Donald Trump taps wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon to head Small Business Administration

Linda McMahon, former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., smiles while speaking to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Nov 30, 2016.
Linda McMahon, former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., smiles while speaking to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Nov 30, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (AFP) - Nine years ago, Mr Donald Trump shaved off Mrs Linda McMahon's husband's hair after a wrestling match on live television.

On Wednesday, the President-elect nominated wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon to his Cabinet.

The perhaps most bizarre backstory to any of Mr Trump's nominations so far underscores his astonishing rise from braggadocious billionaire on the celebrity circuit to the White House, taking charge on Jan 20 of the world's most powerful democracy.

The incoming Republican president announced that he had nominated Mrs McMahon to serve as head of the Small Business Administration, a Cabinet-level position. Mrs McMahon met Mr Trump in New York last week.

Mr Trump, who has promised to slash corporate tax rates and roll back regulations in an attempt to drive economic growth, called his new pick "one of the country's top female executives".

"She helped grow WWE from a modest 13-person operation to a publicly traded global enterprise with more than 800 employees in offices worldwide," he said in a statement released by his transition team.

"Linda is going to be a phenomenal leader and champion for small businesses and unleash America's entrepreneurial spirit all across the country."

Mrs McMahon, 68, said she was "honoured" to have been picked. WWE says it reaches more than 650 million homes worldwide in 25 languages.

Her wrestling-promoter husband Vince McMahon's staged feud with his wife's new boss culminated in a 2007 wrestling match dubbed "Battle of the Billionaires" in Detroit that was supposed to determine which tycoon had more money.

Both selected wrestlers to fight on their behalf. Mr Trump's wrestler won, after which the New York tycoon body-slammed McMahon to the ground, sat on him, then shaved off his rival's head of hair in the middle of the wrestling ring.

The McMahons met as teenagers and have been married for 50 years.

The Small Business Administration is responsible for supporting America's 28 million small businesses, which employ around half the country's private-sector workforce.