Wrestlers Who Tried Their Hand At Politics

Professional wrestling is rife with stories about wrestlers "politicking" backstage in order to move up in the ranks or to keep their main event status in any given company. Some of wrestling's most prolific names are at the center of many of the biggest examples of backstage politicking from Hulk Hogan to John Cena. Considering this, it's no wonder a number of wrestlers have attempted a career in actual politics. In some cases, this happens following a wrestler retiring from in-ring action, but there are still plenty of instances of wrestlers running for office while still actively wrestling.

Some surprising names in professional wrestling have run for political office over the years, with some actually ending up winning their elections. These wrestlers have ranged from icons to short-lived mid-card talent and everywhere in between.

Whether they ran in local, state, or national elections, here are a number of wrestlers who tried their hand at politics.

Jesse Ventura

Jesse "The Body" Ventura was already one of wrestling's most fascinating personalities even before entering politics thanks in part to his flamboyant style and his life before wrestling as a Navy SEAL and Vietnam war veteran.

Ventura has held two major political offices. First, he was elected mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and served from 1991 to 1995. Three years later, Ventura ran for governor of Minnesota as a Reform Party candidate and won in an upset against Republican nominee Norm Coleman and Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey III. Per History.com, Ventura earned 37 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial election despite only spending $250,000 on his campaign, compared to the combined $4.3 million spent by Coleman and Humphrey.

Ventura had some success as governor, including helping establish a light-rail line within the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, but he ran into heavy criticism due to his mishandling of the state's budget. According to Minnesota Public Radio, the state was operating at a $3 billion surplus when Ventura was elected governor, but when he left office in 2003 opting not to run for re-election, the state had a $4.2 billion deficit.

Jerry Lawler

Jerry "The King" Lawler is royalty in wrestling, but that didn't translate in his two bids to become the mayor of Memphis, Tennessee.

The first time Lawler ran for mayor was in 1999, against a field of 14 other candidates, including incumbent Mayor Willie Herenton. Per The New York Times, Herenton was re-elected to a third term as mayor with 45.7 percent of the vote. Lawler came in a distant third with 11.7 percent of the vote. His campaign took a significant hit leading up to the election following and indictment on charges related to a parking dispute at an airport, where Lawler attacked a police officer.

Lawler's second attempt to become mayor of Memphis was during a special election in 2009 after Herenton stepped down as mayor so he could run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, Lawler fared even worse during this election. Memphis-based NBC affiliate WMC-TV reported Lawler came in fifth, with only four percent of the vote.

Rick Steiner

Since 2006, Rick Steiner, one half of the WWE Hall of Fame tag team The Steiner Brothers, has represented District 4 on the Cherokee County Board of Education in the state of Georgia. Despite holding that position for a number of years, Steiner ran into some significant problems when he initially ran for the position in 2006.

UPI reported he was disqualified from the District 4 Republican primary due to him registering under Rick Steiner, his wrestling name, and not Robert Rechsteiner, his legal name. The news outlet noted he didn't realize not registering under his legal name would be an issue and quoted Steiner saying, "I used it as a springboard to help people recognize who I was." Steiner went on to win the election anyway as a write-in candidate.

Steiner is seeking re-election in 2022 and is the current Vice Chair on the Cherokee County Board of Education. On the board's website, he's listed under both his legal and wrestling name.

Raymond Rougeau

Raymond Rougeau, one half of The Fabulous Rougeaus tag team and French commentator for WWE from 1992-2002, has been an elected official in Rawdon, Quebec, Canada since 2002, when he was first elected to Rawdon's city council. He served on the city council for 11 years, and he became deputy mayor in 2013.

Per the CBC, Rougeau finally saw an opening to become mayor after incumbent mayor Bruno Guilbault announced in 2020 he wouldn't seek re-election. He told the outlet, "That's where I decided, well, either go big or go home."

In 2021, Rougeau was elected mayor of Rawdon, earning 61 percent of the vote. Following the win, Rougeau told CTV that his wrestling career helped prepare him for his political career saying, "There are always unexpected things that happen, you're going to face adversities, things don't always go as planned, and in politics it's the same thing. You have to learn to deal with adversities."

Atsushi Onita

Atsushi Onita, renowned for his deathmatch style of wrestling, is not for the faint of heart, but that didn't stop him from not only running for office in Japan but also winning his election.

