Earlier today Deadspin shined its spotlight on the news that Donald Trump might think professional wrestling is real. This comes from a 2008 Opie and Anthony interview with Paul “Triple H” Levesque, a wrestler turned executive within WWE (and WWE owner Vince McMahon’s son-in-law). It’s unclear whether the president-elect genuinely believes the scripted stories within wrestling are legit, or if he’s just really old-school about maintaining kayfabe. Listen to the interview for the full details.
It all stems from one of the most infamous, poorly timed, and audience-insulting moments in the history of Raw. In June 2007 an episode of WWE’s flagship show ended with Vince McMahon’s limo blowing up on live TV, with the company’s owner supposedly inside. The plan was to effectively kill off the on-air character of Vince McMahon, while hopefully dredging up at least a fraction of “Who shot J.R.?”-style pop culture fascination, in a storyline that would have further obscured the tenuous lines between wrestling and soap operas. Of course this vignette aired less than two weeks before Chris Benoit, a former world champion and perhaps the most popular wrestler ever among obsessive internet fans (like us), murdered his family and himself in real life. What was planned to be a fake memorial episode of Raw for Vince McMahon on June 25, 2007, turned into a real-life memorial for Benoit, and one that turned increasingly awkward as the true facts of Benoit’s final days trickled out as the show was on the air. McMahon’s on-air death was immediately forgotten, with that whole angle getting scrapped.
Before the storyline was dropped, though, McMahon’s office got a call from an old friend, checking in to make sure the WWE owner was okay. According to Triple H, Trump heard the “news” about McMahon’s limo explosion, and touched base with WWE HQ to ask if this was legitimate or not. If you’re a wrestling fan and this doesn’t take you back to those purer childhood days of make believe, well, that’s good, because even five year olds should be able to tell this stuff isn’t entirely on the level.
Trump and McMahon really are a perfect friendship: both are fantastically wealthy, insulated old men who aren’t quite as wealthy as they want you to believe, or as they possibly could be. Their relationship goes back to at least the 1980s, the last time either should’ve been relevant, when 1989’s Wrestlemania V was held at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. 2007 was probably the high point of their friendship, at least from the public’s perspective, as Donald Trump was a major guest star at Wrestlemania 23, just three months before Vince’s supposed death. They clearly remain tight: they follow each other on Twitter, McMahon has donated millions to the Trump Foundation, and just last week Trump appointed McMahon’s wife Linda McMahon the head of the Small Business Administration. Their friendship is actually kind of touching, even if they probably relate most strongly to the Duke brothers when they watch Trading Places, which is exactly the kind of fresh, current pop culture reference Vince McMahon would appreciate.