There is no doubt in my mind that as a big fan of professional wrestling and growing up on Hip-Hip there have been huge similarities. Growing up watching and living through the various eras of music and ‘sports entertainment’ [Pro Wrestling] has enabled me to look back and see the evolution of both of my passions because I have been able to see stars ascend up the ladder over the past 23 years of my life.
Make no mistake. There is an uncanny similarity between both and the struggle to ascend to heights of these fields and be ‘the man’ has unmistakably become more difficult due to A&R, promoters, or the powers that be that wrestlers and rappers rely on. We may no longer be in the ‘Golden Era’ of either Hip-Hop or Pro Wrestling but in the last few years there has been an emergence in both fields due to the youth movements that have transpired in the past few years.
As WrestleMania kicks off we will be looking at the vast similarities between wrestling and in this case taking a special look over Chicago’s Hip-Hop scene. We will be looking into some terminology important to wrestling and how it applies to the music form and culture we all love, Hip-Hop. Lastly, in commemoration of the epic celebration of the wrestling holiday known as WrestleMania we at GoWhere will be comparing Chicago Hip-Hop crews and artists to their professional wrestling counterparts.
To start off lets begin with the genesis of rapping and wrestling. The majority of rappers and wrestlers usually start off at a young age honing their craft. Wrestling schools begin training at the age of 18 while in Hip-Hop many artists begin performing early at venues and getting better with their stage presence. This is largely influenced by the passion one may have for these specific professions as individuals that go into these fields express their intent only after growing up on and falling in love with Hip-Hop and wrestling cultures.
The genesis is the early moment when you fell in love with lyricism and wrestling. The moment you first heard a Nas or Biggie come to prominence. The moment you saw Hulk Hogan battle Ultimate Warrior for the title at WrestleMania. Hell, it could even be the moment you saw CM Punk cut his infamous Pipe Bomb or the moment you grew to appreciate a Tupac for his interviews and involvement with activism and social justice in communities effected by violence.
Connecting to the crowd is a big make or break for any artist or wrestler. The more charismatic and better the stage presence is the more likable or interesting you become to the crowds you are performing. The initial performances in the beginning of artists and wrestlers are usually the hardest as they not only try to control any nervousness they may have but as well as begin to gain a feel to the stage and ring they perform in.
There’s an important psychology and method to the madness. In wresting ring psychology is a method of story telling in the ring. In Hip-Hop psychology plays a mental role with the connection one has with the crowd and an overall feel of the progression of the show. For example, psychology in both aspects in a wrestling match or performance all relies on the overall results or performance. Artists or wrestlers might start off slow but eventually the plan is to get a better feel for their performance and begin to win the crowd over. Artists like wrestlers might initially not get the connection of the crowd but with more performances or moves they make they can begin to turn the tide to their favor. In wrestling a specific wrestler might be getting beaten for the initial start of the match but slowly he begins to fight back and gain momentum, that’s the ring psychology we are talking about and it is very similar to Hip-Hop.
Feuds or beef have been an instrumental force behind Hip-Hop and wrestling. The golden age of Hip-Hop and Wrestling were seen as the mid 80’s to mid 90’s. In the mid 90’s we witnessed the infamous West Coast versus East Coast feud that catapulted the careers of a Biggie and Tupac. At the same time in professional wrestling we were witnessing the rise of the Monday Night Wars as the WCW (World Championship Wrestling) engaged in war against the WWF (then World Wrestling Federation, now WWE) for wrestling supremacy after the exchange of talents and cheap shots. As we all know, nothing would be the same in both cases.
Feuds in wrestling have also occurred in the same stables/crews as one wrestler who wants a better position or exposure leaves against the wishes of the bigger group. A recent example can be the separation of GBE as Durk left the ranks of the infamous crew to start a better career after issues with GBE members. This issue is now resolved but there’s always beef going on in Hip-Hop and wrestling alike. One of the best examples in wrestling is the infamous Nation of Domination, a black power themed wrestling crew that saw the ascension of The Rock as he overthrew the then leader of the Stable, Farooq, to gain a better position and popularity. Other examples of feuds in Hip-Hop can be Game vs 50 Cent, Biggie vs Pac, Ice Cube vs Common, Drake vs Chris Brown, the list goes on.
