The wrestling business is packed with colorful, loud-mouthed weirdos, but Jesse “The Body” Ventura just may be the most colorful, loud-mouthed and wacky of them all. He’s at least a top contender to the title.
Ventura, who turned 64 this week, has reinvented himself as often as he changes bandannas. He’s been a soldier, body guard, singer, wrestler, commentator, actor, successful politician, conspiracy wingnut, and one hell of a snappy dresser. It would be impossible to cover all the unexpected things Jesse Ventura has done throughout his life and career, but we can at least try to scratch the surface. Here’s a few things you might not know about The Body, The Mind, The Mouth, Jesse Ventura…
1) Everybody in Jesse Ventura’s family were war veterans. Jesse Ventura was born James George Janos on July 15, 1951 in Minneapolis. Ventura has been a bit of a loose cannon most of his life, but his family was about as serious and pro-military as they come. During World War II, his father George spent four years battling overseas, and his mother Bernice served as a nurse in Europe and North Africa. Ventura’s older brother Jan was a Navy SEAL who served in Vietnam, and Jesse followed in his footsteps, also going through Navy SEAL training. Basically, you didn’t want to be the paperboy who accidentally threw this family’s paper in the bushes.
A man who knows how to kill you, and look fabulous doing it.
2) Ventura didn’t actually serve as Navy SEAL during the Vietnam war. Ventura would incorporate having served as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam war into his wrestling character, and leaned on it even more heavily once he got into politics. He had a penchant for barking out absurdities like, “If you haven’t hunted man, you haven’t hunted,” seemingly without irony.
Anyways, Ventura didn’t actually serve as a SEAL in Vietnam. Despite training as a SEAL, Ventura served with an underwater demolition unit. The Underwater Demolition Teams would eventually be rolled into the SEALs in the ’80s, but they were separate and not really a front-line force during the Vietnam war. Not to take anything away from Ventura, serving overseas in any capacity is a brave thing to do, but, by all accounts, he spent more of partying than hunting men for sport while he was in Vietnam.
3) He was part of a biker gang, and narrowly avoided a war with the Hell’s Angels. After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Ventura decided to really exercise those freedoms he just fought for by joining California biker gang, the Mongols. According to Ventura, he became a full patch member and even rose to third in command of his chapter.
In the mid-’70s, Ventura would return to his home state of Minnesota and leave the biker life behind, which was good timing because, shortly thereafter, the Mongols entered into open gang warfare with the Hell’s Angels, and dead Mongols started washing up on the shores of Southern California on an alarmingly regular basis.
It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. And most of their other things.
4) Ventura was a body guard for The Rolling Stones. Ventura finally got into wrestling in 1975, but he wasn’t really making great money for most of the ’70s, so he moonlit as a security guard. His body guarding duties included keeping an eye on the spindly frames of The Rolling Stones for several of their tours during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Later, as Governor of Minnesota, Ventura got to meet Keith Richards and told him about previously acting as his bodyguard. Richards responded pretty much exactly the way you’d expect…
“You body-guarded us in ’81, and now you’re the Guv’nor? F*ckin’ great country, mate.”
Presumably, Keef followed up by snorting a line off Ventura’s head.
I think we may have found Jesse Ventura’s fashion inspiration.
5) Ventura’s in-ring WWF career was surprisingly brief. Most of us remember Ventura’s lengthy stint as WWF’s head color commentator, but what about his in-ring WWF career? That must have been equally as legendary! Well, not exactly. There’s a reason you don’t really hear a lot of specifics about Jesse’s WWF matches.
Jesse Ventura only actually wrestled for WWF for around two years, and he was a top guy for less than half that time. Ventura first came into WWF in late ’81 as a challenger for Bob Backlund, and by June of ’82, he had already left the company to return to the AWA. He would return in the summer of ’84, and plans were in place for a major push against Hulk Hogan, but in September of the same year, he would develop blood clots in his lungs and was forced out of action. He returned in early ’85, but his run as a guy who mattered was already over, and by the end of 1985, Jesse Ventura’s grand in-ring career with the WWF (or any promotion for that matter) was over. Ultimately, though, it was probably for the best, as The Body’s strongest muscle was always his brain, and he achieved more as a commentator than he probably could have as wrestler.
