The 2016 GOP Presidential Rumble

Bloggified by Jake on Friday, February 26, 2016

Following last night's Republican presidential debate in Texas, Cenk Uygur opened the recap and analysis on The Young Turks by comparing the debate--and then the entire Republican primary race--to the Royal Rumble.

The more I've thought about it, the more apt the analogy seems, and I've found myself booking the match in my head and recognizing several common Rumble tropes that have played out during the primary season.

The Prince Who Was Promised
In many years, the Rumble has what seems an inevitable winner. For three of the past four years, the winner was obvious, and when the writing on the wall isn't as clear, there still are only three or four potential options out of the 30 entrants. Fans spent much of the last four Rumble matches trying to convince themselves maybe WWE would pull a surprise ending instead of taking the most obvious and direct route to its Wrestlemania main event.

For the past two years, Roman Reigns has been put in a position to win. He's a decent if unspectacular wrestler who lacks charisma and stumbles on the microphone, and is being pushed beyond his abilities largely due to his pedigree and successful relatives. Fans haven't taken to him and the more he's been pushed, the more the fans have pushed back, cheering for other wrestlers when he's in the ring... and not just his opponents, but retired and dead stars of the past.

Jeb Bush came into the race as the son of a former President, the bother of another, and with more money than any other candidate--even delaying the announcement of his candidacy so his campaign could coordinate with the SuperPACs that would support him without violating the law. Many Republicans were excited by the potential, but quickly realized Jeb's heart wasn't in it and shifted their support elsewhere. Eventually, Jeb was eliminated, as Reigns was at this year's Rumble. But there is little doubt WWE will have Reigns will win the title in the main event of Wrestlemania, so is there any reason to think Jeb won't be back in 2020?

Scott Walker also would have fit into this category until he actually launched his campaign. It remains to be seen whether he'll be able to weather his disappointing White House attempt or if he's Rick Perry-ed himself forever.

Token Women's Offense
Detractors of both the WWE and the GOP will denounce the organizations as sexist. In an effort to distract from that well-founded accustion, both will sometimes let the girls play too. Chyna, Kharma, and Beth Phoenix have all participated in Royal Rumbles. The game plan is always the same... and should be familiar to anyone who watched Carly Fiorina's campaign.

First, the Diva is announced and the crowd reacts with shock. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that she will lose, but it seems rude to say so out loud. She rushes in to the fray and the men let her take a few shots at them to sell the idea that she belongs and that they respect her. She'll even eliminate someone before some man exerts his dominance, puts her in her place, and she's swiftly eliminated with a "would a woman that strong be part of a sexist organization?" reminder. Meanwhile, men in the audience laugh--most to themselves but some boisterously aloud--at how she's ugly and a bitch, and they celebrate her getting her comeuppance for thinking she was good enough to compete with men.

And little girls sadly shake their heads and accept the fact they're never going to get a fair break.

Promising Talent Wasted
One of the biggest criticisms of WWE is its inability to capitalize on innovation. Vince McMahon has been trying to recapture the success of the 1980s Rock 'n Wrestling era for 30 years. Roman Reigns is being groomed to be another John Cena, who is the closest thing Vince has found to the "say your prayers and take your vitamins" Hulk Hogan. Along the way, there have been innumerable other attempts at finding the "next Hulkster," including Lex Luger, Psycho Sid, Rocky Maivia, Billy Gunn, and Tatanka.

Along the way, the company stumbled into the most successful era in the history of wrestling with decidedly non-Hogan-esque stars like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Mick Foley, the Hardy Boyz, Golddust, Edge and Christian, the Dudleys, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Val Venis, and lots more. Still, Vince continued (and continues) to sign and push tall bodybuilders over shorter, less chiseled talents like Dolph Ziggler, C.M. Punk, Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, Neville, and Kevin Owens. Fans cheer for the new talent and new ideas, but WWE continues to push lumbering big men and punishes those who try to be something fresh.

The Republican field also had a handful of fan favorites who never had a chance because they didn't fit the mold. Rand Paul foolishly thought he might convince the GOP that America should address the deficit by not starting wars all over the world. Chris Christie made the mistake of showing gratitude to President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and no amount of backpedaling could make up for donating money to Planned Parenthood in the past. John Kasich can't gain traction with the suggestion that drug addicts could be better served by and government money better spent on treatment than prison or that the gay marriage issue has been settled and the country should move on. Instead, the GOP pushes more homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-feminism, fear mongering, and threats to carpet bomb the planet.

Past Stars Surprise Returns
My kids and I went to the Royal Rumble in 2013 and I've said several times that Chris Jericho's unexpected entrance was the loudest crowd reaction I've ever heard in my life. Every year, a few of the 30 Rumble slots are reserved for stars of the past to make a surprise appearance. Most of the time, they've lost a step or five, but the fans don't care. Like the token women, it's understood that Diesel, the Godfather, Bubba Ray Dudley, or the Boogeyman aren't going to main event Wrestlemania. They're just there to do their shtick, get a payday, and fire up the crowd with nostalgia.

Likewise, we got return appearances by Rick "Three Departments" Perry, 2012 Iowa Caucus Champion "Dogfucker" Santorum, and "Mad Mike" Huckabee, all playing their greatest homophobic, god-fearing hits before ducking out to cash in on the lecture circuit.

The Job Squad
To fill out 30-man Royal Rumble, you need 30 men, and not everyone can be a star. You need a fair share of Tom Brandys and Heath Slaters and Jinder Mahals and Warlords to march out to the ring and be summarily dismissed, often to comedic effect. These guys are still professional wrestlers and proven themselves in smaller venues, but aren't cut out for the big time. Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore, and George Pataki have all been governors, and Lindsey Graham is a high-ranking senator, yet each was the equivalent of an "Okay, I have time to run to the kitchen" entrance at the Rumble.