Examining President Trump’s Relationship With Pro-Wrestling

Examining President Trump’s Relationship With Pro-Wrestling


Yesterday was WrestleMania 33, WWE‘s biggest event of the year. The headline match-ups included Roman Reigns v. Undertaker, Brock Lesnar v. Goldberg and Randy Orton v. Bray Wyatt. There was even a special appearance from the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski.

It was a massive event in the pro-wrestling world, and it has a long history. So now, with WrestleMania in the rearview, I think it’s a perfect time to reexamine how pro-wrestling has shaped the Donald Trump’s presidency.
For those of you who don’t know, Trump with WWE (formerly WWF, the World Wrestling Federation) started in the late 80’s. WrestleMania IV and V both took place in Trump Plaza. Over the next two decades, the relationship would evolve, with Trump himself appearing in several Pay-Per-Views and even headlining an event at WrestleMania 23.  The President’s appeared on WWE so many times that they gave him his own theme song (“Money, Money”) and he was inducted into the Pro-Wrestling Hall Of Fame back in 2013. 
Then, when Trump moved from the entertainment world into the political arena, he took his wrestling ties with him. After taking office this year, President Trump actually appointed Linda McMahon, wife of WWE CEO Vince McMahon, to run the Small Business Administration. 
It’s a relationship has become incredibly troublesome for some left-leaning wrestling fans. As AOL reported,some even went so far as to boycott yesterday’s event over the organizations ties to Trump. For some people, Trump and pro-wrestling are so closely connected that they’ve become inseparable.  As wrestling fan and podcaster Aubrey Sitterson told AOL, it can be incredibly challenging:
“I stopped watching because it made me uncomfortable… promoting this company that had not only paid for Trump to get into office and do the things he is doing, but in the process had bought Linda McMahon a spot in the administration. It sickened me that I was part of their marketing plan, that I was not only complicit, but that I was helping.”
And while the President has many interesting relationships, his ties to pro-wrestling are probably some of the most telling. Here’s what Chris Kelly wrote in The Washington Post on November 11:

“Trump’s time in the squared circle wasn’t simply a business venture: It was a chance to commune with McMahon, with whom he shares a nearly parallel biography. Born to leaders of regional industries, both men took over their fathers’ businesses and turned them into national powerhouses. After ascending to the heights of American culture in the 1980s, they suffered setbacks — legal, financial, personal — in the ’90s before roaring back to prominence at the turn of the new millennium, with the same “You’re fired!” catchphrase, no less.

Trump found a world where his particular skills come in handy. Pro wrestling is a morality play where the hero (the “babyface” or simply “face”) battles the villain (the “heel”). The heel gets “heat” — a negative reaction from the crowd — by insulting his enemies and his audience, cheating at every turn and claiming that the game is rigged against him… Throughout this presidential campaign, Trump relished his role as a heel, and nearly every one of his positions, statements and actions had an analogue in the annals of pro wrestling.”

Now the parallels are clear; in fact, it’s hard to look at Donald Trump or Vince McMahon and not immediately notice what Sam Ford of MIT called a similar “P.T. Barnum-like, carnival barker mentality”. Trump’s pro-wrestling past seems perfectly echoed in his penchant for over-the-top political theater, and that observation is nothing new.  In fact, it’s so well known that even NPR published a listicle entitled: “4 Ways Donald Trump’s Pro Wrestling Experience Is Like His Campaign Today“.

But what’s really interesting is that it’s not just outsider critics making these connections. During an interview with the New York Times, Trump advisor Peter Thiel also put the President’s campaign in wrestling terms [via Salon.com]:

“Mr. Thiel says that many people assumed Mr. Trump was “kayfabe” — a move that looks real but is fake. But then his campaign turned into a “shoot” — the word for an unscripted move that suddenly becomes real.

People thought the whole Trump thing was fake, that it wasn’t going to go anywhere, that it was the most ridiculous thinug imaginable, and then somehow he won, like [Hulk] Hogan did,’ Mr. Thiel says”

The Trump campaign used the President’s “pro-wrestling” persona very effectively to help him win over crowds and eventually the election itself. And while it’s clear now that pro-wrestling has influenced the presidency, it also seems like his presidency might be affecting pro-wrestling. Rolling Stone went so far as to say that “Trump’s Presidency Turned WWE Politically Correct“. Several of Trump’s policy decisions noticeably upset WWE’s John Cena and Sami Zayn, and it’s certainly contributed to a slew of headlines in The Hill that featured Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Whatever comes next, one thing is certain: the White House has never experience anything quite like Trump.