Brandon Wetherbee is the host of the You, Me, Them, Everybody talk show. See him Wednesday, December 28 at The Hungry Brain in Chicago, Il.
The most important Saturday Night Live of 2015 was hosted by Donald Trump. The episode helped normalize hate. Amid protests from Mexicans (this was before he went on attack against Muslims) and allies, Trump delivered an oddly compelling (car crashes are compelling) episode of late night television.
The most important Saturday Night Live of 2016 will be this weekend when John Cena hosts. Why will a post election episode featuring a hero to children and a punchline to adults be more important than episodes featuring Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Alec Baldwin as Trump? Because Cena is the only one that has loose financial ties to the president elect. And Trump will be hate watching. And most likely hate Tweeting.
President elect Trump’s connections with professional wrestling have been well documented. You may have heard that WWE matriarch Linda McMahon has been in talks with PEOTUS about a potential role in the administration. Rumors of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s potential political future might have popped up in your social media feed. It seems like pro wrestling has more in common with politics than ever before. And the sports entertainment crossover with the mainstream continues this weekend.
Unlike comedy, pro wrestling is truly bipartisan. In this way, it’s more like real sports than theater. Performers like Cena appeal to both democrats and republicans. Comics like John Oliver and Samantha Bee are not able to sway an election. John Cena might.
Cena is the biggest full time WWE Superstar. His boss supported Trump during the general election. During that same time Cena, while co-hosting The Today Show on NBC, spoke out against Trump’s xenophobic statements against Muslims. Cena did so without reprimand from his boss, something no other WWE employee would have been able to pull off. In fact, it helped him become an Ad Council spokesman.
On July 4, 2016 a video produced by the Ad Council starring John Cena went viral. We Are America: Love Has No Labels is a three and a half minute message of inclusion.
It’s the opposite of what the Trump campaign ran on. Though a message Cena supported didn’t win the electoral college, he will host the president elect favorite’s show. And if Cena has a similar message on Saturday, it may inspire a man with small hands to lash out. The wrestler has a better chance getting through to the future leader of the free world than any late night host.
Late night doesn’t know how to handle wrestlers. Whether he’s on Colbert, Fallon or Kimmel, Cena is asked ignorant questions and treated like a side show. Yes, he’s strong. Sure, he’ll play a game. He’s down to make a fool of himself because he knows what’s best for business. But he also has decent acting chops, granted more Make-A-Wishes than anyone else (he’s topped 500), reaches 8.98 million Twitter followers, is learning Mandarin to help spread WWE in China, co-starred in a reality TV show without becoming a parody of human and navigated a world of carnies and con-men to becoming the most popular wrestler since Stone Cold Steve Austin (The Rock’s fame has overtaken Stone Cold and Hogan but no one was a bigger draw than Austin in his prime).
This is why Saturday will be interesting: John Cena worked for everything he has. He’s hosting because of pro wrestling. Donald Trump did not work for everything he has. He’s the president elect because he operated like a pro wrestler. We all know Trump can’t stop hate watching his favorite variety show. So what will he say when the only celebrity that knows how to handle other pro wrestlers is cracking wise at his expense?
This morning the president elect appeared on The Today Show. Matt Lauer asked him about the variety show. Trump said he hosted when it was good. When Lauer asked why he keeps watching, Trump said, “Frankly, the way the show is going now and you look at the kind of work they’re doing, who knows how long that show’s going to be on. It’s a terrible show.”
We don’t know how long SNL is going to run. We can be sure it’ll be live this weekend. And we know Trump will be watching.