Once a guy stars wrestling in these tights, you know his career is on the downswing.
6) He tried to organize a wrestler’s union in the ’80s, but was ratted out by Hulk Hogan. Jesse Ventura winning the Governorship of Minnesota in 1998 seemingly came out of left-field, but the guy had been a rabble-rouser for years. In fact, during the mid-’80s, Ventura came closer than anybody to achieving the seemingly impossible fantasy of a union for WWF wrestlers.
Ventura, frustrated by his lack of negotiating power, secretly tried to convince the locker room to form a union, and things were going pretty well until a certain brown-noser named Hulk Hogan got wind and ran wildly all the way to Vince McMahon, who quickly brought the hammer down, and the plans for a union were scuttled. Nobody’s come even close to making it happen since. It’s interesting to imagine what would have happened if Ventura had succeeded. Kane probably wouldn’t be happy, but a lot of other guys from the ’80s, ’90s and beyond would probably be a lot healthier and more financially secure today.
“Heeeey, anybody talking about organized labor over here, brothers?”
7) He had a short-lived, terrible music career. With his in-ring career winding down, Ventura briefly thought (very wrongly) that a career in music might be his next calling. So, despite being a rhythmless white guy from Minnesota who sounded like he was perpetually half-way through a dump, Ventura recorded and released a single in 1984. The single featured two songs, “The Body Rules” and “Showdown with Mr. V.” Nobody should have to face this kind of Sophie’s choice, but if I had to pick one, I’d say “Showdown with Mr. V” is the highlight of The Body’s discography…
Yes, that was the actual image on the record, and that’s blood dripping from the hole in the middle. See, because it’s like a bullet hole. Never let it be said that the man who went on to write DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government isn’t a clever motherf*cker.
8) Jesse almost ruined Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wedding. Even if you don’t like wrestling, follow politics or think Big Foot is real, you probably still recognize Jesse Ventura as Blain, the minigun-wielding goddamn sexual tyrannosaur from Predator. Ventura and Predator star Arnold Schwarzenegger became lifelong friends on the Predator set, which is kind of surprising, because The Body was a prime butthole to Schwarzenegger during the filming of the movie.
Apparently, he does have time to smirk.
Schwarzenegger’s wedding to Maria Shriver took place in the midst of filming Predator, and when Ventura learned of the impending nuptials, he started ragging on Arnie and ruining takes, intentionally putting filming behind schedule. Because of this, Schwarzenegger actually missed the rehearsal for his own wedding. Things apparently worked out in the end, but still. Not cool. man. Ventura has written a lot about conspiracies about the Kennedy family in his later years, but the only one we have actual proof of is ironically the one he perpetrated himself.
9) The 16-bit console wars were responsible for Ventura leaving WWF. The war between Nintendo and Sega during the early ’90s was a bitter one, with many far reaching consequences. It even led to the breakup of the WWF commentary team. During the early ’90s, WWF had a deal with Acclaim, who mostly focused on releasing games for Nintendo platforms, but Jesse managed to line up his own deal for a game on the Sega Genesis. When Vince McMahon told Jesse the Genesis game wouldn’t fly, Jesse told him to cram it with walnuts, and quit the company.
Unfortunately for Ventura, it was somewhat of a hollow victory, as his Genesis game never materialized. It did actually exist in some form, though. In recent years, Internet sleuths have discovered a few scattered screenshots of a never-released Genesis game called Jesse “The Body” Ventura Wrestling Superstars. Very little is known about the game, but, well, it was no WWF WrestleFest…
I think this game forgot the Blast Processing.
10) Jesse Ventura is color blind. Well, that explains the wardrobe choices.
So, there you are. A few facts about Governor Ventura. Hopefully the pleasure was all yours. Know any interesting Jesse Ventura facts I missed? Got any memories of his wrestling or commentating career you’d like to share? Feel free to talk about whatever (as long as “whatever” isn’t 9/11 conspiracy theories).