Saturday, September 24, 2022

Rap and Wrestling: A Complicated Relationship – PWMania – Wrestling News

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THE RAP N WRESTLING CONNECTION: It’s Complicated.

As a fan of pro-wrestling since the 80’s, I can clearly pinpoint the Rock ‘N Wrestling era as my first introduction to the sport.

Seeing the top wrestlers intermingling with the biggest pop stars of the time really moved me and is probably why I’ve been a lifelong follower of pro-wrestling.

For the uninitiated: The WWF caught absolute fire in the 1980s and early 1990s, partially (or wholly, if you ask my household) due to the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection,” a period of cooperation and cross-branding between the WWF and elements of the music industry. Singer Cyndi Lauper asked Albano to appear as her father in her video for the single “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” in 1983. Vince McMahon, like the true visionary he was, saw dollar signs and the boom was on.

The connection between Lauper and the WWF continued with Wrestlemania appearances and videos for the songs “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough”, “Time After Time,” and “She Bop,” all of which featured WWF wrestlers. So many slappers. Why she’s not in the Hall Of Fame, I’ll never know…but while Triple H is over there fixing things, I think that’s a great place to begin for next year’s inductions.

Anyway, fast forward and while my love for 80’s rock and roll remains, the times have changed. Today Hip-Hop is the largest and most consumed genre of music in the world, so it’s only right to see pro wrestling adapt to the times and attempt to combine the two worlds, right? The Rap ‘n Wrestling Era needs to begin. This has to go right, correct? In the past few years, AEW and WWE have both done their part to integrate rappers into programming. The results have been mixed. Turns out it’s complicated.

Full disclosure: I’m a hip-hop artist. It’s what I love, and what I do. So, I hold its treatment to a high standard much like I would expect wrestlers to hold their art. If I brought two wrestlers onto my stage and had them go at it, Dave Meltzer could choose to rate it as many or as little stars as he liked, so I feel like I’m qualified enough to do the same. On one fateful day though, my world’s collided in the best way possible and showed me the potential of Rap ‘n Wrestling.

Hip-Hop heads are a fickle bunch much like wrestling fans. So it’s important to treat each side with the respect it deserves to avoid disasters to add to the long list in the past of rapping wrestler gimmicks, poor rap performances on wrestling shows, and all around bad looks. So when I got asked to be a part of a few wrestling events in a music capacity, I accepted with a little trepidation.

Over July 4th weekend in 2017, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of perhaps the coolest meeting of hip-hop and pro-wrestling of recent memory, when Xavier Woods of the New Day asked me to join them in the ring for a rap battle against The Usos. They happened to be in Phoenix, where I live, and the event was hosted by multi-platinum rapper Wale.

The day when this all went down was surreal. I was told by WWE staff to wear “Whatever you’d wear to a rap battle.” Umm…my chain? My bandanna? What a weird request. I showed up in jeans and a Booty-O’s shirt.

I arrived at the venue four hours before showtime, just in time for that legendary WWE catering. I sat in a small, dark empty room with a bunch of other extras and not enough chairs (most are regional wrestlers, some you may know) for the segment, who were all told to be respectful, do whatever was asked and not to mark out or ask for pictures. We just sat there…silently.

Until a knock on the door, it was Woods. He asked me to come with him, and business picked up. I got to walk around the entire backstage area, meeting the boys and trying my best not to mark out. I think I let a little squeal out when we walked the ramp to the ring, led by Road Dogg who produced the rap battle segment (of course). We take our places and at the same time, several other wrestlers are in the ring, trying out moves around us, making it hard for me to focus. Dogg gave us one specific piece of advice:

“Stay out of the wrestlers’ shots. When the camera zooms in on the speaker, back up.”

Duly noted, Dogg.

None of the wrestlers shared their rap battle lyrics in the ring during rehearsals, they wanted to save them to get a real reaction later, which I understood. So, the extras went to their sad room with no chairs while The New Day and I went backstage to an empty room so the guys could practice their lines with me. A lot of people ask me this all the time and NO, I didn’t write a thing for them. I just listened and gave suggestions on delivery. These guys had it down, it’s almost like they know a thing or two about public speaking.

After a few minutes pass there’s a knock at the door and you’ll never believe who it was:

John Cena.

Cena was returning on that day after a year off of television. He walked in, gave the three New Day members a firm handshake and told them he was proud of what he’d been seeing and hearing. He seemed really sincere and genuine, and I understood why everyone loves John Cena. He even shook my hand and acknowledged me, and I’m nobody. As he was about to leave, I stopped him for an irreverent comment:

“I thought you were coming in here to tell us you were dropping some bars in the battle!”

“Oh no,” he laughed. “Rap is a young man’s sport. I think my battle days are over,” and left.

After that, the boys briefly chatted about how the segment was going to go.

“They wanted Wale to do a song before the battle, “E said. “But I had to veto that.”

E knew exactly what I knew as a lifelong wrestling fan. If you stop a wrestling show to put a rapper on stage playing a song, the fans will reject this, 100%. I would find this out the hard way two years later when I was asked to play my song “Going to The Garden” in Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000 die hard wrestling fans. I’ve never been booed so venomously in my life. I was interrupted by the biggest heel in the company at the time, Bully Ray, who got the loudest cheers of the night. They wanted him to destroy me. No really, they chanted “f*ck him up, Bully, f*ck him up.” If I’d gotten injured there, I don’t think anyone would’ve minded. ROH didn’t exactly set me up to look good. But I had a good time and didn’t get injured, so hey, success.

