Donald Trump’s love for professional wrestling began in the late 1980s, and has not abated one iota. In fact, he has used all of the sports entertainment’s odd mix of chicanery and lowbrow humor even as President of the United States, and has done so in a most effective manner.
It remains stunning over three years into his presidency how many in the media feel resigned by his actions. His behavior remains often shallow and crude, camouflaging his own lack of understanding of decorum and policy. But at the end of the day, he often gets exactly what he wants: Trump controls every news cycle.
Earlier this month, comedian and social commentator Bill Maher quipped that Trump had his best week as president just after being acquitted of impeachment by the GOP-controlled Senate.“I feel like Nancy Pelosi’s copy of the State of the Union. I’m all torn up. It was Trump’s best week ever,” he said.
Just minutes later, Maher spoke to one of the architects and the chief strategist of Trump’s 2016 campaign, Steve Bannon.
“I wish we had someone on our side as evil as you,” Maher told Bannon in a backhanded compliment. Maher then likened Trump’s rhetoric – which he perfected as a fan and participant of professional wrestling – to some of the worst characters in world history.
“When you talk about people like they’re scum and they’re evil – we’ve seen it in Rwanda – ‘cockroaches,’ – and we’ve seen in Germany – ‘vermin,” Maher said. “You don’t think when you talk like that – your side – you don’t think it translates into action?”
Bannon shook his head.
Anyone growing up with pro wrestling thirty years ago has long known Trump played a big presence. His Trump Plaza would host Wrestlemania shows, and through the decades, he developed a close friendship with World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, one that remains to this day. In fact, McMahon is one of only a handful of people Trump follows on Twitter. McMahon also contributed $6 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
In 2000, Trump flirted with running as a Reform Party candidate with the help of wrestler turned Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura.
Trump has long sought to be taken seriously as a businessman, whether in New York City or Palm Beach, Florida. Despite his bluster, he still scours all newspapers seeking positive attention about himself. Even as he holds the title “leader of the free world,” he still struggles with the very notion of being seen as “legit” by “the establishment.”
Trump is the antidote to what is customary decorum in American politics. To borrow a professional wrestling term, he can best be described as a “heel,” or in layman’s terms, a “bad guy.”
The ominous question still looms heading into the 2020 presidential election: Is Trump a ‘heel’ merely for show or is it but a harbinger of things to come? Will journalists and writers be jailed for their coverage and open criticisms about him? Will they be beaten up and intimidated with impunity, like they are in other far less developed countries?
Jury is still out.
Trump has shown nothing but contempt for journalists until now, unless the press coverage has been favorable to him. This is obviously a dangerous precedent, as some of his supporters openly share his views that the press are “the enemy of the people,” rather than as a necessary check on the president’s limits.
Trump as a “heel” continues to work very well for him, and he is not going to change – and will only be further emboldened by capturing more “winning” results.