Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Politics Has Become Pro Wrestling-- Literally

A former professional wrestler is showcasing the triumph of the local in Knox County, Tennessee.

Credit: Gage Skidmore

The Bible says Cain killed his brother Abel and then founded the first city. Today, WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Kane never killed his in-ring partner and half-brother the Undertaker—you cannot kill the dead—but he did go on to establish model leadership in Knox County, Tennessee. I recently spoke with Knox’s Mayor Glenn Jacobs—the retired Kane—to see how he has navigated his transition from wrestling to politics and his fight for liberty at the local level. What I saw in him is not only a rising star for the fusion of libertarianism and populism, but also what a model good neighbor looks like.

Glenn Jacobs’s first interest in politics came as a young child listening to his mother describing the horrors of eminent domain, a perennial local blight on the American spirit of self-determination. He later was introduced to libertarian philosophy and the Austrian school of economics by a fellow wrestler named Sean Morley. After writing about politics and supporting libertarian populist icons like former Congressman Ron Paul, Senator Rand Paul, and Representative Thomas Massie, Jacobs decided to trade the savage world of wrestling for the even nastier world of politics. 


He is guided by a vision that sees a pragmatic implementation of the non-aggression principle—individuals should be free to do as they wish so long as they do not commit acts of aggression—as the secret sauce of America's success.

Jacobs’s libertarianism marries populism and Americana—more bluegrass than bluechip. He has little patience with political correctness but leans into the role of being a positive figurehead to boost civic pride and economic growth in his community. As mayor, he detests the scourge of fentanyl addiction in his community and supports enforcement efforts, but also understands that state efforts to limit supply are ultimately a game of whack-a-mole that does not address demand. Jacobs emphasized to me his belief that churches and ministries are the key stakeholders in addressing the underlying alienation driving people to such drugs.

The cheerleader function of an executive politician is a lost art that Jacobs takes seriously. A giant like Jacobs is able to provide a good role model for youth—a happy warrior who actually cares about his neighbors. 

With the rise of charismatic figures like President Donald Trump, a fellow WWE Hall of Famer, and Argentina’s President Javier Milei, an anarcho-capitalist former rock star, Jacobs’s philosophy offers a kind of fusion of the two in a slightly more relaxed, folksy presentation. (Until he’s choke slamming gatekeepers through tables.)

While it’s easy to get carried away imagining Jacobs putting some neocons through tables during one of Rand Paul’s next filibusters, he sees federal politics as largely a lost cause. State and local government is where the opportunity for change is. Reelected in 2022, he is focused on serving his second term as mayor of Knox County. Nevertheless, he recently campaigned with Trump at the Iowa caucuses, where Trump showered him with praise. Jacobs told me he was genuinely impressed with Trump when they met a few years ago; in particular, he shares Trump’s disdain for foreign wars. He sees the latest Senate foreign aid package as the kind of disaster driving inflation and its downstream effects like drug abuse in his community.


I asked Jacobs about Tucker Carlson’s recent interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. “When did it become taboo to talk to people who don’t agree with you?” he asked. 

“Negotiation is not about dropping bombs on people. Negotiation is about talking to people and figuring out a way forward,” Jacobs added, recounting how Nixon talked with China and Trump worked with the Taliban.

Jacobs was a vocal opponent of draconian Covid-19 pandemic measures. He took heat for standing up against mask mandates, lockdowns, and other D.C. dictates that trampled people’s lives without consequence. He battled his own Board of Health to beat back their pseudo-scientific authoritarianism.

I asked him how he squares his non-aggression philosophy with his career of violence in wrestling. We concluded that his wrestling persona Kane was a statist, a personification of the impulse to control we all have inside. The Cain in all of us. (Maybe a little Karen too.)

So what is the future of Glenn Jacobs and his front-porch republican brand of politics? I recently saw a video of him breaking down in tears recalling a moment when a woman showed her a picture of him as a wrestler visiting with her son at a children’s hospital. She said it was the last picture she ever took of her son. Seeing Jacobs’s raw reaction to making a small impact of joy in a dying boy’s last moments on earth is moving. 

Jacobs’s brand of politics seems to boil down to being a genuinely good neighbor who wants to do right by his fellow man. That is a rare specimen in the world of politics. People may have “good intentions” but, amid the lies for the latest bloody proxy war or regime change chaos, the veneer tends to wear off. 

Whether or not he runs for higher office—perhaps as a governor or senator—we could use Glenn Jacobs’s help in founding a new era of liberty and decency in America.