There’s a distinct parallel between professional wrestling and hip hop music that goes almost completely unnoticed: the personalities of, both, pro wrestlers and emcees are large. Confidence and bravado to the point of arrogance often fuels success. Egos clash and feuds spark.
Matt Riviera represents the point at which wrestling and hip hop seamlessly blend, becoming too obvious to ignore. “Mr. 5.5” isn’t just an athlete and competitor, he’s a mogul on a come up. He’s building a brand. He’s building (pun intended) an empire. Think of Riviera as the Jay-Z of professional wrestling – broadening his portfolio, expanding his reach, establishing his own parameters, and stacking paper. Always stacking paper. His broker and accountant are no doubt happy, but without that same approach in the ring, none of it happens. Championships, however, are wrestling’s platinum records, and with titles won in PWE, TCW, and handfuls of other federations, he’s continuing to elevate his brand’s value.
The best modern rappers are an amalgam of the rappers they listened to while developing their identity. Action Bronson credits Kool G Rap and Cam’ron for his sound. Kendrick Lamar has talked openly about emulating Eminem and Nas. Riviera’s influences are on full display, and they’re some of wrestling’s finest. The confidence and psychological superiority are pure Ric Flair. Using financial resources in concert with acute physicality is Ted DiBiase. His spine buster and overall mean streak are carbon copies of Arn Anderson’s hallmarks. Face-up, wide-stance striking style is Bubba Ray Dudley. The common thread that runs through all of them is focus. Whether or not fans of pro wrestling choose to support Riviera doesn’t influence him in the least. The man has an agenda.
Along with his Empire tag partner, Greg Anthony, Riviera is forging new alliances and business opportunities, perhaps none so important as the addition of James J. Dillon to his inner circle. Jay-Z was on the verge of blowing up when The Notorious B.I.G blessed him with his experience, counsel, and wisdom. What happened next to Jay transcended mere success. Riviera, undoubtedly, looks to channel that kind of energy into what is the prime of his athletic career.
Will “Mr 5.5” “Loverboy” “Reality TV Star” Matt Riviera be responsible for professional wrestling’s Roc-A-Fella? There seem to be patterns suggesting just such a thing. Empire, indeed.