Donald Trump has a long, strange history with Vince McMahon, the McMahon family, and World Wrestling Entertainment. Perhaps nothing stranger than the time The Donald fictitiously “bought” Raw and temporarily sent the WWE stock into a tailspin.
To get to that weird Monday night in 2009 you have to have an understanding of the Trump/McMahon relationship.
Coming off the heels of the Wrestlemania III, considered by many the seminal moment of the 80’s Hulkamania era, Donald Trump used Trump Plaza in Atlantic City to host Wrestlemania IV, and ultimately, Wrestlemania V. The events, from a historic perspective, don’t hold up well. The crowd, who is likely made up of high rollers and casino goers more than it is actual wrestling fans, was quiet and unresponsive to the shows biggest moments.
Wrestlemania V is noteworthy because it was one of the biggest draws in the early pay per view era. While that had everything to do with the year long storyline of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage finally going at it and Hogan regaining his WWE(F) Championship and little to do with Donald Trump, high ratings and buy rates would be a theme when it comes to Trump’s involvement with the WWE.
While Trump was shown ringside at a number of WWE events, including the often panned Wrestlemania VII, he didn’t emerge as an actual character until Jan. 2007. With Wrestlemania Season in full swing the future President of the United States interrupted Vince McMahon on Fan Appreciation night. “Vince, you claim you tell your audience what they want, what they like, and all of that nonsense. They want value,” Trump said from the TitanTron. “Who knows more about value than me, Vince?”
The crowd hated him. Even with Vince McMahon in full evil “Mr. McMahon” mode, the crowd hated The Donald significantly more. Even as he showered them with money from the ceiling, some of which, was real, the crowd continued to crap all over him when he appeared.
This confrontation lead to another, which ultimately led the Battle of the Billionaires at Wrestlemania 23. The contract signing was an excruciatingly dull 22 minute talking segment that did feature this Vince McMahon line, “You might have some support from this audience, but 95 percent of them are idiots!”
While the two didn’t actually wrestle, The Donald instilled fan favorite Bobby Lashley to fight for him while McMahon went with the late Umaga. With Steve Austin as the referee and the promise that the losers head would be shaved, Wrestlemania 23 set a record with 1.2 million pay per view buys. A record that stood until the Rock and John Cena broke it several years later.
That brings us to the night Donald Trump “bought” Raw. On June 15, 2009 Vince McMahon opened Raw with the perplexing announcement that he “sold” his flagship show. More perplexing was the announcement that it was Donald Trump who was now in charge.
“You never really showed your appreciation for the Raw audience,” Trump said. “Never once did I see that appreciation. I’m gonna do stuff that’s never been done before, never been seen before. … My first act as owner is to do something unprecedented. Something you were too cheap and selfish to make happen, Vince. For the first time in its 17-year history, next week’s Raw will be presented live to the USA, commercial-free. … And guess what, Vince, I’m personally going to be at Raw next week to run things the way I want to see them run, meaning the right way.”
Boy that sounds familiar.
The following week, Monday Night Raw did its highest rating in 7 years. Most attribute that to the commercial free aspect of the show its impossible to ignore Trumps involvement.
Then something funny happened. The WWE and its television partner, the USA Network, issued a press release, a very real press release touting the “sale” of Raw. Remember, this is a storyline for a television show but McMahon couldn’t help himself and tried to take it a step further.
That press release, and the perception that Vince McMahon had put Donald Trump in charge sent the WWE stock plummeting. It dropped 7% in the first few hours. The stock drop stunned the WWE to the point of issuing a second press release stating the first release and the “sale” were all part of a storyline.
The following week Trump would “sell” the Monday Night Raw show back to Vince McMahon and the entire storyline was dropped.
In 2013, Donald Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. During McMahon’s induction of Trump he dropped this gem on us…
“When you think about it, second only to me, Donald might very well be a great president of the United States.”