The transition from professional wrestling into a respectable position in society could
sometimes be hard for a participant of the mat sport. In the case of Governor Ventura, it
has been proved totally wrong. Ventura wrestled in the AWA and the WWF before settling
into a commentary position behind the microphone in the latter organization. Some fans
believed he was the best in all of sports. It was in 1999 that Ventura gained the most
notoriety when he became the Governor of Minnesota, having run as an Independent.
Some loyalists proclaimed that it was just a matter of time before he was the next
President of the United States.
A former Navy Seal, Ventura was trained by Eddie Sharkey and broke into the sport in
1975 in the Kansas City region. His first professional match occurred in Wichita against
Omar Atlas. Ventura spent six months in the Central States before venturing to the
Northwest where Don Owens worked as head promoter. In that territory, Ventura spent a
couple years gaining experience and won the heavyweight championship, his first major
title. After stints in Hawaii and again in the Portland area, Ventura returned home to
Minnesota where he signed to wrestle with Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling
Association. While in the AWA, he became known as Jesse “The Body” Ventura. He soon
found a partner in Adrian Adonis and the two became known as the East-West Connection.
On July 20, 1980, the Connection were awarded the AWA World Tag Title after Verne
Gagne failed to appear for a match in Denver, Colorado. Gagne and Maurice Vachon
had previously held the belts. After losing the belts in June ’81 to the Hi-Flyers in Green
Bay, Ventura signed with the World Wrestling Federation, based out of the northeast. In
addition to wrestling, he became a commentator on WWF Television. Teamed with Roddy
Piper and Bob Orton on January 4, 1986 in Tampa to beat Cousin Luke, Uncle Elmer and
Hillbilly Jim on Saturday Night’s Main Event. Ventura suffered a serious injury which put
him out of wrestling for good. He began to co-host Saturday Night’s Main Event with
Gorilla Monsoon and Vince McMahon as well as working on WWF Challenge and then
WWF Superstars of Wrestling with McMahon and Bruno Sammartino.
During the summer of 1988, officials signed Ventura to referee the main event of
SummerSlam which was a tag team match between the Mega Bucks and the Mega Powers
in New York City. Many fans wondered if Ted DiBiase was going to pay Ventura off prior
to the match. It didn’t happen. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were victorious. Ventura
left WWF Superstars of Wrestling in July 1990 and was replaced by Roddy Piper. Ventura
soon would leave the organization and the business. He began doing commentary for a
syndicated program out of Los Angeles entitled “Grudge Match.” The show was very
popular and Ventura was once again praised for his abilities behind the microphone.
Ventura signed on with WCW and performed his first commentary duties at SuperBrawl II
in Milwaukee on February 29, 1992. He remained with the organization through 1994.
Ventura took a lawsuit before a federal court in St. Paul with his attorney, Alan Eidsness.
Ventura and Eidsness claimed that Titan Sports owed him money stemming from royalties
on videotapes in which he participated in. A jury awarded him $809,958 in the case, a
significant amount less than the $2-million dollars originally sought. The verdict came
down in April 1994. Announced that he was running for Mayor of Brooklyn Park,
Minnesota. Ventura won the position and took office.
Later in the ’90s, Ventura ran on the ticket for Governor of Minnesota and beat out the
incubant. While in the political spotlight, Ventura’s nickname became known as the “The
Ventura made his “comeback” to the professional wrestling ring on Sunday, August 22,
1999 at the World Wrestling Federation’s SummerSlam. The event, held in Minneapolis,
was a historic event for many reasons, but most importantly because of Jesse’s return to
the ring…as the special guest referee. SummerSlam ’99, billed as “Out of Body
Experience” was the first WWF pay-per-view held in the region and the first pay-wrestling
event since 1992 when the LPWA held a show in Rochester.
Governor Ventura was going to be the referee for a three-way WWF World Title Match
between champion Steve Austin, Mankind and Triple H. In the grand finale, Mankind
pinned Austin and Mick Foley won his first ever World Championship. The event earned
the Governor flack, but also gained a new region of young constituents who will remember
Ventura’s name as they hit 18.
In 2000, Ventura signed on to work for the XFL, a new football league owned by Vince
McMahon. Although he more critics came out of the woodwork, Ventura always stated that
his Minnesota duties came first and then whatever he did on his off time was his own. For
the honesty, some fans want to reward him with a run at Washington in November 2004.
-Co-holder of the AWA World Tag Team Title (1980-’81) w/ Adrian Adonis
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Jesse Ventura Wrestling History
|PPV Ring Record TV Ring Record Career Record
Legends of Pro Wrestling