I have often in this space said that politics is a lot like professional wrestling, only more fake. Occasionally, however, the script is flipped and pro-wrestling wades into the arena of politics.
Donald Trump has already appeared at two Wrestlemania events (the Super Bowl of pro-wrestling). That includes one appearance in which he, within the storyline, tackled and beat up WWE owner Vince McMahon, before shaving McMahon’s head bald (yes, there are some odd stipulations in wrestling), and, finally, receiving a whipping from presumed ally “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura was Governor of Minnesota. Current wrestler/commentator John Layfield is a financial analyst on Fox. Even Barack Obama appeared on an episode of Monday Night Raw to ask, “Do you smell what Barack is cooking?”
As I watched Raw recently in the lead-up to this year’s Wrestlemania, I noticed a particular segment which drew my mind to progressive politics, Bernie Sanders, and the rise of Donald Trump.
It was a promo by Triple H, a wrestler and real-life executive in the company, who on the show is currently playing the character previously portrayed by Vince McMahon — ‘the evil boss.’
In the promo, Triple H addresses an underling who he and his (real life) wife Stephanie McMahon (Vince’s daughter and the heir to the throne) had been abusing within the storyline for months. The underling had finally attempted to stand up for himself in the face of this mistreatment, and Triple H sought to push him back down.
He explained to the man that the great monolith that is the WWE was the only place he could make a living and that if he tried to stand up for himself again he would be fired. Triple H closed by saying:
“You need to tuck your tail between your legs and you need to waddle up that ramp. And when you get back there you need to have an epiphany. You need to have a life-altering moment where you decide ‘I love my job. And I need it. My kids need me to have my job. I love it and I can’t wait to come to work every Monday night.’ And then, when you run into Stephanie again, and she looks at you and she says jump, then you damn well jump monkey!”
The content of this diatribe appeared to strike a chord with many in the crowd; the working-class people and parents that make up most of a usual wrestling audience. One can imagine many of those in attendance experiencing a similar situation at their own place of work; either overtly, as in the promo of Triple H, or implicitly through the creation of a hostile environment.
In this way, wrestling has effectively elucidated a problem in an American economy which has for decades lost well-paying, full-time, benefit-laden jobs and replaced them with part-time, minimum wage jobs in the service industry.
It is not only the issue of unemployment. It is that in the “good” jobs still remaining, workers have had a major point of leverage removed from their arsenal.
Imagine yourself living in a small town in the Midwest. In the past, perhaps each area had a factory or other large employer. If one company sought to mistreat its employees and refused to address worker’s grievances, the workers could, in theory, leave and find work elsewhere. Now, the factories, if there are any at all, are few and far between. Workers cannot threaten to leave because there is nowhere to leave to.
This affects not only the power dynamic between employers and employees but employers and government. It is not uncommon for a corporation to demand concessions from the government upon threat of leaving the area, the state, the country, etc., and taking all the jobs with them.
The result is increasing corporate influence over government, the dismantling of hard-earned worker’s rights, and the growth of inequality.
The people who grimaced at Triple H’s promo are the same people who voted for Bernie Sanders or, yes, Donald Trump. Incidentally, they are also the people who will buy Wrestlemania this Sunday so they can watch the evil boss get his ass kicked.
Speaking of which, I am going to leave it there and go and watch Wrestlemania myself.
Fuck Triple H.