Match Reviews: Politicians in Wrestling (Kane, Antonio Inoki, “Donald Trump”, more)
It’s hard being a professional wrestler. You tell people one thing but you do another, your profession is filled with smoke and mirrors, the wider public considers you to be nothing more than a con artist, you’re actually co-operating with the people you say are your enemies, and…wait, are we talking about wrestling or politics? Well, both.
Few professions are more hated and distrusted than politicians. There have been jokes, comments and snide remarks about them for decades, and many of them persist to this day. And oddly enough, politicians have made strange bedfellows with the world of pro-wrestling.
Even though pro wrestling is largely self-contained within its own bubble, there have been a few cases here and there where wrestling has mixed with politics. What we’re looking at today, though, is when politicians enter the ring. To that end, I’ve found five matches involving either real politicians or impersonators of politicians wrestling in actual matches. These matches either took place before, during, or after said person entered politics.
5. Fake Donald Trump vs. Fake Rosie O’Donnell – January 8, 2007
The politician: This took place nine years before Trump became President of the United States. At the time, he was simply a close friend of Vince McMahon’s and the two had many similar beliefs and viewpoints. This match capitalized on some high-profile comments Trump and O’Donnell had been saying to each other and was also the starting point for the Battle of the Billionaires feud that would culminate at WrestleMania 23.
For what it’s worth, “Trump” was played by indy wrestler Ace Steel while “Rosie” was played by Kiley McLean, who was a former NWA Women’s World Champion.
The “match”: They trash-talk each other as the referee explains the rules. The bell ring and Rosie goes back to the announce table to eat more cake. No, that’s not a joke. She returns to the ring and the trash-talking continues as the ‘boring’ chants grow louder. They lock-up and Rose easily overpowers Trump. This happens a second time, forcing Trump to take off his jacket. He gets a headlock on Rosie but she shoots him into the ropes and he bounces off of her. He charges again as the crowd boos vociferously and Rosie lands a Thesz press. Rosie continues slamming Trump down by his hair and then starts doing Hulk Hogan poses as Lawler makes bad jokes. That leads to a loud ‘TNA’ chant, which comes as no surprise whatsoever. Rosie smashes Trump’s head into the turnbuckle but he starts hulking up (while fixing his hair nonstop). Suddenly Trump lands some head-butts and goes for a slam. But Rosie’s too big for him and she falls on top of him and pins for a two-count. Rosie goes for a splash but misses and Trump goes to the commentary table. He grabs Rosie’s cake and pushes it right into Rosie’s face. I know it’s food but that’s still a foreign object so he should get disqualified. Rosie collapses in the ring as Trump goes to the second rope. He jumps off and lands a diving head/hair-butt for the pin and the win.
Winner after 5:56: “Donald Trump” as portrayed by Ace Steel
Review: That was awful. I don’t know what was worse: the lack of action, the terrible and over-the-top acting, or Jerry Lawler’s embarrassing attempts at jokes. I’m pretty sure maybe ten people on the entire planet thought this was actually funny, one of them being the guy that runs the show. But the fans hated it, and for good reason. It was just so silly in the worst possible PG slapstick sort of way. The only good thing about this match was that it was short, yet somehow it also dragged on forever with all the stalling and bad comedy. At least that would be the last we’d see of either one of these two in WWE…right?
Final Rating: -***
4. The Great Muta vs. The Great Nita (Atsushi Onita) – No Rope Explosive Barbed Wire Barricade Explosion Land Mine Double Hell Deathmatch – NJPW Jingu Climax, August 28, 1999
The politician: This match took place two years before Onita went into public office. He would later become a member of the Japanese Diet, which is their version of the legislature. His political career had its fair share of high points and low points. On the high side, he went to Afghanistan to perform post-9/11 humanitarian missions by wrestling in crudely-made rings for the benefit of local children. On the other hand, he had to leave politics after he was discovered to have used government funds to make a porno in which he had a threesome with a porn actress and a female employee of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation.
The match: The ring only has ropes on two sides. And actually, they’re not ropes but barbed wire with explosives attached to them. On the two sides without ropes are pads setup ringside with “landmines”, and each landmine has a barbed wire coil on it.
