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Old School Vs. New School: 10 lessons wrestling legends can learn from rap legends

Here’s how the best rappers gracefully ride into the sunset

A great rapper once said, “this whole sh*t’s like wrestling” and it turns out he was right in more ways than he imagined at the time. Older rappers speak their minds about newer rappers just like veteran wrestlers talk about the current crop of talent. The difference is the rappers who last the longest or maintain a high level of respect from their peers and fans, are the ones who follow a few rules.

In the wake of yet another wrestler in his 50s sticking up for his generation in order to stick it to a younger generation, it’s time to show wrestlers the 10 lessons they can take from rappers who found themselves in a similar circumstance.

1. Don’t Yell at the Kids to Get off Your Lawn

This is the first and most important rule. There’s something to be said for aging gracefully and obtaining wisdom. With that wisdom should come the realization the next generation is going to figure it out and play the way they want to play, just as you did when it was your day.

Complaining and shaking a fist at anyone who will listen is the quickest path to irrelevancy. People tend to tune you our when they hear the same constant noise.

2. Pay the New Generation the Same Respect You Wanted

Any rapper you can think of will tell you in almost every verse how they want respect on their name. How they scratched and clawed for every ounce of clout they have is part of the rap superstar package. That’s one reason why elder statesmen in the game do their best to give young cats room to breathe and respect their hustle. Your favorite rappers know how meaningful it was to get saluted by the people who came before them, so they pay it forward.

Wrestlers are the same. Today’s legends didn’t want the guys and gals they looked up to dumping on their mentality or the state of the product. Wrestlers who peaked in the ‘80s no doubt had words for those who peaked in the ‘90s. That’s kinda how this whole being human being thing works. But if you didn’t like it when they did it....

3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes

This is what makes a lot of the old school vs. new school debate so silly: you older cats know exactly what the talent of 2020 is going through. Okay, maybe not exactly, but you at least have a faint understanding. A rapper understands if they call one of these young kids soft, that kid is going to speak out. Yet Booker T is all aghast at Matt Riddle having the audacity to respond to the Undertaker’s comments? Simple solution is to ask how you’d feel and what you’d do if the roles were reversed.

4. Don’t Expect Them to Kowtow

This rule is so underrated. Seriously, don’t expect anyone to give you props just because they looked up to you as a kid. Or for what you’ve “done for the business.” No one is untouchable and grown ass adults aren’t going to pretend they’re children because you decided to open your mouth. If they feel disrespected, they can and should respond in kind.

Regardless of how many championships to your name or records you smashed along the way, you’re not untouchable. Those rules you lived by in your day, whether written or unwritten, are a thing of the past for the most part. And in a lot of ways, that’s a very good thing.

5. Please Have a Sense of Context

Wrestling, like Hip Hop, is built on tradition. But it’s also tradition that things must, and always do, change. Understand 2021 is not 2001 or 1991. What was cool for “crusty fucking men” to do whatever back then, it’s not now. While a lot of things, like adults playing video games, is not only cool but commonplace.

Wrestling is safer, more expensive, and much more of a commercial entity now than it was decades ago. Be conscious of a world where CTE is a serious thing significant consequences. So yeah, maybe there will be less chair shots to the head and things will be a little less hardcore. Why would the wrestlers be as “edgy” as they once were if the product itself shaved off its sharp corners?

6. Establish Solid Relationships

The rappers who thrive are the ones who open their circles to fresh sounds. JAY-Z’s entire career is built on adapting by connecting with new talent. Whether it’s taking a chance on young producers like Kanye West and Just Blaze, or doing feature verses for Kendrick Lamar and Drake. But it also means if he ever feels the need to criticize anyone younger than him for any reason, they know where he’s coming from because of an established relationship.

Constructive criticism is cool and should be welcomed by today’s wrestlers. Especially since—if?—they want to get better. When they know the intent of the person lobbying said criticism, it feels less like a right hook and more like a love tap.

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Change

Be like Cena. He’s cool with what WWE is now because he was a part of the company shifting from what direction to another, and then another. He embraces that change like a rapper who knows when it’s time to switch flows or add more skills to the arsenal. The name of the game is evolution—pun not intended not even a little—and stagnation doesn’t help anyone. Wrestling is no exception to the reality that tastes and trends change. What one generation considered wack and childish, another deems to be the greatest thing ever. That’s life.

8. Old School isn’t Always the Best School

Listen, I too have rose-colored glasses for “the way things were” when it comes to certain parts of life. But I’m also old enough to understand nostalgia clouds even the best vision on this planet. The things you hold near and dear of a bygone era, like pill popping, binge drinking, drug sniffing, and out of control spending aren’t that great. Did you have a good time? I’m sure those of you who survived did. But I had a good time watching Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers in ‘93. Now? I need to get paid Scrooge McDuck money to watch it in 2021.

Rather than wishing the people coming up behind you were just like you, hope for them to succeed in ways you never imagined.

9. Focus on Similarities Instead of Differences

Any generational rap beef is normally resolved when one or both parties realize they’re in this together. As wrestlers, you’re part of a special club with similar stories to tell. The time creative said they had nothing for you. The moment you realized your character just doesn’t work. That one match you had when everything clicked and you knew the sky was the limit. If someone puts a microphone in your face—and there’s a lot of mics to go around these days—give props to the people going through the things you dealt with all those years ago.

Which brings us to the final rule...

10. Just Because You Can Say Something Doesn’t Mean You Should

Plain and simple.

What say you, Cagesiders? Any additional rules? Or are these way off base? You know where to sound off.

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