In professional wrestling and Hip-Hop different markets (cities) have always played a crucial role to the popularity and support artists and wrestlers get from their fan base. In Hip-Hop the big cities (markets) like LA, NYC, and Atlanta have dominated the game. In wrestling cities like Philly, Chicago, NYC, Memphis, Atlanta, Boston, and LA have the biggest loyalists of wrestling. Interestingly enough in the past few years in Hip-Hop our city of Chicago has been changing the tide as the market and city with the most innovative talent. In wrestling Chicago has been one of the favorite cities for wrestlers due to the passion and respect this city has for wrestling culture.
Gimmicks and Characters
A gimmick is defined as a “unique or quirky special feature that makes something stand out from its contemporaries”. In wrestling a character and gimmick come hand in hand in the success of the performer. The perfect gimmick makes all the difference. From a marketing perspective we are talking about how someone is packaged or presented. How someone looks, the clothes they wear, the way they act or talk is all a part of a wrestlers gimmick, which is essential to a character.
The most successful wrestler has gone through various gimmicks and characters before they found their niche. Stone Cold in WcW played a pretty boy technician or mat grappler from Hollywood LA as a part of the Hollywood Blondes, a tag-team he formed part of. Stone Cold Steve Austin, originally from Texas had to fake an accent as a part of this gimmick. Once he was released from WCW and entered ECW under the supervision of the legendary Paul Heyman was when we were able to see the genesis of what would become the Texas rattlesnake as he unleashed his anger against his former company in his promos. Once he entered WWF he initially found little success because he was packaged and brought in with a grappling gimmick and was given a manager to speak for him when he was good behind the mic already. Slowly but surely he was able to break away from the character he was initially given and became the every man that fought against the system at all cost. Another case can be found for UNdertaker and Kane which since their debut have been playing deadman and man from hell, the Brothers of Destruction.
In Hip-Hop gimmicks and the way artists are packaged are also important. Wu-Tang’s GZA had little success under his Genius gimmick until he joined the ranks of the legendary Hip-Hop group. The underground Hip-Hop icon MF Doom had a similar case in which his initial start was a bust until he switched his gimmick and switched to the character we now love and the addition of his mask being a part of this change of character. One of the most popular rappers in history, Tupac has been often considered to have had a gimmick of his own. While many close to him saw him as an intellectual leader of masses they became confused with the studio gangster that he portrayed in the media. Gimmick or not, the Tupac character did evolve from the heavily conscious debut album he had to the Death Row Records Tupac we still praise. Kanye of all people has a gimmick as he went from the conscious Kanye we knew in College Dropout to the brash, vocal, and edgy rap god YEEZUS.
As we can see the evolution of character as well as the progression of an individual’s overall package and gimmick has been very important to the popularity of an entity and their character development. A part of the character development is wether or not a rapper or individual wrestler is baby face or heel or in other words good guy or bad guy. Some wrestlers that are heels specifically chose to play heel characters because they know they thrive in pissing other people off. The baby faces are usually the fan favorites that capture the crowd but that folks want to see fail time and time again. It’s very similar to Hip-Hop, sometimes rappers do some questionable things that end up getting them some heat (wrestling term for hatred) and become heels, while rappers can also become baby faces by doing something favorable that their fans can appreciate and that can be dropping music or music videos that fans appreciate, it can be as simple as taking a stance on social justice or activism.
MANAGERS and Hype Men
In wrestling and Hip-Hop a manager and hype man are instrumental to the success of a performer. A manager in music advocates for better pay, for his artists to get booked at more venues and get exposure. In wrestling a manager is the mouthpiece for a wrestler that might not be good behind the mic and advocates for his wrestler to get matches with popular and established stars, pretty much better pay, more exposure and visibility.
There are also hype men in both fields. In wrestling a hype man is someone who follows a wrestler to the ring to back them up or cheer them on during a fight. Most managers are considered hype men in pro wrestling but its not always the case. In Hip-Hop a hype man not only helps pump up a crowd but does as much as he can to back up and support the performer he is assisted by any means necessary.