Nita slashes Muta with a sickle and bounces around for a bit. He stabs/pokes/cuts Muta with it some more and then throws him into the ropes. An explosion goes off and Muta sinks to the mat. Nita pokes him with the sickle again and pins for a one-count. Muta removes his entrance coat (not sure why one would remove a protective layer of clothing when facing a man carrying a bladed weapon, but eh, whatever) and Nita stabs him some more and then cuts his forehead. He wraps the chain around Muta’s neck and goes to throw him out of the ring but Muta sinks down instead. Nita tries to throw Muta out again but Muta holds on. Nita tries stabbing him again but Muta spits green mist. Nita goes down. Muta wraps the sickle/kusarigama around his forearm and nits Nita with it. He follows with a flashing elbow without using the ropes and then chokes Nita with the chain. Nita fights up to his feet and spits green mist in Muta’s face. Nita twirls around like a lunatic and grabs the sickle. He stabs Muta in the gut and lands a DDT and pins for two. Nita lands some head-butts and charges for a big one. But Muta dodges. Nita falls into the “ropes”. Another explosion goes off. Nita goes down and so does the referee who was too close to the explosion. Muta grabs the sickle and hits Nita with the blunt side of it (why?). Muta stomps on Nita as he rolls towards an open side of the ring. Muta kicks Nita, hoping he’ll fall onto the landmines. Muta keeps trying to kick him out of the ring. Nita answers with a fireball. Muta goes down having been ‘burned’.
Nita walks over and flips a switch to activate the time bombs. A siren starts going off as Nita lands a folding powerbomb that gets a two-count. Nita follows with a DDT and more sickle strikes. He swings it but Muta spits more mist. The timer runs out and Muta kicks Nita to the floor. Nita lands on the landmines, causing more explosions. The ring is engulfed in smoke. Nita starts moving not long after the smoke has cleared and gets into the ring by his own power. So much for ‘barbed wire land mines’. Muta tries the fireball trick but messes it up and almost burns his own fingers. Nita struggles to his feet and Muta throws him into the other barbed wire ropes, causing yet another explosion. Muta pins but only gets two and then lands one final sickle shot to get the three-count.
Winner after 13:32: The Great Muta
Review: Poor Muta, he got dragged into another garbage match that was all smoke and mirrors. It was supposed to be an ultraviolent match, what with Onita starting with sickle strikes. But those weren’t even convincing. Onita was clearly using clear sleight-of-hand and illusion to ‘hurt’ Muta in such an obviously phony way. Muta out-wrestled Onita here, but even his work was sluggish and uninspiring. This was nowhere near as tense or as well-executed as Onita’s deathmatch with Terry Funk from six years earlier. Onita tried repeating some of the magic that worked in that match, such as the struggle towards the edge of the ring and going for the exploding ‘ropes’ right away. Yet for whatever reason, it just wasn’t as exciting. As for the ending with the explosions and the landmines, they were far less effective and exciting as that same 1993 Onita/Funk match. Basically nothing worked here. This sucked.
Final Rating: *
3. Kane and The Undertaker vs. Triple H & Shawn Michaels – WWE Crown Jewel 2018
Background: This match exists because some people in WWE believe that nothing is sacred and committing necrophilia is justified if it’s in the name of profit. Undertaker and Triple H needed a rematch after their match at Super Showdown a month earlier, even though that match was billed as ‘their last match ever’. To make this match more ‘exciting’, Shawn Michaels was brought back, effectively souring the taste left in fans’ mouths after his amazing final send-off eight years earlier. Then to even the odds, Kane came in to team with his brother one last time. So much for respecting the past and ending your career on a high note.
The politician: Glenn “Kane” Jacobs was elected mayor of Knox County, Tennessee in 2018. He won the primary election on May 1st, 2018 and then won the general election on August 2nd 2018. So he was active in politics when this match took place. In fact, it caused a bit of a minor controversy when Jacobs announced he was competing in Saudi Arabia, despite the backlash of the Jamal Khashoggi murder and dismemberment still being a hot-button issue.
