Editorial: Rap ‘n’ Wrestling Connection
Two of my favorite forms of entertainment are rap music and professional wrestling. I find myself defending both art forms – especially wrestling – on a daily basis. Because of this, I’ve decided to dedicate this editorial to the “rap ‘n’ wrestling connection”. Rap and wrestling have quite a bit in common, thanks in part to the controversial nature of the content both provide in hopes of entertaining fans. The history behind the rise in popularity of rap music and professional wrestling is strikingly similar, as is the amount of criticism and one-sided coverage both are frequently faced with. Is the criticism fair? Or are rap and wrestling just used as scapegoats for the problems society refuses to take responsibility for? … Are you ready? No, I said, ARE YOU READY!?!?!
On March 31, 1985 Vincent Kennedy McMahon risked everything he owned and had worked for in hopes of revolutionizing the professional wrestling industry. On that date, the first ever WrestleMania took place inside New York’s Madison Square Garden. An overwhelming success, the historic event officially ushered in a new era of professional wrestling. Although the industry has always been evolving, WrestleMania signifies an official crossover from wrestling to sports entertainment. I’m not talking about wrestling suddenly going from real to ‘scripted’ (some prefer the term ‘fake’). That happened a long time before Vince McMahon was even alive. What I mean by “wrestling to sports entertainment” is, gone were the days of location-based territories. Gone were the dusty, low-production events. Professional wrestling became a mainstream sensation, attracting the attention of celebrities and national cable outlets. March 31, 1985. New York City. From that date forward, professional wrestling would never be the same.
Right around the same time that Vince McMahon was revolutionizing and monopolizing the professional wrestling industry, rap music was evolving. The introduction of new technology, along with increasingly complex lyrical styles, helped rap music mature into a well-rounded art form. Hip-hop began diversifying and commercializing. In the same fashion that WrestleMania helped bring professional wrestling into a mainstream arena, rap music was becoming an industry with increasing popularity and value. And it was doing so in New York, not far from the famous stadium that housed the inaugural WrestleMania. It was in the 1980s that the potential value of rap music was first realized on a wide-scale basis. Rap music, like professional wrestling, would never be the same. From the ‘80s forward, these once underground forms of entertainment would continue to grow into the mainstream powerhouse industries they have become today.
With such similar histories, it should not be very surprising that professional wrestling and rap music have influenced each other over the course of the last few decades. As a fan of both rap and wrestling, I can’t help but smile when I hear a wrestling reference in a rap song. Knowing some of my favorite emcees were wrestling fans growing up has always made me like them more – a biased means of judging an artist, but at least I can admit it. What I enjoy so much about a wrestling reference is the fact that based on the obscurity of the reference, a listener who doesn’t know anything about wrestling might not understand it. It’s almost like the lines are special to me because I know not everyone will appreciate them. Of course, when an emcee references an icon like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Rock or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, chances are most anyone – wrestling fan or not – will at least understand the reference. But when a lesser-known wrestler is mentioned in a song, and I’m only speaking for myself here, it’s special. As a wrestling fan, enough time is spent defending the industry or defending oneself for being a fan. Personally, that’s one of the many aspects of wrestling that I love – it’s not ‘cool’ to be a fan, and you better be ready to defend yourself or you’ll be an easy target for insults. Shutting up someone who is hating on wrestling is a great feeling, but it doesn’t always come easy. So, when an emcee references something related to wrestling that only a fan would pick up on or understand, it’s like there’s a special connection between emcee and listener. Us wrestling fans have to stick together J and knowing an emcee is a fan is real cool.
Finding references to wrestling in rap lyrics is about as easy as finding references to drugs. They are all over the place, some easier to pick up on than others. The following video provides a nice variety of examples from many different emcees. What I enjoy about this video is the range of references – some old school, some more modern; some blatant, some less obvious.
