Rapper Mega Ran, real name Raheem Jarbo, is more than your typical lifelong fan of pro wrestling. He is inspired by the masters of the ring and infused fandom into music. The love of the business led to opportunities to collaborate with performers, building connections, appearing on an episode of SmackDown Live during the rap-battle segment, and even inspiring him to co-host a weekly podcast called “Mat Mania.” Before Mega Ran hosts Ring of Honor’s 17th Anniversary Show live on Pay-Per-View and HonorClub in Las Vegas on March 15, here he looks back at how he got to this point and why this musical talent is “One of Us.”
Take me back to when you became a pro wrestling fan. Where did it start from?
I can remember going to my cousin Howie’s house. He had a poster of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka making the famous jump from the cage on to Don Morocco. I remember asking him, “What is this? This looks so cool.” He is like, “I got to show you something.” He turns on a wrestling tape from Saturday morning stuff, Superstars. I was really hooked. Growing up in Philadelphia, we were lucky because it was a wrestling haven. There were a lot of wrestling events that happened. Lots of different things would go on in our area, so we were lucky in that regard. WWF came for a house show. I went to that and became hooked. “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Seeing him, his rise. The great outfits. The larger-than-life stature. Before that, I was a comic book fan. This was real life comic books. That was how my mind processed it. I thought, “Wow, this is comic books jumping off the page.” I was hooked from then on. I was probably 12 years old.
ECW is such a big part of the Philadelphia wrestling scene. Did you get a chance to go to any of those shows?
I went to one show at the ECW Arena. It was just madness. I was so young, maybe 16, 17. My mother never wanted me to go there. She said, “Be careful in South Philly. It’s dangerous.” I thought she was just saying those things, but honestly, it felt dangerous. But it was amazing to see the energy in that place for an ECW show, so I’m lucky that I did get to see one event there.
What were some of the matches? Do you remember what you saw?
I remember Taz and Sandman teaming up. I don’t remember who they fought. I remember being scared to death. New Jack came out. They would play the song he came out to, Natural Born Killaz, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre. I was a big hip-hop fan when I heard it and thought, “What is this?” Then New Jack I believe got stapled in his forehead. I remember telling my friend, “This is insane. This is wild. We’re just watching people kill themselves.” We absolutely thought it was real. There is no other explanation for it. The experience took my mind to a new place because it showed things, I never thought could happen in a wrestling ring. It showed me that there was limitless potential that could be done in entertainment.
How much of the pro wrestling business have you been inspired by? I know there is a lot of wrestling influence in your work. Where did that start from and grow over time with your fandom with wrestling?
I’ve always had wrestling in the back of my head when I write. A lot of wrestlers would liken themselves to Ric Flair probably as being the most flashy, flamboyant, stylish wrestler there was. Me, I was more of a blue-collar guy. My rhyme style would always have been someone who wasn’t flashy. I think of a Mick Foley. What if Mick Foley was approaching hip-hop? He would look different, talk different, act different and get the job done in a completely unexpected way. I always rooted for the underdogs. The jobbers or the ones nobody thought could ever make it. I remember watching the young Hardy Boyz matches or “Iron” Mike Sharpe or a Paul Roma or Tito Santana.
I liken my rap style to those guys. I read up a lot and watch a lot of wrestling content, even now with my podcast. A lot of people say find your gimmick, your style, which can be your own personality and turn it up to 10. I found success in my own life as a video game player, as a musician who loves games and wrestling. It’s just a matter of showing that to everyone in the most broad and creative way you can. Whereas when I was young, I would keep the fact that I loved wrestling a secret and that I loved video games a secret when I went to music atmospheres and these places. I found more success becoming my true self unabashedly to crowds of people then I ever could hiding that.
It seems like the communities of wrestling, comic books, video games are all one in the same in many ways. There are offshoots as well, but you have friendships with those in the business. I know you are close with Xavier Woods. Talk about what it has been like for yourself, a fan, to get to know wrestlers outside the ring.
That has been insane. Xavier is such a cool guy. He found me a long time ago. We are just mutual fans of video games and music. He wanted to use some of my music to enter the ring to one time. When he was FCW, he did that. From then on, we had this friendship. I think for him, I’m probably like his escape because I’m not the guy who constantly talks to him about storylines. Instead it’s more like, “Hey, have you played the new Anthem yet? What do you think about it?” Then on it went to him inviting me to events saying, “Hey, this might sound weird, but do you want to come to WrestleMania ?” I’m like, “um?Hell yeah!” He teases me about this one moment. I’ve always managed to maintain my coolness, keeping my emotions under control because I know that is important as a performer in any capacity. He got me out of my element once when he invited me to the WrestleMania after party for friends and family.
This is the one moment I completely lost it because Bret Hart was sitting next to Roman Reigns who was sitting next to Scott Hall who was sitting next to Roddy Piper. It was insane to see the past and present all in the room having conversations and fun. That was the one moment when I saw Bret Hart I was like, “Oh my Gosh!” He still laughs at me to this day. But I’m lucky to be friends with such an amazing athlete as well as a really down-to-Earth guy who loves the same things I love. He is a super great talent as well, who has been able to maintain so many different things. I’m envious how he is able to juggle so many paths and do them so well. It inspires me at the same time. So, when I have where I’m able to talk to wrestlers and we don’t’ talk wrestling, I think they enjoy that.
