The Classical, July 2015

The Case for Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo Fighting Each Other at SummerSlam

For years now, the WWF/WWE’s SummerSlam has been THE place to settle major scores as the temperature rises. The Mega Powers versus the Mega Bucks. The Rock versus Brock Lesnar. Spike Dudley versus Steven Richards. This year, after six years in Los Angeles, SummerSlam is coming to Brooklyn, and it seems like fate, because it’s coming at a time when two giants of New York politics are describing each other as “bumbling incompetents” and vendetta-driven monsters. While tensions between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have been high for some time, lately they’ve taken on the kind of over-emotive posturing and furious rhetorical edge typically found in great wrestling feuds.

With that tension boiling over, now to the point where both men are openly calling each other out, this can really only be resolved one way. It is time for Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to square off at this year’s SummerSlam.

From almost the moment he took his place on the top of the ladder of the Democratic candidates fighting to be mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio has been subtly interfered with, and sometimes straight kneecapped by Cuomo, his ostensible friend and political ally. The posturing has long since passed the realm of policy and now seems oddly personal; it is as if Cuomo, who is a world-class resenter, especially resents the national spotlight being shone on de Blasio. This was a subtle struggle for power for a time, but it got a new edge when a “Cuomo administration official”—almost definitely Andrew Cuomo himself—told the Wall Street Journal, when speaking to de Blasio’s failure to get what he wants in Albany, “what we’re dealing with is a mayor who is universally acknowledged to be bumbling and incompetent.” Coming as it did after over a year of Cuomo swatting down one de Blasio proposal after another—imagine The Rock cutting people off with “It doesn’t matter!” except the people are talking about universal pre-K and rent stabilization—the moment of nasty candor was shocking, but not exactly surprising.

What happened next though, was both. While the mayor tried to stay civil for over a year and preserve what he insisted over and over again is not just a working relationship, but a real friendship, that patience finally gave out. After the bumbling incompetent quote, de Blasio gave a bridge-burning interview that absolutely no one saw coming. Accusing Cuomo, a man who’s seen two fellow big shots hit with corruption indictments, of engaging in “transactional” politics is an “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass” kind of moment, a rhetorical haymaker that announced the arrival of a new world with new rules. (The mayor also called Cuomo a vindictive prick, if not quite in so many words, but this is not a controversial or even contested opinion in New York politics.)

Even beyond the well-worn idea that politics is just like professional wrestling, there’s a familiar pacing to the breakdown of the relationship between de Blasio and Cuomo. Two men of ambition, but still friends and partners, fighting for a spotlight that is only large enough for one. In the case of the breakup of say, the Hardy Boyz, only one man from a tag team can be world champ and the tension becomes so great that every accidental bit of interference and attempt to help gone awry becomes loaded with sinister meaning until the tension finally boils over.

For de Blasio and Cuomo, only one man can be New York’s leading Democratic politician. We’re not going to figure out who it’s going to be using words, and ultimately we probably won’t even solve it in the realm of policy. Or if we do it’ll be really damn boring. So why not solve it where every great war of words is solved: under the bright lights in the squared circle.

Neither party should need much convincing. Andrew Cuomo would probably do it even if de Blasio hadn’t just put him on blast. To watch Cuomo unilaterally (and expensively, and unnecessarily) shut down the subways in anticipation of a dud winter storm without telling de Blasio—or to see the governor swaggering through the Clinton Correctional Facility after the recent jailbreak, talking about chatting with a couple of the inmates himself—is to see a man dedicated to leadering his way through one issue after another, and who believes in a governing style described by Morning Joe-types as “muscular” and “action-oriented.” After the embarrassing prison break, all the governor could do was talk tough, but a spot on the card at SummerSlam would allow him to actually engage in a little physicality and get something done. Given that he perpetually seems poised on the brink of violence, anyway, it also might do him some good in terms of mental health. What’s more muscular, after all, than literally fighting an ideological opponent until pinfall—after hitting him with a patented Cuomocanrana—or submission? Shit, have a good enough match and Cuomo could wrestle his way into a prime cabinet position.

As for Bill de Blasio, it’s time to strike while the crowd is roaring behind him. If he was hesitant to play the babyface, he could probably be enticed by the combination of free media exposure and the opportunity to go to town on the governor. Invite de Blasio to show up on an upcoming RAW and cut another promo where he talks about his progressive values before promising that if Cuomo keeps standing in the way of a fairer New York, he’ll put him through Fiorello LaGuardia’s desk with a devastating Transcendentalizer—a jackknife powerbomb, naturally, owing to his tallness.

The New York political landscape is also rife with characters who could pop up and provide drama. Cuomo and de Blasio both have well-known significant others, but that’s just the start. Imagine the response when, during a match, Inner Circle’s “Bad Boys” starts playing and Michael Cole screams “That’s NYPD Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association chief Patrick Lynch running down the aisle! And he’s got a chair!” Think of the response when Cuomo, after appearing to have the match wrapped up, turns white as a ghost when federal prosecutor Preet Bharara crawls out from under the ring and comes after him with steel briefcase full of indictments. Curtis Sliwa is almost certainly available for a spot as a guest commentator.

Ultimately it’s up to Vince McMahon of course, but he shouldn’t need much of a push. While de Blasio vs. Cuomo probably wouldn’t go down in history as a great technical exhibition, the match would certainly give the crowd what it wants. Also, in light of Linda McMahon’s two expensively failed runs for Senate under the Republican banner, McMahon would doubtless enjoy the sight of two nationally prominent Democratic politicians taking bumps and looking kind of silly. Worse comes to worse, you have the two go at it for five minutes to open the night and then end it early by running Brock Lesnar out to there to make them honorary citizens of Suplex City.

Obviously, this kind of personal pettiness masquerading as political grievance would be funnier if it didn’t impact the day to day lives of the people of New York. But this is where we’re at, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any end in sight. If this useless public dick-swinging contest resulted in some actual violence and maybe an injury or two would be a fair reward for these two completely gumming up of the works of government from now until one of them is no longer in office. If we can’t get decent governance, maybe we can have some catharsis.