We dedicated to cats that’s been thuggin’ / Vinnie Paz got more hoes than Jim Duggan
These lyrics, from the Jedi Mind Tricks, provide an awesome example of a less-than-obvious reference to wrestling. The lyrics are being used to boast about the amount of female ‘friends’ Vinnie Paz has in his, uh, possession. ”Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is a professional wrestler whose catchphrase is “HHHOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, which he would yell in a deep voice, usually in unison with the fans. Unless you were familiar with Jim Duggan, that metaphor would not have been appreciated by the listener. Add to this that Jim Duggan was an unattractive, usually overweight performer, and the line takes on a humorous element. Wrestling references are littered throughout rap lyrics. It just takes a wrestling fan to understand them all. That’s definitely a special connection between rap and wrestling – the references are lost on those who aren’t fans of wrestling.
What is it about professional wrestling that attracts so many emcees? Without going into a detailed essay explaining why professional wrestling is so great and why everyone should be a fan, I’ll do my best to keep this short and focus on one reason in particular. This is based off of my own experiences, but I believe it helps explain why rap artists are drawn to wrestling, and why wrestling references are so prominent in rap music. What really made me the life-long fan of wrestling that I am was, and to a degree still is, the escape it provided. Anytime real life got to be too much to handle, wrestling was there for me. For however long I was able to watch, I knew I would be able to escape the sadness surrounding me. Sad as it sounds, I’ve done a decent job blocking out a lot of my childhood. This is not something I’m proud of, but it is what it is. That being said, I can remember watching wrestling. I can remember turning on wrestling to drown out the sounds of arguments. I can remember playing with my wrestling action figures (don’t call them dolls ), creating storylines, commentating the matches in my head. When I think back today, I know I’m still a fan of wrestling because it was my coping mechanism – it was my security blanket, my means of comfort. Wrestling got me through tough years as a young child, and it did the same thing when I grew older and began to encounter new problems.
Now, considering that, why might rap artists be fans of professional wrestling? I didn’t have an easy childhood, but I had suburban, middle-class American problems. I can only imagine how much more of an escape I would have needed if I lived in the inner city, surrounded by drugs and violence. One of my parents had a substance abuse problem that made life hell for many years, but I can’t imagine if that substance was crack or heroin. I can’t imagine if one of my parents just up and left, or died from gang activity or some sort of violence. What I’m saying is this: professional wrestling, whether you think it’s real or fake, is entertainment. That entertainment provides an alternate reality for those who allow themselves to become seriously caught up in the storylines. I used wrestling to escape from the reality of my childhood. Rap artists, especially those who came from seriously harsh conditions, must have been doing the same.
What’s cool to think about is how rap music has the same “escape” quality to it. Rap music, like wrestling, offers an alternate reality. A place you can go to when you need to remove yourself from your surroundings. An art form that offers entertainment as well as comfort.
Or for anyone who’s ever been through shit in their lives
Till they sit and they cry at night, wishin’ they’d die
Till they throw on a rap record, and they sit and they vibe
We’re nothin’ to you, but we’re the fuckin’ shit in they eyes
Eminem – “Sing For The Moment”
Of course, the relationship that exists between rap music and professional wrestling is not based solely on how wrestling has influenced rap. Rap music has done its part in shaping professional wrestling. As a matter of fact, it was the art of freestyle rapping that helped John Cena rise to the level he is currently at – the face of Vince’s company, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). When Cena was overheard rapping one day while traveling to a show, the decision was made to take his real life talent and turn it into a character on the weekly television programs. Each week, Cena would come out and freestyle, taking shots at his opponents, the audience, or Vince McMahon himself. Even as Cena was insulting the fans in attendance, he was talented enough to entertain them – it wasn’t long before John Cena was moving up the ranks. Cena has even released a rap album and music videos. Today, John Cena is like the Hulk Hogan of his day. He’s the franchise player in WWE. Granted, without his work ethic, dedication, hard work, and willingness to be a company man, Cena would not have reached the position he currently finds himself. But there’s no doubt rap music – his character based on rapping, and the freestyles he’s spit – helped push him into a different league.