Promoters are crucial to both wrestling and Hip-Hop culture. Promoters are in charge of booking talent and paying them. Often times the early bookings are all about paying dues and doing free shows to put yourself out there and gain some visibility. In wrestling and Hip-Hop alike there are also crooked promoters that end up lowballing talent and paying them pennies when they were guaranteed dollars to perform.
Promoters in wrestling are seen as the big companies with the most popular professional wrestlers. In Hip-Hop blogs are the promoters of the world as they try to promote some of the biggest acts around for the profit, visibility, and to gain popularity for their blogs or websites. Wrestling has had the likes of WWF (World Wrestling Federation), WCW (World Championship Wrestling), WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), ROH (Ring of Honor), TNA (Total Nonstop Action), AAA (Asistencia Asesoria y Administracion), NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling), among many other independent and corporate owned companies. In Hip-Hop we have blogs like GoWhere, FSD (Fake Shore Drive), 2DBZ (2 Dope Boyz), Pursuit of Dopeness, Go ILL, Ruby Hornet, among many others that work effortlessly to try to put over and assist talents and performers we work with.
The ultimate goal of any rapper or professional wrestler is to one day be a main event performer at a WrestleMania type event and in music The Grammys or a big venue. It has always been about progressing up the system and gaining a better status as a performer and we see this in wrestling and Hip-Hop through the card. The card is the line up for an event. We have opening acts, we have fillers, we have a midcard, and we have a main event performer. The goal is to one day be the go to guy and main event and sell out to a packed crowd.
The opening act are usually the rookies. Someone who is just gaining experience that is used to open up shows and get them better experience. An opener is also someone that folks know can capture a crowd very quickly due to the high energy and chemistry that the performer has with an audience.
Fillers are pretty basic. In wrestling they might be promos. A promo is when one wrestler gets on the mic and talks some smack. That’s generally what it means. In Hip-Hop fillers are used by emcees of Hip-Hop shows to engage with the crowd either through comedy or crowd participation.
The midcard is usually artists or wrestlers that have the experience but might be missing something to be main event performers. It could be connection with the crowd, maturity, stage presence, their gimmick, presentation, experience or a factor of many other things. In wrestling like Hip-Hop it is very possible for a performer to remain in the midcard for an entire career. In wrestling a professional wrestling could be stuck in midcard purgatory just because the support internally for a specific performer may be overlooked. From a Hip-Hop perspective the way to ascend the mid card is to get as much support as you can get from your fan base but as well as blogs. The more you are in someone’s radar the greater possibility you have to ascend the the bigger stages in your career which is very similar in both Hip-Hop and wrestling.
We all know main event performers when we see them. They sell and pack venues. They are the reason why people come to see shows. Their name is bigger than anyone else on the card/bill of the night because they have all the assets that have made them main event performers. They were once openers and midcard players but now they are kings of behind a mic or in a ring that all have put in the time, have attained the experience, and have exemplified the charisma needed to be the top guys in their profession after years of honing their skills.
In Hip-Hop these are the indy darlings that were able to attain mainstream success. Artists that were able to capitalize off their buzz and gain bigger fan bases through exposure in magazines, television, being co-signed by respected figures, or even artists that finally got the record contract they had worked a lifetime to attain. These are the artists that now form a part of the big music machines known as record companies.
Wrestling the indies for professional wrestlers comes in similar fashion. Wrestlers get trained and start having their first matches. They continue to fight independent circuits and develop their skills as performers in the ring or behind the mic and progressively join bigger wrestling companies where they get bigger visibility and are able to get a bigger following and fan base. As their buzz too grows so does the co-signs by older established wrestlers that advocate for these guys to make it to the big time. These are the independent wrestlers, the indy darlings that all the blogs and wrestling sites clamor for. These are the artists that through momentum, blood, sweat, and tears are able to ascend to the top of their fields and are finally picked up by the biggest wresting companies, machines like WWE, TNA, AAA or even New Japan.
These are artists like Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, J. Cole, Big KRIT, Drake and even Kendrick Lamar. Artists that the independent and underground scene raved about and that through more endorsements and publicity became XXL Freshmen, posterboys for magazines, and were able to main event the Lollapaloozas and get co-signs from a Jay-Z, Bun B, Kanye West and Doctor Dre.
