May WWE fans Donald Trump
Will the aging Undertaker show up as a gravedigger or in his biker incarnation to step into the ring with the eternal sunny boy John Cena? Anyone wondering these or similar questions is one of those who are looking forward to the major wrestling event Wrestlemania 34 on Monday night.
Everyone else can de-pump their noses at this point. Acrobatic brawls and endless soap opera feuds between good and evil are not for everyone. But wrestling is priceless as a teaching material to understand the United States. And not only because US President Donald Trump was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) hall of fame back in 2013 and is so good friends with the wealthy McMahon family that he even became the head of the federal agency for small businesses has made. An introduction in four chapters.
(1) The world as wrestling and imagination
In principle, Wrestling Theater and the WWE is the largest theater company in the world. A quick YouTube search, however, shows that the word "played" should not be used lightly. You can see brutal barbed wire matches, bone-bursting ring accidents or kamikaze actors like Mick Foley, who once lost his ear in a Munich ring. The high price of acrobatics can also be seen in the long list of injured, dead or prematurely deceased ex-wrestlers.
From this perspective, the response of the WWE can be compared with the American preference for the likewise gladiatorial - and controversial because of the long-term consequences for the athletes - American football and its professional league NFL. But wrestling lives mainly from the soap opera acts that initiate fights and tell a story of the struggle of the good ("baby faces") against the bad ("heels").
This is exactly where wrestling gets the ambiguity that has meanwhile parallels in the political debate: "Kayfabe" is the untranslatable term that describes the agreement to embody deadly serious rivalries in the ring and on the screen while the actors and the audience know.
Once upon a time, villains and heroes even traveled in separate cars so as not to demystify the ring rivalry. Today, on the other hand, nobody would be surprised if Roman Reigns (type: Game of Thrones warrior) and his rival Brock Lesnar (type: arrogant mixed martial arts bull neck) fight each other up to the audience, but later in the evening together to be spotted in a bar.
Still, many wrestling fans passionately discuss why something is happening: Will filigree wrestler Sasha Banks get a chance for the title because the WWE is visiting her hometown in California in a month's time and wants to boost ticket sales? Will the "Bulgarian brute" Rusev be turned from villain into hero because fans are already cheering him and buying his t-shirts? The WWE actually makes decisions based on such criteria when determining the storylines for its fighters.
Various political observers consider Kayfabe to be the key term to understand the current cynical perception of politics in the USA: If major donors steer the actors in Washington at will, the arguments put forward by politicians appear like "promos", that is, emotional microphone speeches in the ring to give the plot a plausible facade.
And couldn't the staging of the election campaign, in which the candidates verbally beat each other, be seen as a huge exhibition match in which, as in wrestling, authenticity and entertainment are the decisive criteria? And what else does US President Donald Trump do when he, himself part of the Top Ten Thousand, gives the representative of working America in the election campaign, only to give himself and other super-rich millions of dollars in a tax reform? It remains to be seen whether this wrestling interpretation is cynical of the world - or whether cynicism is hidden in the world itself.
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