“WHAT’CHA GONNA DO BROTHER?! WHEN TRUMP MANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU!!!”
…is not something you hear Donald Trump shout at one of his rallies. Yet, these days it is hard to ignore the parallels between politics and professional wrestling.
As politics become even more of a televised “sport” it becomes clear that politics isn’t just similar to professional wrestling at a superficial level…
Politics Is Professional Wrestling Now…
The Trump campaign’s success has all but proven this to be true.
…But, What Is Professional Wrestling?
You could call professional wrestling a fake sport, but pro wrestling isn’t fake and it’s not a sport.
Professional wrestling is a staged, live-action stunt show and soap opera.
It’s like Watching an Action Movie in Real Life
It’s the Indiana Jones live stunt show, but with better acting and fight choreography.
The fights are staged to tell a story of good guys and bad guys. Most of the wrestlers are friends in real life.
In many ways, professional wrestling was reality tv before that was a genre.
What Does That Have To Do With Politics?
Modern politics is staged fights on television designed to fill a 24 hour news cycle. Most of the politicians work together and are friends in real life.
Politics Is Theater, Just like Professional Wrestling
Take the presidential primaries. You put three to fifteen politicians from the same party and they all run for president. What happens?
They all agree on most major issues and are working toward a joint goal - their party winning the presidency. But, a debate where everyone nods their heads in agreement for an hour is boring.
So, They Stage a Fight…
It’s all fabricated. They all want to stand out and the easiest way to stand out is to pick a fight.
Most of the time, the candidates don’t hate each other. In fact, they end up endorsing each other and singing each others’ praise just days after slinging mud.
Why Would They Do That?
Because it’s all staged. It’s all for attention and television ratings.
It’s Ted Turner’s Fault. Blame Ted Turner!
Ted Turner changed the world. He created CNN, a 24 hour news network.
But, to make 24 hour news work, you have to figure out how to fill time. There isn’t enough national and world news to report about that all day long.
24 Hour New Is Boring! Unless There’s a War Going On…
CNN didn’t really take off until it had a live feed of the Iraq War. That changed everything.
After that, you had national news events go live around the clock like the OJ Simpson car chase, school shootings, murder trials, and 9/11 to make 24 hour news a booming business.
If you have a conflict, 24 hour news is spectacular live drama.
Why Not Invent A War?
Have you ever watched as some “big issue” is discussed by a panel of experts who spend 15 minutes shouting at each other for no good reason?
You know the routine, they trot out a couple Democrats and Republicans to argue as forcefully as they can. In the end, they all smile at the end of the segment because they got free exposure in front of millions of people.
In real life, those people often know each other, sometimes work together, and often are friends in real life. They aren’t enemies.
It’s all designed to be compelling television. It’s designed to own your attention.
Conflict Makes Compelling Television
Ted Turner knew the value of wrestling to make great television. Ted purchased World Championship Wrestling and used TBS and TNT networks to turn WCW into the #1 professional wrestling promotion in the world.
WCW had stars like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Macho Man Randy Savage, the nWo, Steve Austin (before he was Stone Cold), Goldberg, etc.
If you don’t know the names, you probably remember the t-shirts from the 90’s.
The big hook of professional wrestling was the conflict. Put two guys in a ring and give them a reason to fight and people watch. It’s that simple.
It’s the same formula of reality tv. They just called it wrestling.
Ted Turner Was A Reality TV Pioneer
Ted made a lot of money with wrestling. Before the ill-fated AOL Time Warner merger, WCW Monday Nitro was the hottest thing on television.
Ted’s reality television innovations stand today.
CNN still exists and its revolutionary 24 hour news network format is copied by Fox News, MSNBC, Headline News, CNBC, and to some extent ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.
WWE cribs heavily from the innovations of WCW Monday Nitro on RAW and Smackdown.
Vince McMahon’s Shadow Looks A Lot Like Trump
Vince McMahon is the creator of WWE, which all but controls the wrestling business. He took it from a small regional promotion to a publicly operated entertainment powerhouse.
WWE doesn’t produce wrestling, it produces “sports entertainment”.