Onita was elected to the House of Councillors in Japan's bicameral parliament legislature –- known as the Japanese Diet -– in 2001. (The House of Councillors functions in a similar fashion as the House of Representatives in the United States' Congress.) However, Onita ended up resigning from the position in 2007 due to a sex scandal. According to Kotaku, Onita made headlines in Japan after it was reported he used a government lodging facility to have a threesome with a porn star and another government employee.

Despite the scandal, Onita ran for office again. In 2010, Onita ran to become governor of Nagasaki. Kotaku reported he placed third in the election, only receiving 13 percent of the vote.

Kane

Isaac Yankem, DDS and Fake Diesel could never be elected to office. Now, "The Devil's Favorite Demon"? That's a completely different story.

WWE Hall of Famer Kane (aka Glenn Jacobs) entered the political world in 2018 when he ran in the Republican primary for the chance to be elected the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. Per the Knox County's official election results, Jacobs barely edged out primary opponent Brad Anders by a mere 23 votes to become the Republican candidate in May 2018. During the general election that August, Jacobs handily defeated Democrat candidate Linda Haney receiving 66.38 percent of the vote.

While Jacobs' time in office has seen some success, particularly with increasing the salaries of teachers and local police officers, the Tennessee Lookout notes Jacobs hasn't been controversy-free citing, the mayor's stance against COVID restrictions and mask mandates.

In May of 2022, he ran unopposed in the Republican primary in his bid for a second term, and was reelected in August of the same year.

Matt Morgan

Matt Morgan may have been known as "The Blueprint" during his time in WWE, but there's a good chance now he's more likely to interact with literal blueprints thanks to his involvement in local politics in Longwood, Florida.

Morgan has been a fixture in Longwood's commission-manager government since November 2017, when he was first elected to the city's commission group as its representative of District 4. In a commission-manager government, it is the members of the commission that vote among themselves to determine who is mayor.

Per Longwood's government website, Morgan was appointed deputy mayor in November 2018. In May 2019, he was appointed mayor and has since been appointed mayor three times over. His current mayoral term lasts until May 2023.

Morgan appears to be a very popular leader in the Longwood community, as evident by his Instagram, which is filled with many photos and video clips of him at local community events.

Rhyno

Rhyno attempted to gore his way into politics in 2016 by running for the Michigan House of Representatives in the state's 15th District.

Rhyno, whose real name is Terrance Guido Gerin, successfully won the Republican primary in August receiving 38 percent of the vote, per CBS Detroit's WKBD-TV. However, Rhyno ended up losing the general election to Democratic opponent Abdullah Hammoud.

Rhyno bowed out gracefully issuing a statement via Facebook where he said, in part, "I was unsuccessful in my bid for State Representative, 15th District (Dearborn), but I was very successful in becoming closer to my community, knocking on doors, talking with residents and just forming a bond. I knew going into this that Dearborn is a Democratic district and it would be an uphill battle, a battle I was willing to take on."

Following his State House loss in the heavy Democrat-leaning Dearborn, Rhyno moved to nearby Monroe Township, which skews more Republican. In 2020, Rhyno ran for a spot on Monroe Township's Board of Trustees, where he lost.

Antonio Inoki

New Japan Pro-Wrestling founder/WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki had a lengthy political career comprised of two stints in the Japanese Diet.

The first began in 1989 when Inoki was elected to the House of Councillors. Per the Washington Post, this first stint was particularly notable due to Inoki traveling to Iraq on his own to meet with Saddam Hussein before the start of the Gulf War. Inoki's trip was in an effort to negotiate with the Iraqi president for the release of Japanese hostages, which was miraculously successful. However, Inoki fell out of favor with voters and lost his re-election bid in 1995.

Inoki was absent from Japanese politics until 2013 when he ran and was elected back to the House of Councillors. During this stint, Inoki drew heavy criticism due to multiple trips to North Korea. According to the New York Times, he visited North Korea in 2017 in order to discuss nuclear diplomacy. The outlet quoted Inoki saying, "[Vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party of Korea Ri Su-yong] told me Pyongyang will continue its nuclear testing and take it to a higher level unless the global community, especially the U.S., stops applying pressure."

Inoki's second stint with the House of Councillors ended with his retirement from politics in 2019.

Nikolai Volkoff

Nikolai Volkoff, born Josip Hrvoje Peruzović in the former Yugoslavia, settled down in Baltimore County, Maryland in the 1970s, according to the Baltimore Sun. Nonetheless, it wasn't until the 2006 that he attempted to enter the political arena in the state.