Rap and wrestling have similar histories and a relationship based on mutual influence. However, the real connection between rap and wrestling has more to do with how the two forms of entertainment are portrayed by critics. They both become targets of immense criticism and backlash due to the controversial content they provide. Despite being entertainment outlets, rap music and professional wrestling have seemingly become societal scapegoats. Through an examination of various events that have taken place over the last few decades, we are able to determine if rap and wrestling have been unfairly attacked, or if they are indeed responsible for society’s shortcomings.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario to consider: A person has been cut off from the world their entire life. They have had no contact with other human, no access to any form of media, all they know is they are alive. Now, imagine if that person is suddenly opened up to everything society has to offer. This person has never heard of rap music or professional wrestling. Now, however, they have access to any and all reviews, critiques, studies etc. relating to wrestling and rap. Considering the amount of negative media attention rap and wrestling receive, how might this person view either of the forms of entertainment? Let’s see…
The emergence of militant and gangsta rap groups such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. signify a moment in time when rap music first began to be labeled as violent. In his book Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap, author Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar explains how “several high-profile politicians, academics, journalists, and activists have held hip-hop cupable for violent crime rates, sexual irresponsibility, poor academic performance, and general social dysfunction.”[i] Various groups and organizations have attempted to launch movements in hopes of censoring rap music, but most notable are the efforts of the U.S. government. The government challenging the content of rap music demonstrates just how serious of a problem rap lyrics are, at least to those who oppose the musical genre. It was in the 1990s that the original campaigns against rap music first began to surface. Ogbar validates this claim by exploring a series of events that occurred in 1995 – over a period of less than two months.
In June 1995, William J. Bennett, former drug czar of the first Bush administration and head of Empower America, an advocacy organization for “personal responsibility,” and C. Delores Tucker, president of the National Congress of Black Women, publicly denounced Time Warner’s involvement with “violent and misogynistic” music lyrics. The two condemned the media conglomerate’s participation in “filth” that undermined the minds and morality of children. That same month, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representative, Newt Gingrich, suggested that advertisers boycott radio stations that play “vicious” music. ”They could drive violent rap music off radio within weeks,” Gingrich predicted. Several weeks later, amid intense criticism from various politicians…Time Warner announced that it had sold its 50 percent stake in Interscope Records, the label chiefly accused of promoting morally unsound gangsta rap.[ii]
The unfortunate consequence of campaigns like the one mentioned, and many other similar attempts at censoring rap music, is the fact they strip rap music of any and all complexity. Suddenly, rap music becomes nothing more than sex and violence. When well-known politicians are speaking out against rap, uninformed listeners buy into what the politicians are saying. Instead of a multifaceted, complex, layered art form, rap music is nothing more than socially irresponsible music that pollutes the minds of anybody who listens. So, if we go back to the hypothetical person who, for the first time, is hearing about rap music, it is safe to say he/she would want to avoid the musical genre as much as possible. Rap music, it would seem, is to blame for the creation of violence. The outspoken critics of rap music have forgotten – as KRS-One has stated – “America was violent before rap.”[i] When “compared to the initial invasions of North America by Europeans in the sixteenth century, through wars against Indians, over two hundred years of brutal slavery, another hundred years of mob violence in cities, lynching, terrorism, and codified white supremacy,” rap music doesn’t seem so violent.[ii] Of course, the facts never seem to really matter when it comes to criticizing rap music.
In addition to violence, rap music is also frequently attacked due to the belief that the music is sexist and misogynistic. And, of course, the misogynistic music causes listeners to not respect females. Because of rap music, men objectify women, viewing and treating them as nothing more than sexual objects. Thanks to rap music, the terms “ho”, “bitch”, “slut”, and others like those are socially acceptable. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s go back to 2007 and do a little investigating.
