This interview was conducted before the passing of Perro Aguayo Jr. last weekend. However, please note that Rey Mysterio is still confirmed to appear at WaleMania this Thursday.

I recently spoke with Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Wale, who will be a part of WaleMania this Thursday at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, CA during WrestleMania week. In part one of the interview below, Wale talked about being a life-long wrestling fan, wanting to work on the WWE creative team, his Razor Ramon tribute, Uhaa Nation signing with WWE, NXT, and more. Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of the interview, where Wale discussed this year’s WrestleMania and his thoughts, how Daniel Bryan is being used for this year’s show, Sting vs. Triple H, Rey Mysterio’s WWE departure, collaborating with Jerry Seinfeld for his new CD, his favorite wrestling games, what the best wrestling show is today and more.

WaleMania is this Thursday, March 26th at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, CA. Tickets start at $15, while VIP tickets are $60 and include a special meet and greet with Rey Mysterio and friends as well as Don Julio Tequila. There will be a fan Q&A with Mysterio and the panel. There will also be a major after party featuring Rey and other wrestling luminaries after the live in-person MLW Radio session where Wale will perform songs from The Album About Nothing. The event begins at 6:30 and goes to the club’s closing. You can order Wale’s “The Album About Nothing” at this link, and purchase tickets for WaleMania at WaleMania.com.

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It’s no secret that you’re a huge wrestling fan. When did you start watching?

Since I was a kid. I was a big fan. The great thing about wrestling is you can go back as an adult and look at those things differently. The inside joke at my house is WrestleMania VII, because I had it on tape. I didn’t have cable, so on a rainy day I’d watch that joint over and over. I would know some of the play-by-play. Gorilla Monsoon called a spot in midair like four times in a row. I remember all the matches, like The Rockers and The Orient Express, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, you know? To watch it back with adult eyes is captivating. Things like them not being able to go to the Sports Coliseum cause they didn’t do enough ticket sales. That’s the plot I watch it with now that I’m older.

Who were some of your favorites growing up?

[Ultimate] Warrior, definitely. I think any kid in the ADHD stage of life was a Warrior fan. Now, I’m more of a technical wrestling fan and I appreciate the Finn Balors and Daniel Bryans and Warrior was the opposite of those guys. No technique, just straight up energy and gimmick, but that was enough for us back then. You look at guys like Mr. Perfect; I didn’t know why I liked him so much as a kid, but now I know why. He would sell so good you’d just have to like it. He was such a superior athlete. A guy like CM Punk came along at a time in my life that I needed to hear some of that stuff. I appreciated how good he was on the mic. He might not have been the greatest athlete, but he was superior on the mic. Then there were guys who could do it all, like the Rock.

Is Ultimate Warrior’s theme still your ringtone?

Yes, it is (laughs). Actually it is.

You did that Razor Ramon freestyle, which was great.

I appreciate it, I think that went over a lot of people’s heads. They were talking about the best pro wrestling-hip hop references and they only mentioned like one part of that song. You do realize the entire song is like one big tribute to marky-ism.

WWE put out a hip hop CD once, Aggression. This was better than anything on that CD.

It’s frustrating for me, because I’ve always extended my hand to be a part of creative. They let Freddie Prinze Jr. I’d like to think I’m a little more aware of pop culture. I just want to be involved and help create stuff like that. I’m very in tune with African-American culture and I think some of the things are a little bit dated. R-Truth’s attire, his jeans in 2015? I feel like they could be doing so much more with their power. Big E is a good friend of mine and a supporter. He’s got so much character and range. Triple H is doing a great job with NXT, and he’s shutting a lot of the haters up that are like “well, if you do all of your shows in one place it’s easier to get over.” So he goes to Columbus, Ohio and blows the roof off. If anybody is listening to this now, tell them to let Wale in the building. I just want them to go back to their glory days. I don’t think they had any competition.

Yeah, it makes you lazy.

Vince said it himself! Without Eric Bischoff being a thorn in his side we’re relegated to two minute diva matches, just throwing everybody in a ladder match at Mania. Us die hard fans just want it to be better. It’s our fantasy world where Daniel Bryan can beat up Brock Lesnar. At the same time, they can hit their notes. The Shield swerve was awesome to me. I loved the Brock Lesnar-Cena match at Summerslam. That was one of my favorite matches ever.

You were at that one, right?

Yeah, I was there. It was surreal. It sucked me in, I was so into it. None of the girls I deal with are into it but I showed a chick that match and she said “This is dope, this isn’t what I expected it would be.” It was a landslide victory in a main event over the top babyface. Congratulations. You impressed the s–t out of me. That’s what it’s about. More of that and I’d be a happy camper. I was sitting next to Michelle Beadle of ESPN and we were so enamored. She was like “He’s going to Hulk up soon, right?” No, he’s not. The Kevin Owens-Sami Zayn was similar. I think the end was a little confusing, they should have made it more definitive, but that whole special was dope.

The ending was definitely different, something to keep you on your toes.

