I unabashedly love professional wrestling.
Current mega-star Austin Watson (who has his PhD in educational psychology), better known as Xavier Woods of The New Day, once described pro wrestling as the last bastion of theater in the round. More recently, he offered these thoughts:
You ever think about how weird wrestling is? We have theme music and we do, like, big entrances, and then we fight. It’s real weird… but it’s like the best thing ever.
That weirdness, the pomp and circumstance, is what I’ve always found most appealing about this particular form of entertainment. It’s over the top fun with good guys and bad guys. When it’s written well, it can be as good as any movie or television show. Watson is right, it’s the best thing ever.
The stereotype of wrestling fans is that they’re all yokels who are uneducated, likely pretty racist and bigoted, and extremely conservative. Studies have shown that’s not at all true and quite the opposite. In short, the aren’t more likely to be any of those undesirable characteristics than anyone else in the general population. Actually, it’s quite the opposite – but when it comes to being active in politics, they simply don’t vote.
Where am I going with this? Well, this week, there have been many takes written on President Dotard’s meeting with Kim Jong Un and whether or not anything tangible will come of it. If you ignore the fact that North Korea has promised “denuclearization” in 1985 (Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons), 1992 (Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula), 1994 (Agreed Framework), 2005 (in six party talks), 2007 (another six party talk), and 2012 (US Agreement), this all sounds really great and promising when in reality, it is nearly certain it’ll be another “oh baby, I’ll never do that again” promise from an abusive partner. To think otherwise without immediate and tangible action on behalf of North Korea is foolish.
But there was a handshake, right?
Yes, in a picture that’s certain to never come back in any opposition ads this summer and fall, current GOP leader and President Donald Trump shook hands with Kim Jong Un, a noted dictator, murderer, and general heel. (“Heel” is a term used to describe a generally all around bad person in wrestling.)
Professional wresting is full of tropes, and the most basic of them is the face/heel dynamic. A babyface, or a “face,” is a good guy. He’s the Hulk Hogan of the 1980s (before everyone found out he was a raging racist piece of garbage). Say your prayers, eat your vitamins, defend the little guy, and be cheered. The heel is the guy with the figurative curly mustache, always being evil and dastardly, winning at all costs by cheating or being extremely opportunistic. When it’s written well, people root for the faces and boo the heels. It’s simple.
Another trope, and my favorite, is that you don’t headbutt a Samoan. Don’t ask.
The trope which applies here, however, is that you don’t shake the hand of a heel. You just don’t do it. Why not? Because it will lead to something like this:
That’s heel Shinsuke Nakamura showing face Kota Ibushi (wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling) what happens when you ignore one of the most widely known professional wrestling tropes. You’re going to get a knee to the stomach and a foot to the back of the head, and that’s fully what anyone with two brain cells to rub together is thinking about this handshake between Kim and Trump. Kim is not trustworthy, and his family has proven that going back three generations. This doesn’t mean I think Trump is trustworthy – he’s absolutely not – but he’s positioning this as a great thing for America.
It’s a photo op for a man who needs to see himself in the news (note: you do not know which leader I am referring to here, do you?). These are meaningless promises not worth the paper they were written on, likely in comic sans. All Donald Trump did was show the world that he thinks Kim is a legitimate leader, worthy of a one on one meeting with the President of the United States.
In the spirit of wrestling tropes, there are two very closely linked ones that are happening on the world stage right now: the heel turn and the face turn. It’s when a formerly good or bad guy “switches sides.” Usually, this is done after many hints are dropped over several weeks or months – peoples’ motivations or allegiances are strained and eventually broken, causing them to, for lack of a better term, snap, and immediately begin acting in a way once thought impossible.
The United States has tried to position itself as the world’s biggest face – supposedly coming to the rescue over and over and helping make everyone’s day (freedom) better. Germany, on the other hand, was the world’s biggest heel for two world wars.
But now? The country once led by the Nazi Party is desperately trying, on the world’s stage, to prevent the sins of its past from being resurrected in a now corrupted United States. Only time will tell who takes the eventual chair shot.