If you were asked to describe the physical characteristics of a person who would be considered the polar opposite of the ‘hip-hop image’, what would you say? I think it’s safe to say a lot of people might describe an elderly, gray-haired, white racist. Something like Don Imus, perhaps? Well, after Don Imus infamously referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “some nappy-headed hos”, hip-hop was brought to the forefront of the controversy. Imus claimed he used the phrase because if it was OK in hip-hop, why shouldn’t he be allowed to say it? Suddenly, rap music was to blame for the sexist, racist remarks that got Imus fired. Surely it had nothing to do with the fact that he’s a sexist, racist, shock-jock. Once again, there were public cries to censor rap music. Even Russell Simmons called for the removal of derogatory terms from rap lyrics. I mean, c’mon! If there’s better proof than the Imus situation that rap music is a scapegoat used to excuse society from taking responsibility for our social ills, I can’t think of it. I’m not trying to deny that rap music is overflowing with words like bitch, ho, slut, etc., but those words did not originate in the hip-hop culture. Sexism, like racism, exists throughout society, and unfortunately it is socially acceptable in many situations. Rap music was blamed for what Don Imus was responsible for – his words and his actions. As Jay-Z argued, “What Don Imus said was racist. It wasn’t about censorship, and it wasn’t about free speech. And it wasn’t about rap’s influence, because Don Imus is not influenced by rappers. He’s not a fan of rap.”[iii] Don Imus made an inappropriate statement. Congress decided to meet to discuss rap lyrics, claiming the “violence, hate and degradation has reduced too many of our youngsters to automatons.”[iv] I’d like rappers everywhere to put down their pens, stop rapping, and let’s see if the violence and hate that exists in our society comes to an end. History says it won’t. The government says it will.
So, our hypothetical friend is finally aware of the evil, violent, misogynistic influence rap music has on society. Just imagine where we would be today if hip-hop never existed – a society strikingly similar to the one we live in today, except minorities would not have such a prominent outlet to voice their frustrations. I’m sure that’s exactly what the anti-rap pundits want – a culture where black people have no voice. After all, it’s that voice that rhythmically points out societies shortcomings. The critics claim to care about our morals and our well-being. That’s why rap is evil – it influences listeners, creating a culture of violent and sexist barbarians. The critics care about the children. They care about creating a better future. In response to that, the late Tupac Shakur argued, “If these people actually cared about protecting the children like they say they do, they’d spend more time trying to improve the conditions in the ghettos where the kids are coming up.”[v] But Tupac was a gangsta, so we shouldn’t listen to him…
Oh well, Mr. Hypothetical has decided it’s in his best interest to steer clear of rap music. He doesn’t want to end up like those hoodlums from N.W.A and start “takin’ niggas out with a flurry of buckshots.”[i] At least he can still be entertained by the wonderful world of professional wrestling. Wait, what’s that? Wrestling, just like rap music, is violent and sexist? Oh, and professional wrestling contributes to the downfall of society just as much as rap music? Damn, and to think, all these years I thought I was being entertained. Turns out, my mind has been poisoned. If I was not writing this editorial right now, I’d probably be out beating people up and disrespecting women. Speaking of which, where’s my steel chair at?
In any discussion of professional wrestling, it is worth noting a few important points. First, there are countless wrestling organizations around the world. However, the WWE is like the major leagues, with all other organizations resembling, at most, the minor leagues. Because of this, most examples and cases discussed are focused on the WWE, which means Vince McMahon’s company is scrutinized despite not being the only company to produce professional wrestling. This is not necessarily unfair – the WWE reaches millions and millions of people, all over the world. In a way, this resembles rap music. Mainstream rap tends to be the focus of most anti-rap campaigns. It is not common to hear underground rap – which usually has more substance and a more positive message in comparison to mainstream rap – mentioned or used as an example when someone is criticizing the musical genre. Similarly, most critiques of professional wrestling focus on the ‘mainstream’ product – the WWE. There’s professional wrestling out there that doesn’t appear nearly as controversial as the WWE. But it’s not as popular, especially not on a global scale. At the same time, most, if not all, of the criticism directed at Vince McMahon and the WWE – much like a lot of the criticism targeting rap music – is unwarranted.