The match: Kane and Triple H start off. Nothing happens for a minute except some trash-talking and finger-pointing. Kane no-sells a punch to the jaw and lands a throat thrust as HHH tries the crotch chop. Kane hits a corner running clothesline and goes to tag Undertaker but HHH thumbs Kane’s eye. HH does an arm wringer and tags Michaels, who lands a diving ax handle to Kane’s arm. He goes after the arm but Kane pushes him into a corner. Michaels fires back with chops and counters a back body drop with a swinging neckbreaker. He thinks he’s still got it but Kane sits up. Kane goes for a chokeslam but Michaels fights back with chops and a sunset flip attempt. Kane blocks that and lifts Michaels onto his shoulder. Michaels escapes and teases Sweet Chin Music. Kane and Undertaker milk the moment as they build up to the tag and in comes ‘Taker.
They trade taunts until Michaels ducks a clothesline and hits some chops but then runs into a big boot. Undertaker lands some arm wrenches and shoulder tackles Michaels. He goes for Old School but HHH cuts him off. Kane attacks HHH as Undertaker sends Michaels into the corner and he ends up hanging upside down. Kane counters an Irish whip and sends HHH into the same corner Michaels is stuck in. HHH flies over and out to the floor (and suffers a nasty pectoral injury in the process, as we’d learn later). Undertaker double arm chokes Michaels and throws him to the outside. After a minute or so, D-X regroup and rush the Brothers and then clothesline them both to the floor.
Kane and ‘Taker drag D-X to the floor and they all brawl around the ring. In the ring, Undertaker connects with Old School and then chokes Michaels into a corner. He goes for a running boot but Michaels dodges and Undertaker gets hung up on the ropes. HHH tags in and hits with left hand chops (it’s all he can do; his injury basically renders one arm useless). He kicks ‘Taker to block a back body drop but ‘Taker no-sells and stares daggers at him and hits a clothesline. Kane tags in, lands some strikes, and slams HHH down. HHH dodges an elbow drop and then he starts brawling with Kane. He follows with a DDT and tags Michaels, who lands more chops and a kip-up. But Kane sits up so Michaels lands two Manhattan drops. Then his cheap-shots Undertaker on the apron and goes for a suplex. Kane tries to counter but something goes wrong so Michaels tries a second time but with HHH’s help. The double suplex connects and Michaels goes to the top rope. Diving elbow drop. Michaels starts tuning up the band. He goes for his superkick…but Kane hits first with a chokeslam and tags Undertaker.
Undertaker hits some corner punches followed by his snake eyes/big boot/leg drop combo (with the leg drop not touching Michaels at all). He pins but only gets two so he teases the chokeslam. He sees HHH coming in and cuts him off. But that distraction allows Michaels to connect with his kick. Sweet Chin Music. Both Michaels and Undertaker go down. Then Undertaker sits up and throws Michaels to the floor. He starts dismantling the announce table and lifts Michaels up. ‘Taker teases a Tombstone but HHH pulls Michaels to safety and then whips Kane into the steel ringsteps. Then HHH…pulls? Leads? Launches Undertaker into the barricade? It’s hard to tell but it looks extremely awkward. HHH goes after Kane next…and gets chokeslammed through the announce table.
Undertaker goes after Michaels with his apron leg drop and pins in the ring for a two-count. Some awkward ground choking ensues as Kane tags in and then sends Michaels into a corner. Kane chokes Michaels and hits some sloppy-looking strikes. Michaels kicks out at two so Undertaker tags in and kicks Michaels’s gut. Undertaker lands a suplex and pins for another two-count and then chokes Michaels some more and tags Kane again. Kane hits some ax handles and pins for another two-count. Michaels starts hitting both Kane and Undertaker to escape their corner but then walks into a sidewalk slam from Kane. Kane goes to the top rope but Michaels cuts him off. Nothing happens for a bit until Undertaker drags Michaels out of the ring. He goes to drive Michaels head-first into the ringpost but Michaels counters and Undertaker hits instead. Michaels returns to the ring and gets driven into a corner by Kane. Kane goes for a superplex but Michaels resists. He hits Kane so hard that Kane’s mask and wig fall off. Oh God. But it doesn’t end there. Michaels hits a moonsault to the floor and misses both Kane and Undertaker completely. Awful landing.
