Shades of Andy Kaufman! Red staters riled by "anti-hick" wrestling schtick
He wears shirts that say "NOT MY PRESIDENT." He constantly sings the praises of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And he lectures his audience in the most condescending manner imaginable.
'I want to upset people', says "The Progressive Liberal" Dan Richards, a 36-year-old wrestler earning enemies across Appalachia.
An East Coast real estate agent, Richards (real name Daniel Harnsberger) has wrestled for years in conservative corners of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
In character, Harnsberger tells crowds he'll take their guns. He says he wants to "reprogram" Trump supporters to make them favor renewable energy over coal.
"I know how you stupid Trump voters think," the Liberal Progressive says in one video for Appalachian Mountain Wrestling. "Allow me to illustrate: dur-dur-dur, I love coal. Dur-dur-dur, I love mountains."
In the ring, he finishes off opponents with his signature 'finishing move' known as the 'Liberal Agenda'.
His stereotypical coastal elite character trolling Donald Trump country got its start two years ago, when a West Virginia promoter told him to "be the biggest heel you can be." That was easy for someone who's always been a fan of wrestling heels — cartoonish bad guys whose job is to rile up the crowd.
So he made politics part of his promos, taking the mic and saying "I hope Trump doesn't build a wall around Mexico. Instead I hope he builds it around this town so you people can't infiltrate the population." And that got a heated reaction.
And as his shtick kept getting that reaction, he shaped it into a character named Dan Richards, The Progressive Liberal, honing it up through the primaries and general election. When Trump won, crowds despised Dan Richards even more.
Turns out the left-wing views of the Progressive Liberal aren't entirely a put-on. The character works because it's pretty true to who he is.
A progressive liberal in real life, a great heel is one who "believes what they're saying and feels justified in their actions," Harnsberger says.
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