If you were to listen to the self-righteous anti-rap’n’wrestling campaigners, the main causes of violence in the world today are rap music and professional wrestling. Vince McMahon, the CEO/Chairman of the WWE, prefers when his product is referred to as sports entertainment. The WWE produces entertainment. Although their performers – superstars – are talented as well as trained athletes, the final product is distributed as a means of entertainment. It’s not reality, it’s not technically a sport (that’s debatable), and the results of matches are scripted. Like any other television show or movie, the WWE has characters whom entertain fans in a variety of ways. One of those ways just so happens to be wrestling. So, to anyone who says wrestling is violent…are you serious, bro!? Nonetheless, professional wrestling is accused of having “violent” content that influences viewers and encourages violence. Because of this, various organizations have tried to censor the WWE’s content, most notably the Parents Television Council.
Following the accidental deaths of children who were claimed to have been replicating moves they had seen on a professional wrestling program, the Parents Television Council pointed the finger to the WWE – at the time the company was still the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). In an attempt to get companies that sponsored the WWF to remove their advertisements from the television program, the PTC accused the WWF of promoting sexual and violent content that was not appropriate for prime time television. The PTC was hoping to cripple the WWF/WWE financially, and threatened advertisers with the potential backlash that would come as a result of supporting the entertainment company’s filthy product. Although a few advertisers gave in to the pressure, the majority were smart enough to keep their companies associated with the WWF/WWE. When the WWE is attacked by critics, the critics always seem to think Vince and his company will give in without putting up a fight. They forget that the WWE is, or at least at one time was, a billion dollar company. Vince McMahon doesn’t know the meaning of quit, and he certainly isn’t going to allow his company to be pushed around and bullied. The PTC found this out first hand when the WWF filed a lawsuit against the PTC for false statements and defamation. In addition, adding insult to injury, the WWF sued the PTC for copyright infringement, citing clips from WWF programs that appeared in PTC promotional videos. Turns out the PTC had been exaggerating their claims against the WWF, and had been hoping their lies would be enough to force the WWF to take responsibility for the deaths of children believed to be emulating professional wrestling moves. Instead, the PTC was forced to pay the WWF $3.5 million and the head of the PTC, L. Brent Bozell III, had to issue a public apology stating it was wrong to blame the WWF for the deaths. The PTC’s statements, according to Bozell, had been based on false information.
Despite winning in court, the WWE is still accused of promoting violence. Fortunately, these claims continue to hold very little substance. The WWE promotes violence the same way the NFL promotes violence – it doesn’t. Yes, there is violent content on the show, but by no means is WWE encouraging its viewers to try what they see at home. In fact, the WWE goes a step above most other television shows by including a Public Service Announcement on every television program, DVD, and inside their magazines each month. “Don’t Try This At Home.” It’s as simple as that. And, they’ve been advising viewers NOT to try what they see at home for decades. What other responsibility does the WWE have? Of course, it is easier to blame the WWE for kids injuring each other in their backyards than it is to blame the parents. Vince McMahon is not responsible for babysitting the young people who watch his program. If a parent uses television to occupy their children, then it is the parent’s responsibility to explain the program to their child. This is just another example of parents not wanting to be held accountable for their lack of parenting. And of course, the WWE – with its violent entertainment – makes for a perfect scapegoat.
Just like rap music, professional wrestling is labeled as sexist and misogynistic. Some critics even go so far as to suggest wrestling is nothing more than pornography. Granted, there are times when the storylines and acting are the quality of pornos, but to suggest professional wrestling is pornographic is ignorant. That being said, suggesting wrestling is sexist is a fair argument. However, it is an argument that is easily defeated by someone who doesn’t watch wrestling for the sake of finding clips to use against the industry.
Female professional wrestlers – Divas in the WWE – tend to be well-endowed attractive women. Because of this, there is a belief that women are only involved in professional wrestling as a means of tits n’ ass. To many, female wrestlers are Barbie doll bimbos whose only purpose is to give the male fans someone to fantasize over. The evil, sexist men who run WWE treat these women as sexual objects, and force them to parade around in front of the audience and the cameras. How dare they! Of course, this is not the case. There was a time when women were only there to look sexy, but in today’s world of professional wrestling women serve a much greater role. Are they still beautiful women with ample bosoms and tight bottoms? Yes, yes they are. But they are athletic, they are competitors. Professional wrestling is not just a boy’s club anymore. Females make up about 40% of the WWE audience[i] If the only images of women on the program consisted of sex objects, what are the chances nearly half the WWE audience would be made up of females? Women are drawn to the WWE product because the female wrestlers are presented as strong, powerful and independent women. The most current slogan used to describe the Diva’s of the WWE is, “Sexy. Smart. Powerful.” It is not uncommon for a female wrestler to compete with and hold their own against a male wrestler. Sure, the women are beautiful. But they’re also willing and able to kick ass.
