Professional Wrestling and rap are a lot alike. The key to both as a performer is perfecting your craft to the point where the audience fully believes that your words and actions match your personality. I know that Jeff Hardy wouldn’t really jump off of the Empire State Building if he happened to be in New York visiting, but the way that he’s been presented to me over the past twenty years make it at least a possibility. In that same vain I know that Future probably isn’t washing twelve xans down with lean spiked Henny before he steps into the booth, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I found out it was true. Again that’s the power of presentation. They create the image and we buy in.
I say all of that to say this, a lot of prominent wrestlers have similarities to some of the biggest rappers in the game. The good brother Taji (@HeBackAtIt) and I went through the exhausting effort to point some of them out. A lot of blood, sweat, and arguments went into this exercise with some pretty dope comparisons left on the cutting room floor (R.I.P. Steve Austin/2pac). The ones that we did end up with are nothing short of impeccable.
John Cena is Drake
Both of these men are without a doubt the biggest stars of their generations. They are also the most heavily scrutinized. Is Drake the greatest of his generation? Is Cena one of the best all-around performers in WWE history? Their personas have come under fire with fans questioning Cena’s character shifting from a white rapper to an anti-bullying bully who wears jean shorts while Drake is a sensitive Jewish tough guy from Canada. Skill-wise fans disagree on how to gauge these two. Whenever a Drake project drops Twitter is just as split as an arena during a John Cena match. Whether it be that Drake sings too much or that Cena only has five moves, these two are always at the end of some criticism.
For whatever they may lack in technical skills they have more than made up for as evidenced by their unparalleled success. When it comes to their resumes Cena and Drake can go toe to toe with the greats. Drake is a money machine currently coming off of the highest grossing Hip-Hop tour ever. Likewise, Cena has been wrestling’s biggest cash cow for over a decade. In terms of performance, Drake has Grammy wins, a slew of platinum singles, platinum albums, and everything else an artist could want. Cena to his credit has held nearly every title in the WWE with his 16 World Title reigns tied for the most ever. While critics will always find stones to throw at these two it’s clear that they are the flag bearers for their eras.
Randy Orton is J. Cole
Words commonly used to describe these two; routine, overrated, boring. While I don’t agree with all of the criticisms against them that fact remains that both Orton and Cole are missing some undeniable quality that other stars have. At this point in their respective careers, you know what you’re getting. From Randy Orton you’re getting smooth in-ring work and a good promo. From Cole, you’re getting some interpretation of whatever vision he currently has (whether you like it or not). More often than not they’ll impress you, but you won’t necessarily be blown away.
Career wise both of these guys had legends take them under their wings and place them in prominent positions (Jay-Z & Triple H). Another similarity between the pair is that they accomplished a lot early in their careers. Orton was the youngest world champion in WWE history while Cole dropped two classic mixtapes before his debut album underwhelmed fans.
The skill set is all there for these two. They have all of the tools to be great, but they do not deliver often enough to make good on their potential. Cole will give you a dope song that you can replay for awhile but when it comes time for the album all of that excitement has dissipated. Orton will give you a great match with a picture perfect RKO but everything leading up to that will feel like he’s going through the motions.
Brock Lesnar is Kendrick Lamar
Whenever these two decide to make an appearance people lose their minds and their peers end up in body bags. Lesnar does not show up on television often, when he does somebody is getting their ass kicked. We’ve seen Lesnar dominate John Cena, Randy Orton, The Undertaker and Roman Reigns in the ring while Kendrick was gone at all of his peers (Control). Watching Brock Lesnar dominate an opponent feels a lot like listening to Kendrick go berzerk on a verse. Here’s an experiment, put the video of Lesnar’s Top 10 F5s on mute and listen to Kendrick’s “HUMBLE.” in place of audio – fits right in doesn’t it?
When is comes to The Beast and Kenny from Compton, whenever they make their presence known all eyes are immediately on them for one reason alone; anyone could be their next victim. Drake might do bigger numbers and John Cena might sell more merchandise but there’s no debate when it comes to who is the most terrifying in the booth or between those ropes.
Triple H is Jay-Z
Everything there is to do they’ve done. They have the accolades, they’ve won the feuds, they’ve outlasted the competition. Both of these men came up in golden eras for their respective businesses. Triple H made is name during the Attitude Era having classic matches with The Rock, Stone Cold, The Undertaker and Mick Foley among others. Hov meanwhile came up in an era where his peers were all-time greats; Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., The Wu-Tang Clan, and Big L were in New York alone.
Both of these men began to really hit their strides at the tail end of the 90’s but it was not until the 2000s that they began to separate themselves head and shoulders from their cohort. Hov’s run through the 2000s saw him drop multiple classics and truly transform himself into a mogul. The boss lifestyle that he was leading had finally caught up to the imagine that he portrayed on wax since his debut. On the wrestling side, Triple H had his most successful run as a superstar in the early to mid-2000s as the main heel on Monday Night Raw. While it wasn’t the most critically acclaimed part of his career there was no doubt that Triple H was the guy Raw. This was when we saw him transition into a character that realized that he was already one of the all-time greats. Once their peaks passed them by these great stuck around the create moments with a brand new generation. Who would have thought that in 2016 Jay-Z and Future would have a song together or that Triple H would be main eventing Wrestlemania against Roman Reigns.
While excelling as performers, both men made enough noise behind the scenes to put them in positions to succeed long after their days as talent were over. Hov started Roc-A-Fella Records and Roc Nation while Triple H wears many hats backstage including Vice-President of Talent and creating the NXT brand as we know it. Their eye for talent even deserves a comparison as Hov elevated numerous acts through the years (Yeezy, Beanie Seagle, J. Cole) in the same manner that we’ve seen Triple H do time and time again (Randy Orton, Batista, Seth Rollins). Add in wives that may have even more pull than they do in Stephanie McMahon and Beyonce and we have some very strong similarities.