Wrestling is very similar and is filled with starts that also worked hard to break through the glass ceiling. These are wrestling performers that were once midcard performers and are now main event players in the future of various wrestling companies. These are the CM Punks, The Rock, Stone Cold, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, HHH, Brock Lesnar’s of the world that were pushed and promoted to the greatest heights as rookies and were able to become some of the most important faces in wrestling history.
Wrestling and Hip-Hop is a constant struggle to remain at the top. A struggle against the politics of labels and wrestling companies and breaking the glass ceiling behind being employed wrestlers and rappers and doing what these companies want you to do against what you envision for yourself. The key is to always push forward and to reach greater heights that anyone else before had ever accomplished. To truly pass the torch to the next generation of emcees or wrestlers and to educate on the importance of giving back and building something better than you found it.
Although we no longer are in the golden eras of either wrestling or Hip-Hop, I can honestly say the future is bright. There are budding artists and wrestlers that are all rising through the ranks and taking their professions back to the golden era and back to prominence. These are the stories of Hip-Hop and professional wrestling.
The moment we have been waiting for is here. As a fan of wrestling and Hip-Hop we have seen the famous stables and rap crews that impacted the industry. The Wu-Tangs, Diplomats of rap and the nWo and Four Horsemen of the industry that all left their mark. We also have the Nas, Tupac, and Kendrick’s of Hip-Hop that represent what a Stone Cold, Dusty Rhodes, and Daniel Bryan stood for as they fought against the glass ceilings that held them back. We have these things in our city of Chicago. We have Hip-Hop stables, crews, and individuals all fighting for their right place in history but who are their wrestling counterparts? Only one way to find out.
Please note that we were not able to assess every rapper or rap crew and compare them, that would be merely impossible. What we did do is compare the most prominent faces to who they would represent in the squared circle. If you feel you know anyone that was left off this list let us know what wrestler you believe they represent.
Treated Crew (nWo)
The plight of the black and white begins with 20/3. The biggest Hip-Hop stable/crew around with some of the most established rappers and producers. This Hip-Hop crew also features some of Chicago’s most interesting young emcees. Spearheaded by Mano, Holt, and MiC Terror this group of brothers has been creating havoc in our city’s Hip-Hop scene. The only unfortunate thing about nWo was the following, they only let the same handful of wrestlers get the shine and be the faces of the stable. I hope that in the case of Treated Crew they continue to cultivate their younger talent and enable to let them get their shine as well.
SaveMoney (Bullet Club)
SaveMoney is Bullet Club. For those not familiar with the New Japan stable full with American wrestlers, this group has been the most revolutionary and most innovative force in wrestling in the past few years. Like a SaveMoney whose fame has been skyrocketing these past few years, Bullet Club too is renown through out the world leading a youth movement and sparking interest that had not been there for a very long time.
Pivot Gang (Four Horsemen)
One of the most respected crews in Chicago Hip-Hop is Pivot. The Four Horsemen in the 80s were the most respected stables that conquered every belt. This group was spearheaded by Ric Flair and included the likes of an Arn Anderson (enforcer), Ole Anderson, and Tully Blanchard. Saba in Pivot is Ric Flair, Melo is Arn, Joseph is Ole, and Walt is Tully. Lets not forget DJ Damnage, he is indeed JJ Dillon and manager of music for this Hip-Hop crew.
Legion of Dudez (nWo Wolfpac)
I was a bit iffy on this one. The main reason that LOD became nWo Wolfpac is because many of its members, like the original nWo, are a part of different Hip-Hop crews while remaining members of LOD. Like the Wolfpac, LOD too has its own identity and formula behind its method of madness.
GBE came out of nowhere and revolutionized Chicago Hip-Hop with its brand of trap-styled production known as Drill. Nexus in wrestling were all upstarts that made a hell of a lot of noise on their debut leaving the ring in disarray and total chaos. This chaos in Drill is the violence that fills much of its content. Like Drill, Nexus too caught on with its fan base very quickly.
Unfortunately not everything was buzz and appraisal for GBE and Nexus. Both actually experienced chaos within the group that divided the group from GBE to the OTFs and Glo Gang. In Nexus the group split into the CORRE and the second Nexus group. It’s leadership too crumbled as Wade Barret (Nexus) and Chief Keef (GBE) saw their careers go in a downwards spiral only to reappear with a cult following of their own.
