The Wrestling Life: Episodes 159-160: New WWE TV Deal, Best of the Super Juniors, New Japan, & More!
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Welcome to the first edition of the TWL Book Club, a new series we will hopefully be doing somewhat regularly! Our topic today is a book that tackles a topic that I find very fascinating and one that I hope you, the reader, find fascinating as well (I'm sure the author of the book would also want you to find it fascinating!). The book we are discussing today covers two of my great loves: Professional wrestling and national politics!
Today, we discuss TrumpMania: Vince McMahon, WWE, and the Making of America's 45th President by Lavie Margolin. A book which, as the title implies, covers the relationship between President Donald Trump, the McMahon family, and the WWF/E as a whole over the years.
If you are reading this article, you are probably already somewhat aware of the "broad strokes" of the Trump/McMahon family relationship. You know that Linda McMahon is currently serving in the Trump cabinet. You remember the "Battle of the Billionaires" at Wrestlemania 23. So, you may be thinking that Margolin's book has nothing new to say! However, I believe you would be wrong in that assertion, dear reader.
Margolin's role is not simply to regurgitate basic facts about the relationship between Vince McMahon and President Trump, but to examine *why* they became friends, why they stayed friends, and what benefits (personal, fiscal, and political) came about because of their friendship.
Margolin starts at the beginning, covering the two Wrestlemania events that took place in Trump Plaza (Wrestlemanias 4 and 5) in New Jersey. He quotes many former wrestlers and staff who had high praise for how they were treated by the Trump staff. It is while discussing these early Wrestlemanias that Margolin begins to examine the bond of friendship that Vince McMahon and President Trump share and what strengthened that bond over time: loyalty and consistent praise of each other.
While there are many (sometimes conflicting) reports as to what exactly goes on in the Trump White House on any given day, one nearly indisputable truth would be just how much the 45th President values loyalty among his staff. It seems politics and morals can be put aside by Trump as long as you do not betray him and fortunately for the McMahon family and WWE, it appears that Vince McMahon has avoided any such acts of betrayal in his years of friendship with Trump. Margolin also notes how Trump has been portrayed in his WWE appearances has almost definitely strengthened the bond between the two, as even when Vince McMahon's onscreen character was feuding with Trump, the announcers (and even McMahon himself once or twice) would constantly tout Trump's many business successes when he was discussed or appeared on TV himself.
Speaking of Trump's WWE TV appearances, Margolin covers the famous "Battle of the Billionaires" in great detail, including everything from potential choices for the surrogate wrestlers for Trump and McMahon (Hulk Hogan vs Shane McMahon? Can you imagine?) in the wrestling match itself, to quotes from Bobby Lashley (Trump's eventual storyline choice) and Steve Austin (the special referee for the Battle) speaking about how respectful Trump was and how easy it was to work with him (Margolin humorously recalls Trump referring to Lashley as "Lindsay" and "Lizzy" in interviews leading up to the event). It is noted that Trump agreed to take a Stone Cold Stunner against the wishes of many of his aides because Vince McMahon told him it would be an unforgettable moment. The fact that Trump trusted McMahon (and Austin) in this case speaks to the picture that Margolin has painted of the bond of trust and loyalty between Trump and McMahon.
Margolin also discusses Trump "buying" Monday Night RAW in 2009. The commercial free "Trump RAW" did a 4.53 television rating and the show peaked at 7.8 million viewers, numbers that WWE would most likely kill to be able to reach in this day and age.
As the last stop before the presidential election itself is discussed, Margolin notes that Donald Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Vince McMahon himself in 2013. During the induction speech, McMahon mentions in a somewhat joking manner, the idea of Trump (as well as Vince himself) running for President one day. There is also a humorous story from Zeb Colter who suggests that Trump was "big fan" of Colter and Jack Swagger's "Real Americans" gimmick, which if you are aware of Trump's stance on immigration, is not hard to believe at all.
Finally, Margolin discusses the election itself and its aftermath (including what benefits the McMahon family saw from Trump's win). He notes the way that Trump "outworked" his Republican primary opponents with a persona of a man who was fearless, who couldn't be controlled by the people in charge (not unlike the rebellious, anti-authority characters we have seen on WWE television for years). It is also noted how many news reporters compared the crowds at Trump rallies to the rowdy fans of a pro wrestling event (a somewhat outdated metaphor, as Margolin notes the differences between wrestling crowds of today, versus the ones the reporters and analysts were likely referencing).
In conclusion, TrumpMania tells the story of Trump and the McMahons' relationship. From the start of the relationship in the 1980's, to the "Battle of the Billionaires," to McMahon donating millions of dollars to a pro-Trump PAC in 2016, to Linda McMahon being made Administrator of the Small Business Administration as part of Trump's cabinet, and everything in-between, including many humorous anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories from Trump's many dealings with the WWF/E.
Margolin paints a picture of two men (McMahon and Trump), who through years of mutually beneficial business dealings and a great deal of both public and private lip service to each other, formed a bond that in some ways, may very well have been a difference maker in the 2016 presidential election.
You can find "TrumpMania" by Lavie Margolin on Amazon at this link: amzn.to/2u0mvgC
Liam Renner is a co-host on the Wrestling Life Podcast! Follow him on Twitter for comedy, commentary and of course, all things pro-wrestling. Follow the podcast at @TWL_Podcast and Liam at @LiamIsBatmanNow.