Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States; Donald Trump, WWE Hall of Famer; Donald Trump, one-time recipient of a Stone Cold Stunner.
Trump has a superstar bio on wwe.com that mentions the fact that he’s our current president:
“From captivating billionaire to reality TV star, from WWE Hall of Famer to the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump has truly done it all.
“… After trading in his favorite television catchphrase “You’re fired!” for a national promise to “Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump won his first presidential campaign against key contender Hillary Clinton and officially took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, to become the 45th President of the United States — the first time in history a WWE Hall of Famer would ever hold the distinguished title of U.S. Commander-in-Chief.”
But other than that, WWE hasn’t really played up the fact that someone who has hosted a pair of Wrestlemanias, took part in a “Battle of the Billionaires” with WWE chairman Vince McMahon and once briefly “owned” RAW is now leader of the friggin’ free world. It’s possible they have, but — outside of his updated bio on wwe.com — I don’t think they’ve mentioned it on their website, Twitter, Monday Night RAW or the WWE Network.
Trump and Vince McMahon are, as far as I can tell, friends. Linda McMahon, the former chief executive officer of WWE, was tapped by Trump, and approved, to lead the Small Business Administration (she and Vince also donated money to support Trump’s campaign). Stephanie McMahon, WWE chief brand officer, and her husband, Paul “HHH” Levesque, WWE executive vice president, talent, live events & creative, attended the inauguration (although note that Stephanie doesn’t mention Trump by name in the caption for the photo).
Also, it’s not like WWE hasn’t mixed politics with wrestling before. A Bill Clinton impersonator was at Wrestlemania X. Gennifer Flowers, who allegedly had an affair with Bill Clinton, interviewed the Rock at Wrestlemania XIV (an interview that, according to wwe.com, “marked the first time the People’s Champ uttered his famous catch phrase, ‘If you smell what The Rock is cooking.'”). In 2008, Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton responded to WWE’s Smackdown Your Vote! campaign.
So why … WHY … has WWE downplayed the Trump connection? Did Trump ask them to? Does WWE think mentioning him will anger a significant portion of their fanbase? Or is it that Trump’s America doesn’t jive with that of John Cena’s?
I’m not sure. But the American people/WWE Universe demand answers.
Something WWE does better than all other professional sports (I said this in the Macho Man post, and I’ll say it again: On this MLBlog, pro wrestling is considered a professional sport — on par with the XFL and all those other, lesser ones) is promo/highlight videos. WWE fans complain about plenty (Vince McMahon is out of touch, LOLCenawins, the fact that Naked Mideon is no longer employed by the company), but when it comes to these prematch and recap videos, I think pretty much everyone agrees that they’re consistently great.
Here are three of the best:
Wrestlemania XVII: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. the Rock
“I need to beat you, Rock. I need it more than anything you could ever imagine.” — Austin
This Wrestlemania is considered by many to be the best, and the main event was Austin, the challenger, vs. the Rock, the champion. The two biggest stars of the Attitude Era main eventing Wrestlemania for the second time, and this one took place at the Astrodome, which is located in Austin’s home state of Texas.
When the two wrestled in the main event of Wrestlemania XV, Austin was the clear fan favorite going against bad-guy Rock, who was Vince McMahon’s “Corporate champion.” At XVII, Austin was still the top guy, but Rock was not far behind with his millions (AND MILLIONS) of fans.
The video sells the importance of the heavyweight title better than WWE probably has done since, and Austin’s desperation to reclaim it is clear by the line I’ve quoted above (he would *SPOILER* turn to the darkside and align himself with McMahon to win this match). The soundtrack for this video is the song “My Way” by Limp Bizkit. And while I know everyone — even the people who loved them back in the late 1990s/early 2000s — hates that band now, it was a most #hireable choice.
Money in the Bank 2011: CM Punk vs. John Cena
“Do I have everybody’s attention now?” — Punk
This is the PPV after Punk delivered his famous “Pipebomb promo” and went from being a star to a superstar.
Punk was the No. 1 contender, and his contract with WWE was (I’m pretty sure legit) coming to an end. He hadn’t signed a new deal yet, and guaranteed he would win the title — in his home state of Illinois, no less — and then leave the WWE with it.
Punk was angry about the fact that even though he believed he was “Best in the World” and should be face of the company, the WWE — run by Vince, his “idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law” (Stephanie McMahon and HHH) — wanted to keep him down so that Cena (Hustle, Loyalty, Respect) would continue being the top guy.
The video, which repeats the line quoted above several times, does a great job of showing how different the two wrestlers are and how outrageously self-righteous/entertaining Punk was at this point. Sadly, no Limp Bizkit this time, although Cena (from West Newbury, Mass.) finally snapping and punching Punk after Punk compares him to the Yankees will always crack me up.
