If Donald Trump wins the general election in November, he will become the first WWE Hall of Famer to hold the position as President of the United States.
But he certainly won't be the first person in that role with ties to the sport of wrestling.
After hosting Wrestlemanias IV and V at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City (the first and only time Wrestlemania was held in the same venue back-to-back years) more than a quarter century ago, as well as participating in the Battle of the Billionaires at Wrestlemania 23 in Detroit in 2007, Trump joined the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
With his bluster and bravado and flair for showmanship, Trump was a natural for WWE enshrinement. Not to mention the fact that he is a longtime friend and supporter of Vince McMahon, an equally enigmatic, chest-thumping figure with whom he seemingly shares pleasure in uttering two favorite words: “You're fired!”
A record number of viewers tuned in to watch The Donald put his golden quaff on the line against McMahon's pompadour at Wrestlemania 23. Trump backed Bobby Lashley to victory over the heelish McMahon's favored wrestler, Umaga (the late Eddie Fatu), and subsequently shaved the WWE chairman's signature mane in the center of the ring in the highly hyped Battle of Billionaires.
McMahon later declared: “Donald Trump is a Wrestlemania institution.”
Trump made another high-profile appearance with WWE in 2009 in a dramatized storyline that saw him buy Monday Night Raw and subsequently sell it back to his on-screen rival — for double the price.
“I've got a lot of people, a lot of friends, a lot of billionaire friends,” he told McMahon. “A lot of guys want to buy this from me, Vince. I could double my money anytime I want to sell.”
McMahon would introduce the real estate magnate at the Hall of Fame ceremony in 2013. In a bit of foreshadowing, McMahon delivered the line, “Second only to me, Donald Trump might be a great president of the United States.”
The hometown New York crowd booed.
Many have joked that Trump has turned the 2016 presidential race into a storyline right out of the surreal world of professional wrestling. There's no denying that the campaign trail has closely resembled the rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred wrestling circuit. Even the blustering, insult-slinging Trump has admitted that the Republican debates were a “little bit like the WWE.”
Following the opening night of the Republican National Convention, the GOP presidential candidate drew several comparisons to WWE superstars, like The Undertaker, for his grandiose entrance.
“Yeah, I know. Well, Vincent's a good friend of mine,” Trump said. “He called me, he said, 'That was a very, very good entrance.' But I didn't want to do it a second time, because, you know, it never works out the second time.”
Coincidentally, Vince and Linda McMahon gave Trump's charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, $5 million in 2007-2009, the biggest gift in the history of Trump's foundation.
Wrestling has much more in common with politics than one might imagine. At least a dozen U.S. presidents are said to have displayed amazing scuffling skills during their prime.
The oldest of all sports, wrestling has been depicted in cave paintings dating back 15,000 years. The ancient Greeks elevated it to a physical art form and eventually helped create the Olympic Games, with wrestling one of only a few events featured in the very first Games in the eighth century.
But by the 18th century, wrestling had become a recognized spectator sport, considered the major physical contact sport among men of all classes.
At the age of 18, future President George Washington was a master of the British style known as “collar and elbow” and reportedly held a wrestling championship that was at least county-wide and possibly colony-wide. At the age of 47, 10 years before he became the first President of the United States, the Commander of the Continental Armies was able to defeat seven consecutive challengers from the Massachusetts Volunteers.
While Abraham Lincoln is best known, of course, for his run as 16th President of the United States, his grappling skills were the stuff of legend. Before he entered the political arena, he was an accomplished wrestler on the American frontier.
Lincoln, whose wrestling exploits earned him an “Outstanding American” honor in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla., was known for taking on all comers, including handling a local bully. Like today's practitioners, Lincoln reportedly talked a little smack in the ring. According to Carl Sandburg's biography of Lincoln, Honest Abe once challenged an entire crowd of onlookers after dispatching an opponent with a single toss: “I'm the big buck of this lick. Any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns!” There were no takers, and the challenge would go unanswered.
The 6-4 Lincoln, an imposing physical specimen with lanky arms and a long reach, was the wrestling champion of his county as early as 1830, at the age of 21. He was a proponent of the free-for-all style that was popular at the time.
Through a dozen years of wrestling a reported 300 or more bouts, the rugged frontiersman who would help free the slaves and guide America through the Civil War is known to have only one recorded defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. President, boxed and wrestled at Harvard. While governor of New York, he hired the American middleweight wrestling champion to coach him several times a week. Cross-training in boxing and jiu-jitsu, he later turned to Japanese wrestlers for training.
William Howard Taft, the 27th President and one of the heaviest of the bunch at 225 pounds (his weight would later balloon up more than 100 pounds), was a lifelong follower of collar and elbow. A fourth-generation wrestler in the Taft family, Big Bill was a two-time undergraduate champ at Yale.
Other grapplers who made it to the White House include Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, James Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Chester A. Arthur and Dwight Eisenhower.
Harry Fujiwara, who entertained wrestling fans for decades as the devious, salt-throwing Mr. Fuji, passed away on Aug. 28 at the age of 82.
The WWE Hall of Fame wrestler and manager was an American of Japanese decent and a native of Honolulu, but played up his Japanese heritage to become one of the top heels in the business.
After retiring from his in-ring career, Fuji managed such top names as George “The Animal” Steele, Don Muraco, Kamala, Demolition, The Powers of Pain and Yokozuna.
Known as a master ribber and prankster in and out of the ring, Fuji held the WWF tag-team title three times with Professor Toru Tanaka (Charlie Kalani) in the '70s and twice with Mr. Saito (Masanori Saito) in the early '80s, transitioning into a heel manager role in 1985.
“An unforgettable character in front of the camera and an even better one behind it,” tweeted WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque.
Fuji, who had been in poor health in recent years, died in Knoxville, Tenn., where he had worked part-time as an usher at a movie theater after retiring from the wrestling business.