Village 777 (The Shield)
If there are three upstarts that represent Alex Wiley, Kembe X, and Isaiah Rashad it’s The Shield. Isaiah which will be the next golden boy for TDE is the WWE hand picked Roman Reigns. Seth Rollins, the future of WWE is Alex Wiley the current present and future of local Chicago record company Closed Sessions. Kembe X is Dean Ambrose who has a cult following and continues to do what he does for the love of the business in a very quiet and humble manner.
Top Notch Boyz (Hart Foundation)
Together they are stronger than ever and that was the premise for the Hart Foundation as Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart rallied his family members together for one goal after struggles to gain firm ground as singles competitors. For Brand Knew, theWHOevers [J Arthur & Dot Kom], and Retrospect [Quotes & Def Poet] unity and working together only makes these individual entities stronger as they continue to fight for the same goal, which is to elevate each other’s craft by working together.
New Deal Crew (The Flock)
The New Deal Crew cult bosses are The Flock from WcW. The wrestling stable like the Chicago Hip-Hop crew has an underground following like no other spearheaded by Chris Crack, the prolific equivalent to Raven of WcW’s The Flock.
Chance The Rapper (John Cena)
Chance The Rapper is the franchise. WWE’s franchise revolves around John Cena who continues to be the face of the company. Both Chano and Cena are also the franchise for their work in the community as Cena is the most requested celebrity for the Make A Wish Foundation and Chance The Rapper continues to be an advocate for youth in the Chicagoland community through his non-violence initiatives in the city as well as the opportunity he provides CPS kids with the open mic he hosts.
Vic Mensa (Shawn Michaels)
Mr. WrestleMania, the show stopper is Shawn Michaels which is a deep reflection of Vic Mensa. Shawn Michaels was one of the leaders behind WWE’s youth led movement in the 90’s and Vic Mensa has been one of Chicago’s leaders in its youth led Hip-Hop movement. Michaels created DX, Vic created Save Money. Shawn Michaels is considered to be the greatest wrestling performer of all time and Vic Mensa with the co-sign of Kanye West can very well become one of the greatest performers of his generation.
Mick Jenkins (Stone Cold)
Breaking through glass ceiling is the every man Mick Jenkins. During the WWF’s Attitude ceiling there was no one better than Stone Cold Steve Austin that represented the every day struggles against society’s laws and that is what Mick Jenkins represents today. Mick’s stance on social justice and becoming aware of some of the brutalities that effect marginalized groups across the country are second to none in Chicago’s Hip-Hop scene as he continues to throw stunners and one finger salutes to anyone that overlooks him and some of the socially conscious topics he represents.
Super Fresh Bros (LOD Road Warriors)
Legion Of Doom aka Road Warriors were the greatest tag team of the 80s and early 90s in professional wrestling. The Super Fresh Bros just might be one of the most promising duos in our city’s music scene as the 8-bit rapping studs continue to turn heads with a sound all of their own.
Leather Corduroys (Harlem Heat)
Kami and Joey have been generating interest all of their own within the SaveMoney crew. There is no doubt that this duo has some of the strongest chemistry and has the potential to do some powerful duos in Hip-Hop music history. Joey is Booker T and Kami is Stevie Ray of WcW’s most decorated tag team Harlem Heat, but make no doubt that this duo is coming for the top spot!
Navarro aka Scheme (Mark Henry)
One of the most respected emcees in Chicago is Navarro (formerly Scheme). One of the best in the history of professional wrestling is Mark Henry. Both men are phenomenal on the mic but their visibility is limited. Both men can still go and any glimpse or performance we get is just a taste of the greatness that these OGs still possess.
ShowYouSuck & Auggie The 9th (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall)
The homies that rocked crowds with their posse cut Hunter Hearst Helmsley is one of the most respected duos in Chicago Hip-Hop. Homies to the end are Auggie The 9th and ShowYouSuck that represent The Outsiders [Kevin Nash/Diesel & Scott Hall/Razor Ramon]. Like Both Hall and Nash, Auggie and Show have both enjoyed phenomenal single runs with their individual projects. As solo wrestlers Nash won various world titles and Hall won IC and US titles in WWF and WCW. The fact remains, together Auggie and ShowYouSuck are one of the most decorated duos like their wrestling counterparts Nash and Hall.
