics. What poor chump would ever have thought that the giant of a man tossing him around the ring would go on to be one of the most revered Presidents of all time?

Whether it’s a fantastic failure or a spectacular success, wrestling and politics have certainly had a turbulent relationship over the years.

With the news that WWE’s Glenn Jacobs aka Kane may be contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate in Tennesse, one wonders which path he will more closely resemble? Will he rise to the highest possible point of the political universe, and someday become President of the United States? Or…will he be murdered by his brother?

Ok, perhaps both scenarios are a bit far-fetched, and reality will likely turn out less extreme.  So what path might Glenn Jacobs take if he does in fact decide to enter politics? Let’s take a look at some examples of those who have attempted to make the transition from wrestling to politics, to see if we can get some ideas.

Will Kane take the path of Linda McMahon, our most recent case study, who spent $97 Million on two unsuccessful attempts at a Senate seat in CT? While Kane may have a lot of backing from the enthusiastic “Ron Paul Republican” base, he’ll need deep pockets to battle an establishment candidate like Lamar Alexander. With the rules regarding Super-PACs, the McMahons could theoretically pump  money into one more election by backing their long-time employee. But would they want to potentially waste more money on another long-shot run?

Linda spent HOW MUCH?
Linda spent HOW MUCH?

Will Kane take the path of Jesse “The Body” Ventura who, while well-known to wrestling fans, became a household name when he shockingly won the race for the Governor of Minnesota in a “Three Way Dance” so-to-speak, as he ran as an Independent against a Republican and Democrat. Prior to his run as governor, Ventura ran for and won the race for mayor in Brooklyn Park, MN. While Ventura would decline to run for reelection in 2004, his political success vaulted him to levels of fame he’d never achieved as a wrestler.

Perhaps Kane could take the unique path of Antonio Inoki, the legendary Japanese wrestler. Antonio Inoki didn’t just run for office, he started his own political party, the Sports and Peace Party! Sports and peace – who can argue with that platform? In 1989, Inoki was elected to the Japan House of Councillors, and continued to wrestle and promote wrestling events while serving in office! During his time in office, Inoki had diplomatic meetings with Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro. Inoki was truly a master of both worlds.

But it may be another Japanese wrestler-turned-politician who Kane may be more inclined to follow in the path of – the Great Sasuke, a famous masked Japanese wrestler. Sasuke was elected to the Iwate Prefectural Assembly in Japan in 2003. What made Sasuke’s election so unique was that he actually ran under the name “Great Sasuke”, and continued to wear his mask while in office! While Glenn Jacobs has made political appearances as himself, perhaps he’d consider taking a page from Sasuke and keeping the “Big Red Machine” moniker in order to intimidate his political foes?

Could we soon see the "Senator Kane (R-Fiery Pits of Hell)" on CSPAN?
Could we soon see the “Senator Kane (R-Fiery Pits of Hell)” on CSPAN?

And who could forget the fairytale 2006 run of Nikolai Volkoff in the Republican Primary for State Delegate in Maryland’s District 7?! Okay, so maybe they not *every* wrestling-politics tale is a crazy one…

Imagine the unbridled entertainment that would have ensued had any of the teased Presidential runs of Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, and even Vince McMahon ever materialized? What delightful twists and turns they could have offered if ever pursued outside of story lines!


Let’s hope Kane’s run is more than just a tease. While some of his fans as a wrestler (I count myself one) would surely miss his on-screen presence, we know from their turbulent history that, success or failure, one thing we can count on is that anytime the wrestling and political worlds meet, things are going to be interesting.

Well, for the most part (sorry, Nikolai.)

Maybe I shouldn’t have worn the “USSR’ shirt for the debate…