In the strange, theatrical world of wrestling, most "heels"—the trash-talking bad dudes crowds love to hate—stick to a basic script. Maybe they pull a sledgehammer out from under the ring and slam it over an unsuspecting manager's head, or make a surprise appearance at a match just to poke some poor bastard right in the eyeballs. But the rising star of an amateur league in Trump country is testing out a new strategy: donning a Hillary shirt, talking politics, and calling himself the "Progressive Liberal."
Like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels before him, Dan the "Progressive Liberal" Richards has mastered the art of riling up a room full of strangers. According to the Washington Post, he screams things like "you continually vote against your own interests!" or "Bernie Sanders would make a great secretary of state!" during his Appalachian Mountain Wrestling matches in east Kentucky. And usually, the crowds go nuts.
According to Deadspin, Richards came up with the new persona a few years back, and brought it to life during last year's election. Since then, his antics have thrust his character into the national spotlight. But while the 36-year-old from Richmond, Virginia, might be playing it up for the crowds, Richards told Sports Illustrated that advocating for free healthcare and social services doesn't feel like acting.
"I do lean far left. So it's not like I'm pretending to be something I'm not," he told SI. "I'm just turning it up."
And turn it way the hell up he does. He hits the ring in spandex briefs and tees plastered with images of Hillary Clinton's face. He calls his right-wing nemesis Kyle "Fox News" Maggot, and—when it's the Progressive's turn to win—uses his signature finisher: the "Liberal Agenda."
As he told SI, he plans on rolling with this whole "evil liberal" thing as long as it'll last. He's headed to a Dukes of Hazzard festival in Virginia next month, where he's expecting to run into "thousands of Confederate-flag-toting rednecks."
"I have an idea what I'm gonna say to these people, and I know they're not gonna react favorably; it's just about how unfavorably," he told SI. "But I'm just not afraid of it. I probably should be, but I'm just not."
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