Wrestling is in the DNA of Westside Gunn’s music. “Wrestling for me is like how Wu-Tang had karate,” Gunn said to Pitchfork. “It just goes hand in hand.” He also walks the walk; he regularly gets front row tickets at wrestling shows. It’s not a promotional thing—he’s never shouted out on commentary and his name doesn’t get displayed on screen. He was caught on camera during televised AEW segments featuring Kevin Gates and T-Pain, but he went entirely unmentioned.
That changed on Wednesday night. For the main event of AEW Dynamite, broadcast live on TBS from Buffalo’s KeyBank Center, Westside Gunn performed his verse from Griselda’s WWCD track “Dr. Birds” at the top of the entrance platform. He was there to play the hometown technical wrestler Daniel Garcia to the ring for a championship match. A full Griselda-representing crew—mostly Gunn’s nephews—dominated the first row in matching red sweatshirts. “Tell Virgil to write ‘brick’ on my brick,” Gunn shouted into the mic as Garcia walked out. The wrestler (or sports entertainer, depending on who you ask) won the belt that night and celebrated in a cloud of red confetti.
On Thursday, nearly 24 hours later, Gunn was still buzzing from the experience. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this high,” Gunn said on the phone during a break from recording at a Buffalo studio. “Like I’m a stoner and I’ve never even been that high. Bro I’m still high. I can’t believe it still.”
“It definitely felt like the most Buffalo thing ever,” Garcia, the 24-year-old reigning Ring of Honor Pure Champion after Wednesday’s match with Wheeler Yuta, said of the night. Garcia has wrestled some of the best in the world over the past couple years and has been booked as a rising young star in AEW, but Wednesday was his first match at the biggest arena in his city. The crowd went predictably wild for his win. “Buffalo is a city where everyone takes pride in everything,” Garcia said. “Buffalo could have the world’s fastest knitter, and we would ride for them like they were the world heavyweight champion of MMA.”
Gunn’s performance was a long-belated acknowledgment from a major wrestling promotion on a weekly TV show, and it reflected his genuine endorsement of Garcia. “Danny, man, that’s a good friend of mine, man. He’s a Buffalo kid, and he’s actually the best,” Gunn said. “He’s already being challenged by the best and can only go up from here. I think he’s gonna be a world champion soon. I’m all for DG, man, I’m team DG.”
The admiration is mutual; the two became friends after Garcia shared a highlight reel of his matches soundtracked by a Westside Gunn song, and the performance was one Garcia had been dreaming about for a long time. “Since I became a wrestler, I always thought to myself if I ever do a big show in Buffalo, I want Westside Gunn to play me out,” Garcia said. The wrestler asked Gunn if he would be “comfortable” with the idea, not realizing what it meant to the rapper. “I’ve been there since day one and that was always a dream of mine—just being a part of it,” Gunn said. “And it’s all about timing. I could’ve had the opportunity sooner, who knows, but it happening in Buffalo for Danny and him winning the belt? That’s the story. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
It was also a moment of vindication for Gunn’s fans, who tweeted with outrage anytime the Griselda rapper appeared on screen without any form of acknowledgement. “The fans would get madder than me,” Gunn said. “I stopped being mad a long time ago that I wasn’t getting the acknowledgement that I should. Every time I go to a show, I leave to a couple hundred tweets of ‘why why why why why,’ you know what I’m sayin’?”
Garcia was among Gunn’s irritated fans. “I don’t feel like the wrestling business owes anybody anything, but Gunn has the power to do so much for the culture of pro wrestling,” he said. “He’s probably introduced wrestling to a lot of different people and made people view wrestling in a different light. He’s never asked for a free ticket—he just buys tickets and sits in the front row. Then a lot of rappers who maybe don’t like wrestling at all are getting opportunities and they aren’t even as popular as him. It’s been time for him to get a little shine, so I’m glad we were able to put that shine on him and give him that moment.”
Gunn’s appearance marked the latest example of contemporary hip-hop being central to AEW programming; it happened just days after Action Bronson jumped in the ring and teased a future match in the company. (Gunn clarified that he has no in-ring wrestling ambitions, but loves it for his friend.) “I think AEW is just lettin’ their talent really show their personalities,” Gunn said. “They know what hip-hop does for the culture and they’re just listening to their talent, which is great, because their talent is hip-hop heads.”
“A lot of people see somebody who’s a technical wrestler, and they wouldn’t imagine a dude talking about Off-White bricks rapping a guy of my style to the ring,” Garcia said. “But that’s what I enjoy. I’m glad they let my personal taste bleed onto the screen, because I feel like a lot of other companies might not do that.”
In addition to his prolific recording career, Gunn is an entrepreneur behind Buffalo Kids and a burgeoning multi-platform rap-and-wrestling enterprise called Fourth Rope. He doesn’t think Wednesday will be the last time he’s involved with a major wrestling promotion. “Maybe this’ll open up the door for more business and more appearances,” Gunn said. “I look at this as just the beginning.”