WWE Hall Of Famer Jesse Ventura Recalls Pushing Fellow Wrestlers To Unionize

Nearly four decades after Jesse Ventura gave an impassioned speech to the WWE locker room about unionizing, wrestlers still don't have one. Ventura gave up that fight a long time ago, but his efforts live on in wrestling lore and undoubtedly marked the start of Ventura's on-again, off-again relationship with WWE. During a recent interview with "The Vanguard," Ventura was asked if a wrestlers union was more likely to materialize today, now that Vince McMahon is out of the picture at WWE.


"That will depend on the wrestlers," Ventura said. "Are the wrestlers willing to put their careers on the line? That's what I did. You saw what happened to my career." Ventura rhapsodized about his unionization attempts and the timing behind it, feeling WrestleMania 2 provided a perfect opportunity.

"I said, 'Boys, now's the time to unionize. All the publicity's gone out," Venture recalled. "All we have to do is stick together, go out to the press, and say, 'We refuse to wrestle unless federal negotiators are brought in.' It's a federal law. I said, 'Who do you think turns on the lights in these buildings? Union people. If they recognize what we're doing, Vince cannot run WrestleMania. The first thing one of the guys said to me was, 'Well, we need Hogan.' I said, no we don't. All we need is Bundy, that's who he's wrestling. We don't need Hogan. And then we can contact the Charlotte guys [WCW] and have them walk out. And if we do this together, we can finally get a union."  


Ventura Had to Join a Different Kind of Union

Despite Ventura's rallying cry for a wrestlers union, the absence of a key figure like Hogan raised concerns about its integrity, and in fact, the rumor has always been that it was Hogan who ratted Ventura out to Vince. 


"I went home the next day. My phone rang, and it was Vince," Ventura recalled." "'What in the hell are you doing yapping about this union crap in the dressing room?' And I stood up to him, I said 'Vince, why can't we? It's not just to fight you. Right now, I pay $5,000 a year for health insurance for me and my family.' This was the '80s... if we had strength in numbers, maybe I'd only have to pay $1,200 a year. What about retirement? I've seen hundreds of guys retire after 30 years in this business, they don't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of."

Ventura and the WWE parted ways shortly after the incident, but not because Ventura was fired — that would be illegal — but rather, it was Ventura who quit. A dispute over a Hollywood job led Ventura to make a move that resulted in him getting what he wanted in the first place.


"I had signed to do 'Predator' and Vince wasn't going to let me, so I said, 'Fine, I quit,'" Ventura said. "So, when I went back to Vince, I said to him straight out, 'Vince, you don't have to worry about me crying out for union anymore.' He goes, 'Really, why not?' I said, 'I got mine. I'm now a member of the Screen Actors Guild. I get retirement benefits, I get healthcare. If these guys are too stupid to stand up for themselves, they're on their own. I tried."

Ventura said that as of 2024 he is still collecting retirement benefits from the Screen Actors Guild.