At points I’m like, are they trying to make us go somewhere different? Ring of Honor is there, they have the talent, but they don’t have the glitter. New Japan, though, they have something. They just had Jim Ross on commentary. Nakamura, he the swag lord. It was so dope.

Are you a Tanahashi guy or a Nakamura guy?

Nakamura, man. That was the first time I really got into it after hearing a lot about it. Just to see his showmanship was crazy, man. That’s how we want our wrestling in the states. I know Vince is so prideful and thinks that WWE is the only thing on the planet, but they could learn a lot from NJPW. It’s about our ego vs. the next person who crosses us’ ego. At the end of the day it’s a sport, they’re fighting for prizes. You don’t have to overly book it. It’s athlete vs. athlete at the end of the day. Having Jim Ross do their commentary was a step in the right direction.

What are your thoughts on Uhaa Nation signing with WWE?

Ah, that’s my guy. Everybody know Uhaa’s my guy. I think he’s going to be great and have an incredible career. The sky’s the limit. Uhaa’s a special guy. Some of the moves from a guy his size is just unbelievable. At that size, it’s crazy. I’d like to see Richard Swann there, too. I think there could be a cruiserweight division if they unify the Intercontinental and United States titles. They’d have tag team, women, cruiserweights, a mid-card one and world divisions.

The cruiserweight division was one of the things that made WCW special.

Absolutely, they were killing it. Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, every week.

Have you ever trained?

Nah, I played football and trained for that, but I’ve never hit the ropes.

Have you ever thought about it?

I’m small, man. I’m only 5’8″, 5’9″. All of my aggression with in football. The wrestling locker room in high school seemed too intense. They were throwing up and stuff. They were always trying to make weight and stuff.

Are you still planning to organize a wrestling show this year?

Yes. I was planning to do one last year, but I got sick. I want to be a voice for fans who just enjoy it and fill the void ECW left. Some people don’t like their wrestling PG, they just want their wrestling intelligent. Not that there’s anything wrong with PG. I just want people to know that there are no boundaries, that anything can happen. When it’s PG, anything can’t happen. There are literally a list of things that can’t happen. I can understand why they did it, but you need more options as a fan. And guys need places to work. I would love to provide opportunities for guys like Swann and AR Foxx. Real opportunities, not like high school gyms. Good stuff with storylines and swerves and writings. A place to come to work and feel appreciated. Not this pay them one time and send them on their way. I understand the lives of professional athletes, I’m an entertainer, too. I’ve been in the entertainment business since I was 20 years old.

You’ve worked with great bookers like Court Bauer and Paul Heyman. What’s that like talking with them?

I wish there were two Paul Heyman’s so I could keep one for myself and just get rich. He’s so smart. Court Bauer, I wish I could give that guy a basket of money and just create another company to entertain me. I know he could do it. He gets it. That dude’s going to get his shot one day and create something very special. (Raw) is already Heyman’s show. He’s the alpha dog on that program. Nobody could tie his shoes. He could do commentary all by himself and write shows better than anyone on creative right now. He’s very in tune to pop culture. Sometimes I think (WWE) spites themselves.

You have the big WaleMania event coming up. How did that come together?

It was an idea that Court and I had. It’s going to be a long process to bring professional wrestling and pop culture together, because they still talk about things that are super outdated. I’m not trying to force it or make everybody a Wale fan. I just want people to know that a person in a position of acclaim is a fan just like you are and wants to provide a source of entertainment. If its a form of another company or contributing to WWE, I just want to be a voice for people who enjoy it and haven’t given up on it. When it’s good, it’s so good and you’re so proud of it. You see people that are closet fans, and something ridiculous and you see why. In the Attitude era, everyone was out of the proverbial closet of wrestling fans. You would see people name drop Steve Austin and The Rock, and they can’t even get Michael Sam on the show now.

You mentioned Curtis Axel on your Razor Ramon song. Does AxelMania have a shot against WaleMania?

AxelMania might run wild. Let me stay away from the great Curtis Axel. I love that. I don’t know if they did it on purpose, but the smarks are gonna cheer something just to go against the grain.

It would be hilarious if he never got to make it into the WrestleMania battle royal, too.

(laughs) That would be dope. He can drag it out until Summerslam.

Make sure to check back Wednesday for the second and final part of the interview, where Wale discussed this year’s WrestleMania and his thoughts, how Daniel Bryan is being used for this year’s show, Sting vs. Triple H, Rey Mysterio’s WWE departure, collaborating with Jerry Seinfeld for his new CD, his favorite wrestling games, what the best wrestling show is today and more.

WaleMania is this Thursday, March 26th at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, CA. Tickets start at $15, while VIP tickets are $60 and include a special meet and greet with Rey Mysterio and friends as well as Don Julio Tequila. There will also be a fan Q&A with Mysterio and the panel. There will be a major after party featuring Rey and other wrestling luminaries after the live in-person MLW Radio session where Wale will perform songs from “The Album About Nothing”. You can purchase tickets for WaleMania at WaleMania.com.