The critics want people to believe that rap and wrestling have no respect for women. There is no place for women in these misogynistic and male dominated arenas. When an attractive female appears on a professional wrestling program, the uninformed viewer sees a sex object – nothing more than tits and ass. In rap music, when an attractive female performs, the uninformed spectator rants and raves about how “she” shouldn’t be up on stage, selling her body and rapping about anything promiscuous. So, who’s the sexist? Is it rap and wrestling, two arenas that give women a chance to perform and live out their dreams? Or is the sexism coming from the critics? When someone suggests women have no place in wrestling, or that women can’t rap and therefore shouldn’t be using their body to become famous, isn’t that being sexist? The same people who attack professional wrestling for allowing women to wear outfits that reveal the bodies they’ve worked hard to maintain never seem to question the half-naked men. Professional wrestling has provided women with incredible opportunities, as has rap music. It gives them an outlet and a voice. Society, in general, can’t say the same thing. Nicki Minaj has been criticized for the way she looks and the sexuality in her lyrics. But if you listen to her debut album, Pink Friday, you’ll notice that the CD is not very sexual. On the contrary, the album is very empowering, especially for female listeners. But because Nicki is a beautiful woman with an amazing body, she’s immediately labeled as eye candy. But sure, the rap industry is sexist. And professional wrestling is sexist. I guess that makes sense.
The most recent example of the WWE being attacked with slanderous accusations is taking place with Linda McMahon’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Apparently unable to attack her proposed policies and ideas, Linda’s opponents focus on her past occupation – CEO of the WWE. When Linda first decided to enter politics, she resigned as WWE CEO. Was it to distance herself from the controversial company, or was it because she wanted to focus all her time and energy into her campaign? Tough question to answer, but I believe she was smart enough to know simply resigning from the company would not erase her history there. Whether she worked for WWE or not, her past with the company was going to be brought up. Therefore, I like to think she resigned so she could dedicate herself completely to her campaign.
Linda first ran for office in 2010, facing off against Richard Blumenthal for a seat in the Connecticut Senate. Her lack of experience and the fact she was willing to spend millions of her own dollars to fund the campaign were two of the biggest arguments used against her. Then there was her past occupation, WWE CEO. The attacks became less about Linda and more about the evils of the WWE. It got to the point where the WWE launched a campaign called ‘Stand Up For the WWE’ to defend the company. When elections approached, CT Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D) pushed for the passing of a law that would ban voters from wearing WWE related clothing to the polls. This was ruled unconstitutional. Once again, the WWE won in court. But that did not put a stop to the attacks on the integrity of the WWE.
Now, Linda is running for the U.S. Senate, and once again, she is being criticized for her past role with the WWE. Her opponents and members of the media are urging voters not to support Linda because the WWE, and Linda through association, peddle “a product that is barely above pornography.” 2 Live Krew getting arrested for performing “Me So Horny” makes more sense than calling the WWE pornographic. Once again, the WWE was forced to defend their product. In a letter written in response to the accusations, the WWE states:
All WWE television programming features only TV-PG content as rated not by us, but by the network TV distributors and their standards and practices departments. WWE weekly programming as always appeared on basic cable or broadcast television. As any causal television viewer knows, your description of our programming, based on Federal Communications Commission rules alone, would not be permitted on broadcast television or basic cable. WWE is family entertainment. In fact, 40 percent of the millions of fans who attend our live events bring their children. It’s insulting to these parents to think that they would condone their children watching inappropriate content. WWE may not be your personal choice of entertainment, but that does not give you the right to damage our corporate reputation.[i]
Even before the WWE programming switched to a PG rating, the television programs were TV-14. Therefore, the WWE would never have been allowed to air anything even close to pornography. Linda’s opponents have apparently forgotten about the PTC’s attempt to chastise the WWE for inappropriate content. The facts, as usual, don’t matter to the critics of the WWE. Following WWE’s response, they were accused of defending the company for Linda’s political benefit. It couldn’t have been to, as they said, preserve the company’s corporate image and reputation. The real shame is no matter how hard Linda tries to distance herself from the WWE and run a campaign based on what she wants to do in Washington, her opponents always bring it back to her past as the CEO. The WWE causes violence and encourages viewers to disrespect women. Although there are no facts to back up these claims, the outspoken critics of professional wrestling continue to accuse Linda and the WWE of corrupting the minds of millions. It’s politics. But it’s also using the WWE as a scapegoat.
