Independent wrestling promoter, Appalachian Mountain Wrestling, received an unexpected surge of attention this week when one of their star wrestlers, “The Progressive Liberal” Daniel Richards, was noticed for his unique approach to being a wrestling heel.
The Kentucky-based wrestling promoter has allowed “The Progressive Liberal” to develop his character into a blue-blooded Democratic foil for a mostly Republican audience. By day, the wrestling villain uses his birth name, Daniel Harnsberger, to work as a real estate agent. But by night, he’s known as Dan Richards – “The Progressive Liberal.”
Wrestling commentators have taken a positive view of Richards’ unique angle of channeling liberal political ideals to antagonize his audience and opponents. It is a niche that has seen the star become well-known in local wrestling rings and has earned himself a reputation as a formidable villain.
However, this week “The Progressive Liberal” has received a deluge of attention he had not been expecting. Major publications such as Breitbart News, Death and Taxes, Deadspin, and even The Washington Post featured articles about the Appalachian wrestler.
While appearing in the wrestling ring earlier this year, Richards launched into a speech in which he heaped praise on former Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton. Richards also expressed support for Senator Bernie Sanders, which was met with chants of “feel the bern” from Bernie fans in the audience.
“You know what, I think Bernie Sanders would make a great Secretary of State.”
Nevertheless, not all spectators were as receptive to Richards’ liberal rant, and someone in the crowd yelled, “you better shut up!” Richards was not afraid to hit back with salvos that some felt were distasteful.
“I understand now why you all identify with country music. It’s slow and it’s simple and it’s boring, just like each and every one of you.”
Richards went on to call President Donald Trump a “con man,” while wearing a shirt that read, “Not My President.” After working hard to build up animosity in the audience, Richards then changed course and took a shot a convincing the audience to support him.
“I want to exchange your bullets for bullet points. Bullet points of knowledge.”
Wrestling heels are a common feature of pro-wrestling and have traditionally been played by older, angrier, Herculean, men who aren’t afraid to catch opponents off-guard with huge props like ladders and tables.
At a height of six feet and five inches tall, “The Progressive Liberal” has certainly got the burly and the brawn, but instead of pledging his allegiance to the devil, Richards worships Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
His unconventional style and propensity for espousing Liberal ideas have caught the attention of right-wing Americans. Breitbart News described Richards as “a wrestling heel for the Trump era,” adding that “his moves include smugness, condescension, and whining.”
Clearly this ring was put together by republicans. They can't do anything correctly… pic.twitter.com/C5wU474YPP
— Daniel Richards (@ProgressLib804) April 29, 2017
Some of Richards’ tactics include calling his enemies “Fox News maggots,” and insulting the Appalachian accent.
“Do you live in a holler? No, you live in a hollow.”
The wrestling heel also seems to enjoy criticizing the way his “haters” make their voting choices.
“You people need to be reprogrammed. You continually vote against your own interests. You put people in Congress and the White House that aren’t going to help you. They’re not going to bring your jobs back.”
His wrestling shorts sport a picture of the Democratic party’s donkey logo, and he has also worn a shirt patterned with dozens of images of Hillary Clinton’s face. Richards’ signature finishing move is called the “Liberal Agenda.”
A recent article in Deadspin praised Richards’ approach to playing the villain, pointing out that the current U.S. political climate is ripe for extracting anger and aggression from wrestling audiences.
“Regardless of how much Richards plays up the left-wing politics to crowds in Kentucky and nearby states, it works. Look no further than the videos to see that those crowds despise him.”
According to Deadspin, Richards has even received “the occasional death threat.” The incident allegedly happened while Richards was ranting about Republicans’ obsession with guns when an audience member stood up and revealed a pistol in a holster on his right hip and started rubbing it.
New gear came in. pic.twitter.com/tda7d2JChy
— Daniel Richards (@ProgressLib804) February 11, 2017
Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Richards said he discovered his niche during a match where he grabbed the house microphone and shouted, “‘If [Trump] is elected president, I hope Trump doesn’t build a wall around Mexico. Instead, I hope he builds it around this town so none of you people can infiltrate the population.'”
When the crowd began heckling him and chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump,” he realized he was on to something. According to Richards, his character’s political views are not far from his own.
“It’s not like I’m pretending to be something I’m not. I’m just turning it up. I hear Trump chants everywhere I go now, as soon as I walk out.”
Richards hopes that by sticking to his niche he might inspire more Democrats to be “as unapologetic as Republicans are.” he said. In his view, that’s how a progressive liberal should act: unapologetically liberal.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]