What Is Sports Entertainment?
It’s live action theater. It’s movies. It’s television shows. It’s not just two people fighting in a ring.
WWE takes it so much further than that…
It’s a 24/7 Storytelling Experience Delivered Across Tv, Social Media, and Even the WWE Network
Vince took the core dramatic element - a conflict, and turned it into a storyline that goes on for years across multiple TV shows, live shows, social media, and even movies, books, etc.
That 24/7 theater of sports entertainment takes what Ted Turner and puts it “on steroids”. The show doesn’t ever end.
The fight never ends. Always a new conflict.
There is always something to argue about. It’s a lot like politics.
Election Or Championship Fight… Can You Spot The Difference?
Politics and professional wrestling are the same now.
You take a central conflict in a “fight” for the presidency, and you turn it into a multi-year story played out in social media, TV shows, live debates, polls, statistics, primary elections, national conventions, and on and on.
If you took the presidental election and really looked at it, it wouldn’t look a lot different than what you see from WWE’s storylines like The Rock vs. John Cena.
- Two people battle for a prestigious title.
- Each takes turns speaking to large crowds in different parts of the country.
- At each event they talk trash to try to win over the crowd.
- Every once in a while they go head to head to win over the crowd.
- Both want everyone to show up to the big fight and support them so they win.
- Both need the crowd to believe this is the most important fight of all time.
- One wins, one loses.
- The crowd is entertained.
- After the fight they shake hands and continue to work together in the future.
- Everybody involved, including the organization they work for, profits from the fight.
The basic structure of politics and pro wrestling are the same. Stage a conflict, talk trash, sell a fight, everyone wins no matter what.
I Think John Cena or The Rock Could Become President
Vince McMahon is no stranger to politics. In fact, his wife Linda McMahon, who was heavily involved with WWE over the years, ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 and
Despite not having much of a career in politics she got the Republican nomination, but lost the general election both times.
Not Every Wrestler Can Be The Top Guy
You could call that a failure, but I wouldn’t. Winning an election isn’t easy and not everyone is charismatic enough to convince the voters.
I don’t think it’s an accident that the McMahon family got involved in politics. Over time, politics keeps looking more like theater. It looks more like wrestling.
And if you really want to understand Trump’s rise to prominence you have to understand the most important rule of pro wrestling.
The One Rule That Rules Politics And Wrestling…
Have you ever seen the movie The Gladiator? There is a famous scene where Proximo explains to Maximus how to win his freedom, “Win the crowd and you’ll win your freedom.”
The best wrestlers are the ones who win the crowd. In wrestling parlance they call it “getting over”.
…You Have To “Get Over” With The Crowd
Do you remember Hulkamania in the 80’s? Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Austin 3:16 in the 90’s?
I bet you’ve seen the shirts. Those guys won the crowd in a huge way.
When a wrestler wins the crowd, they can do just about anything. That seems obvious when you consider a hero winning the crowd right?
The Bad Guy Wins? BOOO!!!
The bad guy can win the crowd too. In fact, that is their job. They want you to boo as loud as possible.
Winning the crowd isn’t about being cheered, it’s about getting a reaction. The stronger the reaction, the better.
You Got To Put Butts In Seats!
It’s about selling tickets and merchandise and attention.
If you are a good guy, you want people to care about you so much that they pay money to see you win. If you are a bad guy, you want people to pay money to see you get beat up.
If people don’t pay, you don’t have a job. You have to win the crowd.
The Rock Says…
You might not realize it, but Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, usually plays a bad guy. He got famous for talking smack and getting booed.
His rise to fame started when he embraced the boos and became the most charismatic bad guy in the business. The Rock is so good that he can talk trash to an entire arena, make them furious, then have the crowd cheer him anyway.
People love The Rock. He won the crowd almost 20 years ago and now they’ll pay money to see him in any movie, on any show, on social media, etc.
…It’s About Winning the Crowd
Oh, and how do you win an election? You win the crowd.
You make people care so much that they donate to your cause, show up to your rallies, wait in long lines, and ultimately vote for you.
