The presidential debates have sent America on a rollercoaster of emotions. Anger, amusement, disappointment and pure unmitigated passion have all pervaded the minds of millions of Americans as we bore witness to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton laying the smack down on one another. These emotions are inevitable, but they also parallel the reactions elicited from an underappreciated art form: professional wrestling.
Pro wrestling is a form of sports entertainment that relies on storytelling through a blend of athleticism and the buildup of complex characters. As a wrestling fan for nearly 15 years, it’s almost second nature for me to compare it to the world around us. As I watched the debates, I started to see connections between pro wrestling and U.S. politics.
Two weeks ago, I sat in my room watching the second presidential debate alongside World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) No Mercy event live. Like the last debate, the final match of No Mercy was a showdown featuring Bray Wyatt, a polarizing cult leader, and Randy Orton, the cold, calculated veteran. Sound familiar?
Depending on how you look at it, you may see Trump as the racist, xenophobic “heel” (wrestling lingo for bad guy) or you may see him as the ultra-conservative American hero. Clinton, on the other hand, can be seen either as the authority-subverting traitor or the equal rights, do-gooder “face” (good guy).
For those unfamiliar with professional wrestling, wrestlers often give interviews in which they verbally berate their opponents before the big match finally happens. For months America has paid witness to the same type of pre-match hype through Trump’s ferocious, politically incorrect speeches.
The debates themselves parallel actual wrestling matchups. In the performances, Trump and Clinton were allowed to go at one another. Oftentimes, it felt as though they were doing so without a moderator – or referee.
The lack of respect between the two candidates was especially highlighted during the last two debates where they refused to even shake hands. Both candidates landed clean shots on each other at the debates; Clinton’s rebuttals were more focused on policy whereas Trump’s were more inflammatory.
Throughout the election campaign, we’ve seen Trump’s blatant disregard of tact. This was exemplified when he spoke about building a wall or proposed a strong vetting process targeting Muslims who enter the country. Yet, he managed to attract a massive following. We’ve also seen Clinton get caught up in a disastrous email scandal, but was somehow cleared of wrongdoing by the FBI. Like Trump, she too manages to maintain a devoted following. The two major candidates have polarized and divided American citizens, leaving many feeling as though they are simply left to choose between the lesser of two evils.
I like Wyatt and Orton, but I can’t say the same for their real-life political counterparts. Wyatt, Orton, Trump and Clinton are all characters, but the difference is that Wyatt and Orton are presented within a fictitious universe. It’s frightening that I have to draw this comparison, because one of these two characters will eventually run our country.
As far as I see it, both political candidates are “dirty heels” in my book. Come on America, give me someone to cheer for.
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