Chris Jericho is Gucci Mane
Guwop and Y2J both paved lanes that many current acts follow in, just ask Future and Kevin Owens. What also is intriguing is how relevant both of them still are in 2017, years after their initial debuts. The pair manages to constantly reinvent themselves and still churn out some of the best product today. They are also both known to take breaks whether it be Gucci’s prison stint or Jericho leaving the company to go on tour with his band Fozzy.
These two men have also been able to amass cult-like followings. Gucci fans have stood by him since his early run where he dominated with mixtape after mixtape. Compare this Jericho’s pre-WWE legacy where fans would trade tapes of his matches in Canada, Japan, and Mexico. By the time Gucci Mane received substantial national exposure and Jericho debuted on WWE television, they were already made men.
Dolph Ziggler is Wale
Dolph Ziggler and Wale are both underrated and beloved. Hip-hop fans know that Wale is one of the best rappers in the game. Every track you hear from the D.C. spitter seems meticulously crafted from the beat selection to the wordplay. Wrestling fans know also that Dolph Ziggler is one of the best wrestlers in the world – the guy could have a credible match with a dead body if he needed to.The thing is that they both deserve better. Whether it be critical acclaim escaping Wale or a credible main event push eluding Ziggler, fans can’t help but want more for both of these guys. There were moments where it seemed as though they were on the cusp of glory. Wale’s More About Nothing is still one of the most beloved mixtapes of all-time while Dolph Ziggler had one of the greatest championship victories in wrestling history in 2013.
Unfortunately, Ziggler’s title run was cut short by injury pretty early into his reign and he has failed to recapture that level of success since. Throughout his run, Ziggler has been a part of numerous great matches and feuds including a memorable program with The Miz last year that saw him win the Intercontinental Championship in a title vs. career match. As has been the case for much of his career though, Ziggler’s momentum halted not too long after that. Wale, despite a current streak of back to back number one albums, sees his name absent from Album of the Year and Best Rapper Alive conversations time after time despite putting out a body of work comparable to anyone over the past few years. These two deserve a runs at the top, but fans cannot help but wonder if those runs will come to fruition.
Kevin Owens is Future
There was a point where Kevin Owens was the hottest wrestler in the world outside of WWE. The guy was having classic matches around the world with some of the biggest names in all of wrestling. Compare this with Future who was an underground legend way before the world fell in love with Monster. Both Future and Kevin Owens first garnered the mainstream recognition they deserved in 2014 too (Monster dropped in October of 2014 and Owens debuted on NXT in December). Since then, they’ve become driving forces in their respective industries and are often mentioned among the current best. Since 2014, Future delivered some of the best projects of any artist in Monster, DS2, and HNDRXX while Owens has had runs with the NXT, Intercontinental and Universal championships and memorable matches in both NXT and on the main roster.
Personality wise Owens and Hendrix are both bad guys that you can’t help but love. Future rapping about selling his aunt drugs and having his baby mom kissing his side chick are dope lyrics, but if somebody you knew was living like that you might try to stage an intervention. Owens meanwhile turned his back on close friends not once but twice since coming to WWE.
Their actions are irredeemable, but when it’s announced that KO is in-line for a high profile match or that Future is dropping a new project we’ll be sure to there for it.
Daniel Bryan is Chance the Rapper
Everybody loves a feel-good story right? Whether that be Daniel Bryan overcoming the odds to become World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania 30 or Chance the Rapper winning multiple Grammies as an independent artist. Both of these guys scream baby face. People want to cheer for them because they like to see them win. Compare their biggest moments and you cannot deny that they both possess that innate quality that causes people to root for them.
Both of these guys overcame a lot of shit to get to the top of their respective industries. Chance emerged from music hotbed Chicago as an independent artist seeking national acclaim while simultaneously facing his own personal demons by way of a Xanax addiction. Luckily, his story has had a happy ending to this point. Bryan however, was forced to retire due to injury. Bryan’s run while it lasted, was Chance-like in that he had to overcome the stigma that he was just another guy that couldn’t perform well in the big leagues. The common denominator for both men was that the fans loved them enough to get the necessary players to acknowledge their talent. Once they both did get their moments of valiadation only the staunchest critics argued that they weren’t well deserved.
CM Punk is Kanye West
One word, unpredictable. While you always knew that Punk was going to deliver in the ring, it was his talent as a speaker that really made fans get behind him in massive numbers. When CM Punk grabbed the mic to deliver his now infamous Pipe Bomb Promo he called out WWE Champion John Cena, The Rock, and even head honcho Vince McMahon. Less than three years later Punk was gone from the company training for a UFC debut.
Sounds a lot like Kanye doesn’t it? From calling out George Bush to interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs, Kanye is always must see whenever he decides to speak his mind. The reason that this comparison works so well is because no matter what they rant about, these are two Chicago legends are guaranteed to deliver whether that be in the ring for in the booth. They have all of the accolades from Punk’s 434 day WWE Title reign (the longest in the last 30 years) to Yeezy’s numerous platinum plaques and awards.
Neither man is perfect and fans often have found themselves frustrated at their actions, but both Punk and Ye did enough to greatly inspire the generation that followed them. The WWE trending towards wrestlers who made their names outside of the company began following Punk’s ascent. Musically, pointing out artist influenced by Kanye would be like pointing out Jordans at a sneaker convention. Their impacts in their respective fields cannot be overstated.