Jesse “The Body” Ventura once did it in Minnesota.
Could The Big Red Machine pull it off in Tennessee?
Glenn Jacobs, better known as WWE superstar Kane, has been touted by some Tennessee Tea Party groups as the man who could beat incumbent Lamar Alexander in the Republican primary for next year's U.S. Senate race in Tennessee.
Is it possible that the six-foot-nine, 300-pound WWE behemoth might be jumping from the wrestling ring to the political arena?
For now, pro wrestling is Jacobs' first love. The 22-year ring veteran has been one of WWE's most consistent and dependable performers, and will be part of a big show tonight at the North Charleston Coliseum when Monday Night Raw returns to the Lowcountry after a five-year absence.
The 46-year-old Jacobs, though, is a far cry from his dark wrestling persona that has been described as “a monstrous abomination that seems to have been extracted directly from your childhood nightmares.”
Pro wrestling and sports entertainment aside, Jacobs is very interested in the future of the country, and has been vocal about the role of government in the lives of its citizens.
Stopping short of saying that he might get involved in any immediate political races in his home state of Tennessee, the liberty-loving Jacobs has taken on the role of activist.
The Jefferson City, Tenn., resident in the past has said he would consider running for public office at some point. But Jacobs, at least for now, dispels any rumors that he has any short-term political aspirations.
Never say never, as the old wrestling adage goes, but Jacobs is content at the present time to make his voice heard.
Citizens in his home state, as well as the entire country, have become increasingly disillusioned with big government, he notes.
The growth of government is a major issue, he adds, and Americans should be concerned that it has overstepped its bounds.
In recent months, Jacobs has made a number of appearances on nationally syndicated and local radio shows in Tennessee, and has written multiple blog posts and op-ed pieces against the national Internet sales tax mandate. He gives lectures and interviews about Keynesian versus Austrian economics. He wants to go back to the gold standard and get rid of the Federal Reserve.
He feels passionately about these subjects and wants to see change in the government.
Erudite and articulate, Jacobs is a Constitutional conservative and Ron Paul supporter, but doesn't consider himself a member of the Tea Party movement.
“I hate to get pigeon-holed. I believe in small government,” he says. “The Constitution created the federal government. Unfortunately at this point, the government has grown exponentially beyond the bounds of which it is supposed to. The problem with that is that the bigger the government becomes, the less individual freedom we have in our lives.”
That's where Jacobs draws a line in the sand.
“I think people should be in charge of their own lives, so long as you're not doing anything to hurt anybody else. I think that people are much better in charge of their own lives than politicians and bureaucrats some place far away.”
It's not that he doesn't like politics.
He “detests” politics.
Bluntly stated, he wants it out of his life.
“Unfortunately it's become so much a part of our lives that it's very hard to ignore. I wish it would go away, but I don't feel like that's going to happen in the near future,” he laments.
“Over the past 15 years, I've been extremely concerned with the way things are going in our country. I have a family, and I would like to see my children have the same opportunities that I had. I've had great opportunities, and that's why I'm in the position that I am.”
Jacobs says government is in his wallet and in everything he does. He makes its clear that he's neither a Republican or Democrat, but he's obviously closer to one of those leanings, citing Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan as champions of individual freedom.
“I just wish Republicans would live up to their rhetoric,” he says. “The average person who identifies himself as a Republican would agree with me on most stuff; it's just unfortunate that the Republican establishment, in my opinion, has gone the route of big government.”
Jacobs is bitterly opposed to the Marketplace Fairness Act, new legislation that would allow states to require Internet retailers to collect sales tax on all purchases. He is co-founder of the Tennessee Liberty Alliance, a group opposed to the new tax, and has even challenged Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to a debate.
“Currently if you buy something from out of state, it's not subject to sales tax. It's actually subject to a different tax that most people don't even know about. I challenged the Lieutenant Governor because he was saying things like this wasn't a new tax. To me it's just the government going deeper and deeper into our wallets to get more and more money out of us. Like most people, I'm tired of paying too many taxes and then seeing so much money go to waste.”
Former WCW executive vice president Eric Bischoff recently had high praise for Jacobs. On Twitter, Bischoff wrote that Jacobs was “one of the most intelligent, well read and politically aware people” that he has had the pleasure to work with.
“Glenn Jacobs gave me one of my favorite books: 'Guns, Steel and Germs' by Jared Diamond. Great read,” Bischoff posted.
It's not unheard of for wrestling and politics to mix.
Ventura, a longtime WWE star, ran for — and won — Minnesota governor in 1998.
WWE CEO Linda McMahon twice ran unsuccessfully for Senate in Connecticut.
WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff also made an unsuccessful bid for the Maryland state house in 2006.
Closer to Jacobs' neck of the woods, WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler once ran for mayor in his hometown of Memphis.
Jacobs agrees with Ventura, who has hinted at a presidential run in 2016, that the country needs a viable multi-party system.
“If you look at election laws, they're written by Republicans and Democrats,” says Jacobs. “They sort of hold a monopoly on the electoral system. Even the reform laws of the past several years are not designed to make the system more fair. They make things harder for people to challenge the status quo.
“One of the things that we should be able to do in America is to hear different opinions, no matter how far out they might be, because I think people would realize that this idea isn't viable. We should be able to hear all sorts of different ideas and actually have a choice. Unfortunately the choices have been greatly reduced by the electoral system.”
Jacobs says that WWE owner Vince McMahon has been supportive of his political activism.
“Vince is a great advocate of free speech. Certainly Vince is not one to be shy about getting involved. I have had free rein to say whatever I've wanted to say.”
Jacobs also cites the many programs that WWE is involved in.
“We do stuff as far as encouraging people to vote, as well as our other programs that we're involved with in giving back to the community.”
Man of many faces
Jacobs, who was born in Spain to an American Air Force family, broke into pro wrestling in 1992.
Among his many aliases early in his career were Unabom in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and Dr. Isaac Yankem and the “fake” Diesel in WWE. But as the “Big Red Machine” Kane, Jacobs hit pay dirt.
Jacobs made his WWE debut as the “Kane” character at the Badd Blood pay-per-view in October 1997 when he tore off the cage door during the company's first-ever Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and his storyline half-brother The Undertaker.
For years, Kane wore a ghoulish mask designed to conceal what purportedly were hideous burns from a fire supposedly started by Undertaker years before.
Since that time, his character has taken more twists and turns than a murder mystery, but Kane remains one of WWE's most popular characters.
“Kane's character has actually changed quite a bit,” acknowledges Jacobs. “When I came in, I didn't talk at all. I went through a few years like that, then I started talking. I took the mask off, which is actually totally different than what I had done before. Then I put the mask on, and started doing this stuff with Daniel Bryan.”
That “stuff” is the product of the unlikely comedy team of Kane and Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) — better known as Team Hell No. The duo won the WWE tag-team title in in 2012 and held onto it until May.
“Fifteen years ago, if you had said Kane is going to be doing comedy, people would have said you're crazy,” says Jacobs. “I think that Daniel and I have added a sort of light-hearted, comedic element to the show. I don't think people thought I could do that. I think it's been my ability to adapt and change, and to be versatile and to be able to do different things.”
As for Bryan, affectionately referred to by fans as “Goat Boy,” there's no bigger fan than Jacobs himself.
“I am an enormous fan of Daniel Bryan. I think he's the best technical wrestler we have on the roster. He's also been able to make a connection with our fans which not many people are able to do. It doesn't matter whether people are booing him or cheering him, he gets one of the best reactions of the night.
“He's not a big, he's not the most physically overpowering or impressive guy, but he is able to take the tools that he does have and leverage them and be successful. I'm a huge fan of his.”
Jacobs says the end of his remarkable WWE run is not yet on the radar.
“I'm still having fun. The performance aspect is the fun part. We travel a lot, and that's actually the hard part of our job. It's getting there ... and being away from home. It's just one of those things that I'm going to have to look at as it goes along. But I'm still having a great time.”
One of the most heartening things about working for WWE, he says, is the increasing number of kids and families who attend the shows.
“WWE is huge. It really is. For years we've strove to be family oriented. One of the things that I've seen lately is we have an influx of younger fans. It really warms my heart when we pull up to an arena and I see a father walking in with his son ... a family taking their kids to the arena. And that's what we've always wanted. That's where we've always wanted to be, and we're there now.”
Jacobs says he considers himself lucky to have been part of such a great company.
“We're all over the world now. That's pretty neat. You get the opportunity to go all over and meet different people and see different cultures. So I'm still having fun, and as long as I'm having fun, I don't see any need to hang it up.”
Monday Night Raw
Tonight's show will mark the first local Monday Night Raw in five years.
The main event will feature a Tables Match between WWE champion John Cena and Ryback.
Also scheduled to appear are Vince McMahon, Triple H, Randy Orton, The Shield, Sheamus, the divas and many more.
Action gets underway at 7:30 p.m. The show will be nationally televised live from 8-11 p.m.
Former WWE star David Hart Smith, son of the legendary “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, will meet Jesse Windham in the main event of an Old School Championship Wrestling show July 7 at the Hanahan Rec Center.
For more information, call 843-743-4800 or visit www.oscwonline.com.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.