No professional wrestler has ever impacted the national scene in the manner that Jesse Ventura did in 1998. When Ventura won 37 percent of the vote in a three-way race, he became Minnesota’s 38th governor and a media sensation! He was on the cover of Time magazine and dozens of other national, regional and state publications. He became the most sought after talk show guest in the nation, making the rounds of every major show on every major network.
Ventura was a high school football player and swimmer in Minneapolis. He attended one year of junior college then joined the Navy. He became a SEAL and saw active duty in Vietnam. After leaving the Navy in 1973, he began an eleven-year career as a professional wrestler. Known as Jesse “The Body” Ventura, he started in the AWA and wound up in the WWF. He used his tremendous physique and booming voice to create a character that no one could forget. When an injury forced him out of the ring, he became a ring announcer.
He appeared in two movies with Arnold Schwarznegger and one Batman film. He worked as a radio talk show host and in 1991 was elected mayor of Brooklyn Park. When he announced he was going to run for governor, very few gave him a chance to win. He ran on the Reform Party of Ross Perot and switched to the Independent Party shortly after taking office.
The Frank Gotch Award goes each year to a former pro wrestler who has brought respect and positive recognition to the sport. As a side note, Frank Gotch was contemplating a run for governor of Iowa when he was suddenly struck down by illness and died in 1917 at the age of 39.