Michaels crawls back into the ring and tags HHH, who has spent the last fifteen minutes nursing an injury. HHH ‘runs wild’ with chops and his knee facebuster. A jumping knee drops Kane and a spinebuster drops Undertaker. HHH goes for a Pedigree but Undertaker backdrops him. HHH avoids both a chokeslam and a Tombstone. Pedigree connects. HHH counters a throw and sends Kane to the floor. He goes to pin Undertaker but Undertaker counters into Hells Gate. Kane tries to stop Michaels from interfering but Michaels superkicks Kane. Kane falls onto Undertaker, forcing him to break the hold. All four men collapse.
Kane and Undertaker sit up first and go for stereo Tombstones. Michaels rakes Kane’s eye from Undertaker’s shoulder. Michaels superkicks both Undertaker and Kane. Kane walks into a Pedigree. HHH pins and gets the three-count to end the match.
Winners after 27:45: D-Generation X (Triple H & Shawn Michaels)
Review: My God was this disappointing. It felt like all four wrestlers were spitting on their own legacies for a hefty paycheck. It wasn’t an outwardly bad match, per se. But it was a letdown, especially since all four men were exposed for performing so poorly. The action was bland and slow. All four wrestlers had a combined age of over 200 and probably had that many injuries between them as well. All four wrestlers worked hard, but my God was this plodding. It was a house show-level match in every possible way (Michaels himself said the same thing). The pacing was glacial and the wrestling simplistic. The crowd popped quite a few times, but then again that was to be expected considering who it was and where they were. But it was clear that none of these wrestlers had any business doing such a long match. Things got boring several times throughout the match and the second half just riddled with botches. And big ones, at that. Kane lost his mask and wig, Michaels nearly killed himself on a moonsault because neither ‘Taker nor Kane caught him properly, and HHH suffered a nasty pectoral injury. Had this been half the length then the slowness wouldn’t’ve been so draining. But these guys decided to go nearly thirty minutes for no good reason. I guess that goes to show that New Japan isn’t the only company that likes to bloat its main events.
Final Rating: *3/4
Check out John Canton’s WWE Crown Jewel 2018 review here.
2. Antonio Inoki vs. Big Van Vader – NJPW Wrestling World 1996, January 4, 1996
The politician: Antonio Inoki is the first wrestler to successfully enter politics. He was elected to Japan’s House of Councillors (their upper legislature in Japan) and his first tenure was from 1989 to 1995. His tenure was highlighted by a one-man diplomatic mission that saw him free 36 out of 41 Japanese nationals held hostage in Iraq right before the onset of the Gulf War. He wrestled part-time while active in politics, but this was his first major match after his regular tenure in that field ended. Here, Inoki took on the fearsome Vader in what would be Vader’s last match in New Japan until 2006.
The match: Vader bitchslaps Inoki right as the bell rings. He follows with a big slam and some hammer fists in the corner. Inoki fires back with punches after Vader removes his mask but Vader hits back even harder. Inoki counters a scoop slam with a head-scissor and both wrestlers fall to the floor. Vader slams Inoki onto an ungimmicked table and then smashes it onto him. Inoki climbs onto the apron but Vader lariats him back to the floor. The crowd wills Inoki on as Vader tries another lariat but this time Inoki ducks and applies a sleeper. The crowd goes wild for this until Vader punches Inoki right in the eye. They lock-up and Vader hits a massive German suplex despite Inoki’s resistance. Inoki sells like he’s out cold. But Vader doesn’t care as he throws Inoki onto the entrance ramp. Vader goes for a running press over the ropes but Inoki ducks and Vader falls back into the ring. Inoki capitalizes with a top-rope kneedrop. Inoki connects with an enzuigiri and Vader falls to ringside. Inoki goes after him and kicks him so hard he flies over the barricade. Inoki isn’t done punishing Vader as he chairs him across the head. Vader breaks things around the ring as blood pours down his face.
Back in the ring, Inoki strikes Vader’s open wound and lands another enguiziri. He locks in a side armbar but Vader rolls out. They brawl on the mat and Vader locks in a sleeper. Inoki escapes so Vader hits more stiff shots. Press slam by Vader. Inoki kicks out. Vader follows with a chokeslam. Inoki kicks out again. Vader goes for a powerbomb but Inoki escapes. Vader ducks an enzuigiri and lands an elbow drop into a dragon sleeper. Inoki kicks out so Vader slams him again. Vaderbomb body press. One, two, Inoki kicks out yet again. Top-rope moonsault by Vader! One, two, and – no, Inoki kicks out again.
