You had to see it!!!!
This weekend started out with a bang as the WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown debuted on Fox last night and fans were not let down. The franchise did more than just entertain fans, thirsty for a rough and rumble contest, but made history. This event was the first WWE program to air one of the four major broadcast networks, in celebration of SmackDown’s 20th Anniversary.
URL, the most premier English speaking battle rap league in the world, is also celebrating its anniversary with a debut of their own. For the first time, the league will host a battle in Philadelphia, making another huge splash in this emerging industry during their historic 10th Anniversary year. The title of this event is surprisingly close to the WWE tentpole and has garnered just as much attention: Lock Down.
Could it be safe to say that SMACK/URL is Hip-Hop’s closest version of WWE? And it is more than John Cena busting some rhymes, or rappers included wrestling in their bars.
1. Cassidy is Battle Rap’s The Rock!
Both companies went out their way to bring back legends of the culture for these epic debuts. For WWE, the brought back Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Outside of Hulk Hogan, he possibly the most successful wrestler ever to hit the mat. The same could be said of Cassidy, the Hustler. Cassidy is a star. Has been a star. Continues to move and attract audiences like a star. And so it is smart to bring this platinum selling artists to the “mat” to battle a formidable opponent in, Arsonal da Rebel. Both The Rock and The Hustler add bells and whistles to the experiences- sending a note that legacy is still competitive and that they can come and go (based on the fans desire to see them) as they please.
2. Ooo Ladies First, Ladies First
Both companies understand that women are powerful in the market. While URL’s Lock Down card, taking place on Sunday, Oct. 6, has no women on it, the league dropped a two-on-two from its famed Summer Impact card on its app. The Bardashians (Jaz the Rapper & O’fficial) vs. TOQ (40 B.A.R.R.S. & E-Hart) was aggressive and entertaining, showing that the ladies have just as much grit as the men. Even though it was a clear body, the dynamics of the battle on such a large stage rippled through the industry. It further elevated the URL brand as one that is invested in equity (in a smart and strategic way), as much as it is invested in quality entertainment. The same could be said about the WWE. At yesterday’s Smackdown event, Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley and Sasha Banks, took the stage with just as much energy, both teams understanding the privilege it is to compete on the highest level in the industry. Ironically, both franchises opened their events with the female contests. Notably, Lynch and Flair put their rivalry aside to battle, similarly to what 40 and E-Hart did at Summer Impact.
3. Nothing But Winners Over Here
The under-cards at both of these experiences are just as exciting as the title events. This is something that both the wrestling league and the battle rap league has taken into consideration over the years. Working hard to make sure the experiences are rich, the casting of each card takes a lot of thought- and has become a science. While there is a secret recipe of contracts, fan favorites, skill and chemistry, the teams of both companies plan out months in advance cards that make sense. Now that brings up another question, since we know that there is choreography involved in commercial wrestling… Would this kind of engineering destroy the battling or heighten the value and quality control of the performances? Or are the quality of these fights (physical and lyrical) based on the preparation of the battlers and wrestlers? Either way, by the time you get to a Lock Down or a Smackdown, those casted are properly vetted to put on a show.
4. The Business Behind The Competitions Are Just As Colorful As Those on Camera
The WWE perfected making Vince McMahon just as much a part of the show as the wrestlers that he has tapped to be the faces of his business. And at $2.8B in real time net worth, he has taken his golden mug and platinum brain to the bank. The same can be said about Troy “SMACK WHITE” Mitchell. While not a billionaire yet, he is just as much a brand as the business. Hell… he is the business. Consider that the name of the company is Ultimate Rap League, but his name is interchangeable with that of the league’s. And if SMACK WHITE is not enough… Eric Beasley, one of his partners, finds his names just as much in the verses and battlers as the show’s host!
TV IS READY FOR THIS RAP REVOLUTION
Wrestling, by nature of its 50 year history, has been a staple on television. Battle rap has been sequestered to the back allies and lunchroom cafeterias of urban America. That is until Fight Club made its debut on MTV and URL made their impact on BET. Both moves opened the doors for the other digital platforms to grow, using TV not as a need mode of distribution but as a cool way to market what they have going on. This weekend, URL has moved from just being a segment on the now defuncted 106 & Park show and a blip on the award show’s cypher segment. During the BET Hip-Hop Awards, URL is programmed to do two battles, a rematch between T-Top vs. Shotgun Suge and DNA vs. Geechi Gotti.
This weekend has already been sport overload as Comicon has taken over NYC, WWE has taken over Los Angeles and URL has taken over both Atlanta and Philadelphia. Working to see how both arenas produce stars, industry and moments for fans to look back on, are evidence that these two are siblings in a market base that the mainstream will have to reckon.