Trump act has roots in WWE

“Par­al­lels are un­canny” be­tween wrestling bravado, pres­i­dent’s tac­tics

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jake Pear­son

NEW YORK» Mak­ing bom­bas­tic boasts. Drop­ping sig­na­ture catch phrases. At­tach­ing in­sults to ri­vals’ names. Shout­ing down per­ceived en­e­mies.

If Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­cent at­tacks on tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties, jour­nal­ists and po­lit­i­cal ri­vals feel like some­thing straight out of the pro wrestling cir­cuit, it may not be a co­in­ci­dence.

Wrestling afi­ciona­dos say the pres­i­dent, who has a long his­tory with the game, has bor­rowed the time-tested tac­tics of the squared cir­cle to cul­ti­vate the ul­ti­mate an­ti­hero char­ac­ter, a fig­ure who wins at all costs, in­cites out­rage and fol­lows no­body’s rules but his own.

“In our ter­mi­nol­ogy, he’s play­ing it to the hilt,” said for­mer World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment writer Dan Madi­gan.

On Sun­day, Trump’s ap­par­ent fond­ness for wrestling emerged in a tweeted mock video that shows him pum­mel­ing a man in a busi­ness suit — his face ob­scured by the CNN logo — out­side a wrestling ring. It was not clear who pro­duced the brief video, which ap­peared to be a doc­tored ver­sion of Trump’s 2007 ap­pear­ance on World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment Inc. But it was tweeted from the pres­i­dent’s of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count.

Madi­gan was struck by the par­al­lels last sum­mer when Trump was in­tro­duced at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Convention. There was a back­lit Trump, un­veiled in stark sil­hou­ette, who then saun­tered onto stage at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleve­land, just like wrestling’s most in­fa­mous an­ti­hero, The Un­der­taker.

“His de­meanor, du­ra­tion of his walk to the podium, his play­ing to the crowd . ... Pure Un­der­taker,” Madi­gan said.

And Trump’s tiger-like pac­ing on stage be­hind Hil­lary Clin­ton dur­ing the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial de­bate last fall in St. Louis? That’s how wrestlers stalk their op­po­nents dur­ing pre­match taunt­ing ses­sions.

In sub­se­quent months of Trump’s tweets and pub­lic feuds, it be­came clear to Madi­gan and other for­mer WWE writ­ers that, con­sciously or not, Trump was chan­nel­ing pro­fes­sional wrestling in his pol­i­tics.

“The par­al­lels are un- canny,” said Domenic Cot­ter, a pro­ducer who in the mid-2000s cut back­stage seg­ments for WWE.

De­pend­ing on your po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion, the writ­ers said, Trump is play­ing one of two clas­sic wrestling char­ac­ters: The “heel,” or ul­ti­mate bad guy, who wins at all costs; or the mod­ern-day wrestling pro­tag­o­nist, dubbed a “face” or “baby face,” in wrestling par­lance.

“I think of Don­ald Trump as the ul­ti­mate baby face,” Cot­ter said, “al­most in the ilk of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, who was this rage-against-thema­chine, anti-author­ity and es­tab­lish­ment fig­ure.”

Cot­ter saw Trump em­ploy a clas­sic pro wrestling tac­tic dur­ing his first news con­fer­ence as pres­i­den­t­elect, when he or­dered CNN re­porter Jim Acosta to be quiet and barked, “You are fake news!”

“In wrestling ter­mi­nol­ogy, he cut a promo on that CNN re­porter and got over him, ba­si­cally,” Cot­ter said. “In wrestling, some swarmy heel is go­ing on and on and on and the baby face quips a re­sponse right back and the au­di­ence goes crazy.”

Richard Drew, AP

A New York Post il­lus­tra­tion paints Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as a pro­fes­sional wrestler.

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