That's entertainment: Line between politics, wrestling becomes a blur

Jennifer Cohron
Posted 7/7/17

A week ago, I didn’t see any connection between professional wrestling and politics.

I know better now.

I’ve been binge-watching “GLOW,” the Netflix series about professional women wrestlers of the 1980s. I tuned in because I’m a …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

That's entertainment: Line between politics, wrestling becomes a blur

Posted

A week ago, I didn’t see any connection between professional wrestling and politics.

I know better now.

I’ve been binge-watching “GLOW,” the Netflix series about professional women wrestlers of the 1980s. I tuned in because I’m a sucker for shows with interesting female ensembles, but I’ve learned a lot about wrestling in the process.

Lesson number one: Wrestling is storytelling. There are heroes and villains, and each match is part of an ongoing saga.

While wrestlers are athletes, bodybuilding and acrobatics alone won’t help them become household names. They have to develop a persona that fans either love or love to hate.

In “GLOW,” former soap star Debbie Eagan is cast as the star-spangled “Liberty Belle.” Her nemesis both inside the ring and out is Ruth, a struggling actress who carried on an affair with her husband’s friend without realizing it. After a brief stint as “The Homewrecker,” Ruth becomes “Zoya the Destroyer,” a Soviet who hates capitalism and democracy.

So to recap, we have good guys (our party) and bad guys (the other party) who face off in matches (elections) and try to win our support by appealing to our highest ideals and deep-seated biases.

Since wrestling is the redneck cousin of politics (although I suppose it could be the other way around), it is no longer a surprise to me that men like Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected to office.

Just as I was starting to make the connection between wrestling and politics, President Trump posted a video of himself body-slamming a man whose face was covered by a CNN logo.

The man in question was WWE CEO Vince McMahon, whose wife is now serving as the administrator of the Small Business Administration one more link in the chain between the two blood sports, I suppose.

But my favorite crossover of all is a wrestler who calls himself “The Progressive Liberal.”

A recent Deadspin article called him “maybe the perfect wrestling heel.”

He wears T-shirts covered in dozens of Hillary Clinton faces and slogans like “Not My President.”

He taunts fans with lines like, “I want to exchange your bullets for bullet points. Bullet points of knowledge.”

His finishing move is called “The Liberal Agenda.”

His real name is Daniel Harnsberger, and he wrestles in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountain Wrestling.

Harnsberger told Sports Illustrated that he came up with the character three years ago before a match in Sabine, W.Va.

“It was a small crowd and I had freedom to do whatever I wanted that night, so I just decided to get on the mic — and this is maybe a couple months after Trump started running. Who knew the guy was gonna be president?” he said. “So I did this interview on the house mic and I said, ‘If he’s elected president, I hope Trump doesn’t build a wall around Mexico. Instead, I hope he builds it around this town so none of you people can infiltrate the population.’ The ire that statement got, I knew I was onto something. Even then, those fans were chanting, ‘Trump! Trump! Trump!’”

Harnsberger certainly knows how to push his audience’s buttons. At one match, he told the crowd he was there to confiscate their guns and a local firefighter pointedly rubbed the pistol on his hip.

Harnsberger, whose personal politics align with those of his wrestling persona, told SI that he is hopeful his recent five minutes of fame will lead to an appearance on either “Real Time with Bill Maher” or “WWE Raw.”

Because of course, it’s all entertainment.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s features editor.