Yes, the two billionaires collaborated at Wrestlemania events in 1988, 1989, and 2007. And, yes, Linda McMahon was appointed to head the Small Business Administration; and, yes, she now chairs and heavily donates to the president’s official SuperPAC. Yes, they’re both known for telling people, “You’re fired,” on TV. Yes, they both inherited power from their fathers — although they will remind you they were loaned, not given, money from their dads. And yes, they each have been accused of sexual assault more than once. But it doesn’t end there.
Reporters and pundits are repeatedly struck by what they see as Donald Trump’s new presidential tone, suggesting that — after years of inflammatory speech, gross mismanagement, and an inability or unwillingness to distinguish truth from wishes — he might finally begin behaving like a normal president. He never does.
Reporters and pundits are repeatedly struck, too, by what they see as Vince McMahon’s new approach to WWE creative, suggesting that after years of terrible TV shows, a chronic failure to develop stars, and an inability or unwillingness to distinguish his consumers’ taste from what he wishes it was — he will finally get Raw and Smackdown back on track. He never does.
The cabinet members surrounding the president turnover rapidly. They’re introduced with effusive praise before they’re cast off with insults. The naive among us buy the notion that the aides are indeed the problem.
The members of the creative team surrounding the CEO turn over rapidly. They may be introduced with effusive praise, although Vince doesn’t insult them publicly on the way out. (To his credit he lacks his friend’s degree of pathological narcissism.) The naive among us buy the notion that it’s “the writers” who are the problem.
Despite being the wealthiest nation and the supposed leader of the free world, Donald has set the country on a track through which those notions are not sustainable, if they are even still true.
Despite being the wealthiest wrestling company and the supposed industry leader, Vince has set his company on a track through which those notions are not sustainable, if the latter is even still true.
Donald disdains the media that covers him; he calls them “fake news”. Well before Donald did so, Vince disdained the media that covered him; he calls them “the dirt sheets“.
Speaking of which, Donald thinks he’s brilliant when it comes to branding and redefining language in his favor: “fake news”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Sleepy Joe”, “China Virus”. Vince thinks he’s brilliant in this regard as well. He doesn’t have wrestlers; he has “superstars”. He doesn’t have fans; he has “the WWE Universe”. He’s not in the wrestling business; he promotes “sports entertainment”. These terms are generally adopted only by their most sycophantic supporters.
Donald has affection for the Saudi government. Despite a host of ongoing human rights offenses, they’re an extremely lucrative business partner. Vince has affection for the Saudi government. Despite a host of ongoing human rights offenses, they’re an extremely lucrative business partner.
His reactions to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic show how Donald lacks the discipline for long-term planning. He’s recklessly optimistic in the face of serious challenges. He’s unable to act on anything but quick fixes, nor can he discern good advice from that which affirms his ego. Whether it’s hydroxychloroquine or a fast reopening or unsafely rushing a vaccine. Not to mention, Donald is wary to embrace coronavirus testing; for fear testing may tell him bad news.
Vince’s reactions to crises like declining TV ratings show how he lacks the discipline for long-term planning. He’s recklessly optimistic in the face of serious challenges. He’s unable to act on anything but quick fixes or distinguish good advice from that which affirms his ego. Whether it’s Raw Underground or the Thunderdome or bringing back legends from the past. Not to mention, Vince was wary to embrace coronavirus testing; for fear testing may tell him bad news.
Both of their cults of personality are apparently capable of turning people who were once lionized — like Lindsey Graham and Rudy Giuliani … or Seth Rollins and Edge — into shameless disciples of power who’ve internalized a familiar victim complex. Those who escape the cult are either deafening in their silence — or, they write books … or record interviews with Chris Jericho, describing the chaotic and dysfunctional scenes of their former workplace.
Vince will control WWE creative for the remainder of his functioning life. Donald jokes (or is it a joke?) about running for an unconstitutional third term as president. Regardless of occasional and thinly veiled messages to the contrary, their behavior only supports the notion that their personal philosophies are one of Darwinian libertarian anarchy and self-aggrandizement. The only thing they value more than money is their power and ability to control their environment. Without objective moral values, they resort to value people only insofar as they are loyal to them personally. As Vince protected Pat Patterson, so did Donald protect Roger Stone.
They both have first-born sons who conspicuously sweat heavily when they speak on TV. They each have more effective daughters. And each of those said daughters married men with a calculation for consolidating power within the family’s world, despite a lack of corporate experience (in Paul Levesque’s case) or political experience (in Jared Kushner’s case).
The fate of the United States is far more serious than that of a company like WWE, obviously, yet the parallels between the chief executives of the two entities are remarkable.
There are noticeable differences, too, though, if only relative to their differences in power. Despite his hubris, Vince seems capable of warmth. He cries talking about the Ultimate Warrior after he died. He gets emotional talking about his dad. He gets emotional when he feels appreciation for his son (even if it requires his son jumping off a cage dozens of feet high). He takes Ric Flair, who in two separate eras was a key talent in a rival company, as an adopted family member. He’s able to reconcile with even his most disgruntled former associates, like Bret Hart, Bruno Sammartino, and the aforementioned Warrior, for reasons that are partly but seem not entirely driven by business. In response to tragedies, whether national ones (like 9/11), or even tragedies he arguably bears responsibility for (like the deaths of his active wrestlers), he seems genuinely affected, but also defensive. And indeed, Vince manages to keep his stream of consciousness away from Twitter, using it most memorably only to wish friends and family a happy birthday.
Where are the respites from macho bluster in Donald? He claims to have never cried in his adult life. Does he have tender moments with his family members? By all public evidence, he’s devoid of emotion not driven by indignation or hostility. He’s incapable of empathy, at least the kind that’s any more genuine than one of his innumerable lies. He’s at best capable of gestures that point vaguely in the direction of warmth, but do not express it. Attempts at human connection are written for him and lifelessly recited. Others are a coordinated part of necessary campaign messaging. Mourning bores him. Consoling the bereaved requires notes. Hundreds of thousands of deaths from coronavirus under his watch as president, as well as his immediate reaction to 9/11, concern him less with lives lost and more with the chances of his reelection and the relative height of his buildings.
Certainly, too, Donald must be envious of Vince’s class B shares. Class B shares are even better than the Electoral College. If only the president too personally held the majority of the voting power in the country, as Vince does in his company. Annually, not just every four years, Vince gets to reelect himself Chairman. As long as Vince retains a small portion of his stock, he can’t be removed from office or even told what to do, no matter the opinion of any number of average people.
Unfortunately for Donald, for now, that’s not the case.
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