Convincing people to buy a ticket to WrestleMania or cast a vote is the same thing. It’s about the crowd taking action to support you any way they can.
And that brings us to Trump…
Trumps Secret Weapon Revealed
A lot of people seem befuddled by Donald Trump. It seems like he’s playing a different game. That’s because he is.
Wrestling psychology is the key to understanding Trump.
Trump understands wrestling. He’s worked with Vince McMahon and the WWE a lot. He hosted multiple WrestleManias.
One year, Trump headlined WrestleMania.
Trump is in the WWE Hall Of Fame
Trump knows how to win the crowd and promote an event. Remember how He hijacked debates to host his own events?
That wasn’t an accident. It’s not his first rodeo.
The WrestleMania Battle of The Billionaires was the highest grossing Pay Per View in WWE history until John Cena and The Rock topped that at WrestleMania 28.
That’s more money than any WrestleMania headlined by legends like Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, etc.
And when you look at how Trump operates his events, his social media, and his debate performances, it’s like watching The Rock do his thing.
Donald Trump Works the Crowd
He exaggerates his victories and his opponents failures. Everything is larger than life.
Even when his opponents talk trash about him, Trump always seems to come out on top.
Nothing sticks. The crowd loves him, the television stations love him, and the voters are voting for him.
Trump’s success is not due to his political policies. It is due to his ability to win the crowd.
Pundits Are “Marks”
Wrestling isn’t real and fans know it. The ones who don’t know it are called “marks” because they are being taken advantage of.
When it comes to the new age of politics, pundits are marks. They just don’t get it.
In politics, pundits talk a lot about policy and polls as if that is how elections are won. The thing is, people care about emotion more than policy.
Wrestling fans make the same mistake about technical wrestling too. The biggest names in wrestling are often the least technical wrestlers.
Obama and Hillary in 2008 had very similar policy ideas. But, Obama was way more charismatic and he won the crowds.
Hulk Hogan is a mediocre technical wrestler, but he sold more tickets than just about anyone.
Votes Rule Politics, Ticket Sales Rule Wrestling
Attention rules both. Politicians and entertainers are in the attention business.
Without attention you won’t get votes and you won’t sell tickets. That’s why professional wrestling and politics are televised.
Television is still the largest attention medium. They need to be on television to stay relevant.
Oh and social media is a big deal too. The crowd lives on social media.
Without the attention of the crowd, their career is over. They need to be famous.
Donald Trump is great at being famous…
Donald Trump Is the Most Famous Man in the World
On any given day, Trump is more searched for, more mentioned, more everything than anyone else in the world.
He’s so famous other famous people gather to plot, scheme, and worry about how famous he his.
He’s so famous that people who hate him spend all their energy to try and stop him.
He’s so famous…
You Can’t Go a Day Without Hearing about Donald Trump
But that doesn’t mean everyone likes Donald Trump. Half of the crowd cheers Donald Trump, the other half boos him.
That makes Trump a lot like John Cena. Every time John Cena enters an arena, half of the crowd stands up to cheer him, the other half to boo him.
Everybody Reacts To John Cena…
Millions of people buy tickets to see John Cena. John Cena sells thousands of t-shirts, hats, and arm bands every week. Fans watch him on WWE, Total Divas, Twitter and Instagram.
He’s the #1 guy in wrestling. John Cena won the crowd.
You would think that getting negative reactions from fans would hurt John Cena. It doesn’t.
What would hurt John Cena is if nobody payed attention anymore.
...As Long as the Crowd Reacts,
John Cena Donald Trump Wins
That is how Donald Trump became the Republican frontrunner and probably the next President.
Everybody reacts to Donald Trump. He’s won the crowd.
By making every person love him or hate him, Donald Trump became the #1 politician in the world. He’s doing things that experts deemed impossible just last summer.
And all of this happened because politics isn't politics anymore.
It’s theater. It’s “political entertainment”. It’s professional wrestling!
…and Donald Trump knows professional wrestling.
That Is Donald Trump’s Secret Weapon
As long as the crowd reacts, Donald Trump wins.
The crowd keeps reacting, Trump keeps winning.
P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius
Photo by Gage Skidmore