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Monday, November 23, 2009

I Sing The Body Ventura

By - Bob Calhoun:

Jesse "The Body" Ventura
Jesse "The Body" Ventura displays his political acumen.

When Jesse “The Body” Ventura won the Minnesota governorship in 1998, it must have given other high profile bodybuilders a feeling of inadequacy that they likely hadn’t felt since they were skinny runts getting sand kicked in their faces. Less than a month after Ventura’s upset victory, Hulk Hogan announced a bid for the presidency of the United States that barely made it through a couple of talk show appearances. Hogan’s reason for running was that he was “10 times more popular” than Ventura. In 2003, when Ventura decided not to run for reelection, Arnold Schwarzenegger picked up the gubernatorial torch and became “The Governator” of California in the recall election that same year. In order to decisively one-up Ventura (his Predator co-star), Arnold won re-election in 2006 and sunk the California economy in the process. Jesse “The Body” envy can drive an oiled up muscleman to extreme levels of electoral lunacy.

Following last week’s big announcement that Arnold won’t be running for office again, and Hulk Hogan’s signing with TNA, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ventura is resurfacing. Those guys tend to work like that. Tonight, Ventura is returning to his old stomping grounds to host a three-hour Thanksgiving episode of the WWE’s Monday Night RAW. Like all RAW guest hosts (or all guests on any TV talk show), Jesse’s there to shamelessly plug his latest project, a Tru TV show called Conspiracy Theory that looks like a less funny version of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!. But as he trades verbal barbs with the current WWE roster, Ventura might be rubbing elbow-drops with the future political leadership of America. After reading the tealeaves, here is my expert analysis of the political prospects of some of Vince McMahon’s top superstars…

John Cena and MVP
WWE Champ John Cena (left) and regular guest on "The View," MVP (right).

JOHN CENA: The current WWE champ’s freakish ability to lift two wrestlers with a combined weight of over 600 pounds onto his shoulders before slamming them to the mat shows that he could probably even elevate the ailing economy of his native Massachusetts. As a candidate he’d be a dream. He supports our troops, has won an award from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Hollywood salute that he learned for his action movie turn as The Marine (2006) gives him a touch of the Reaganesque. However, in order to run for elected office he’d have to lose those baggy denim shorts of his. Even Arnie traded in his Terminator leather jacket and shades for a suit when he entered the political arena. Cena could become a political force in ten years when his rabid pre-adolescent fans finally become old enough to vote.

MVP: This former United States champ has been seen currying the favor of Sherri Shepherd on ABC’s The View a lot lately and that could be a smooth political move. Boosting one’s cachet with that daytime TV audience proved crucial to the success of the Schwarzenegger and Obama campaigns and Sarah Palin’s appearance on Oprah has definitely generated a lot of buzz. Although MVP has the charisma and the oratory skills for public life, he also has a conviction for burglary that could keep him from even voting in his home state of Florida let alone getting on the ballot there. While acts of burglary are often committed by our political class, most successful pols save their lawbreaking for when they are safely in office. Whereas MVP served 8 ½ years in an actual prison for crimes he committed when he was 16 years old, felonious elected officials are usually remanded to appear on Sunday morning talk shows, The Apprentice or Dancing with the Stars.

Jericho lobbies Sharpton
Tag-team titlist Chris Jericho lobbies for the endorsement of one-time democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton.

CHRIS JERICHO: Yes, this co-holder of the unified tag-team belts is Canadian but he was born in New York, so unlike Arnold, he can still run for president. His other potential negative is that he’s a bad guy who regularly refers to wrestling fans as “gelatinous tapeworms.” But remember, Jesse always played the part of the heel too and that didn’t stop him from moving into the governor’s mansion. What makes Jericho interesting in today’s polarized political landscape is that he’s a born again Christian who not only gets irony, but revels in it. Some of this may be due to his growing up in a country that already has a universal healthcare system so his faith isn’t automatically combined with a rabid belief in death panels and birther conspiracies. Jericho’s ability to maintain his Christian beliefs while still being way into to 80s metal makes him the ultimate crossover candidate.

