By Martin Kaste
July 12, 1999
Governor Ventura plans to climb back into the wrestling ring next month. The World Wrestling Federation has announced it has recruited Ventura for a pay-per-view "extravaganza" in August. But the WWF and the governor are being secretive about what his appearance will entail.
THE WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION
is being coy about the role Ventura will play
during the wrestling performance at the Target Center on August 22nd. The WWF's news release, publicity agents and web pages are all very careful to avoid saying Ventura will perform any actual wrestling. Instead, the phrase everyone repeats is "Jesse Ventura will return to the ring." Given the
circus-like scripts of WWF shows these days, that could mean just about
anything. When reporters ask for details, the spokespeople, lawyers and
governor himself all say the same thing. "Be there on Wednesday and find out," Ventura told reporters in Hibbing.
Governor Ventura as "The Body"
The WWF is planning a publicity news conference in the Target Center with
Ventura and some of their star wrestlers in attendance. The governor's staff at the Capitol has been quick to distance itself from the event, saying no one
in his office helped plan it, and that he's doing it on what they call his
"personal time," a phrase Ventura's spokespeople have had to use a lot,
lately, as he travels around the country for book tours and golf.
State Senator Dean Johnson, a frequent critic of the way the governor uses his
time, says there's a limit to the amount of professional celebrity work a
governor can do on his personal time.
"Sometimes if you work too hard on vacation, you don't have enough
energy to do the work on Monday morning that we are called to do," Johnson said. "I do hear more and more complaints from the public that more time should be spent on the job and less on other enterprises and activities."
Ventura's political allies say they're not worried about the governor's return to the ring. The newly elected chairman of the Minnesota Reform Party, Rick McCluhan, says nothing Ventura does can surprise him anymore, but that's hardly a problem. "You have a gentleman who's committed to representing Minnesota in the best possible light and I don't think he'd do anything to embarrass the office," he said.
The national chairman of the Reform Party, Russ Verney, says he also has no
problem with Ventura's return to the ring, provided Ventura doesn't become
part of the more outrageous aspects of the show. "A lot of pro wrestling has gone way out on the edge with sensuality, with obscene gestures, and with bad behavior," Verney said. "It seems to be pushing the envelope everyday and if somebody's going to participate in the pushing of the envelope then they're going to be hurting their own credibility."
When asked whether he had confidence that Ventura would avoid the seamier
aspects of pro wrestling, Verney side-stepped the question. "I trust that Mr. Ventura will be the only one held responsible for however he does it," said Verney.
Given the fact that voters nationwide are beginning to associate the Reform Party with Jesse Ventura, that might be a case of wishful thinking on the part of the party's chairman.