The WWE Hall of Famer ran in the Republican primary for the District 7 state delegate seat in the Maryland House of Delegates, but his bid to win the nomination was unsuccessful.

Interestingly enough, the Baltimore Sun noted Volkoff was torn on whether to run as a Republican or a Democrat. Volkoff was a longtime GOP member and was quoted saying he thought the party was "more on the side that wanted to destroy communism." At the same time, he said he was friends with many Democrats, too.

Volkoff died in July 2018 at the age of 70 with the Associated Press noting he dealt with heart problems, having never tried politics again.

Bob Backlund

Bob Backlund had a memorable gimmick in 1996 when he kayfabe ran for President of the United States, but the WWE Hall of Famer officially entered the political landscape in 1999 when he ran as the Republican candidate in an effort to represent Connecticut's 1st district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

During his campaign, he told the New York Times, "There's a lot of people that watch wrestling that don't give a hoot about voting. But because of who's running, they're going to vote. And when the people vote for me, they're voting for America." Backlund admitted he didn't even vote until volunteering for Senator Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign, saying about his potential constituents, "I can show them, hey, I didn't vote either, but I made a big mistake. You can't complain if your taxes go up, because you're not part of the system."

Backlund's attempt to serve in the House, though, was unsuccessful. He lost in a landslide against incumbent Democrat John B. Larson with the votes shaking out 71.9 percent to 28.1 percent. Larson, meanwhile, continues to serve Connecticut's 1st district.

B. Brian Blair

B. Brain Blair, one half of the WWE tag team the Killer Bees along with "Jumpin" Jim Brunzell, had an interesting and eventful career as a local politician in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Blair served as Hillsborough County Commissioner from 2004 to 2008. He initially ran for the position in 2002 but failed to get elected. Blair's time in office was filled with various controversies to the point that during their annual "Best of Tampa" feature, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay named Blair "Best B******* Artist." Notable moments included having county workers clean up a lake near his home, even though other local lakes were dealing with greater pollution issues, and presenting himself as a champion of the environment despite trying to gut laws that protected the environment.

In 2008, Blair lost the Hillsborough County Commissioner election to Democratic opponent Kevin Beckner. Following the election, Blair sued Beckner for libel over various attacks Beckner made against Blair's record in office. The lawsuit was later thrown out of court.

Ludvig Borga

Ludvig Borga –- born Tony Halme in Helsinki, Finland –- was active in the wrestling and mixed martial arts world in the 1990s, with his brief time with WWE taking place from 1993-1994. Similar to his time in WWE, Borga's time in politics was also brief.

Borga was elected to Finnish Parliament in 2003 and served until 2007. Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle noted that Borga, a member of the right-wing populist True Finns party, ran on a platform where he strongly opposed increased immigration. Borga's political leanings are not surprising considering it was discovered during his time in WWE he had a Nazi SS tattoo. Jim Ross said of the tattoo on his "Grilling JR" podcast (h/t Fightful), "It wasn't huge. But it was there. I think the discussion should have been, 'We can't use you. If we do, we're basically condoning the Holocaust.' That's how I looked at it. He got different boots and covered it up ... But it was very uncomfortable. And he was uncomfortable and untalented. But he had a million-dollar look. He looked like a Ferrari with a four-cylinder motor. When he left, nobody shed any tears."

Linda McMahon

Linda McMahon was a notable on-screen figure, particularly in the lead-up to WrestleMania X-7, and was in Mick Foley's corner for the main event of WrestleMania 2000. She did take a Stone Cold Stunner that one time, or at least she tried to.

McMahon has had an active political career despite never being elected to office. Her first foray into politics came in 2009 when she was appointed to the Connecticut State Board of Education by then-Governor Jodi Rell. Per the Hartford Courant, she resigned from the position a year later due to a legal ruling within the state that prevented certain state officials from taking part in raising campaign money, and McMahon had recently declared she was running for the United States Senate.

McMahon ran for U.S. Senate twice in 2010 and 2012 and lost both attempts. In 2010, she received 43.2 percent of the vote, losing to Democratic opponent Richard Blumenthal, who received 55.2 percent of the vote. In 2012, McMahon faired similarly against Democratic opponent Chris Murphy with the vote breakdown being 55.2 percent to 43.2 percent. Both Senators Blumenthal and Murphy continue to represent Connecticut in the U.S. Senate.

McMahon finally served on the federal level when WWE Hall of Famer/President Donald Trump nominated her to be a member of his cabinet as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Her nomination to Trump's cabinet was approved in an 81-19 Senate vote.

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