He created the stage name Jesse "The Body" Ventura to go with the persona of a bully-ish beach bodybuilder, picking the name "Ventura" from a map as part of his "bleach blond from California" character. As a wrestler, Ventura performed as a villain and often used the motto "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!" Much of his flamboyant persona was copied from "Superstar" Billy Graham, a charismatic and popular performer during the 1970s and '80s. Years later, as a broadcaster, Ventura made a running joke out of claiming that Graham stole all of his ring attire ideas from him.
In 1975, Ventura made his debut in the Central States territory, before moving to the Pacific Northwest, where he wrestled for promoter Don Owen as Jesse "The Great" Ventura. During his stay in Portland, Oregon, he had notable feuds with Dutch Savage and Jimmy Snuka and won the Pacific Northwest Wrestling title twice (once from each wrestler), and the tag team title five times (twice each with Bull Ramos and "Playboy" Buddy Rose, and once with and Jerry Oates). He later moved to his hometown promotion, the American Wrestling Association in Minnesota, and began teaming with Adrian Adonis as the "East-West Connection" in 1979. The duo won the promotion's World Tag Team Championship on July 20, 1980 on a forfeit when Verne Gagne, one-half of the tag team champions along with Mad Dog Vachon, failed to show up for a title defense in Denver, Colorado. The duo held the belts for nearly a year, losing to "The High Flyers" (Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell).
Shortly after losing the belts, the duo moved on to the World Wrestling Federation, where they were managed by "Classy" Freddie Blassie. Ventura would then adopt his infamous nickname "The Body", and although the duo was unable to capture the World Tag Team Championship, both Adonis and Ventura became singles title contenders, each earning several title shots at World Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund.Ventura continued to wrestle until September 1984, when blood clots in his lungs ended his in-ring career; it forced him to miss a title match against WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. Ventura claimed the blood clots were a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam. After a failed comeback bid, he began to do color commentary on television for All-Star Wrestling (replacing Angelo Mosca) and later Superstars of Wrestling (initially alongside Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino, and with McMahon after Sammartino's departure from the WWF in 1988), hosted his own talk segment on the WWF's Superstars of Wrestling called "The Body Shop", and did color commentary on radio for a few National Football League teams (among them, the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Ventura most notably co-hosted Saturday Night's Main Event with Vince McMahon and the first six WrestleManias (1985-1990) and most of the WWF's pay-per-views at the time with Gorilla Monsoon (the lone exception for Ventura being the first SummerSlam, in which Ventura served as the guest referee during the main event). Ventura did return to the ring to participate in a six-man tag team match in December 1985 as he, Roddy Piper, and "Cowboy" Bob Orton defeated Hillbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer, and Cousin Luke in a match which was broadcast on Saturday Night's Main Event. Following a dispute with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon over him using his image for the video game company Sega, McMahon—who had a contract with rival company Nintendo at the time—released Ventura from the company in August 1990.In February 1992 at WCW Superbrawl 2, Ventura joined World Championship Wrestling as a commentator. His professional wrestling commentary style was an extension of his wrestling persona, as he was partial to the villains, which was something new and different at the time, but would still occasionally give credit where it was due, praising the athleticism of Dynamite Kid and Randy Savage (who was championed by Ventura for years, even when he was a fan favorite). Ventura would leave The lone exception to this rule was the WrestleMania VI match between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Since they were both crowd favorites, Ventura took a neutral position in his commentary; even praising Hogan's display of sportsmanship at the end of the match when he handed over the WWF Championship to the Warrior after he lost the title. The praise of Hogan's action was unusual for Ventura because he regularly rooted against Hogan during his matches. Hogan and Ventura were, at one point, close friends. Ventura, however, abruptly ended the friendship after he discovered, during his lawsuit against Vince McMahon, that Hogan was the one who had told Vince about Ventura's attempt to form a labor union in 1984. Ventura was released by WCW President Eric Bishoff for falling asleeep during a WCW Worldwide TV at Disney MGM Studios in 1994.
In mid-1999, Ventura reappeared on WWF television during his term as Governor of Minnesota, acting as the special guest referee for main event of SummerSlam held in Minneapolis. Ventura would continue his relaton with the WWF by performing commentary for Vince McMahon's short-lived XFL. On the March 20, 2003 episode of SmackDown!, Ventura appeared in a taped interview to talk about the match between McMahon and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania XIX. Less than a year later, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 13, 2004 and the following night at WrestleMania XX, he approached the ring to interview Donald Trump, who had a front row seat at the event. Trump affirmed that Ventura would receive his moral and financial support were he to ever reenter the world of politics. Alluding to the 2008 election, Ventura boldly announced that "In 2008, maybe we oughta put a wrestler in the White House". On the June 11, 2007 episode of Raw, Ventura appeared to give comments about Vince McMahon.
Ventura was guest host on the November 23, 2009 episode of Raw during which he retained his villainous persona by siding with the number one contender, Sheamus over WWE Champion John Cena. This happened while he confronted Cena about how it was unfair that Cena always got a title shot in the WWE while Ventura didn't. After that Sheumus attacked Cena and put him through a table. Ventura then made the match a Tables match at WWE TLC. During the show, for the first time in nearly 20 years, Vince McMahon joined Ventura at ringside to provide match commentary together.