At the 1985 Grammy Awards, a sleeveless shirt suited and sparkly cowboy booted Hulk Hogan stood awkwardly behind Cyndi Lauper as she accepted an award on the world’s stage, and the burgeoning ‘Rock and Wrestling Connection’ exploded, sending Vince McMahon’s then-WWF to the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist. Ever since this moment, professional wrestling has courted celebrity and clung to cultural relevance, leading to, amongst other things, David Arquette to be hated forevermore by wrestling fans, Flo Rida getting more regular pay checks from WWE then some contracted superstars, and Donald Trump becoming the only US president in history (so far) who has a WWE Hall of Fame ring.
When popular culture has been integrated successfully into the world of wrestling, it has created some of the most iconic moments and characters in WWE history, from Mike Tyson’s stare down with the company’s resident badass Steve Austin, to Matt Borne’s creepy assimilation of It, The Joker and Krusty as an evil Doink The Clown (let’s forget about the ‘Dink’ era… ).
However, with WWE’s former flagship show Raw celebrating twenty-seven years of continual weekly content (they’re the longest running weekly episodic television program, haven’t you heard?), not all ideas will be thought through, fleshed out and marketed appropriately before being thrown to the wolves on live television, and many attempts at cashing in on pop culture and current affairs have sank without a trace.