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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Donald Trump: As real as pro wrestling

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign stop at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, N.H., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Photo Credit: AP

Boast. Preen. Look odd. Talk tough.

Insult rivals and critics. Get fans and foes to scream.

All these are standard techniques for pro wrestlers -- and for one presidential hopeful whose World Wrestling Entertainment credentials surpass those of any other candidate.

The WWE lists Republican billionaire Donald Trump as a "Hall of Famer" on its website, with his Trump Plaza in Atlantic City having hosted some of its over-the-top events.

In 2007, Trump and WWE chief executive Vince McMahon staged an event at which surrogate wrestlers faced off on their behalf. Trump's wrestler was declared winner and Trump got to shave McMahon's head in the ring.

George Shea, CEO of Shea Communications in Manhattan, serves serious corporate and real estate clients, but also knows the lighter side of his trade, having helped make the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest the annual media staple it is today. Shea pays close attention to Trump mania.

"No matter what you think of him -- good or bad -- he is an intuitive promoter rivaling P.T. Barnum, or any promoter of pro wrestling," Shea said. "In one summer he has dramatically expanded his national and international profile. He's no longer just Donald Trump on 'The Apprentice.' He's now Donald Trump, American Spokesman."

Trump "has used this circuslike atmosphere and outrageous promotion, in a way that's akin to a carnival barker, to position himself as a truly major national figure," Shea said. "His brand has exploded."

Onetime pro wrestler Jesse Ventura served from 1999 to 2003 as Minnesota governor. Last week he indicated interest in becoming Trump's running mate.

Never mind that last month Ventura said he would help Bernie Sanders "any way I can, although I'm not quite as socialistic." Philosophy and contradiction are further from the point here than usual.

Ventura used the amusing motto, "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!"

Unlike Trump, Ventura served in the armed forces. He's a decorated Vietnam veteran. And veterans have become a problem for Trump since he took a WWE-style shot at the war record of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), held captive for five years in Vietnam. Some veterans are so put off that one golfer this week called in to complain that the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx doesn't even give veterans discounts as do the county courses on Long Island.

But none of that seems to matter when it comes to the hype of the smackdown.

Trump has had other links to WWE. Linda McMahon, the wife and co-executive of Vince McMahon at WWE, ran twice as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, where the wrestling enterprise is based. She lost. Some of the political static when she ran in 2012 involved multimillion-dollar donations from Vince McMahon to Trump's charitable foundation -- back when Trump was pushing the discredited "birther" conspiracy theory about President Barack Obama.

Trump's most recent public remarks sound as overblown as advertising for a live show. He called campaigning in Iowa "an amazing experience." Of jury duty he said, "Amazing people." Last week he told New York Magazine: "I find women to be amazing."

Sounds like a pro-wrestling act in the making.


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