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On a Friday evening in Mexico City, Sam Polinsky, a 27-year-old wrestler from Pittsburgh, is getting ready for his latest fight at Arena México, the holy site of Mexican wrestling, which regularly draws 10,000 fans.
In Mexican lucha libre — professional wrestling known for its masked fighters and cartoonish style — the bad guys rule. They're known simply as rudos. Polinsky came to Mexico about nine months ago and branded himself as Sam Adonis, "El Rudo de las Chicas" or the "Ladies' Bad Guy."
When Donald Trump won the presidency after a campaign that regularly scapegoated and insulted the Mexican people, Polinsky saw an opportunity to turn up the heat on his bad-guy character by becoming the surrogate of Donald Trump in Mexican lucha libre.
"Go USA! Go Trump!" he yells in his accented Spanish. Polinsky emerges in a flood of spotlights, waving his American Trump flag proudly, beaming as the crowds boos and hisses.
Flaunting The Donald in Mexico is a surefire way to make the staged emotions in the ring hit real human nerves and, even moreso when he loses, make the Mexicans look like heroes. This is the key to Polinsky's shtick: the badder the American villain, the greater the Mexican hero.
But is Polinsky a Trump fan in real life?
"I can't say I support him, but I definitely supported him more than Hillary Clinton," he says. "But I'm thankful he's in the position he's in, because it's putting more money in my pocket."
He does admire Trump's showmanship. "I guarantee a lot of his success came from his experience in professional wrestling," he says.
In the early 2000s, Trump regularly participated in WWE shows, often as the adversary to WWE CEO Vince McMahon. Those theatrics, Polinsky says, are similar to what Trump has done as a politician. "You have Trump the persona and Trump the actual person," he says.
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