Six days after his appearance on WWE’s SmackDown, Grammy-nominated artist Wale is now announcing his next big venture: a live wrestling show with Court Bauer’s Major League Wrestling promotion.
“We’re calling the event MLW One-Shot,” said Wale, who will be teaming up with Bauer, who is Major League Wrestling’s CEO, to serve as co-executive producer for the one-night only affair. “I’m actually taking a lesson I learned from Paul Heyman. Paul always tells me, ‘You need to create something that is culturally relevant.’ That is what we’re creating with One-Shot.”
Wale noted that Heyman’s advice usually transfers from wrestling to hip-hop, but in this particular instance, Wale will be directly applying these lessons to the business of pro wrestling.
“The last six days been wild,” said Wale. “Kicking it off with SmackDown and now finally announcing this project. We are doing One-Shot for the die-hard fans and the culture. So much young talent hasn’t had that spotlight. It’s important we give them theirs at One-Shot.”
In an exclusive to Sports Illustrated, Bauer confirmed that MLW will return to live action with a show on Oct. 5 at Gilt Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
“This is a self-contained wrestling event,” said Bauer. “MLW One-Shot is a celebration of a generation of wrestlers who are actively redefining and reviving the sport. We’re thrilled to hold One-Shot in Orlando, which is a homecoming for us, as we have hosted many wrestling events there, including WaleMania III this past WrestleMania weekend.
“I’ve had the opportunity over the past three years through WaleMania to meet some really great talent, so for us to get together in the ring and collectively collaborate with some of the top talent in the world is going to be incredible. Entering into pro wrestling with MLW One-Shot seems like a natural progression and extension of what we are already doing with MLW Radio. The world of MLW never stops, and MLW One-Shot is a way for the world of MLW to expand while showcasing great athletes and their talents.”
Wrestling fans may be familiar with Bauer through his MLW Radio creation, which includes podcasts from a litany of wrestling personalities in Jim Cornette, Bruce Prichard and Conrad Thompson, Eric Bischoff, and Tony Schiavone, as well as a new mini-documentary series on Kevin Sullivan. Bauer also ran live shows under the MLW name beginning in 2002, but he noted that One-Shot is an entirely different project.
“MLW One-Shot is special one-time wrestling show, and it is a celebration of this generation,” said Bauer. “It’s been very inspiring to me to see so many wrestlers bring such life into pro wrestling over the past fifteen years. I’m very proud of what this new generation has done for the business, and to work with this new generation is going to be an honor.”
Bauer also spent time on the creative team in WWE from 2005-07, and is fully aware of the pitfalls that trap celebrities who make cameos on WWE programming. Wale hosted a rap battle segment this past week on SmackDown between The New Day and The Uso’s. He pulled off the rare WWE appearance where a star from another genre highlights the WWE talent without overshadowing it, while still receiving a positive response from the crowd.
“Putting the talent over, both heel and face, was my priority, even if it came at my expense,” explained Wale. “At the end of the day, that’s part of the business. You’ve got to find a way to portray the characters in the manner that the storyline needs them to be portrayed. The Uso’s are heels, but they’re not corny heels. I had to do a staredown with Jimmy, but I refused to treat them like they were chickensh-- heels. That’s not who they are. The New Day has great energy with the fans, and I loved that, but it was also important for me to remain impartial and, above all, push the storyline forward.”
Wale moderated SmackDown’s rap battle between The New Day and The Uso’s, which included an X-rated reference regarding a sex tape with Xavier Woods.
“Those are five guys who really understand the concept of battle rap,” said Wale. “They handled themselves accordingly. It was shoot-style, and that’s what battle rap is – you leave it in the ring, and that’s what they did.”
The opportunity to appear on SmackDown served as a reminder to Wale of how much he loves the business of pro wrestling. Now, Wale noted, he has the chance to change it.
“Sometimes, when I’m watching WWE or Ring of Honor or New Japan, I wish certain guys could be highlighted or developed,” said Wale. “Now I have the opportunity to be involved in something I care about, and that is the inspiration behind One-Shot.
Wrestling is Wale’s release from the world of business.
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“Some months, I go without listening to any music,” said Wale. “I just spend my time listening to [the Wrestling Observer’s] Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez. That’s how I spend my down time, just to get completely away from music.
“I have my own time to work on my album. I’m not pursuing opportunities with MLW to make myself a bigger rapper. Wrestling has been there for me in good times and bad, it’s something I loved growing up and it’s something I still love now. I am fortunate enough that I have become a big enough celebrity in music that I can get people’s ear in wrestling, and now I have the opportunity to help improve wrestling.”
Fittingly, the show is going to be held at a nightclub that hosts popular music acts. The wrestling ring will be set up on the first floor.
“We like atmospheric locations,” noted Bauer. “Wale and I have been talking for three years about working together on a live show, and this is finally the right moment.”
The talent roster will be released within the next month, but Bauer stressed that One-Shot is going to revolve completely around showcasing this generation of wrestlers.
“It’s going to be this generation and next generation’s most cutting edge athletes. We’re going to feature some of the top free agents in the game. Wale loves working with young talent, and even though he doesn’t like to discuss this, he was a big advocate and key to Rich Swann and Apollo Crews signing with WWE.”
Bauer and Wale have yet to be announced whether there will be a live stream for One-Shot, but Bauer did confirm that people will be able to watch. He also promised an extremely memorable main event.
“The talent is really going to impress,” said Bauer. “Our main event is going to be a badass match, and we’ll be announcing that in the next week.”
Wale noted that wrestling used to lead pop culture, but now too often chases after it. The goal of One-Shot, he explained, is to balance out that equation.
“Like the name says, this really is a one shot,” said Wale. “For real. One opportunity for us to showcase dope talent, one chance to see MLW, and one night to shine.”