Violent. Sexist. Misogynistic. Homophobic. Words like these are commonly used to describe rap music and professional wrestling. As a result, a genre of music and a television show are blamed for an extensive variety of problems that exist in our modern society. Routinely, the impact and influence these entertainment outlets are having on the youth is the focus of the critics. These accusations are understandable, especially when they come from an individual or an organization that knows little, if anything, about the subject they feel so strongly about. In 1988, the hip-hop group Stetasonic released the track “Talkin’ All That Jazz”. The song was aimed at what today we might call ‘haters’, specifically those who claimed rap was not real music because it sampled ‘real’ music instead of creating something new. Throughout the song, the group explains exactly why rap music is real music. The title is a reference to a certain jazz musician who ‘hated’ on rap music, apparently forgetting his own choice of music (jazz) was originally viewed by critics as the black man’s devil music, just like rock’n’roll, and pretty much any new type of music. He’s “talkin’ all that jazz” about something he doesn’t understand. Interestingly, whether the product is ‘real’ or ‘fake’ applies to professional wrestling as well. But I don’t want to make this editorial an argument about why wrestling’s ‘scripted’ and ‘pre-determined’, not fake . The point is, the majority of accusations, complaints, criticism and lawsuits directed towards rap music and professional wrestling tend to originate with people who have no understanding or willingness to respect the subjects at hand. Taking a closer look at what professional wrestling and rap music are really responsible for reveals two forms of entertainment that have incredibly positive influences on society.
Despite claims that rap music encourages violence and contributes to the downfall of human – especially black male – morality, “the hip-hop generation is the most affluent generation of black people in U.S. history.”[i] Jeffrey Ogbar explains how since the emergence of hip-hop, nearly every aspect of life has improved for black Americans, including educational achievements, poverty rates, life expectancy and income.[ii] Allegations that rap music causes violence are quickly debunked when one considers the fact that “violent crimes such as murder, rape, and assault, as well as robbery and arson, declined among whites and black as rap lyrics became more violent in the 1990s. In fact, the black-on-black murder rate has plummeted since the release of the first hit rap song in 1979.”[iii] In Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap, Ogbar provides an exceptional examination of the hip-hop generation. Using examples and statistics, Ogbar “refutes claims that African Americans have fallen from some pristine past of social stability, responsibility, and education success because of hip-hop or any other factor.”[iv] Rap music, it seems, has influenced society. However, it has had a positive, not negative, impact on the lives of children, women and men.
Professional wrestling has been charged with promoting a violent, sexist, pornographic product that causes children to kill each other. These allegations persist despite a TV-PG rating that would prevent anything even remotely close to pornography to be aired on the program. Critics continue to craft false claims regarding the evil caused by professional wrestling, ignoring all the good deeds that are abundant in the wrestling community. You would be hard pressed to find a company that does more charitable work and gives more back to the fans than the WWE. Unfortunately, these good deeds are hardly ever mentioned outside the world of wrestling.
