I recently interviewed WWE Hall of Famer Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who discussed his legendary pro wrestling career and the updated version of his book American Conspiracies, which is available at Amazon.com. The newly revised edition contains several new chapters and looks at secret trade deals between corporations and select government leaders such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Big Pharma and the oil industry's influence on politicians on both sides of the aisle.
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Do you think that whole incident with Hulk Hogan affected your time with WCW?
"The thing with WCW was [Eric] Bischoff brought Hogan in, and that spelled the end for me. Hogan wanted me gone. My contract had about six months left when Hogan was brought in, and they never called me back. I sat at home and they paid me. Hogan wanted control, and he knew he couldn't control Jesse Ventura. He knows I'll say anything on the mic. I didn't know they were bringing him in and I badmouthed him. Right off the bat, Bischoff's loyalty was to Hogan, he cut me loose, even though I'd helped him get to the position of power. Bischoff's a little backstabber."
I wanted to ask about medical marijuana, too. Also in sports, it seems like it would help a lot of wrestler's issues with pain pills.
"It could. I believe that all marijuana should be legalized, because it's a medical plant. Those who smoke it for the euphorical feeling, that's mental health. It's the least dangerous, it's been around thousands of years. Poor people can have access to it. If it's legal, they can grow it and don't have to pay pharmaceutical companies for pills. Marijuana is so versatile. You want to hear the best argument? The constitution and Betsy Ross' flag are made out of it, hemp, which is medical marijuana. The medical won't even get you high, it's drops under the tongue. The reason they don't want this plant is because it goes wild. Pharmaceutical companies want to control your money. Kudos to Colorado for legalizing. The only thing strange about Colorado is that you have to live there and be registered to buy medical, but you can buy recreational right over the counter. That's crazy. An outsider can not buy medical marijuana, but can buy the euphoric kind to get high."
I live in Colorado, we have some weird laws. You can't buy a car on Sunday.
"Minnesota has those too. Those are called blue laws, because you allowed religion into government. Religion exercising its muscle into government, which it should not do."
Do you think that's another issue?
"Absolutely. I'm a huge believer in separation of church and state. You go believe what you want on your own time. You go to church on your own time, but don't bring those beliefs over into government and force us all to live by them. You don't have that right. I'm an atheist, and I look at all religions as kind of silly. It seems every war is religious-based. I don't think mankind and religion can both survived, because all religion teaches is Armageddon. They're leading it to it by the beliefs they have so they can say 'see, we were right.' I firmly believe man and religion can't both survive, one is going to have to disappear. It's all guilt driven, that's how I view it. But I love the new Pope, he's almost made me become a Catholic. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but I love the new Pope. He's the best Pope they've ever had. He said that atheists can go to heaven. It gives me great hope to know that I'm an atheist and Pope says I can still make it there. If you live your life, you don't have to worship some supreme being, just live by the golden rule. I'm going to believe the Pope on that one."
You're critical of the Bush and Clinton administrations in your book. How do you think the Obama administration has done in comparison?
"I've been critical of them, too. Obama's been the worst on whistleblowers. He's worse than Bush. Anyone that comes forward and tells the truth about government gets the wrath as bad as you can get. He said he'd get us out of the middle east, I think a guy just died in Iraq the other day. There's no difference in foreign policy whether you have a Democrat or a Republican in there."
Do you think Republicans are more anxious to go to war?
"I don't think so. All of the Democrats voted for it, too. Hillary's now admitting her worst vote in the Senate was for the Iraq war. They convinced the public somebody was going to pay for 9/11, and they chose Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with it. We killed him. Invaded the country, occupied it, and today you have Isis because of us. Notice they don't talk about that. You don't hear an apology from the U.S. saying 'gee, we kind of destabilized the whole area, didn't we?' It was done by design."
Was there a particular conspiracy that you learned about most while researching for the book?
"The one I knew nothing about was Coup d'Etat over Wall Street by Franklin Roosevelt. They don't teach you that in our history books. The end of Lincoln is pretty much over at John Wilkes Booth, isn't it? Setting up the lone assassin, even though 8 people were tried and convicted, six sentenced to death, including the first woman. Yet you're not taught that in school. Not a word that Wall Street tried to pull a Coup d'etat and make General Smedley Butler the President. The only thing is, Smedley was a true hero and blew the whistle on them in Congress. Today you barely have a record of it. They erased it."
Where's the fine line between national security and what the public should know?
"There should definitely be a statute of limitations on it. How could something that happened a decade ago still be affecting national security now? You can't get Lee Harvey Oswald's tax return. He's been dead how long? You can't get his tax return because of national security? 9/11. Why can't we see the report? It happened 14 years ago."
