My great-aunt Allen got her first black and white Crosley television back in the late 1950s and instantly became addicted to Western shoot ’em ups and Saturday afternoon pro wrestling. Pro wrestling matches were held at Veteran’s Memorial, broadcast on WLWT, and sponsored by Lex Meyer’s Chevrolet. The big names of the local ring included Buddy “Nature Boy” Rogers, Great Scot, Oyama Kato, Fritz Von Goering, Johnny Barend, and Magnificent Maurice. I can’t remember which but some of these guys were braggarts, some were villains, and some were handsome and heroic. I think my aunt loved Johnny Barend and despised Nature Boy Rogers. No amount of persuasion could convince her that these matches were fake and that every step-over arm-lock camel clutch was well rehearsed.
Over the decades pro wrestling went national, if not international. Events were held in huge coliseums and attracted thousands. The players got bigger muscles, longer hair, the tricks more sensational, and the bios more ridiculous.
What didn’t change was the steadfast belief that it was all real. Sometime in the early 1990s I had a group of students who were wrestling fanatics. For every big match they’d gather at someone’s home, pop the popcorn, break out the Pepsi and become absorbed in the pay per view fantasy unfolding on their large screen TV. I don’t know how many classroom hours I wasted trying to convince them it wasn’t real. I never won my case.
Donald Trump recently went to Montana for one of his now famous rallies. Like always he had an audience in front of the stage and another one standing on risers behind him. He’s in the middle surrounded by the true believers all decked out in their made in China MAGA ball caps and MAGA t-shirts. Supposedly he was there to promote a local politician but once his rant began it was all about Donald. The longer he talked the less coherent he became but the crowd didn’t seem to notice that his words made little to no sense. At some point he wondered why people didn’t give him more credit for being a good speaker. He immediately followed that with this incoherent diatribe:
“I have broken more Elton John records. He seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No, we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look, I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really, we do it without, like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical – the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth, right? The brain. More important than the mouth is the brain. The brain is much more important.”
The crowd seemed unfazed and the applause and cheering went on without interruption. I watched as much as I could stand and hit the ejection seat button.
Frequently I’ve wrassled with trying to make sense of what happens to people at Trump rallies. As close as I can get to understanding it is to relate it back to whatever psychology is at work when pro wrasslers take the ring. I just wish some Gorgeous George would jump down from his riser and put Donald into a Hungarian sleeper hold.