Tired of think pieces comparing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to professional wrestling?
Get ready for one more, except that Lavie Margolin’s work is written by a student of the game.
“TrumpMania: Vince McMahon, WWE and the making of America’s 45th President” is the definitive history between President Trump and his real-life friend, on-screen rival and fellow mogul: Vince McMahon. Covering their relationship from the late 1980s to 2017, TrumpMania focuses on not only pro wrestling’s influence on the Commander-in-Chief but also Trump’s overwhelmingly positive effect on WWE. Cartoonist Box Brown, who created Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, also deserves credit for the fun illustrations sprinkled throughout, adding levity to the heavy-duty discussion.
Margolin, a contributor to WrestlingObserver.com, PW Ponderings and ROH World, spends 228 pages tracing Trump’s history in sports-entertainment, from hosting WrestleMania IV and V to the Battle of the Billionaires to “purchasing” Raw to his WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2013. Understandably written for non-fans with every character described as if being heard of for the first time, TrumpMania also provides enough nuggets to keep diehards engaged. For example, Trump’s team pushed for fan-friendly festivities surrounding WrestleMania IV, laying the blueprint for what we know today as WrestleMania Week. Here’s another tidbit: WCW SuperBrawl II was moved from Trump Taj Mahal in favor of a specialty exhibition of Dr. J playing one-on-one against Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
The beefiest section of the book covers the on-screen as well as fascinating off-screen buildup to the Battle of the Billionaires. Margolin examines how a USA executive suggested Trump’s involvement with WWE, why it was a win-win proposition for both parties and how McMahon sold Trump on taking the stunner. Various personalities comment on Trump’s professionalism and commitment to character, and we learn that Trump declined a follow up at the next month’s pay-per-view.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning that Margolin takes an anti-Trump overtone throughout the book, leaving the reader with little doubt as to his political leaning. Depending on how you feel about the president, that could be a knock or a selling point. Margolin also criticizes WWE, taking the company to task for controversial storylines such as Virgil being Ted DiBiase’s manservant and Akeem portraying an African American. Neither criticism is revolutionary nor harsh enough to make you rip pages out. Plus, after sifting through research about the World Bodybuilding Federation, Margolin deserves some space to vent.
Linda McMahon is the third major character in the book, receiving less ink than her husband and current boss, but playing a major role in their relationship. From Linda’s first high-profile outing at the hearing for New Jersey to deregulate pro wrestling to her political aspirations and eventual position in Trump’s cabinet, Margolin covers her rise from Vince’s trusted partner to Trump’s loyal supporter, in spite of changing her tune as he gained momentum on the campaign trail.
TrumpMania also touches on Marla Maples at WrestleMania VII, Atlantic City’s wrestling history, WWE’s influence on 2000 and 2008 elections, Trump helping UFC gain mainstream exposure and much more. My favorite part is the WWE roster’s mixed reactions via social media as Trump proved victorious on election night.
Margolin has definitely done his research, and maintains an entertaining flow throughout the book. He aptly tiptoed between catering to wrestling fans’ desires and letting political aficionados unfamiliar with our wacky world still feel welcome. Whether you’re a Trump supporter or critic, you’ll gain new insight into his business acumen, marketing strategy and the impact he’s had on McMahonland.
Of course, that impact is reciprocal, as Margolin astutely explains how Trump may be McMahon’s most successful superstar.
“TrumpMania” is available on Amazon.