Jesse Ventura Interview

Jesse Ventura Interview

Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! by Jesse Ventura. © 2008 Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

I had the opportunity to speak to Jesse Ventura as part of the promotional tour he is doing for the soft-cover release of his book, Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me. I reviewed the hard-cover edition of the book last year and was fascinated by many of the stories he told while he was serving as the governor of Minnesota.

This was by-far the longest interview I have done on the site. We had a relatively normal Q&A for the first 20-minutes and then had a great political conversation for 15 minutes.

By comparison, my average interview is a little over 10-minutes long. While the interview is long, it is also the most entertaining and important one I have done.

Eric: Congratulations on the success of your book, Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me. Can you tell me what made you want to write the book and what has been added to the newly released soft-cover edition of the book?

Jesse Ventura: First of all, we’ll go backwards. What’s been added is my thoughts since Barack Obama’s election and what’s been happening in the country since the election. The book was printed prior to the election. It was actually printed last spring, a year ago. A lot of things have transpired in between so we managed to update it a little more with my thoughts on the election and the current direction we are going in now.

Eric: Just out of curiosity, who did you vote for in the election?

Jesse Ventura: I don’t vote for Democrats or Republicans.

I protest vote. The last election I think I voted for Ralph Nader. I do that because I will not vote for a Democrat or Republican. I’m a great believer that on all ballots now, be it state, local, or national, that we should have the option of “none of the above”. People kind of laugh at that but what it really means is that it is a vote of no confidence in government.

I believe that in certain elections that “none of the above” could actually win.

Eric: I think that was a plot in an old Richard Pryor movie with the “none of the above”. [Note: It was in Brewster's Millions]

Jesse Ventura: I don’t know but to me it’s not comedic. It should be an option given to voters like me, who there is no candidate that inspires me to vote for them. Having said that, let me say this also, I did not vote for President Obama nor did I vote for John McCain. But I remember that when President Obama was elected that I turned to my wife that day and told her that I felt very good about this because I never believed in my lifetime that a black American could be elected President. I’m very glad that in my lifetime that I had the opportunity to see that happen.

Eric: In addition to the book, you also have a new television show coming out. What can you tell me about that?

Jesse Ventura: Well hopefully it is. They claim that we’re coming out but I guess that I as the star am the last to know. As far as I know it’s not coming out yet. They haven’t informed me that it is. We have completed it. It is a conspiracy show that I host where we go into different conspiracies. The sad thing we realized in shooting the pilot was that you will get no cooperation from the government at all on anything.

Our government today doesn’t feel obligated to answer any questions from the citizens. And that’s really the big picture of what the show is about. The fact that today we have a government that you can’t ask questions of.

Eric: Last year, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain all appeared on RAW cutting wrestling style promos in hopes of getting some votes. What did you think of that and which one of them cut the better wrestling promo?

Jesse Ventura: I don’t know because I didn’t see them and I don’t watch.

Eric: And what did you think of them actually going on Monday Night RAW?

Jesse Ventura: Well, why not? Wrestling has always had a huge following through the years. I’m sure that there are wrestling fans that vote. So why wouldn’t you? I just felt sad that McMahon would choose to become the status quo and embrace the two party system as he did.

I always thought Vince was more of a rebel but I guess he is more of a go-along get-along guy.

Eric: Talking about Vince, earlier this year, Chairman Waxman released the Congressional report he did about performance enhancing drugs in pro wrestling. Two part question. What are your thoughts about the report and what do you think about Congress using their resources on the whole performance enhancement subject?

Jesse Ventura: Well, I think the bigger question that ought to be asked is why is there a double standard of justice in this country.

Now, I just got through blasting McMahon for being a status quo type guy and not the rebel that he portrays himself to be. Now, I’ll come back and also say that he was a victim in the 1990’s with steroid use in pro wrestling, Vince was indicted by the US Attorney. He had to get lawyers to defend himself to keep himself from going to jail. My double standard today is baseball. According to all reports, they had 103 positive tests for steroids. Well, I don’t think there has ever been 103 wrestlers. So that is more steroid use in baseball than was used in wrestling. Wrestling has admitted that they were sports entertainment, I don’t think baseball has done that yet. Point being is this, Vince McMahon got indicted and had to defend himself in court over steroids in wrestling. Why is there a double standard? Why hasn’t Bud Selig been indicted? Why isn’t he going to jail for the rampant steroid use under his watch in baseball, which is exactly what they went after McMahon for in the ‘90s?