There was a moment with AJ Styles where I was talking to a friend of mine how music promoters sometimes aren’t the most honest of people. They can kind of screw you over a bit. When I said that AJ was in earshot and said, “Are you sure you’re not talking about wrestling promoters?” I’m like, “You don’t understand. It’s different in music. Sometimes you actually have to pay to get on stage and play.” He is like, “Again, that sounds like a wrestling promoter to me” He is telling me about times he had to pay money just to get on a card and wrestle and not make a dime off of it. That taught me there are a lot of similarities in the grind between wrestlers and musicians or any entertainers. That gave me a lot more respect what they do, even in a deeper level. This is what made me go into podcasting and things I can get into the psyche of the entertainer because we go through the same stuff.
What was it like to be in the ring for the SmackDown rap battle looking back and knowing how much of a fan you were? How hard was it to maintain your composure?
That was insane. I kept telling myself, “This isn’t happening. There is no way this is a real thing going down.” I felt like I was 10 or 12 again. Being in the ring, even before the show when Austin let me walk the ramp and get an idea what it would be like. “Here is how you get into the ring. Here is the hard camera.” Just telling me all those things. It felt unreal. I was happy to be a part of it. The main thing he told me was, “Have fun. Create a moment. Create a memory that will last a lifetime.” That’s it. Now I can go back and watch it, see myself. I feel like I am part of WWE lore sort of. That’s unreal.
Who within the industry are big fans of yours?
I sent stuff to some guys. Kenny Omega is a big supporter as well. I did a song for him and Kota [Ibushi] for a special event they did in Florida for a gaming tournament. We did a remix of their theme song. I did a rap on it. Kenny has been super supportive. Again, I think it came down to our mutual love of game culture, as well as wrestling. Same thing, as we talk games just as anyone else would talk wrestling. Kenny Omega has been a super supporter. Most recently I didn’t realize it, but the Coffey Brothers, who are in NXT UK now knew about me through some other guys I know in Glasgow. They made the introduction, and I did a song about them. The conversations I’ve had with amazing wrestlers supporting my art has been pretty insane.
Have you ever been approached by 2K to use some of your music in one of their WWE games? Is that a dream of yours?
That would definitely align with my dreams. I’ve been playing the 2K games since the beginning. The 2K company has been super cool. They’ve allowed me to come and visit the offices. I’ve been able to play early builds of the game. They’ve come out to my shows when I’m in San Francisco. I recently sent them a new song, hopefully for submission for 2K 2020. I’d love to. That’s a bucket list item. I feel like every few months I’m able to scratch something off my bucket list. That would be another huge one to be part of any 2K game in that way.
You mention bucket list. Ring of Honor announced you would be hosting their 17th Anniversary Show in Vegas. How did that come about, and what can we expect from that with what you are going to be doing there?
This was literally pie in the sky, wishing for the best. I sent out an email because I love the product and what they do. I feel like wrestling in general can benefit from some new blood injected into it. Not just new performers, new people involved. But people who are fans and part of the wrestling culture and community. It’s one thing to bring in Just Bieber to sign your National Anthem. It’s another to bring in someone who has watched since they were a child and is really up-to-date on storylines and into the product. So I just have been reaching out to people and making songs. Then I got a really great opportunity from the guys at Ring of Honor who liked what I do.
I’m not sure how it started, but it may have been a good friend of mine Eli Isom, who is a fan of mine and came to my shows in Philly. I wonder if it came about this way, but I remember him telling me, “Hey, I’m trying out for Ring of Honor right now. I’m putting up and taking down the ring after shows. One day I’m going to get in the ring, and I’m really excited about it.” I thought that was so cool. Then he messaged me that he was going to be doing some cool stuff with Cheeseburger, and he’d love for me to do a song for them. I said, “Absolutely.” Then fast forward I go to Starrcast and meet Cheeseburger. He knew exactly who I am and introduced me to other ROH guys. Maybe it is through that. I have no idea honestly. Word could have spread through the company. They said, “Hey, how would you like to host the show and write us a song to commemorate us going to Madison Square Garden?” I thought, “Absolutely, this is amazing. I will do this with bells on. I will be there.”
Are you going to be performing this song or the first time live at the show?
Yes. This is the world premiere of the song “Go to the Garden” will be in Las Vegas at the Anniversary Show. It’s going to be honest.
What can we expect from that song? Have you gone back and relived some of the best moments of Ring of Honor? How did you get the idea for the song?
That’s what I did. I went through watching pretty much from the beginning and picking out greatest moments. It’s really hard with so much storied history. The key moments, but not necessarily referring to them by name. Like, “Oh, that time when CM Punk beat Bryan Danielson.” No, but using the emotion that was attached to these moments and transferring that into a song. The Garden is such an esteemed, historical building. There is so much wrestling history. It’s like, “We started from a very small organization and built up and now we are so strong and so powerful and so unified that we are now able to crack The Garden. I can relate to it from a musician’s perspective we all think about what it would be like to rap in Madison Square Garden. That’s the dream of any musician. The same thing with starting with humble beginnings and building your way up. So, it’s a song of triumphant victory.
Lastly, after the Anniversary Show what’s next for you? I know you have your podcast and some new music, but anything else beyond that?
I got a tour coming up right after Ring of Honor where I go to the U.K. with MC Lars and Koo Koo Kanga Roo. We are doing a full U.K. tour for about two weeks. A month after that I’m putting out an album with MC Lars called The Dewey Decibel System that is all about our favorite books, comic books, stories, novels, poems. We are both English majors, so we love to flex that muscle as much as possible. It’s going to be in addition to other fun stuff and a whole lot of tours.
The full audio from Mega Ran’s exclusive interview with Wrestling Inc was included in today’s WINCLY podcast. It can be heard in the embedded player below.
You can check out past episodes of the WINCLY here.