Trash talking, skull-duggery and media manipulation … just another Monday night of prime time professional wrestling? Think again. The gloves have come off in both the Republican and Democratic parties and the result has been an all-out war that would make even Vince McMahon blush.
Professional wrestling and American politics may often have been considered at opposite ends of the societal spectrum with wrestling representing the fodder for the lower ilk of society. However, the behavior of the candidates in this 2016 Presidential Campaign have changed the image of American politics, and while political history may reveal that these tactics aren’t new, it is perhaps the most public exposure of the truth in politics since professional wrestling came out as sports entertainment.
The 2016 Presidential Campaign has attracted attention from around the globe, with the world gawking with keen interest at the spectacle that has emerged in this no holds barred, winner take all affair. Yes, the onlookers know that they can’t vote and that their lives may be minimally impacted by the final outcome – but in the short term, the over the top bedlam reminds us of the chaos and confusion that we are more familiar seeing between the ropes.
Do you need convincing? Check out these ten eerie parallels between professional wrestling and the Presidential race:
10. Trump Pushes the Envelope
Every time that Donald Trump gets out in front of a microphone, you can never be sure exactly what he’s going to say. It reminds us vividly of the WWE’s Attitude Era when Steve Austin was at the forefront of pushing the envelope on what you can do and say on television. From his statements about Rosie O’Donnell, to his threats to build walls to block out Mexicans and Canadians, it doesn’t seem to matter that Trump doesn’t have an actual political platform … it’s all controversial sound bytes that appeal to the lowest common denominator. Trump equals ratings, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the best choice for the long term. Even the Attitude Era lost its appeal and required a change in direction after a while.
9. Trending Now Worldwide
Wrestling fans who have grown accustomed to the tedious drone of Michael Cole advising us about what’s trending now on social media instead of enticing viewers to focus their undivided attention on the match before their very eyes can almost hear Cole’s voice in their head as we read the headlines about the latest social media activity among the Presidential candidates. This election more than any other in our history has been the most active on social media, and has also created a new platform for trash talk which has created its own level of subjective debate. Forget civilized discourse … take the pot shots on social media and let the media and the public draw their own conclusions.
8. She Was Mine Before She Was Yours
The situation turned ugly when the tabloids latched on to alleged infidelity by Republican candidate Ted Cruz. But instead of leaving this to the tabloids and the Cruz campaign to address, Donald Trump was out in front of the media making suggestive statements about Cruz’ wife. We can’t help but remember the situation in 1992 when Ric Flair, attempting to get under the skin of Randy Savage, posted doctored photos showing himself with Miss Elizabeth. Baiting the over-protective Savage with taunts of “She was mine before she was yours” served their intended purpose … and in the case of Trump vs. Cruz, it appears Trump has riled Cruz as well.
7. The Media Circus
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! The WWE is very effective in promoting each pay per view as a must see event that will define the course of wrestling history to get viewers to buy in and catch all the action as it unfolds. Of course, the big build every year is for WrestleMania and everyone must witness what has grown to become one of the grandest spectacles in all of professional sport. With warring factions on both sides of the floor with less than eight months to go … and without a clear leader on either side yet … it feels a little like the build up to WrestleMania, with all of the smaller pay per views leading up to the dramatic conclusion.
6. When You Believe, No Explanation Is Necessary…
Devoted wrestling fans have always found themselves defending the sport, fervently. Firmly holding on to their passionate love of the game, they ignore all evidence to the contrary which suggests that the sport may be less than legitimate. Wrestler Jeff Jarrett’s response to wrestling naysayers has been “If you believe, no explanation is necessary. If you don’t believe, no explanation will do.” That philosophy could not be more true for the Trump campaign.
Those firmly rooted in the Trump camp have clearly ignored that his stance on immigration stands in direct opposition to his own marital track record, that he went on record as saying that if he ever ran, he would do so as a Republican, because that represented the stupidest voters, or the number of times that the billionaire has declared financial hardship in his own business dealings. No, we are expected to put all that aside and believe that we will “make America great again.”
5. No Defined Good Guys or Bad Guys
Our elected officials should be above reproach when it comes to their commitment to the constituents that have voted them into office. In essence, they should present as the ultimate good guy – battling on our behalf for the issues that mean the most to us. However, in this campaign we are reminded of the pivotal moment when McMahon sat in front of the TV cameras and ushered in a new era of professional wrestling by saying that the new WWE wouldn’t be about good guys vs. bad guys, because fans were more intelligent than that. In the 2016 Presidential campaign, it’s hard to find a candidate that isn’t tainted with some degree of controversy – directly or indirectly. And if we aren’t already hesitating based on what we remember, the other candidates are graciously slinging all the mud they feel is necessary … but nobody will emerge clean from this battle.
4. Whichever Way The Wind Blows …
At the start of the 1980s, wrestling experts might have agreed that Paul ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Orndorff was primed for main event success. The intense competitor with the NFL background had dominated in the territories, so by the time he reached the national stage and was doing battle with Hulk Hogan, the possibility of him becoming the next World Champion was on everyone’s mind. His comeuppance came not from his battles in the ring, but his flip flopping from good to bad throughout the decade. He headlined as a villain at the first WrestleMania, opened the card as a fan favorite at the second one, was a villain again heading into WrestleMania III, and was again seeking the cheers of the crowd by the following year. As we see the timeline side by side of Hillary Clinton’s changing stance on a number of issues, we can’t help but wonder if she has ‘Orndorffed’ herself out of the Presidency. She has her supporters but for every credential she can boast, we also have an equal number of items that we hold onto concerns about.
3. The Outcome May Be Pre-Determined
In recent months, there has been a lot of speculation about what the final showdown will be. Many have predicted already that this will be a Trump-Clinton main event in November. In fact, for several of his rallies on the west coast in recent weeks, even those which were drawing capacity crowds to large arenas, the media hasn’t even turned up for Bernie Sanders. Instead, they have been in attendance at posh smaller gatherings and fundraisers for Clinton. In short, have the media already been leaked the script that regardless of what the public wants that the outcome is fixed like so many wrestling showdowns?
2. It’s a Family Feud
The battle between the Republicans and the Democrats has taken a backseat to the in-fighting within the parties themselves. This un-civil war takes us back not long ago when the New World Order had all but taken over WCW and had turned the tides in the Monday Night Wars in favor of the challenger. However, after a strong start, it wasn’t long until cracks in the foundation started to emerge and the powerhouse faction broke into two distinct camps – the Wolfpack and the NWO black and white. The ensuing battle divided support among the devoted followers but also proved that a house divided against itself cannot stand. It’s a fable from wrestling history that the current leading candidates would be well-served to take note of.
1. “Feel the Bern”
Despite years of paying dues and plying his trade around the world, Daniel Bryan was never expected to succeed in the WWE. Yes, his dedication and talent were without question, but he was considered too small and TV commentators represented him as a socially awkward nerd to be the face of the organization. However, despite what the WWE corporate offices had in mind, the public ultimately got behind Bryan with the “Yes” Movement, which led to his ascent to the top of the company and the industry.
Similarly, Bernie Sanders, dismissed by the media and represented as a radical socialist that can’t be taken seriously, despite more than three decades in the political arena. However, as he gains momentum and has won six of the last seven primaries, the Clinton campaign has been caught trying to gain unfair advantage. As the campaign trudges on, the support behind Sanders has developed its own branding #feelthebern that feels as organic and visceral as Daniel Bryan’s rise. Could Sanders be the underdog story that creates an unexpected triumph in the 2016 election? His supporters might suggest … “Yes! Yes! Yes!”