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Jesse's future
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Ventura has the option of going back to the career that first made him famous -- professional wrestling. (MPR file photo)
Gov. Ventura is saying little about his plans after he leaves office in January. There have been reports that he'll host a national talk show on a cable television, that he'll go back to doing some work in professional wrestling or that he'll return to TV and movies. On the surface, it seems like the professional-wrestler-turned-mayor-turned-radio-personality-turned-governor has plenty of options to choose from. But some say Ventura's image has tarnished and the public will be less interested in him when he leaves office.

St. Paul, Minn. — Some would argue that Jesse Ventura never really left the private sector when he became governor. During his four-year term, he wrote books, appeared on the silver screen and jumped into the wrestling ring, all for personal profit. Critics screamed conflict of interest but Ventura continued to take outside jobs to add to his income.

Ventura has always been an engaging and eye-opening personality. He first jumped onto the scene as a flamboyant professional wrestler who wore feather boas and riled up wrestling fans with his brash persona.

"I will climb to the top," Ventura said during his wrestling days. "I will become the number-one contender in the world wrestling federation. The greatest in the world are here. This is the number one. This is the prime rib of wrestling and Jack... Jesse the Body's here. Jesse the Body's here to stay. You're going to see a lot of me, whether you like it or not," Ventura said.

The public may continue to see a lot of Ventura as he winds down his four year term as Minnesota's governor. Ventura isn't saying what he'll do next except that he's looking forward to going back to the private sector. Ventura said recently on the television show Listen Up with Charles Barkley that he needs to replenish his bank account.

"When I was out with Charles in Lake Tahoe, he had to pick up dinner because I'm on a public salary. I don't make that kind of money. I've seen Charles on the blackjack table with more on the table than what I've made in a year so I've got to get back to the private sector so I can make some money and hang out with guys like him," said Ventura.

Ventura revealed little else about his future and often bristles when reporters ask about his plans.

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Image Ventura weighs his future in the spotlight.

"Come Jan. 6, I... from that point on only represent my wife and children," Ventura said. "And so therefore I only owe an allegiance to them and I don't have to answer any more questions about what I'm gonna do, what I might do, what my position is on anything because I no longer have the well being of the state as part of my job description here," Ventura said.

There have been reports Ventura is negotiating with the cable network MSNBC to start a talk show of his own, but he won't confirm or deny the reports.

"I always tell everybody that I believe fifty percent of what I read or hear in the media," Ventura said. "So let them take it with a 50 percent; half and half, because that's how accurate the media is," Ventura said.

While Ventura is saying little about his prospects as a talk show host on cable's third-ranked all-news station, critics are debating Ventura's chops as a broadcaster. For the past four years The governor hosted a weekly radio show. He did color commentary for the short-lived XFL Football League and was also a radio host on KFAN Radio before he was elected.

KFAN Program Director Doug Westerman hired Ventura in 1997. He says Ventura's bombastic personality would play well on MSNBC.

"I think he'd be a lightening bolt," Westerman said. "I think the television format where the things have to be tighter and more scripted and stern in terms of getting in and out of breaks would actually be pretty good for him," Westerman said.

Andrew Tyndall, the publisher of the Tyndall Report, which monitors television network news, predicts that a Ventura talk show would fare as well as the shows hosted by Chevy Chase, Magic Johnson and Pat Sajak.

"He was on the XFL," Tyndall said. "If that's any guarantee of his track record of appealing to a broad audience then you have got to say the likelihood of his success in the media is zero."

Tyndall says Ventura has a personality that will attract cable viewers; highly opinionated and controversial. He says most cable networks are trying to model their shows after ratings leader Bill O'Reilly with the Fox Network. But unlike Ventura, Tyndall says, O'Reilly is trained as a journalist. He says Ventura wouldn't be qualifed to research a show, pose tough questions and then ask appropriate follow ups. He also says it's ironic Ventura would host a national talk show since he continually criticizes the news media.

"It seems that his contempt of people who actually are professionals in this business is such that it would be hard to imagine how he could even adopt some of the professional noms of the business with a straight face," Tyndall said.

Ventura also has the option to fall back on his career as an actor. He's appeared in 12 movies and on the soap opera, The Young and the Restless in 2000.

"To me, every good actor always has some butterflies," Ventura said in June 2000. "You want to give the best performance that you can give and if you feel that way about yourself, there's always a little tension that you want to do the best job that you're capable of doing."

Ventura also has the option of going back to the career that first made him famous -- professional wrestling. Some reports say he may strut back into the ring as a manager to wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar. Other reports say he might put the wrestling tights back on and enter into the ring as part of a tag-team duo. He could also be paid to make an appearance at wrestling event, much like he did at the Target Center in August 1999.

Dave Meltzer is editor of the wrestling newsletter, Wrestling Observer. Meltzes says he hasn't heard any news about Ventura getting into the ring but wouldn't be surprised if it happens eventually.

"The interest in Jesse doing it is because the media would theoretically jump on it because Jesse is a big media celebrity," Meltzer said

Meltzer says professional wrestling -- more specifically World Wrestling Entertainment -- is taking criticism for falling ratings. He says WWE owner Vince McMahon might pay Ventura to make an appearance. He says that would deflect recent criticism of wrestling.

"At least it would change the media story to 'Hey, Jesse Ventura's doing wrestling again,'" Meltzer said. "They might say well he's trying to revive something on its way down but at least it would be different story than these guys are on their way down and they got no ideas to turn it around."

Ventura has other options. He could go on the lecture circuit or write another book. But all his career options have a similar theme; every one of his potential jobs would put a man who continually says he wants his privacy back at the center of the public spotlight.

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