Wrestling icon and pop culture staple Hulk Hogan was legendary for his beliefs: eating your vitamins, standing up for what’s right, and saying your prayers were the postulates of his gospel and as children, we all listened. As we grew older the words meant less, and the Hulkster behind the sermons became more flimsy. Fans booed Hulk, the chief engineer of the “Rock N Wrestling Era,” for being hokey and corny, in the birth of the “Attitude Era.” Hulk Hogan would go heel, wrestling terminology for “play the bad guy,” in the late 90s, only to become more relevant in his badness.
While Wale hasn’t yet reached the heights of Hogan, he, too, might be facing his heel turn. Up until now Wale has handled criticism of his digitally (save some choice words he had for certain Complex staffers, delivered over the phone) but last night he channeled his inner Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash and stood up for what he believed in.At a World Wrestling Entertainment event in Washington D.C., a Twitter instigator by the name of @ChefBoyrnach happened to see Wale walk past him in the arena. A threat was lobbed Wale’s way, and he took it as a chance to confront his aggressor, who happened to be sitting a couple rows behind him. Eyewitness accounts of the incident varied until the level of seriousness was deflated; a grainy cameraphone video (as well as a corroboratory tweet from Chef) revealed all that happened was a small shoving match between the pair. This wasn’t a legendary stare down like Stone Cold Steve Austin meeting Mike Tyson; it was merely a high school cafeteria pushing match.Why would Wale, an accomplished lyricist with many plaques and a Number-One album to his name, descend to @ChefBoyrnach’s level? Wale’s very real reaction at a very pre-planned (depending on who you ask) event is the result of the years of his own character being turned on by the fans. It is cruel irony that Wale was tussling with an ordinary guy looking for E-Points from his buddies while Triple H, an always-hated performer and now executive in the WWE, airs a video of his decade-long reign of terror over popular and established acts. It could have been different; Wale could have welcomed the hate like the man in the ring.
When Wale first broke onto the rap scene, he was on another level of hype. His mix of D.C.’s Go-Go sound with (ironically enough) wrestling and sports references earned him the status of a so-called “blue chipper,” a name given to wrestling new-comers like Rocky Maivia. Listen to early Wale, and it’s evident that he had the work ethic and the talent to capture an audience—in pro wrestling sometimes all it takes is a good promo to sell your character, and Wale could have cleared that hurdle with flying colors. But a Lady Gaga collaboration that was supposed to be his breakout single fizzled, and his debut album Attention Defecit sold poorly. The fickle nature of fan perception crept up on Wale, and he became a punchline. While Rocky Maivia embraced the hatred, became The Rock, and brought pro wrestling into a boom period after the fans turned their backs on him; Wale became more cynical and dejected when given the same chance welcome the haters with open arms.After his first album underperformed Wale stopped being the good guy, and started resembling the wrestler X-Pac, someone who fans wanted to see disappear so badly that they didn’t give him any reaction at all. Twitter trolls derided his sales and his image, and even his own peers treated him with disrespect. Friend turned enemy and now friend again Kid Cudi once said that he didn’t “fuck with [Wale] musically” in an interview with Complex, and the insult buried him even more.A deal with Rick Ross, perhaps hip-hop’s most unabashed heel, didn’t do much to kill the adversarial relationship Wale has with rap fans. No matter how many records he sells, he’ll always feel underappreciated. No amount of asses shaken by “Clappers” will stop him from lashing out at people on Twitter who post pictures of his music in garbage cans or speculate whether he’s really from DC or just a bordering city in Virginia. Even with hit singles that reach the top of the charts, people will always tear Wale down for his most steadfast belief—that he, Wale, deserves to be known as the greatest rapper of all time.On Twitter, Wale has repeatedly referenced his love of The Ultimate Warrior, who’ll be entered into WWE’s Hall Of Fame this weekend. Warrior was certifiably crazy, disappearing from the scene as quickly as he arrived. He burned bridges with abandon, had as many awful matches as he had good ones, and made a shitload of money. While this isn’t quite analogous to Wale’s own career, it says more about how Wale thinks about himself than he’d probably like to admit.Justin Davis is not afraid to hit you with the stunner. He's on Twitter - @OGJOHNNY5For more context on why Wale hates everybody, check Drew Millard's piece on him here.