Eric: Fair question.

Jesse Ventura: I think it’s a fair question. To me it shows a glaring double standard. In other words, they would throw Vince in jail for steroid use in wrestling that is sports entertainment but they won’t indict Bud Selig for rampant use of steroids under his watch in baseball.

How long has he been commissioner now? Quite a while. All through the rise of steroids in baseball. And it all happened under his watch. Why isn’t he accountable like Vince was?

Eric: Probably because he had more money, more money backing him.

Jesse Ventura: No, he doesn’t have more money than Vince. Are you kidding me? This is simply because it’s baseball and because it’s wrestling. I don’t think money got anything to do with this one. A rare time where it isn’t money.

Eric: As everyone knows, there is a major problem with wrestlers dying young. What do you think is causing it and what do you think would help the problem?

Jesse Ventura: Well, I’m not a doctor so you’re asking me a question about a happenstance that obviously falls under health care in some manner. But I’ll give you my opinion, but I’ll categorize that I’m not a doctor. Steroids in wrestling is almost a necessity because of the working conditions. Let me put it this way so people will understand it very clearly in a simple way. You all know Brock Lesnar right.

Eric: Yep.

Jesse Ventura: Brock Lesnar is now the Ultimate Fighting Champion, right?

Eric: Yep.

Jesse Ventura: OK, Brock Lesnar told me that Ultimate Fighting is easier than wrestling.

Eric: Why did he say that?

Jesse Ventura: Because it is. He told me that wrestling is harder than Ultimate fighting. What he means by that is this. He’s not saying the actual match. What he told me is that Ultimate Fighting is 15-minutes of pure hell. But it only lasts 15 minutes. He said here’s what happens. I get four months off. I train exceptionally hard for two months. I go through 15 minutes of hell and then I get another four months off when it’s over. And then I train for two months and then I fight again. The point he is making is the working conditions.

Wrestling is every day. 365 days a year. If you’re not wrestling, you’re doing interviews. You’re doing something. Days off are few and far between in the world of pro wrestling, or at least it was back when I was there. I don’t think it’s changed because there is no union.

There is nobody to bargain for working conditions. You have to be available at any time Vince wants you. You have to wrestle where he wants you to, when, how.

The bigger question that should be asked is this, how for all these years have wrestling promoters been getting away with calling wrestlers self-employed, and thus, not having to pay social security taxes on them as an employer/employee relationship? That’s what you people ought to be questioning. Why is it that I’m doing your job? The wrestlers are not self-employed. You know that. I know that. Vince tells you where you’ll wrestle, who you’ll wrestler, when you wrestle. You can’t wrestle for anyone else. You’re signed to exclusive contracts. How can that possibly fall as being self-employed?

Eric: There was recently a case, I don’t know if you heard about it. Raven and a few other guys tried to file that same case and it got thrown out of court.

Jesse Ventura: Under what jurisdiction?

Eric: I’m not entirely positive but I think it was Connecticut. It never went to trial because of some legal loophole. It is interesting that the wrestlers are starting to fight for that now.

Jesse Ventura: The point is that I’d be interested to know under what basis they could possibly throw this thing out of court.

They threw it out saying that these guys are self employed?

Eric: It might have been a time issue because of how long it was. I’m not entirely sure what it was.

Jesse Ventura: You know, I’m not a lawyer either but I did appoint 73 judges so I know a little but about the law by having been a mayor and a governor. I find that unbelievable. Under what basis, other than a technicality like that, why didn’t they refile it then? I can’t fathom how they could throw it out and say that wrestlers are self-employed. It’s a joke. When I wrestled for Vince McMahon, I could not work for anyone else in the world of pro wrestling. That’s not self-employment. Self-employment is like being a plumber. I could work for you today and for your neighbor tomorrow because I run my own business. Working in wrestling, you don’t run wrestling. Vince does and you can’t work for anyone else. You sign exclusive contracts.

How on earth can that be self-employment?

Eric: If you want, I can send you a link about the case…

Jesse Ventura: No I don’t need you to. I’m not going to fight over this. I tried that once and got hammered for it. I tried to unionize way back at WrestleMania 2. I got ratted by Hogan to Vince and I almost got fired over it.

