Former WWE Star Matt Morgan on the Transition From Wrestling to Politics
Whether it was in the pro wrestling ring or even the conquering Beast on American Gladiators, Matt Morgan has always been up for a challenge. In recent years, the former WWE and Impact Wrestling superstar decided to put his energy into the political arena. The imposing 7-footer wanted to get involved in the community, finding success as a member of Longwood, Florida’s city commission and then becoming mayor.
Now the 43-year-old sets his sights in running for the Seminole County Commission District 1 seat. We caught up with “The Blueprint” to talk about what inspired him to get involved in public office, why wrestling stars have done well as elected officials, and more.
Politics is almost like pro wrestling when you think about it. First you start on the smaller level and work your way up the rankings. When you started in public office, did you think it would lead to you advancing and becoming more involved as time has gone on?
Matt Morgan: No. I became a father. From that day in the delivery room, the moment Jackson was born. He is six now and non-verbal autistic. But from that moment, I retired from wrestling. I called WWE. I thanked them for an opportunity. I was about to come back for the Royal Rumble that year as a surprise entrant. This was 2014. I have wrestled a couple of times since then so my kid could watch me wrestle. But I was absolutely retired. Once you become a father, your lens changes on how you see everything. I immediately started seeing things differently. It starts to become about, "What am I doing to use my celebrity and platform I have to not only serve my son, but every other parent out there who wants a better future for their children." I’m not alone in that.
So that is where your motivation came from to join the likes of Jesse Ventura and others from the wrestling world.
I hated politics and politicians to be clear. I would argue I maybe still do. You pull back that curtain and see who makes these decisions in your city and community. That’s when I started to really see what could happen if I was an elected official. At the same time that was happening I hit up all my neighbors telling me I should run for county commission. I didn’t even know at the time. I’d been on the road for 15 years away from my family. Now that I'm at home and paying close attention to who makes the decisions — the commissioners making the decisions in Longwood, I needed to put my hat in that. That’s how it all started.
What I have learned in my three years in Longwood in leadership is leadership doesn’t have boundaries. Even though I’m the mayor in Longwood, I go to every school you can think of in Seminole County, Orange County, all around Central Florida talking about [all kinds of topics], whether it's regarding the opioid crisis and telling these kids not to try them for the first time because I am recovered 14 years as an addict, talking about dreaming big and mapping out their own individual opportunities to achieve those dreams, anti-bullying campaigns.
You fall in line with other WWE superstars over the years who jumped into politics. What do you make of wrestlers continuing to make the transition?
I think it’s about that platform. [As] former and active WWE performers, you have an amazing platform to do so much good in this world ... I’ve shared the same stage as our president where I was up there speaking about the opioid crisis and my contribution and how I’m hoping to affect our youth locally. I’m on a national platform getting eyes on our city that they’ve never had before.
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(For some reason this did not post the other day.) Today, April 2nd, marks my 14th year of Sobriety from opioids! 14 years ago today, I started my very long journey on overcoming, easily the biggest challenge of my life, a challenge that almost took my life away from me and my family, 7 different times....my addiction to opioids. Today I’m insanely proud, for not only my sobriety, but for also now in being a part of the solution for our county, being appointed by Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma to our Seminole County Opioid Council! And the 1000’s of speeches and Personal testimonies I have shared with other addicts here in Florida and across the country ranging from our Sem county Correctional facility, Opod & APod units, SemCo Juvenile correctional facility, Drug Court graduation ceremonies, just about every single public school in central Florida (grammar,middle,high school), traveling to different states across the US on my off days from ProWrestling tour to speak at those various states & city’s school assemblies on addiction, PAL & DARE assemblies, and Individually working as a peer counselor to at least now over 100 addicts, helping them maintain their sobriety. (I’m sure I’m leaving some off this list). Life‘s not just about celebrating your successes, and only using those to teach our youth with. In fact I would argue, it’s equally as important for us to share our failures, struggles, and not so great moments, with our future leaders of tomorrow, just the same. I reposted this video from last year speaking at Central Florida Recovery Symposium in Orlando, for those of you that may have never heard my story. #STRONGWOOD
Look at social media, if I posted something about the city of Longwood, not only will our residents see it, but across the country. I have 680,000 followers just on Instagram. I don’t say that being braggadocious. I say that in a way that is important there are key issues that our residents in the county want to accomplish and have done. Who better to do it than someone who can put the biggest flood light known to man with a national platform behind him to get eyeballs on these situations?
That all comes from that [wrestling] background. I’m very blessed with that background. Being an American Gladiator, WWE wrestler — all of that. It’s about me now using it to help improve my county residents’ life.
How do you think Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would do in politics? There is such a buzz around him, especially now.
He would have everyone eating out of the palm of his hand, I’m sure. He is the best promo of all time. I don’t know his politics personally, but he has that going for him.
With WWE, the top of the mountain is the WWE championship. What is the equivalent to that for you in your current political trajectory? How far do you want to go?
It’s funny, I think I’ve had so many people reach out and want me to run for a thousand and one different positions since I became elected in Longwood. My end all and be all is I’ve done a good job of keeping my ear to the ground and being receptive to what the people want ... If I'm doing my job and listening to the will of the people, I go where they tell me they need the most help and need service.