By Chuck Carroll
Glenn Jacobs is used to playing in front of packed houses at sold-out arenas, but his latest arena is unlike any he’s been in before. And this certainly isn’t a game. As “Kane,” he became a giant in the world of professional wrestling, having twice captured World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest prize during a career that spans a quarter-century. Jacobs says his longevity enabled him to become a locker room leader. Now, that same leadership, coupled with a genuine passion for his community, pushes him to pile drive the political world.
Given the state of politics on the national stage, there are obvious parallels between the showdowns between the White House and Capitol Hill and the clashes on Monday Night RAW. Perhaps on a local level, where Jacobs is competing, politics are less cut-throat. Sometimes. That’s where Jacobs wants to be, and it’s also where he feels he can do the most good.
Jacobs, who amassed an enormous following as the demonic and over-powering monster Kane, hasn’t wrestled in more than nine months, according to the Internet Wrestling Database. He’s been too busy campaigning to become the next mayor of Knox County, Tennessee to go on the road with his WWE brethren.
While Jacobs’ celebrity status may help his campaign efforts, he’s not relying on his time in WWE to curry favor in the election. Instead, he’s hoping voters will see past the supernatural abilities he displayed in the ring and to the man behind the mask.
He’s not the first grappler to attempt the shift, but he is the highest profile since Jesse “The Body” Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1998. Jacobs is hoping to achieve the same success. There are other connections, of course. Current U.S. president, Donald Trump, is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, while the matriarch of the world’s premier wrestling company, Linda McMahon, heads the Small Business Administration.
Still, critics will undoubtedly ask: “what does a phony professional wrestler know about politics?” The answer is far more most realize. During our 30-minute conversation, Jacobs dove into the intricacies of fiscal conservatism and workforce development while calling on more students to enroll in trade schools to help drive Knox County’s economic engine.
The primary election isn’t until next May, and the general election is another three months after that. All of that amounts to more time away from the ring for the man known as the Big Red Machine. So, wrestling fans may wonder whether we’ve already seen the last of Kane. Did he quietly slide into retirement like his storyline brother The Undertaker? Like the results of the election, time will tell.
What about your time in WWE has prepared for you for politics?
A lot of it is what I’ve seen outside the ring with my travels around the world. Also, I’ve been in WWE for 22 years and reached a point in my career where, within the locker room, I’m one of the people that guys come to if something needs to be discussed. I’m also one of the people that the WWE executives, if there is a problem in the locker room, I’m one people that is consulted about that. They ask is there is anything that can be done and what do I think should be done about it. I also have a little bit of input into certain areas of our business, because they respect my opinion. As far as people say, “oh that stuff in the ring,” … that’s the fun stuff. I always tell people that’s separate. It’s actually my involvement in WWE that I’ve found hopefully will help me out in the political realm.
You were known for being somewhat politically active while in the WWE but haven’t run for office until now. What made you think the time was right?
I’m 50 years old. There’s a bit of a time constraint maybe. It’s just that time in my life and for my family as well that it’s a good decision for me to pursue this.
Why run on the local level and not something on the state or federal levels?
Local government has as much impact, if not more in many cases, than the federal government does. The thing about being mayor is that it’s actually a position where you can probably do the most and also be the most connected with your constituents. You’re not representing an area that’s so big that you can’t talk with people. Also, hopefully you can get things done, whereas at the federal level, as a member of Congress, you have one vote out of 435, and in the Senate it’s one out of 100. So, the ability to get some stuff done exists as a much larger opportunity at a local level than in the federal government.
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We hear all the time about a lack of bipartisanship being a real roadblock in Washington. Is that as much of an issue on the local level as you see it?
It’s not really, because elected officials are more responsive at the local level. … You do see a lot of the partisanship dissipate, and folks will cross party lines to work together on a lot of these issues. You may argue about how much money you’re going to spend or what projects should be undertaken. Nevertheless, you don’t have those huge wedge issues that you see on a federal level.
Do you think your celebrity and time in the WWE will help bolster turnout in the election?
That’s what we’re hoping. I think what happens sometimes with municipal elections is that people don’t even know they’re going on. With my entry into the race, it does make it, I don’t want to say more newsworthy, but it makes it more unique than it otherwise would have been. More novel in some ways. That’s one of the things we’re hoping for is that more people will show up because I’m in the race.
Let’s look ahead. What is your platform? What is that you plan to do if elected to office?
Of course I want to keep taxes low. The current administration in Knox County has done a good job fiscally. They really have. The current budget is really lean and mean. But anytime you have a large budget, and the budget of Knox County is about 800 million dollars, there are still places you can identify waste and inefficiencies and address those. Also, when you look at the educational system, I think this is something that is now coming to the forefront nationally, we need more skills people. The Current Technical Education programs need to be revitalized. Lastly, I believe transparency in government is imperative. People have to know what’s going on because they’re the ones paying the bills. The people are the boss.
I want to ask you kind of a fun question. You are a big guy. When you’re going door to door trying to drum up support does anyone ever open up the door and go “holy cow, who is that guy?!”
(laughs) Yeah, I’ve had a couple people kind of step back! I’ve also had some people recognize me which is always fun. It’s pretty exciting for both parties when that happens. I don’t think I’ve scared anyone yet!
I’m assuming you’re not going in your mask then.
You’re not the only one with WWE ties that’s getting into politics. Have you spoken at all to Linda McMahon whose now head of the Small Business Administration?
Sure. Not about this, per se. She has a federal department to run. I know Linda, and we’ve spoken about things in the past, but never really about politics actually.
You’re a busy guy with the campaign and the family. Do you have time to keep up with what’s going on with WWE?
Oh yeah, I still watch.
Would you say every Monday or how often do you watch?
I catch a little most Mondays. I’m really happy to see Braun Strowman. People ask me who reminds me of me, and it’s probably him. So, I’m really happy to see him doing so well. I think WWE is in very good hands with — they’re not even the younger generation anymore — but with the people that are there now carrying the flag for them.
Do you keep in touch with some of the boys in the locker room?
Oh yeah. Goldust is a very good friend of mine and I talk with some of the guys every once in a while.
Are you retired from the ring at this point or is that dependent on the outcome of the election?
We have a saying in the WWE: never say never. So, I can’t answer that question. (laughs)