The Scrapbook can’t pretend to have had a misspent youth. But we did occasionally wallow in the spectacle of pro wrestling. And it’s pretty obviously the case, as a handful of astute observers have pointed out, that Donald Trump is a close student of, and has been deeply influenced by, the dramatic conventions of pro wrestling.
In his creation of a brash, cartoonish persona, his deftness at milking every last drop of publicity from attention-grabbing confrontations, and his talent for creating and stoking melodramatic controversies, Trump is a classic embodiment of that character known in wrestling circles as “the heel”—i.e., the over-the-top villain fans love to hate.
Trump’s friendship and business alliances with the great wrestling impresario and businessman Vince McMahon have been much remarked on. (If your tastes run to that sort of thing, you can find a video of the two of them in the ring together by Googling “The Battle of the Billionaires takes place at Wrestlemania.”) But as we learned from the case of Minnesota’s 38th governor, such connections can be as much of a political asset as they are a liability. Before turning to politics, Jesse Ventura famously made his name as, yes, a heel. Indeed, one of Ventura’s well-known heel routines involved mocking a rival, the Texas-born Tito Santana, as “Chico,” proprietor of a taco stand in Tijuana—suggesting that Trump’s high-profile attack on criminal aliens from Mexico, besides staking out a distinctive position on immigration, may also have been a subliminal homage to the characters he has modeled himself on.
Trump’s high-profile confrontation with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, beginning in the debate and continuing for days thereafter, was also straight out of pro-wrestling’s playbook of how to promote a prize fight—with Trump playing the heel and Kelly cast in the role of the heel’s beloved opposite: “the face.”
One thing for Trump’s opponents to bear in mind is that a heel never, ever apologizes—indeed, notoriety and outrage are what he seeks. If you’re not in a position to body slam him, the best approach is probably to mock and ridicule his manhood.