End And A Beginning
The newlyweds went to Portland, Oregon, where Ventura found more and better wrestling opportunities. His popularity among fans grew, and he made his best earnings to date there—$100 for a single match. More traveling followed, as he drove from match to match, once performing 63 consecutive nights.
By the early 1980s, Ventura had graduated to the major leagues, working in the American Wrestling Federation, which he left for the World Wresting Federation following a disagreement over payment and working conditions. In a prelude to his political career, Ventura tried unsuccessfully to organize his fellow WWF performers into a union.
In 1984, now the most popular villain in pro wrestling, Ventura was preparing to perform in a match with Hulk Hogan, the wrestling world's most popular good guy, when he was stricken with a pulmonary embolism, a dangerous condition caused by blood clots in the lungs. The condition ended his wrestling career while he was at the top of his game. "I mean," he later told the Star Tribune, "one minute I'm preparing to meet [Hogan] in the Los Angeles Coliseum, and the next minute I'm lying flat on my back fighting for my very existence."
After recovering, Ventura parlayed his fame into a successful career as a wrestling announcer. Fast talking, rather than athleticism, was more his attribute as a wrestler. Announcing seemed a better fit, and he quickly won favor with fans.
In 1990, Ventura and WWF owner Vince McMahon differed over the use of Ventura as a video-game character. Ventura had been offered $40,000 for this use of his image, but the WWF felt this would create competition for its own products. Ventura not only left the WWF over the dispute, but also sued it, seeking royalties for the use of his wrestling commentaries on videotapes. To the astonishment of the WWF and outside observers, Ventura won the suit, winning more than $750,000 in a judgment, despite Ventura having signed a contract waiving the right to collect royalties. A federal court ruled his signature had been obtained fraudulently.
Moving on the from the WWF, Ventura landed a 2-year contract to announce events for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). His contract, worth close to a million dollars, made him the highest paid figure in wrestling. But WCW bought out his contract before it was completed, charging that Ventura cared more about promoting himself than the events he was supposed to be covering.
Of his fallings out with wrestling executives, Ventura remained bitter even years later, telling reporters, according to Doyle and Kaszuba, "The question was whether I would fall under their thumb—whether they could control my talent. They're not even talented enough to hold my jock."
Nevertheless, Ventura left the wrestling business a wealthy man. In 1994, Ventura and his wife, with son, Tyrel, and daughter, Jade, moved into a luxurious custom home in the Maple Grove suburb of Minneapolis, and bought luxury automobiles. Ventura was modest about his new wealth, telling reporters he was happy just being able to walk into a restaurant and order anything he wanted.