You wrote about 9/11 in the first book, and you have a new chapter about it. I've always been interested in 9/11, but dismissed a lot of truther stuff, because I can't bring myself to think our government was involved in thatů
Makes me feel more at peace, I guess.
"Oh, I understand. That's the big problem. People are in their comfort zone, and they don't like it disturbed. If you disturb their comfort zone, they get angry at you. Even though they might be telling you the truth. We always say we want the truth, but I don't believe we really do. Whistleblowers and truth tellers go to jail, don't they? The crooks get away. That's the fault of our society. The truth will set you free, as Dr. King said. The quest for the truth always has to be sought, whether you like it or not. 9/11, the second chapter, are you familiar with the 28 redacted pages of the 9/11 report?"
I wasn't until I read it in the book.
"Well they're there, and we can't see them. It's been ten years. Why can't we read what we paid for? We paid for the 9/11 commission to investigate, 28 pages George Bush decides we can't see? George Bush decides that, and Barack Obama goes along with that. There's Bill 428 to ask them to release the pages. I wish people would get behind it to find out what happened that day. I'm a big boy, I can take it. Congressman Cook and Senator Bob Graham are both on the intelligence committee and both read the report completely without redacted pages, both told me independently there's nothing in there about national security. What is in there changes 9/11 completely. That's why they don't want us to see. The hijackers had a direct financial trail back to Saudi Arabia, they were on the Saudi Arabia payroll. Does that make you uncomfortable?"
There were two things you mentioned in the book, does incompetence allow things like the warning signs for 9/11 to slip through the cracks to let the attack happen? Was it something a lot more sinister?
"Well, let's look at the sinister for a moment. If the Saudis financed the highjackers, Saddam Hussein was the arch enemy of the Saudis. Was that the payback? We went and took Saddam out. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Didn't we go to war because of 9/11? Then why would we go to war with a country that had nothing to do with it?"
The whole thing with Iraq is looked at as a failure is because they couldn't come up with WMDs. Wouldn't it have been easy for the Bush administration to plant WMDs if they carried out something as dastardly as 9/11?
"Well, maybe, maybe not. Maybe they just didn't give a damn and were that arrogant. If this is what destroyed the American dream for me with George Bush, I'm a veteran and I never believed my country would line up at the border of another sovereign nation, invade, overthrow it's government and occupy them when they hadn't done anything. That's what we did, and we don't say we're wrong or apologize. The USA doesn't do that anymore.
"A couple of years ago, Gallop did a major poll internationally that wasn't published much in the US. One of the questions was 'If you go to war, who do you think would be the opponent?' 23 percent internationally said the United States, 8 percent said Pakistan, 6 percent said China. As a veteran, I hang my head in shame that that's what we're projecting now, that we're the ultimate people who will wage war on anybody. I don't think that's what America should be. Nobody looks up to us. They just fear us. It's textbook Roman Empire.
"You have to stand up and ask the question about 9/11, it's the catalyst that started it all. You know how they say if there's a big conspiracy someone would have talked? It's first degree murder, who's going to talk about that? Go back to Manhattan Project, where we created an atomic bomb. 50,000 people worked on that project, and nobody knew we had that bomb until it exploded on Japan. Everything's compartmentalized. It only takes a handful of people in the government to make it work."
You worked with Vince again with the XFL. What was that like?
"It was fun for a while, until we lost our advertisers and it started to falter. Working for Vince was fun the first half of the season, and a nightmare the second half of the season. Attitudes changed and I was being told what to say in a headset every time, every play."
Was that through Vince?
"Yeah. I finally looked at him and said 'Why don't you do it?' What's my purpose? To say what he wanted me to say? It ended badly?"
Did anyone approach you to do wrestling commentary after you left WCW?
"No. Vince never will. A lot of people have asked why I'm not at WrestleMania when all of the old-timers come back. You notice I'm never there. The reason is that if Vince uses it and makes money, he has to pay me. He's not going to bring me there and show me at a WrestleMania. If he even shows my likeness, I get a percentage of it."
I wanted to ask you about Brock Lesnar. You accompanied him to the ring for a dark match once. Is he someone you've kept in contact with?
"We have the same lawyer. I introduced Brock to my attorney. He still handles Brock, and Brock has the sweetest deal in wrestling now. It helps to have Jesse's attorneys (laughs). Brock put himself in a great position. I told Vince that the key to this business was to go get famous at something else and come back. Vince looked at me and smiled and said 'now you're learning.' Well, that's when I went to Hollywood, made those movies and came back. I used to have my own name on my dressing room door. That's why there was a lot of jealousy. Freddie Blassie once told the guys there was only one guy who calls his own shots with Vince, that's Jesse Ventura. Vince just did it."
