Wale Q&A: The creator of WaleMania discusses hip hop’s similarities to wrestling
SI: How did you create WaleMania? What does the event mean to you?
Wale: I’ve always had a love for professional wrestling not only as a fan entertainment-wise, but a huge respect for them as athletes. I also always believed that the parallels between pro wrestling and hip-hop is so obvious at times, it made too much sense to create something like this. Luckily, a lot of my friends that I’ve made in the pro wrestling world agreed so with Court Bauer’s help WaleMania was born. It’s like my baby now. Well, second baby. (Laughs)
SI: WrestleMania III featured Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant. What is in store for WaleMania III?
Wale: Without giving too much away, I can promise you we will have our “Hulk slamming Andre” moment at WaleMania III. A moment that people throughout the wrestling world will be talking about for the foreseeable future.
SI: You are incredibly talented—is it easy for you to combine pro wrestling and hip hop?
Wale: Honestly, pro wrestling has been hip-hop since the ’80s if they knew it or not. Ric Flair is The Godfather of this on the low, just as far as someone who combined performance, style, swag and all that. When you’re cutting a promo you’re essentially spitting a verse, and when I write a verse I’m in one way or another saying I’m the best at what I do. It’s the same thing with pro wrestling, so they go hand in hand.
SI: What about Sasha Banks inspired you to create “Legit Boss”?
Wale: Sasha is such an incredible talent, especially when she was running NXT with the Four Horsewomen. She’s so unique as far as being a black woman with style and confidence and the swagger of somebody we’ve never really seen in the women’s division, and she had the ability to work on top of that. She was really dope when we got in contact with each other and I told her I was gonna remix her entrance music just for fun, and she was really into it. I threw it out there and fans of hers and mine really took to it.
SI: What is your favorite moment in WrestleMania history?
Wale: Man, there is so many. I was a huge Ultimate Warrior fan growing up, so WrestleMania 8 was a highlight for me. But ‘Mania 31 might have been my favorite moment because it was the first time I got to sit ringside at a WrestleMania. Mainly, I got to see Seth Rollins get caught in that sick curb stomp-into-RKO in live and living color, only to steal the show later that night and cash in his money in the bank contract and win the world heavyweight championship. That was incredible.
SI: What have you learned from Paul Heyman?
Wale: When I wanted to learn about the pro wrestling industry and take it further than just fandom, I reached out to Paul Heyman because to me there aren’t many people better out there that you can learn from. As far as having a mind for not just promoting pro wrestling, but just marketing in general, he’s one of the most shrewd, no-BS minds you can learn from and that’s why we get along so well. Paul is an incredibly smart dude, and if I were ever to start my own company, he would be the first guy I would call.
SI: Do you share any similarities with Vince McMahon?
Wale: We have the same walk. (Laughs) All kidding aside, while my interactions with Vinny Mac have been limited, you can tell the passion he still has for this business after all these years and I feel I share the same passion. I’ve had my ups and downs in music due to my passion for this, and so has Vince. So in that case, I can probably say we’re pretty similar. This is our life.
SI: What have you learned most while working with the wrestling industry?
Wale: Just how much dedication it takes to really make it in this business. I’ve befriended a lot of guys in the industry from Finn Balor to Bray Wyatt, Enzo Amore, Apollo Crews, Rich Swann, the Young Bucks, Ricochet and more, and aside from a few guys I can say I’ve saw these dudes wrestle in high school gyms and barns, to wrestling in front of thousands in stadiums across the world. I already had an enormous respect for them as a fan, but when we chat when the spotlight isn’t on them and it’s one on one, you really get a sense of the type of dedication it takes to be a star in this business.
SI: If people are on the fence about going to WaleMania, why should they go?
Wale: We got something for everybody. For the fans, you get to kick it with some of the biggest stars across WWE, ROH, NJPW, TNA, EVOLVE and more where they get to let their hair down a bit and start the wildness of WrestleMania weekend. For the casual fans, it’s a party. We got Jamie Iovine DJ’ing, I’ll do a set, the drinks will be flowing, it’s just a good time if you like pro wrestling and like music and you like fun. At the end of the day, it’s a fun event for fans, wrestlers, and everyone involved.
SI: Who wins at WrestleMania 33: The Undertaker or Roman Reigns?
Wale: Man, you’re putting me on the spot! Fans are already booing Roman Reigns, so I hope they go all-in with those boos and have Roman just completely take Undertaker out and really embrace the hate he gets. That would be something.