Shortly after that, I went off and filmed Predator and became a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Now I’m a vested member. I get my retirement and my health benefits from them. So I don’t care. I have my union. I attempted to do it way back in the mid-80’s. If wrestlers are so dumb and stupid that they don’t want to fight for something they should have then that is their business. It’s not mine. I’m not going to do it. Why should I?

Eric: I wasn’t asking you to fight it. I just thought that you might have been interested about the case and why they threw it out.

Jesse Ventura: No. It’s irrelevant to me. I don’t care why if or what. I don’t have anything to do with it.

Eric: Did you enjoy wrestling or being a commentator more?

Jesse Ventura: Both. I know that sounds like a political answer but they came at different parts of my career. I enjoyed the wrestling when I did it. But then when I switched to being a commentator, it was the right time. It allowed me a smooth transition to go into retirement and probably be the only wrestler in the world that when he said he retired did. I don’t know of too many others that made the initial retirement statement and didn’t come back. I didn’t and I’m proud of that fact.

When I left the business, I moved on and I’ve never looked back since. And I think that I’ve been fairly successful.

Eric: Why does the WWE edit out your voice on some DVDs and not others?

Jesse Ventura: Because of the court case. I beat Vince McMahon in federal court because my likeness and voice was on 98 of his tapes. I guess out of spite, after he lost the court case, he felt that he would rather ruin the original broadcast and ruin the authenticity of it which I thought was very foolish. But he did it out of spite because he has to pay me for any tapes that I appear on. I still get checks today. I laughingly call it my wrestling retirement. And believe me, some of the checks are pretty healthy. None of the wrestlers are getting any of this and if they are they aren’t getting the percentage that I’m getting.

I took him to federal court and beat him. The court applied the percentage that I had negotiated with Turner. They now apply it to all the tapes that I’m on.

The reason that you’ll get these fraudulent tapes, and that’s what they are because they are not real, they are not original, so all wrestling fans should know that it was done out of spite by Vince to save a few bucks for him. Because he’d have to pay me for appearing. Not only did I beat him in federal court, the United States Court of Appeals held it up. Vince took it up all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States and they wouldn’t hear it but in essence that is them holding up the verdict. What I did was correct and lawful. I’m the beneficiary of it because I had the guts to put my money where my mouth was and I took Vince on in federal court and defeated him. The federal government wasn’t able to do that. Not many people have taken on Vince head-to-head and beaten him but I have.

Eric: What was your favorite memory in the wrestling business?

Jesse Ventura: Probably WrestleMania III. It was the largest indoor crowd in the history of anything. It came off without a hitch. And I got to see the greatest wrestling match that I ever viewed in my life and was fortunate enough to broadcast it that night. It was in-front of 93,000 people in the Pontiac Silverdome and the match that I’m speaking of, which to me was the greatest match I have ever watched or participated in any manner or saw, was Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

The best match I’ve ever seen in my life.

Eric: Speaking of Randy Savage, do you know what the deal is between him and Vince McMahon?

Jesse Ventura: No I don’t. When you talk to me about questions of wrestling, you know way more. I left there 1990 and I don’t really pay attention to it at all. I don’t watch it. I don’t even know who is in wrestling anymore. Pretty interesting. When I leave something I leave it. Wrestling has nothing to do with me anymore other than being a part of my past. Other than refereeing a match in 1999 and being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004 I have had virtually no contact with the world of pro wrestling. My son knows way more than I do now.

Eric: Will he ever think about getting into the ring?

Jesse Ventura: No. That is not in his make up. He never has had any aspirations like that. I guess it’s not in his genes like it is in all these other people. You will not see the son of Jesse Ventura wrestle.

That’s what I did. My son is his own person. He’s half me but he’s not me if that sounds logical. He does his own thing. He likes wrestling, likes the entertainment value of it, enjoys watching it, but he has no aspirations to get in the ring and never has.

Eric: Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?