Wrestlemania XXVI: Shawn Michaels vs. the Undertaker
“You willing to throw DX away?!” — HHH
At Wrestlemania XXV, the Undertaker and Michaels had one of the best, if not the best, Wrestlemania matches of all time. A year later, there was talk that they were going to have a rematch. At first, I didn’t think this was a good idea — How could they top the last one? But after seeing this video on an episode of Monday Night RAW, I was on board.
Michaels had challenged Undertaker to fight him again at Mania XXVI, but the Dead Man just kept going, “Nope.” So Michaels became obsessed to the point that he was attacking his friends, refs and screwing up in all his matches. This led to that HHH quote above, which does not best represent the feud but always kills me due to how sincere and sad HHH sounded, as if Michaels was letting down some noble institution and not a group most known for its catchphrase, “Suck it!”
Eventually, Michaels gets Undertaker angry enough that he grants the rematch — but only if Michaels puts his career on the line. The soundtrack for this video is “Running Up That Hill” by Placebo (a cover of a Kate Bush song) and it is a friggin’ perfect choice. The match itself — which I saw LIVE at my first Wrasslemania — was not as great as the first one, but still very good, and it features the legendary LEAPING TOMBSTONE.
Now, those are three of the best, but I’ve recently discovered one that possibly tops them all: The Best of 1985 highlight video, featuring the song “Riot In the Streets.”
Saturday Night’s Main Event used to air occasionally on NBC in the 1980s and early ’90s (they also brought it back a few times in the 2000s) when SNL was on break. The WWE Network added the entire SNME library over the summer, and since I’d only seen clips of the show before, it was a chance to see new matches/angles/interviews involving childhood favorites like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and the Macho Man. The episodes are quite ridiculous/entertaining, and one of the more ridiculous/entertaining things is the Best of 1985 video package (here’s the link to the episode on WWE Network — the clip starts around the 42-minute mark).
It’s introduced by these two maniacs:
And while the video itself is just random clips from the past year, “Riot in the Streets” sounds like it was written by someone who listened to the Rocky IV soundtrack on repeat until it drove them insane. Lyrics below:
They do all their talking with a gun
They’ll shoot them as fast as they come
Well a million new voices will be found
Their heads are held up high, the braver ones
There’s more than a wall that must come down
Before their flag is raised again!
Someday, the regime will end
The wheels turn, and we must defend
Cause there’s a riot in the streets
Hiding in the dark
Waiting for the light of day
When they call out their warning
We can hear what they say
Cause there’s a riot in the streets
There’s a riot in the streets
We’ve seen frontiers vanish overnight
Some have come down without a fight
But absolute power will soon be gone
We have the strength to carry on!
One of the challenges of democracy
How will we be seen by history?
The video is followed by a “Peace Match” between Nikolai Volkoff, who sings the national anthem of the Soviet Union after entering the ring, and Corporal Kirchner, a former army paratrooper. Volkoff wins. USSR! USSR!
Cause there’s a riot in the streets.
** UPDATE **
Commenter dharmasmugmentioned that “Riot in the Streets” might have replaced the original song, and he/she is CORRECT. The original airing features Billy Ocean’s “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” which fits the video much better, especially the goofy/light-hearted parts. I still consider the “Riot in the Streets” version to be superior, mostly because I wrote this whole friggin’ post about it.
After finishing work Wednesday night, I found @poolhalljames watching the live stream of WWE Network, which was playing a classic SmackDown from April 27, 2000 (direct link to the episode here).
First off, I want to point out I’m a huge fan of what WWE has going on right now. Daniel Bryan, the Shield, Paige, the Wyatts, Cesaro (and Paul “MY CLIENT BROCK LESNAR ENDED THE STREAK” Heyman), Evolution (IS A MYSTERY). Hell, even John Cena on occasion … this is probably the most entertaining group of stars WWE has had in quite a while (despite the absence of CM Punk).
However, while of course my viewing experience was heightened by nostalgia, it was fun having a couple of post-work beers and watching this 2000 episode for several reasons
1. The roster: The Rock, Austin, HHH, the McMahons, Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Chyna, Christian, Lita, Trish Stratus, the Hardy Boyz … plus even lesser players like Hardcore Holly, Crash Holly, Tazz, Val Venis, Test and Albert, Dean Malenko, Saturn, Too Cool … there was plenty of memorable talent on the show. Adding Test and Albert to that list was a stretch, I know.
2. The episode-long storyline of “Is Austin here?”: This week’s RAW had some entertaining stuff: the opening segment with Bray Wyatt/Cena/a bunch of creepy children, Magneto making an appearance, Bad News Barrett advancing in the Intercontinental Title tournament. However, basically all those segments were their own, individual thing … segments didn’t build on previous segments, for the most part. This SmackDown, on the other hand, has a major theme for the entire episode: Is Stone Cold here? And, if he is, when will he show up/what will he do?
