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Fact Check: Presidents and Wrestling

Many fans are posting that Donald Trump is the first American president who is also a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

This is true.

However, Donald Trump is NOT the only president elected to a professional wrestling hall of fame, nor was he the first. That honor belongs to our 16th president Abraham Lincoln who was an actual wrestler.

Wrestling was not the same in Lincoln’s day as it is in ours. It was still (most likely) a very legitimate sport. Given that Lincoln allegedly only lost once in 300 matches, it’s also very likely Lincoln was a shooter – and a darn good one.

He also would have had no trouble taking Trump in a match, especially with those weak punches he dropped on Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania XXIII.

For more on Lincoln’s prowess as a professional wrestler, click here to read an earlier post I wrote on Lincoln.

And please, save your partisan politics for another website. Comments are closed below anyway, and this post was not intended to be a statement one way or the other on the latest American president with connections to pro wrestling.

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Pondo for President?

My local wrestling community is a house divided.

Some are fans of Kentuckiana Diehard Wrestling. They have had their issues lately, namely losing their booker and some of the veteran talent, but their fans remain fiercely loyal.

Some are fans of Underground Wrestling Alliance. They’ve had some issues as well, including a big blow up with their TV producer, but their talent and their fans remain steadfastly loyal.

There’s also the Furious Wrestling Society. They haven’t had any issues that I know of, but like the others, they have a galvanized fan base that loves what they do.

And then there’s IWA Mid-South. Ian Rotten just lost his building – again – because someone tried to shut him down – again. Folks, you’re never going to shut Ian down. He’s too stubborn, and he loves the business too much. He’s been kicked out of more buildings than the people trying to shut him down have worked. He will rise again, and his Kool-Aid drinking followers will be there.

Almost none of the above mentioned folks get along, especially in the consequence free realm of cyberspace. And yet for one night, members of all four promotions and their fans came together under one roof to see Girl Fight. They came. They supported the ladies. They coexisted, and no one got into a fight.

Mad Man Pondo is the man behind Girl Fight and the unlikely broker of one night of peace in Southern Indiana wrestling. If Pondo can bring peace to warring factions on a small scale, perhaps he could do the same for our country. Hillary, Donald, Bernie, Ted… no matter who your candidate is, they are only going to divide us further.

We need change.

We need unity.

Pondo for President, anyone?

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America’s First Wrestling Star

It’s been nearly twenty years since Jesse “The Body” Ventura was elected governor of the state of Minnesota. Since that time, wrestling fans have wondered when a professional wrestler would make a run for the nation’s highest office. Donald Trump may be a WWE Hall of Famer, but he hardly qualifies. And even if he did, he would be over 150 years too late to be the first wrestling superstar elected to the nation’s highest office. That honor belongs to a Kentucky-born attorney who made a name for himself as a grappler in the 1830s. His name is Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. Kentucky loves to boast of its Lincoln connection, as does Indiana, where young Lincoln spent much of his boyhood. In 1830 Lincoln left his father’s household to strike out on his own, landing in New Salem, Illinois. He went to work for a man named Denton Offutt, a local merchant. Together with a few other young men, Lincoln traveled by flatboat to new Orleans to sell some goods for his employer. It was there that Lincoln first witnessed the evils of slavery, an institution he fight against in his later years when he entered politics.

It was during his employment for Denton Offutt that Lincoln became known as a wrestler. Offutt loved to boast of the strength and athleticism of his young employee. Standing at 6’4”, Lincoln was very tall compared to other men of the day. Had he lived in our time, it’s likely he would have grown to be 6’10”, giving him the size that Vince McMahon craves in his top stars.

Lincoln could not only walk the walk, he could talk the talk. A first person account of the time records that Lincoln once dispatched a would-be challenger with a single toss. After subduing his opponent, Lincoln called out to those watching, “Any of you want to try it, come and wet yet horns!” The challenge went unanswered, and Lincoln left the scene standing tall.

Lincoln’s most legendary moment came when he faced off with a young man named Jack Armstrong. Armstrong was the leader of a local gang in New Salem known as the Clary’s Grove Boys. The Boys were trouble makers known for nailing guys inside of wooden barrels and rolling them down hills. They were natural heels, the kind of men an audience would pay heavily to see brought down a peg or two.

Armstrong goaded Lincoln into a face off, and the two locked horns in the streets of New Salem. Armstrong underestimated his lanky foe, and when he discovered just how strong Lincoln was, he turned dirty. He started kicking and stomping Lincoln out of frustration. Lincoln snapped. He grabbed Armstrong around the collar and began shaking him like a rag doll. Lincoln tossed Armstrong a few times and left him lying unconscious in the dirt.

Some accounts say that the confrontation led to a truce between the two men. Armstrong was impressed and humbled by Lincoln, and the two were friends from that day forward.

The match also enhanced Lincoln’s reputation as a wrestler and as a man, and when Lincoln ran for office later in life, that reputation proved to be a major selling point for the voters of Illinois. These frontier voters loved a man who could stand on his own two feet, and in their eyes a man who wrestle would fight for them in Congress.

Lincoln’s chief political rival Stephen Douglas even spoke about Lincoln’s wrestling skills. Douglas would often praise Lincoln’s strength and skill as a grappler before going on to attack his positions on slavery and state’s rights. Douglas, like Armstrong before him, would ultimately lose to Lincoln, but unlike Armstrong, Douglas did not suffer the indignity of being shaken like a rag doll.

Lincoln was elected President during a very turbulent time in American history. He was the first man to run as a candidate for the Republican party, and it was the issues of the day that carried him to victory. That said, it would be a mistake to assume his past had nothing to do with his popularity. Like so many politicians before and after him, Lincoln’s celebrity, chiefly as a wrestler, earned him more than a few votes on election day.

Lincoln is remembered best for keeping the Union together while emancipating the slaves, but pro wrestling also owes a debt to Lincoln. Lincoln wrestled over 300 matches before trading grappling for politics. He was ahead of his time as a wrestler and a trash talker. He also broke ground for men like Jesse Ventura, Antonio Inoki, and The Great Sasuke, wrestlers who would use their fame to run for office.

After his death in 1865, Lincoln’s friends and biographers went to great lengths to make sure his legacy stayed strong. As with many early American figures, some of the stories of Lincoln were exaggerated to the point of becoming tall tales. Hard to believe, I know, but it is at least possible some of the stories of Lincoln’s wrestling prowess might have been stretched. Still, his reputation as a grappler was enough to earn him the highest honor afforded a pro wrestler. In 1992 Abraham Lincoln was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Although the induction came 127 years after his death, and although he is rightly remembered more for his tenure as President of the United States, one can’t help but feel Lincoln would have been honored.