Only an elite few can lay claim to having their entrance song performed live on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Intercontinental champion Big E will join that select group when Grammy-nominated rapper Wale sings him to the ring before his bout with Apollo Crews on Night 2 of WWE WrestleMania 37 at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
The Powerhouse of Positivity has been entering to the tune of "Feel the Power" by Wale since December 4. And three weeks later, he defeated Sami Zayn on the Christmas Day edition of SmackDown to claim his second Intercontinental Championship.
Sunday will mark the first live musical 'Mania performance since Joan Jett performed "Bad Reputation" for Ronda Rousey in the main event of WrestleMania 35. Given Big E's ties to this year's host city, Tampa, Florida, no one made more sense to receive that treatment than the former New Day man.
"He's one of my favorite rappers there is, but also to have my friend and someone who's a huge wrestling fan, I was geeked just to be able to get him to perform," Big E told Bleacher Report. "To have him perform for me at home—Tampa's my home—is incredible. I'm so stoked about it. We've been trying to get Wale for years. We tried to get him at a 'Mania a couple of years ago, but things didn't work out. I'm so excited about it and I know he is, too, because as a big fan, it's a dream come true."
Wale has long been a part of the WWE family. In addition to hosting his own star-studded WrestleMania weekend get-togethers over the years, he's done commentary for 205 Live and appeared on SmackDown as the host for the New Day-Usos rap battle in July 2017.
Meanwhile, Big E has never had a one-on-one WrestleMania match, so Sunday will be special for both him and his close friend. A request was made to get Wale involved in the event, and both parties accepted immediately.
Big E discussed how he doesn't think Wale gets enough credit for the work he's put into building a bridge between the sports-entertainment world and hip-hop.
"One of the things that I realized years ago is that so many of the rappers as a hip-hop head that I really enjoyed were big, massive wrestling fans," he said. "I thought, 'Man, we should be doing so much more to connect those two bridges.' I love that and that's what he's been doing: bringing the culture to WWE and I think it's so dope."
The intercontinental champion revealed that Wale found out about the possibility of performing live for him at WrestleMania before him. When the idea was brought up to Big E via text soon after, he responded with a resounding "yes."
Wale is usually busy over WrestleMania weekend hosting WaleMania, but this year will be different due to the current circumstances. Instead, other than singing for Big E at The Show of Shows, he'll be focusing his efforts on promoting his newly announced exclusive apparel collection in collaboration with FootLocker.
The line of clothing honors Black wrestling world champions of the past and present, including Kofi Kingston, Sasha Banks, Booker T and others, and is already available for purchase.
Being back in front of fans will be a surreal experience for them both. WrestleMania will be WWE's first major gathering of fans since early March 2020, so having a live performance on top of everything else planned is merely the icing on the cake.
"It's almost like a reunion," Big E said. "We're all back together! On top of that, this is home for me. This is my city. Born and raised here, still live here, so that's incredible. We're just excited to get back to doing what we do. I think that's the beauty of our business: just that live, almost unpredictability with the fans. I love that they have the ability to tell you whether something is good, whether something is bad, I love that organic response. I love that we're getting the opportunity to get back to it."
Not only does Big E call Tampa home, Raymond James Stadium is also where he played his high school all-star football game in 2003. He went on to train at Florida Championship Wrestling, which was WWE's developmental territory from 2007 to 2012, located right down the street from the stadium.
His main roster run has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Despite winning his first IC title within a year of his arrival, his reign was largely forgettable and he was relegated to the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal that year while champion.
Everything happens for a reason, though, and now he's come full circle with a championship defense against Crews in what is being billed as a Nigerian Drum Fight.
WrestleMania has hosted a slew of stellar intercontinental title matches over the years from Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage to Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon. It can be argued that Big E vs. Crews is the most meaningful IC clash in recent WrestleMania history because of the bad blood that's been brewing between them for months.
He hopes to further cement his legacy as a champion by walking in and out of The Granddaddy of Them All on Sunday night with the gold in his grasp.
"The lineage is incredible," Big E said. "My hope is to be worthy of some of the best to ever do it and that's something I don't take flippantly. I always want to remember that, what this championship means and the legends who have held it. I want to be worthy as being spoken in the same breath as them. It's constant, constant work. It's never resting on your laurels and never thinking it's time to coast. That's always something I try to remember. So many greats have held this, and when all is said and done, I want to be considered one of them."
History has taught us that almost anyone who has had their entrance theme performed live at WrestleMania has less likelier chance of coming out on top, but with WWE superfan and hip-hop star Wale in his corner, Big E may just prove to be the exception.
Catch Wale's live musical performance for Big E on Night 2 of WrestleMania 37 this Sunday, streaming exclusively on Peacock in the U.S. and WWE Network everywhere else.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.