Vader whips Inoki into a corner and hits a body block. He goes for a lariat in the opposite corner but Inoki sidesteps and somehow manages to slam Vader. Then out of nowhere Inoki locks in a cross armbreaker. Vader can’t reach the ropes or counter the move. He has no choice but to tap out. Inoki wins!
Winner after 14:16: Antonio Inoki
Review: That was a fun little match thanks to Inoki being a strong babyface and Vader being perfectly typecast as the monster. Vader mauled Inoki for 90% of the match while Inoki could only sneak a few shots in on Vader here and there. Vader demolished Inoki and nearly got the win with most of his biggest moves. But like a great valiant hero, Inoki just wouldn’t give up. He took everything Vader had and just kept going (which is the calling card for basically every WWE babyface since Hulk Hogan). But Inoki wasn’t just a never-say-die hero; he brought the fight to Vader and matches Vader’s violence with his own. He bloodied the monster up to show he wasn’t scared. He countered Vader’s lumbering frame and power with agility. And when Vader went high to fly, Inoki stayed on the mat and wrestled. That wrestling is what won the match for Inoki in the end as he locked in a (probably real) cross armbreaker to make Vader tap out. Vader withstood for as long as he could but at least he didn’t tap right away. Inoki struggled to put Vader away, so at least Vader left NJPW looking like a worthy conquest for the company’s heroic founder.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Author’s Note: I was going to include another match here between Hiroshi Hase and Kenta Kobashi when Hase was serving in Japan’s House of Representatives while moonlighting as a semi-active wrestler. But that match ended up being…well…WAY better than I thought it’d be so I reviewed it on its own here. It’s one of the best matches I’ve ever seen from a purely technical perspective, especially since it was the first time Hase and Kobashi ever wrestled together.
1. Blue World Order Japan (Dick Togo, TAKA Michinoku & Terry Boy/Men’s TEIOH) vs. Gran Hamada, Masato Yakushiji & The Great Sasuke – ECW Barely Legal , April 13, 1997
The politician: Sasuke entered politics six years after this match took place. In 2003 he was elected to the Iwate Prefectural Assembly, something akin to a state-level legislator. His time in politics was basically without scandal, though he was seen to be a bit eccentric since he always – and I mean always – wore his mask. That made him the first masked legislator in human history.
The match: TAKA and Hamada start things off. Hamada hits first with an armdrag and a dropkick. He follows with some quick slams and tags Yakushiji who gets a one-count off a leg drop. Then Sasuke tags in and lands a kick combo. TAKA hits back, tags Terry, and the BWO hit a coordinated splash combo on Sasuke. TAKA sends Sasuke into the ropes and hits a spinebuster, which is followed by a Boston crab/camel clutch/dropkick combo. Togo is now legal as he lands a senton and pins but Yakushiji breaks it up. TAKA tags in and lands some simple slams and then tags Terry. Terry gets a two-count off a delayed verticval suplex and tags Togo who sends Yakushiji flying and then falling to the floor. Irish whip by Togo. Yakushiji lands an amazing spinning hurricanrana followed by a tilt-a-whirl armdrag. He goes for a pose but TAKA cuts him off. Wait, Yakushiji counters a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker into an armdrag. Great sequence.
Hamada and Terry tag in and trade strikes. Terry reverses a corner whip but Hamada flips over him and counters a clothesline with a seated armbar. TAKA breaks it up and sends Hamada into the ropes. Hamada lands behind him but Terry waistlocks him. TAKA charges for an attack but hits Terry instead. Hamada locks in another armbar and then lands a back suplex. Sasuke tags in and applies a chinlock with bodyscissors but Terry breaks it up. Terry’s legal as he hits Sasuke’s head and then the two start sprinting around the ring. They crisscross and duck each other until Sasuke lands a handspring crossbody for two.
