As I watched the press conference the day after the General Election and saw the dust-up between President Trump and a CNN reporter, I was reminded that politics bears a strong resemblance to pro wrestling.
I’ve covered both the political arena and the sports entertainment world. I’ve rubbed elbows with pro rasslers like Mick Foley and Ric Flair, as well as with a few Senators, governors and other elected officials. Let me tell you they are cut from the same cloth.
In wrestling it’s called heat. Generating enough crowd response to cause a near-riot. I’ve seen it and it’s not pretty. If done effectively, it riles the ringsiders up to the point of storming the ring.
Trump has that effect on the mainstream press.
He plays the role of heel (or bad guy) perfectly. He admonishes reporters, like CNN’s Jim Acosta. Acosta assumed the role of babyface (or good guy) during the presser, asking a seemingly harmless question of Trump.
Trump, as is his persona, exploded.
And it’s on.
Trump and the majority of the national press corps don’t like each other. Tis we know.
Fake news claims by Trump and aggressive questioning by media types generates the heat. In this case the exchange didn’t get physical, but it appeared as though it could at any moment.
That’s great theater.
It works in pro wrestling and it appears to be the president’s Trump card (pun intended).
But I’m not sure it’s flattering for the Commander in Chief. He needs to rise above this sort of banter.
Yet, like the villain standing in the ring holding the title belt, Trump exchanges heated words with Acosta and other reporters, who assume the role of angry fans.
While I find this highly entertaining to a point, I also dislike it.
I think it demeans both the press — which I’ve worked in for four decades — and the office of the Presidency.
Both institutions deserve better behavior than this.
I generally know the outcome of pro wrestling/sports entertainment. It’s scripted. It’s rehearsed. It’s not real.
When I watch Trump and the media go at it, I wonder if this too is what we call “a work.”
Maybe Trump and Acosta get together in the back and worked out the moves, like John Cena does before a WWE title defense.
“You come at me. I’ll duck. You run into the ropes; come off and I’ll clothesline you.”
That’s how the boys and girls who wrestle on Monday Night Raw script their matches.
The crowd oohs and aahs. The fans boo the heel and cheer the babyface.
At the end of the match, both competitors go to the back and shake hands and drink a few beers.
I can’t help but wonder if Trump and Acosta did the same thing Wednesday afternoon.
“Boy, that was a good match, Mr. President,” Acosta might say.
“We sure had ‘em going, didn’t we?” Trump replies.
Belly laughs on both sides.
I wish that were the case. I really do.
Instead, what really happens is the press retreats to the media room and writes negative-Trump articles. Trump takes to Twitter and attacks the media with more claims of fake news.
Rinse and repeat. We’ve seen this act before.
Rehearsed or not, it is somewhat entertaining, but also disturbing.
Many people don’t know this, but Trump has made several appearances with WWE in 2007 and in 2009. He had a match with Vince McMahon, owner and chairman of WWE.
He won and shaved McMahon’s head. The two are reportedly good friends.
It got great ratings.
The billionaire was inducted into the celebrity wing of the prestigious WWE Hall Of Fame in 2013.
He knows the business of working a crowd. He can play the role of press antagonist flawlessly. He also can play to his base at rallies, when called upon. That’s a versatile performer.
Vince would be proud of his efforts the day after the election. He would also applaud Acosta for playing the innocent babyface and being the brunt of the President’s verbal jousts.
I’m not sure I can say the same. Every time this happens, the press and the President lose a little credibility.
But, like a good wrestling match, I will watch it again and again.
We haven’t seen any blood, folding chairs or stretchers. Yet.