The Rock “guaran-damn-tees” that Austin is at the show, and for the rest of the episode, they cut to clips of the McMahons/HHH becoming more and more paranoid. This includes HHH getting “3:16” sent to him on his pager (!); Shane McMahon attacking a cardboard cutout of Austin; Shane/HHH finding a can of beer, following a trail of beer cans hoping to find Austin, opening door of a closet to find no Austin but about 100 empty beer cans (swig of 100 beers for the working man!).
3. The Rock’s $5,000 shirt: I realize Rock wore out his welcome for many during his return from Wrestlemania 27-29, but 2000 Rock was and is amazing.
4. Vince McMahon: “Austin doesn’t have the temerity, in other words, Austin doesn’t have the GRAPEFRUITS to show up tonight!” Also, his face in the photo at the top of the post.
5. Non self-aware crowd: BACK IN MY DAY a hot crowd booed and cheered loudly, it chanted vulgarities. What it didn’t do was start chanting random wrestlers’ names to amuse itself the second it got bored, or chant “This is awesome!” for every slightly above-average match.
6. Midcard feuds: HHH makes a big deal during his promo with the Rock about Road Dogg having a match later in the show with Christian. Crash Holly, shown earlier in the episode to be depressed about losing the Hardcore Title, eventually sneaks in to regain the Hardcore Title during the match between Jeff & Matt Hardy later in the show. They show a non-PG promo video of Stratus playing mind games with Buh Buh Ray Dudley, he comes out during a match and tries to put her through a table (again, non-PG era), she successfully escapes by “mesmerizing him” with a smooch on the head.
Despite — or possibly because of — RAW being three-friggin’-hours long now, it feels like far too often they’ll throw out some match that has zero storyline. Sometimes, that’s fine — they are wrestlers, after all. But it generally helps to have some kind of reason, big or small, for the conflict to be memorable.
7. Austin in a vehicle: While it was not as memorable as Austin on the zamboni or monster truck, Stone Cold finally arrives and uses a giant crane to drop a cinder block onto HHH’s bus, the DX Express. Paranoia justified. DTA.
The horrible part of watching this show: This was only back in 2000, and multiple wrestlers: Guerrero, Bossman, Test, Benoit and Crash Holly are dead. The Hardy Boyz, Chyna and Angle have all dealt with personal issues or major injuries in the years since this aired. The Attitude Era was enjoyable, but many paid a steep price as a result of providing that entertainment.
My high school held a card party in the gym every year to raise money for the school. Since I was a wonderful student — or because I was forced to, I don’t remember … it was many beers ago — I helped out during my senior year. The event didn’t start until 8 at night, so there was about a 4-hour window between the end of classes and when the card party started. So, with all that time to kill, I had some options: Our lunch room had a ping pong table and a foosball table, so I could occupy my time playing those. There was a mall across the street, so I could hang out there. Or maybe, since it was Friday, I could get a head start on my weekend homework.
Instead, my good buddy Mike and I decided to host multiple screenings (on VHS!) of arguably the greatest match in pro wrestling history: Naked Mideon vs. William Regal for the European Title at No Mercy 2000.
Naked Mideon, for those of you who don’t know your history, was a character portrayed by Dennis Knight. When he first arrived in WWE, Knight was a part of the tag team the Godwinns, who were … pig farmers. Then, the team became Southern Justice, who were … redneck bodyguards. After that, Knight was kidnapped by and then joined the Ministry of Darkness (a group led by the Undertaker during his “Let’s crucify people!” phase), and he became Mideon. The best thing about Mideon was his theme music.
Finally, for reasons that I don’t remember ever being explained, Mideon started randomly showing up on RAW and Smackdown in nothing but a fanny pack: Naked Mideon had arrived.
Unlike Steve Austin’s switch from the Ringmaster to Stone Cold, Mideon becoming Naked Mideon did not lead to Knight becoming the biggest star in WWE history. However, probably (definitely) because we’re idiots, Mike and I were arguably (definitely) his biggest fans. If he would show up on RAW, one of us would either call the other’s house to make sure he was watching, or it would be the first thing we talked about the next day at school*. Eventually, Naked Mideon had a match. For a title. On a PPV people paid money to watch. Here are some blurry photos (courtesy of WWE Network) of the match highlights:
The tease (Mike, via text — “It’s the Steamboat/Savage of No Mercy.”)
The high point (Jim Ross, on commentary — “Put the women and children to bed.”)
The wide shot (J.R. — “Can we get a wide shot, maybe.” Mike — “Curse out J.R. for requesting a wide shot.”)
The end (Mike — “It was the best match in its segmented amount of time.”)
Not surprisingly, after we somehow got around a dozen people to attend the first screening of this match that afternoon, by the third screening (Mike — “Third screening? We had over 60!”), it was just Mike and I watching by ourselves. To quote Tex Slazenger, Knight’s post-Naked Mideon character, and the final one he portrayed before he was released by the WWE: “Don’t bother the crazy people.”