Wrestling fans want wrestling. It’s what they paid to see, so I understand. Any person from any other world interrupting their precious wrestling time is instantly the opps—that’s rap-speak for the enemy.

I didn’t know how the SmackDown battle was looking on television with me being right there in it, but I heard from so many of my friends that it came off very fun, and most importantly, it was dope. The tweets after the show were mostly positive about it. Hip-Hop was respected and treated very well in the segment, even after I watched it back, and I think the people really enjoyed it. I know that if we had started or ended it with a live performance that would’ve completely soured those fans.

So when last week’s AEW Dynamite featured Westside Gunn on the AEW stage for the first time, as he rapped fellow Buffalo wrestler Daniel Garcia to the ring for perhaps the biggest win of his young career, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, bracing myself for the inevitable hate that was sure to come, either online or in person. But there was none! The general vibe was positivity for Gunn’s insertion into the show. He’s a legit fan who performed for maybe 90 seconds, in his hometown, and didn’t interrupt the flow of the programming. That’s how it’s done. They put him in a position to succeed, which is all any of us can ask for in a scary new world. Wrestling and Rap were done right that night, chef’s kiss. The Connection lives.

Sometimes though, there are missteps. You don’t start off Harlem Shaking the right way, you have to learn. Resting firmly in the middle of dope and wack is the event that inspired this article: the most recent meeting of the two worlds which is the Sept 21, 2022 episode of AEW Dynamite from New York City.

Being in the Mecca of hip-hop, a sellout sporting event in New York is bound to bring out a few notables from the Hip-Hop community, and this episode of AEW was no different. I was in Brooklyn for WWE’s Survivor Series last year and spotted Smoke Dza, Jadakiss and more in the building.

This week, present and accounted for as usual was probably the biggest wrestling fan in the rap game, Westside Gunn, in the front row, icy as expected. Yet this time we got no “Ayos” or “dootdootdoots” on the mic; the FlyGod simply spectated as several other rap stars walked that aisle this week.

First, the organization announced the presence of DJ Whoo Kid as a special announcer who accompanied The Acclaimed to the ring. After the announcement the internet comment sections lit up with their most predictable response:

“WHO?!?!”

As if you couldn’t google, DJ Whoo Kid is a pretty legendary G-Unit/Shady/Aftermath DJ who’s DJ’d for Eminem, 50 Cent and more; not to mention dropping and hosting several classic mixtapes at the height of their popularity. Whoo Kid isn’t an A-List name, but I don’t think he was supposed to be. I immediately assumed a mixtape DJ who knows pretty much everyone in the game wouldn’t come alone. He didn’t. However, the press release announcement was odd, and Whoo Kid didn’t do much to add any excitement to an already sold out and highly anticipated event.

So, to balance out the Acclaimed, AEW champions Swerve in Our Glory were escorted to the ring by Brooklyn rapper Fabolous. While I’m always happy to see rappers put on TV and acknowledged at wrestling events and not looking silly, I’d probably rather him not be there at all than have no role except being an unannounced accompaniment to the tag champs.

No knock on Fab, but with no prior mention, no mic time and no background given on his connection with the business, it was just a random placement. Holla Back, Young’n.

Later on, backstage, we got a segment with Jade Cargill, who has been on a tear, getting better each week on the mic and in the ring. She is confronted by rapper Trina…yes, that’s Miami rapper Trina, at the New York show, who trades some threats with Cargill, and even gets Jade caught up when the former offers a “When you see me it’s on” threat, which Trina meets with “You’re seeing me right now.” Uhhh… you sure are. Time to fight??

Nah, I’ll see you later.

Nothing against Trina but dang… there’s so many great New York based rappers who could’ve met that challenge and made so much more sense…. Nicki Minaj. Cardi B. Young MA. Lil Kim. Maybe they were all busy. Again no knock on a legendary artist, but Trina was a strange call.

Speaking of strange calls, just two months ago rapper Kevin Gates appeared on AEW’s Fyter Fest, also a guest of Swerve and Lee. When approached by wrestler Tony Nese and his manager “Smart” Mark Sterling, Gates hauled off and hit Nese, known as “The Premier Athlete,” with a slick right.

This is like the extreme opposite of most musician appearances in pro-wrestling, where a talent gets one-upped PSYSICALLY by an entertainer, who as far as we know has no history in combat sports. Not sure if this will lead to future appearances by Gates, but it did make for an entertaining segment.

So overall, the insertion of Hip-Hop stars in this era has been like…New York Pizza. At a cheap spot in Manhattan. Good enough, satisfying… but we know we can do better. The only thing that could’ve made these segments worse would have been…you guessed it…

Actual rapping.

But luckily no songs were sung. The show was solid and no one was hurt. That’s a win.

It’s a slippery slope involving rap and rappers within your wrestling program… For every cool rap battle there’s a cringe worthy rap gimmick or seemingly meaningless insertion for some cool points. Such a thin line between mid and spectacular… and if it’s mid, it ain’t hot.

But if it’s good enough to be a part of more than half your entrance themes, character gimmicks, gym soundtracks and more, then Hip-Hop music, personalities and culture deserve a seat at the pro-wrestling table. A full sized one, not a kiddie table. Handle with care.

Just remember the words of Chubb Rock and “Treat ‘em Right.”

– @megaran – Check out my newest video, a tribute to Scott Hall.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.


(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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