You've had some legendary roles. Do you have a personal favorite?
"Predator. That one I was really just doing myself. I did that role 20 years earlier. I didn't know how to fight an alien, but I knew how to be a special forces an in the seals. I was highly trained to do that film."
That line, "I ain't got time to bleed" is still famous.
"Well if Arnold hadn't have been sick, it would have never happened. He couldn't work that day and they started cutting stuff, and that was something they cut. They had to resurrect the scene, and we went and did it. John McTiernan started cracking up, so I knew it was going to be in the film. Things are cut because time is money and they don't have time to do it."
Do you follow wrestling at all today?
What were your thoughts when Roddy Piper passed away?
"It hurt. I was always a loner, I didn't hang with anybody in the business but Big John Studd. We would think alike, and we rode together. He would always rent a big Lincoln. Roddy was probably the guy I was closest to once I got out. It wasn't by design, we worked in the same business, so we'd run into each other. We did the pilot for Tag Team, and then later I was doing the Tonight Show, and he got them to show up at NBC and we sat around and last. Later he had his podcast, I did his, and he came on Off the Grid with me. It hit me hard, because one, he's younger than me. He's really the only guy after leaving the business that I had any relationship or contact with.
"Roddy and I were completely opposite. One day he said 'don't you miss not being on the road and wrestling?,' and I said 'not a bit.' He said 'God, I do.' Roddy was made for wrestling. Jesse Ventura was meant to wrestle for a while, but was destined to do other things. Roddy was my go-between to keep my little toe attached to the business. One time Vince had us on the road in some god forsaken place in Kentucky, we needed to eat and got excited because it's where 'real' Kentucky Fried Chicken is. We got our food, took a couple of bites and realized it didn't taste any different than New Jersey KFC. I'll always remember that."
After he passed, I went back and watched some of his old stuff, and a lot of wrestlers from that era like himself, you, Randy Savage were so different.
"Here's why. Vince is a power madman, control freak. Back in our day, he didn't control our interviews to that extent. We had control over what we could say. Today, they're all puppets. There were no writers.
"I remember the first time we did Saturday Night's Main Event. Wrestling is going to be prime time. Dick Ebersole, NBC Sports. They come up to be with a big binding notebook that says 'Jesse says this, Vince says this,' I looked at Dick Ebersole and said 'What the hell is this?' and he said 'this is your script.' I told him that six months ago, they didn't give a rat's ass about wrestling, and I've been in the business for twelve years. They had no writer who could write for me or that had the experience I had. I wouldn't accept a writer telling me what I would say. Ebersole was so good, he sat there for a moment, listened to me and said 'you're right, throw that book away.' Ebersole got it. Only I can be Jesse The Body.
"Today's wrestling is so scripted. Staffs of writers, memorization, no improv, that's what's missing. If Roddy was doing Piper's Pit or I was doing The Body Shop, we'd get a general idea of what the angle was, but it was up to us to sell it. Our creativity. They strip these people of their creativity. They're down to a few minds instead of letting the talent be creative itself. That's the difference in today and yesterday."
How can fans check out your show, Off The Grid?
"It's right on the internet at ora.tv/offthegrid. I'm on every day. You can watch them at your convenience. Your audience is mostly wrestling fans, right? I have now at my disposal, total control, nobody telling me what to say, and I do a 10-11 minute interview about it. That's what you get on Off The Grid. Jesse The Body Ventura doing 10-11 on something political, even wrestling if it were to rear its ugly head. That's the freedom I have, and why I love doing the show. There's no FCC on the internet. When I got the show, I felt like Martin Luther King, free at last. There was no Vince to tell me what to say, no FCC regulations, I can call BS by the wrong name. The internet is the perfect place for me, and I don't plan on leaving it. Wrestling fans, e-mail Vince McMahon and tell him you want Jesse at WrestleMania, pay him! That'll get you some good heat with the WWE (laughs). Hit them with a barrage!"
You can check out the extended American Conspiracies book at Amazon.com by clicking here. The newly revised edition contains several new chapters and looks at secret trade deals between corporations and select government leaders such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Big Pharma and the oil industry's influence on politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Click here for part one of the interview, where Ventura discussed the one time Vince McMahon stopped him, suing WWE, not receiving WWE Network royalties, problems with Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and more. You can check out the full interview above, or listen to it below. You can also download directly at this link. If you want to subscribe, you can do so through iTunes as well as our RSS feed, which you can use this to subscribe through any podcast app. If you're enjoying the show, please subscribe and rate on iTunes!