Yakushiji tags in but gets triple-teamed by the BWO. He keeps trying to escape them as they try to throw him to the floor. But he has enough and hits a baseball slide headscissor and then tags Hamada. Togo comes in and dropkicks Hamada to counter an Irish whip. Hamada counters another one with a jumping Frankensteiner but TAKA breaks up the next. Hamada counters a suplex into a small package pin but only gets two.
Sasuke tags in and locks in a single leg crab but TAKA wriggles out and hits an enzuigiri. Sasuke eats a corner clothesline as Yakushiji gets thrown to the floor. Terry and Togo come in and land a double running bulldog followed by a headstand dropkick triple-team combo. They pose on Sasuke’s slumped over body and then do another tandem move. These guys are like the Young Bucks of the late 1990s. Togo gets a two-count off another suplex and tags Terry, who applies a Terry Funk-style (hence his name) spinning toe hold. Sasuke escapes and sends Terry into the ropes but Terry answers with a lucha arm drag. Sasuke tags Yakushiji but TAKA drills him with a Brainbuster but only gets two. Terry tags in and boots Yakushiji down. The BWO hit a slingshot backbreaker/boot/diving stomp combo but Yakushiji somehow survives. Togo hits a second-rope senton and tags Terry, who lands a Backdrop suplex but Hamada breaks up a pin. Now it’s Hamada’s turn to get triple-teamed. The BWO follow with a spike piledriver and Yakushiji tags again. Poor Yakushiji gets overpowered easily and eats a Triple Powerbomb fifteen years before The Shield was ever a thing. One, two, Sasuke saves his partner.
They try the same move on Sasuke but something goes wrong at first. They try again but Sasuke counters into a Frankensteiner for a two-count. Sasuke counters a double clothesline with a moonsault press and then lands a handspring elbow on TAKA. TAKA falls to the floor. Sasuke lands a quebrada. Hamada tries a super Frankensteiner on Terry but Terry counters with a diving atomic drop. TAKA lands a plancha to the floor as well. Yakushiji hits a top-rope dropkick to Terry in the ring but only gets two. He follows with a suplex/second-rope moonsault combo but only manages two once more. Terry counters an Irish whip with a swinging DDT and hits a move he calls Miracle Ecstasy, which is a chokeslam into a powerbomb. One, two, Hamada breaks it up. Togo takes Hamada out with a snap powerslam but Hamada kicks out. Hamada blocks a corner charge and hits Togo with a diving tornado DDT. One, two, and Togo kicks out. Togo counters a Frankensteiner with a snap powerbomb but only gets two. He goes to the top rope but Sasuke cuts him off. Super Frankensteiner. Yakushiji capitalizes with a diving headscissor takedown. He follows with a suicide dive through the ropes.
Sasuke and TAKA are in the ring trading waistlocks. Sasuke hits some high kicks but TAKA hits an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. He follows with a springboard dropkick to the back of Sasuke’s head. Michinoku Driver II. Yakushiji breaks up the pin. TAKA goes or another dive but Sasuke kicks him in midair. Another moonsault press. TAKA kicks out again. Thunder Fire Powerbomb. Followed by a bridging Tiger suplex. One, two, and three! There’s the match!
Winners after 16:55: Gran Hamada, Masato Yakushiji & The Great Sasuke
Review: This is another one of those chaotic, hard-to-follow six-man matches that were popular during that time period. It was basically the 1990s version of that (in)famous Dragon Gate Six-Man from ROH. It was nonstop athletic craziness mixed with Michinoku Pro’s trademark blistering speed and coordinated attacks. The BWO guys did most of the work here with their triple-teaming and tandem attacks, which forced their opponents to fight harder to avoid being picked apart one-by-one. I’m pretty sure these guys operated on a no-tags rule, which was why people entered and left the ring without clear distinctions on who was legal. That made the match a bit hard to follow but it also made it come across as more of a survival situation in which both teams had to gradually wear down the entire opposing side to win. The action was more video-game like with blatant no-selling and a complete lack of realism. But I don’t think this was meant to be taken seriously as some kind of major legitimate contest. This was a match for which you could stop thinking and just enjoy the madness. And while it’s very much a spot-fest, it doesn’t have the more ‘blatant phoniness’ seen in later matches of the same type. For all the wackiness and chaos, there was still a sense of competition and structure hidden therein that makes this a very solid match overall.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.