Trump’s Wrestling Appropriation Merits A Response From True Believers
Don’t let ol’ 45 off the hook for using the true sport of kings in his twisted war of words with CNN.
Since taking office in January, Donald Trump has delivered his own hate-filled version of FDR’s fireside chats via a series of early morning tweet-storms. In weeks past, he’s gone after Hillary Clinton, talk show hosts, beauty queens, and even journalism itself. Of all the things he’s done as president to upset people — and that’s a very long list — pundits have frequently commented how unhinged these pre-dawn blasts have colored Trump.
Over the July 4th holiday weekend, the president turned his gaze back to a familiar target, CNN, albeit with a different kind of barbed message in hand: a GIF in which the leader of the free world was laying the smack down on Vince McMahon during WrestleMania 23, with the WWE chairman’s face superimposed with the CNN logo. Trump’s meme-tastic statement was clear: He would beat that purveyor of #FakeNews into submission.
I can forget the (not so) thinly-veiled threats of violence from the actual commander-in-chief against a media organization fulfilling its intended role. Because at this point, Trump’s final hold over his constituents may well be that perceived war with the mainstream media. I’ll even let slip that said GIF is evidently the handiwork of a racist Reddit user. (It helps he mostly apologized.) Nor can I agree with those who lambasted CNN for their response to “HanA**holeSolo” and #GIFGate. What I find so upsetting about it all is what it this tweet says about and does for true those wrestling fans the world over.
First, some important context. Trump’s appearance at WWE’s super PPV in April 2007 was part of a hair versus hair match against McMahon. The Donald was represented by Bobby Lashley, a berzerker babyface, while McMahon had Umaga as his champion. The former might have beaten the latter, ensuring the heinous McMahon got the ol’ shave job, but not even that could alter Trump’s status among the (pre-) Universe fans. He was just another person throwing himself into the wrestling mix for the sake of a quick buck and a decent bit of publicity. (See Snoop Dogg, Kim Kardashian, Snookie, etc.) Trump couldn’t care less about what wrestling has to offer, and that certainly hasn’t changed now that he’s the big cheese of the USA.
Trump’s reliance on that GIF to send a message to pundits, CNN, and citizens alike reeks of the same desperation as his WrestleMania appearance. For him to try and force associations with wrestling and its fanbase right now is wildly disrespectful, a clear cut sign that he believes true fans to be gullible suckers he can use for his personal promotion any time he sees fits. Sort of like how he treated the rest of the American voting public.
Which is why wrestling fans should use this as a time to speak out. Whether or not you support Trump’s politics is moot; what he’s attempting to do is a blatant attack on the sensibilities of wrestling’s loyal and devoted fanbase. A message that his role in wrestling is legitimate and true, and he can somehow represent us and our loyalties and how we view and engage with the world.
The fact of that matter is that fans were on to Trump the moment he entered the ring back in 2007, and to be silent know is to give this undeserving man a different kind of power. The ability to use something we cherish as another tool in his war against whomever he feels has slighted him most recently. That wrestling is the sort of thing that can willfully distorted to fit one man’s needs, and not the incredibly vibrant and engaging community of people it truly is. Those kinds of concessions are dangerous, and might jeopardize any credibility wrestling has cultivated in recent years.
Speaking of credibility, the McMahon family hasn’t spoken out about Trump, and they never will. Not only did the family contribute money to his campaign, but Linda McMahon landed herself a sweet gig as head of the Small Business Administration. Whether this association is going to be a good thing for wrestling’s first family has yet to be seen. However, their inaction just means fans need to lift their voices up that much more intensely. To scream that his appropriation isn’t just immature, but wholly uncondoned. That we are a diverse set of global citizens, and he does not speak for us even if he did elbow Vinny Mac real good that one time.
All the fawning in the world doesn’t empower Trump to speak for wrestling fans or associate us with his efforts. Plenty of people I know or follow on wrestling Twitter are unabashed members of the Resist movement, and this is a perfect time to express those feelings. People need to say — the louder the better — that wrestling is our thing, and we won’t let it be used by outsiders regardless of the purpose. To do so is to deny the authenticity and passion that makes the community so appealing.
Some of this same dictum goes for those people outside of wrestling, folks on either side of the Trump debate, political aisles, and media infrastructure. Crack all the jokes in the world, but there are millions of people who love wrestling and deserve the respect and decency to use this construct as we see fit. That could be as a funny GIF, but hopefully for the betterment of wrestling as a whole. Regardless, we, the rowdy faithful, deserve a greater sense of ownership as to avoid suffering from the world’s many fools.
Now tweet that, Donny boy.