Jesse Ventura: Wrestling, as much as it has advanced, is still in the dark ages. The manner of calling themselves self-employed which is a lie. The fact that they don’t have a union and benefits. Working conditions that a union can bring. Health care benefits, retirement benefits. It’s sad the stranglehold is so powerful on the talent. It’s not that it is a bad business, it’s a terrific business but it could be even better for the participants in it. Until they get the courage to not fight with each other in their jockeying positions of success, if I can put it that way. Until they start thinking as one and benefiting all. The way the business works is where you are all an individual and you seek the benefits for yourself. Until that is overcome wrestling will always remain in the dark ages as far as employment goes. Don’t get me wrong, the people that are there choose to be there. It is their right to choose it and I don’t begrudge them, I did it. But the fact that there is no camaraderie against the promoters to form a union is really sad.

Highlights of our 15-minute political conversation
After the 20-minute interview ended, I asked Jesse an off-the-record question about 9/11. We got into a great political conversation that went on for almost 15 minutes.

He was OK that we go on the record with the entire conversation because he had nothing to hide. I’m going to just give highlights from that conversation because I told him some personal information about that tragic day that I’m not prepared to share with everyone.

Jesse feels that questioning your government is patriotic and that dissension is the greatest form of patriotism. He wants to know why his credibility is challenged by asking questions about 9/11. There are still questions that are unanswered about it. Why don’t we have the right to ask questions without having our credibility insulted? To Jesse, that is a sign that here is more to it and that there is guilt involved in it because they are attacking the messenger and not the message.

What got Jesse asking questions about 9/11 was when Bush said we were going to invade Iraq.

Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

A sad truth he uncovered in his research is that you can’t find the answers because of the way the crime scene was handled. He feels the government put more priority on the removal of the evidence than on the investigation of it. There is now no way to prove anyone right or wrong. Why was that done?

Jesse asked an intriguing question. Imagine if the Sharon Tate murder scene was cleaned up before the investigators got there? If that happened then Charles Manson would be walking the streets today. Yet that is what happened at the World Trade Center. More priority was given to removal rather than investigating the murder site.

Another point Jesse Ventura made is about Osama Bin Laden. If Bin Laden did it then why hasn’t the government indicted Bin Laden for the crime? Since the attack happened on US soil, Jesse wants to know why a grand jury hasn't been convened and then charged Bin Laden with a crime. That is the system that we operate on.

When Jesse was told in a recent interview that he loses credibility when he asks about 9/11, he replied with what credibility does out government have.

He brought up the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The government has admitted that the event was made up and that killed 58,000 of his generation because it led to the Vietnam War. Jesse, a former Vietnam Vet, is angry that it all happened based on an event that never happened. Now, 9/11 has resulted in two wars and the destruction of our economy.

I then brought up how the EPA lied to New Yorkers after the event by claiming the air was safe for my fellow New Yorkers. Jesse noted how Bush got Christine Todd Whitman to sign off on it after they changed it. The original report said that there were dangerous toxins all over Manhattan. When that report was sent to the White House, they changed it and got her to sign off on it. About a month later she resigned and he thinks that guilt caught up to her.

Jesse wants to know why that wasn’t investigated. Why is 9/11 completely off-limits? He feels that if people sit back and yell at him and Rosey for asking these questions then you deserve the government that you get.

Jesse has film of the BBC reporting on the collapse of 7 World Trade Center 20-minutes before it happened. They know the report happened before the building fell down because the building could be seen above her shoulder. Shouldn’t it raise questions that the media was reporting on a third building falling down before it happened?

When Jesse asked the BBC about this, they wouldn’t reply to his requests.

So much for the media being the fourth branch of government, which Jesse feels they are supposed to be. The media is supposed to be the watchdog watching over the government. He is angry because the media is making him do their job. The news is no longer about the news, it is about entertainment and ratings points. Once the media gets into creating the news then we are in big trouble, and that is what is going on today. People better wake up to that. This is the real world now, not pro wrestling.

I then told Jesse about the poor media coverage of the Benoit incident. He was unaware of Geraldo’s appearance on O’Reilly where he manipulated the facts of the case and tried to create a quadruple murder scenario involving Kevin Sullivan. Jesse called that creation of the news. They are doing entertainment shows, they are no longer reporting the news. What they are doing is no different than what Vince McMahon does. Only with Vince, we know that it is entertainment. With them it’s not supposed to be. That was a great example of what the news media has become.

The interview ended with me thanking him for all of the patriotic service he has done for our country, both as a veteran and someone that is not satisfied with the status quo and isn’t afraid to lead the charge to ask the important questions that no one wants to answer.