SANTINO MARELLA: Marella provides an ethnic comedy relief that we haven’t seen since the days of Chico Marx but it’s doubtful that his clueless Guido shtick will endear him to Italian-Americans. His donning of a tight skirt and wig to win the “Miss WrestleMania” crown is equally unlikely to win the GLBT or women’s vote for him. If only Marella was really Italian instead of Canadian, he might have a legit shot at the Italy’s Parliament. If the Italians would vote in Cicciolina the porn queen or Moussolini’s granddaughter or, hell, Silvio Burlusconi, what’s to stop them catapulting Marrella into high office? Think about it Santino.

JERRY “THE KING” LAWLER: This Southern wrestling legend and longtime RAW color commentator is best known for giving a vicious piledriver to Andy Kaufman, but he’s also a two-time candidate for mayor of Memphis, Tenn. The first time Lawler ran was in 1999 (the same year that Ventura was sworn in as governor) and the second was in a special election earlier this month. Both times Lawler came up short. Although he garnered only four per cent of the vote this last time around, I wouldn’t be surprised if this river boat gambler tries to make the third time a charm. This still begs the question for Jerry: why would you want to be mayor when you’re already the king?

TRIPLE H aka HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY: By marrying WWE heiress Stephanie McMahon, Triple H has put himself in the company of recent presidential contenders John McCain and John Kerry. Having what Rush Limbaugh would deem a “sugar daddy wife” (but only if you’re a democrat) on your arm, whether she’s the inheritor of a beer, ketchup or grappling fortune, can almost get you to the top but you still might come up short come election day. I’m sure that Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley’s winning ways with audiences will be just as much of a boon to any Triple H candidacy as Cindy McCain and Teresa Heinz-Kerry were to their husbands’ presidential aspirations. Under normal circumstances, the presidential also-ran who is married to an heiress could look forward to a long career in the senate to salve the wounds of rejection by the electorate, however certain familial circumstances may deny Triple H this booby prize…

LINDA McMAHON: She’s Triple H’s mother-in-law, Vince McMahon’s wife, former WWE CEO and candidate for Chris Dodd’s Connecticut senate seat. Like other successful businesswomen entering Republican primaries such as former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina or former eBay Pres. Meg Whitman, McMahon may be “too liberal” for the rabid tea-bagger wing of today’s GOP. 1970s wrestling king and Goldwater conservative, “Superstar” Billy Graham (a big influence on both Hogan and Ventura), has already chastised McMahon over the WWE’s penchant for “bra and panties matches” and encouraging steroid use. Graham is supporting conservative congressman Rob Simmons in the primary and you can expect Glenn Beck to do the same. On her side, Linda McMahon sports a slight lead over Dodd in recent polls as well as a $50 million war chest. Just don’t expect followers of Beck’s 9/12 Project to consider such things when drumming blue-state republicans out of the party over ideological impurities.

SO TONIGHT, Jesse “The Body” returns to the WWE to once again bask in the limelight generated by the company that put him on the national stage. Just don’t expect him to stick around too long. Jesse’s got his new cable show to think about. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair may be beating each other bloody in a tour of Australia right now, but Ventura won’t follow his contemporaries back into the squared circle. Jesse’s always known that the hard thing in wrestling isn’t making your big comeback; it’s staying away. The same can certainly be said for politics.

The special 3-hour Thanksgiving episode of RAW with guest host Jesse "The Body" Ventura airs tonight at 8pm on the USA Network.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I’ll be back on December 3 with my review of Steven Seagal’s loony foray into reality television, Lawman. Special thanks to Greg Franklin for coming up with the rad title of this article.

When he's not being hit by steel chairs or fighting Sasquatches, Bob Calhoun is a San Francisco author and journalist. His bestselling punk-wrestling memoir, Beer, Blood and Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling, is available through Amazon.com. The book is also available for download for Macs, PCs and the Sony e-Reader.