“If you’re poor and you do something stupid, you’re nuts. If you’re rich and do something stupid, you’re eccentric.”- Bobby Heenan
I am, I suppose, a political scientist. I am supposed to be interested in politics. While my main focus is mostly just war I actually dislike discussing American politics with most people. I find them tiresome with the constant outrage at everything and the broad platitudes of “liberal vs. conservative”. I do, however, really like professional wrestling. I never really was into wrestling until the late ‘90s and the dawn of the “Monday Night Wars” between WCW and the WWF. I loved it. Soap operas for men, I suppose. Since 2004 I’ve been buying dvds to watch of old school material like AWA, WCCW, WWF and WCW. I take an academic interest in it nowadays and yes, it’s possible to have fun watching this stuff while de-constructing it. The greats like Ric Flair, Bobby Heenan, Nick Bockwinkel, Classy Freddy Blassy… they’re some of the best talkers in the business.
Watch Bockwinkel and Heenan play off each other. They’re equals on the mic, Bockwinkel using his “million dollar words” and “The Brain” delivering his promo about how they’re all going to blame him, even for the success of the Vikings. Perfect. Hell, any Heenan promo is bound to be awesome, it’s a skill to cut a promo as good as Heenan or Flair can make them. Being good on the mic can almost always compensate for less than stellar performance in the ring. Watch the above clip.
Now watch this:
Notice anything? Trump is working the mic. Not as good as Bobby Heenan or Ric Flair, but he’s doing it. He’s playing to the audience. He’s just insulting Rubio and Cruz and he’s killing it. Hell, he even insulted the audience at one debate, a typical heel move that always gets traction. Bobby Heenan was the master at it, calling the crowd a bunch of “ham ‘n eggers” because it’s the simplest thing in the world to make….any idiot can do it.
Trump learned from the master, Vince McMahon. After the famous “Montreal Screwjob” which saw McMahon cheating Bret Hart out of the Heavyweight belt (for real, it was a real business decision) he used the hatred generated by Hart fans to become the evil boss, a persona he could play to perfection.
Yep, Trump and Vinnie Mac had a major feud. There’s a twenty minute video on youtube that shows Trump and McMahon doing what they do best, maintaining kayfabe (wrestling term for keeping character) and going at it. They’re both making money because, after all, wrestling is a business and if you have a major feud you want it to make money. Go over the top, insult everybody, make the audience hate you, be the heel, roll in the dough.
We can go back to Andy Kaufman’s infamous run in Memphis against Jerry “The King” Lawler in the early 1980s. Kaufman wanted to be a “bad guy wrestler” and played the role to perfection by starting off as the Inter-gender Champion and challenging women. He always begged off, ran off or was assaulted by Lawler. In short, Kaufman studied his heels and played the role to perfection. I suspect Trump is doing the same thing right now. He certainly has the history with the WWF/WWE and he certainly has the mic skills from his years on TV and as a media icon. Every time I watch Trump I just see the ultimate heel working the audience and acquiring a following the same way Ric Flair was able to. Rubio and Cruz, and the rest of the GOP, have no idea how to handle what is essentially a carny show that is absolutely destroying the competition. Wrestling is the ultimate expression of the carny business model. Facts don’t matter and I assure you Trump loves the attacks on him. It gets him over even more than he already is.
Hell, I may order one of those red “Make America Great Again” hats because I have a soft spot for wrestling merchandise. This is what Trump’s run is: the ultimate heel turn. It’s amazing to behold and frankly, I can only sit back and laugh. Trump’s pulling the ultimate joke and by gods, it’s a funny one.
John R. Dreyer PhD, Professor of Political Science at the South Dakota School of Mines, lists his dream as Pro Wrestling Manager under the name “Dr. Jerry Graham III.”
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