Rather than promote violence, the WWE tells viewers not to try what they see on the television programs at home. Beyond the public service announcement, WWE has launched a campaign to prevent bullying. Along with The Creative Coalition, the WWE started “Be a STAR” in April 2011. STAR is an acronym for ‘Show Tolerance and Respect,’ and the “nationwide anti-bullying alliance…promotes positive methods of social interaction and encourages people to treat others as equals and with respect.”[i] What fans see on TV is intended to be entertainment. Outside of the ring, the WWE works hard to prevent violence and bullying. Traveling the country, WWE Superstars and Divas talk to students about their own experiences with bullying, urging children to be kind. If WWE encouraged violence and sexism, it’s hard to believe they would spend so much time and energy campaigning against bullying.
The WWE is also heavily involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, constantly meeting with sick children and bringing children to their shows as special guests. In fact, John Cena has granted more wishes than any other person in history, with over 300 wishes granted. As a wrestling fan, it is frustrating to hear so many complaints against professional wrestling when the industry dedicates so much effort in hopes of giving back to fans. And they don’t just give back to the children. The WWE is one of the biggest supporters of the United States military, even going so far as to give free tickets to any member of the military. Because of a connection I have with a member in the CT National Guard, I had the opportunity to meet a bunch of wrestlers last year. This was like a dream come true for me, but what I really took away from the experience is how much the WWE cares about the military. They went out of their way to make sure everyone in attendance understood how much they were appreciated. Taking it a step further, the WWE began producing the annual “Tribute to the Troops” holiday special in 2002. Every year, the company goes to a military base to perform for the troops. How many companies are willing to send their employees to Iraq and Afghanistan, for no other reason than entertaining the military? These good deeds carried out by the WWE happen because those associated with the company have a desire to give back to society. They are not forced to support the troops or grant the wishes of sick children. But they do it anyway. Vince McMahon has been portrayed as an evil individual who only cares about himself and making money. Professional wrestling has been accused of encouraging violence and contributing to countless other problems. Believe what you want, but I prefer to believe the facts. And the facts show the WWE – Vince McMahon’s company – is one of the most charitable companies in the world, giving back to the fans, the military and numerous other organizations.
Rap music and professional wrestling share a common history, as both began to evolve into what they are today around the same time, in the same location. Millions of people are entertained by rap and wrestling every day. They are also two of the most controversial forms of entertainment. As a result, they become scapegoats for problems that exist in society, despite a complete lack of evidence to support the many allegations they are accused of. Critics want people to believe rap and wrestling promote and encourage numerous social ills, including but not limited to violence and sexism. In order to make their case stronger, the critics ignore the many positive contributions rap and wrestling are responsible for. Through the use of exaggerations and lies, those who oppose rap and wrestling have campaigned to censor the content produced. Despite these attempts, both industries have thrived, growing into two of the most popular forms of entertainment today. If rap and wrestling were actually responsible for all the negative things the critics claim, neither would have survived as long as they have. The facts are, and have always been, in favor of rap and wrestling. Even the United States government failed in their attempts to hinder the growth of rap and wrestling. Why? Because the truth prevails. Rap and wrestling are like a tag-team that can’t be stopped. No matter how hard opponents may try to label these entertainment outlets as evil and corrupt, they always manage to kick out before they are defeated. And, even when they seem like they’re on their last legs, they battle back. The Rap ‘n’ Wrestling Connection. Undefeated champions of the entertainment industry. Oh, and if you still think rap or wrestling are responsible for society’s problems, then I got two words for you…SUCK IT!
 Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2007), 106.
 KRS-One, “Free Mumia,” KRS-One, 1995, Jive Records.
 Ogbar, 121.
 “Jay-Z Defends Hip-Hop After Imus’ Racist Remark”, ContactMusic.com
 David Goldiner, Congress Rap Session Takes a Look at Gangsta Lyrics, NY Daily News, September 26, 2007.
 Ogbar, 121.
 N.W.A., “Gangsta Gangsta,” Straight Outta Compton, 1988, Priority Records.
 WWE U.S. Statistics, www.wwe.com
 WWE Responds, WWE.com, May 23, 2012
 Ogbar, 128.
 Ogbar, 128.
 Ogbar, 128.
 Ogbar, 134.
 WWE: Did You Know?, WWE.com