Fun fact: Diesel (Kevin Nash) was ShowYouSuck’s favorite wrestler growing up.
King Louie (Val Venis)
No brainer on this one. The man that all the ladies clamored for, Val Venis, is an embodiment of what the streets crave for in Louie’s Drill music. Little did you know, Louie is the man!
Vic Spencer (Dusty Rhodes)
Vic Spencer grew up on hard times but through hard work and dedication was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. One of the greatest rivalries was Dusty Rhodes vs Ric Flair and their exchange of promos was simply epic. Earlier this year we saw a phenomenal exchange between Lupe Fiasco and Vic Spencer via twitter as they battled like no other. Best believe Vic Spencer got the best from this exchange.
Ace Da Vinci (Sami Zayn)
Positive vibes and empowerment is what both Sami Zayn of WWE’s NXT brand and Chicago spitter Ace DaVinci preach. Both are still young stars on the rise that continue to be internet darlings and both know how to take advantage of big opportunities and show what they can do on the biggest of stages.
Jarred AG (Briscoe Brothers)
The Garcia brothers Jarred and Smoko (real name Darian) have been cooking up the beginning of what will be an epic career for the emcee and producer, respectively. The Briscoe Brothers the last few years have been the most revered brother tandem as both Jay and Mark have been adding on to an already stellar career. The fact remains for The Briscoes, can they do what they’ve done in WWE upon signing? The answer is yes. For the Garcia brothers, the question is, is there a better brother duo in Chicago Hip-Hop? As of now no one else is better than Jarred and Smoko.
ASA (Too Cool)
Not many trios out in the Hip-Hop scene but this one can definitely captivate a crowd how Too Cool did dueling the WWF Attitude Era. There is nothing like ASA in our music scene right now and during the WWF Attitude Era there was nothing like Too Cool and what they were doing at the most innovative time in wrestling history.
Bibby & Herb (Super Maniacs- Macho Man & Ultimate Warrior)
Bibby and Herb have been killing shit since they burst on to the scene. As a tandem both are an undeniable force to be reckoned with. As solo acts both have been given a national spot lights for their projects and their lyricism. The same could be said for Macho man and Ultimate Warrior, two of the most respected figures in professional wrestling. The two had some of the most awesome gimmicks in wrestling and their work in the ring brought them several championships. For Bibby and Herb, two of the most touted upstarts the belief is that they will both have stellar careers and the sky is the limit for these two.
Hurt Everybody (New Day)
Hurt Everybody has been echoing the horns of victory for over a year. The positive spirited trio os Supa, Carl, and Mulatto have been making waves just as the recently formed New Day has during the same time period. The brothers with just raw skill. That is the case of both Hurt Everybody and New Day.
Add-2 (Rey Mysterio)
The careers of Rey Mysterio and Add-2 is the narrative of David vs Goliath. No matter how big Add-2 or Rey Mysterio are they have a heart and determination as enormous of goliath and at will can take out any competition. They both are some of the most versatile performers in their fields that continue to show us what hard work and humility can take you.
Martin $ky (RVD)
“They said that I couldn’t, I can, and I did”, this Martin $ky quote is truth to the stories of both Martin and ECW Original RVD. In the mid 90’s and during the invasion era of ECW into WWF, Rob Van Dam represented the little guy that could and did overcome any obstacle that was in his way. In ECW he was the face of a generation of rebellious and radical wrestlers that went against the system and made a small promotion in Philadelphia into one of the most respected brands in wrestling history. When he arrived in WWF it was a different story as he was the small fish in the enormous pond but through dedication, hustle, and perseverance was able to overcome the obstacles set in his way. Martin $ky is also an individual whose hustle has been noticed and respected. In a city where every week the Hip-Hop baton is passed, his race to the top continues to be a a struggle of dedication and perseverance. For the past few years Martin $ky has become synonymously related to the incredible underground scene our city has and like the ECW Original RVD, Martin has always been true and original to what this city is and represents. His time to shine will be coming soon!