Is Rick Santorum a baby face or a heel? Is he worthy of a title belt or a steel chair? We report, you decide.
Santorum, while working in the 1980s for the firm Kirkpatrick and Lockhart, was a lobbyist for Vince McMahon's old World Wrestling Federation. Santorum argued that because professional wrestling was not a sport, it should not be under the jurisdiction of the state athletic commission, according to a 2005 Philadelphia City Paper article.
The Republican presidential candidate was highly successful in his bid to deregulate pro wrestling, so in some ways you can say he's at least partially responsible for the overwhelming success of stars like Randy Orton, Stone Cold Steve Austin and John Cena.
"I was at the center of that," Santorum told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2010 (via ABC News). "Pennsylvania was the most pernicious of states when it came to regulation. They made you pay all this money to the boxing [athletic] commission. They used to just rape these guys. You'd have to pay a certain percentage of the gate receipts to have these officials just stand around and watch the match. It was ridiculous."
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Santorum is a wrestling aficionado. The New York Times reports the longtime politician was "thrilled" to meet legends from Hulk Hogan to Bruno Sammartino and Gorilla Monsoon.
Although deregulation made pro wrestling more lucrative, there was a darker by-product. Without oversight from the state athletic commission, promotions such as the WWE were essentially left to police themselves on not just steroids but drug use in general. Wrestlers have a punishing travel schedule in addition to the bumps they take in the ring, and this created a culture in which stimulants, sedatives and painkillers were not uncommon.
In the past two decades, numerous wrestling stars have died before they were 50 years old. Many have blamed steroid use for the rash of tragedies, including the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit, though it's difficult to prove performance enhancing drugs contributed to the deaths.
Santorum came out of nowhere to challenge GOP front-runner Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus, but he's got an even bigger challenge in the upcoming New Hampshire primary, where Romney is a heavy favorite.
Rick Santorum's 2006 re-election campaign commercial featuring wrestling
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