Rick Rubin Discussed Roddy Piper Inspiring The Beastie Boys, Bankrolling Jim Cornette And More

Legendary producer Rick Rubin recently sat down with Rolling Stone, but the guy who’s produced everybody from Run-D.M.C. to Adele to Mr. Hankey’s Christmas CD surprisingly wasn’t there to talk music. He was there to talk pro wrestling. Attentive wrestling fans may recognize Rubin from his frequent front-row appearances at Los Angeles-area WWE shows, but you may be surprised to know just how deep his wrestling fandom goes.

Rubin laid out a history of his early wrestling fandom…

“The very first promotion I ever saw was called the IWA, a short-lived New York independent that was kind of competition for the WWWF, and it had guys like Tex McKenzie and Mil Máscaras. Then I started watching the WWWF, they had an hour-long show – I think it was on Saturday nights – and I watched that for several years. And then I started watching lucha libre in Spanish, coming from the Olympic Auditorium, and there I would have seen Roddy Piper for the first time, Chavo Guerrero Sr.; it was very exciting, there were more masked guys and more acrobatics. It felt like outsider entertainment, like it was on the fringes of society.

I would go see wrestling all the time, too. I went to Nassau Coliseum, Madison Square Garden every month – I had a subscription to wrestling at the Garden, so I had a pair of tickets for every match, same seats, for my whole high-school life. And I remember going to Sunnyside, Queens. There was an arena there, more like a gym, but with bleachers, and there was something interesting about seeing wrestling on that scale. And as a kid, I remember going to Disney World with my parents, and I was really insistent that we figured out how far Disney was from wrestling, so we could see Dusty Rhodes! I used to watch Championship Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie, and the NWA on TBS, which was really my favorite – the Four Horsemen, Ric Flair, Jim Cornette. That was great.”

Interestingly, Rubin would also get involved in wrestling in a big way during his ’90s heyday. Rubin was actually the main backer of Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Yeah, Rick Rubin and Jim friggin’ Cornette are friends. I’d love to have seen those conversations…

“When I met Jim Cornette, it was at a low point in wrestling, where WWE was really appealing to kids, and the NWA, which had previously been great, had been bought by Ted Turner and was starting to follow the WWE’s model. So, as a real wrestling fan, nobody was programming to me, and I felt there were probably other people who weren’t getting their real wrestling fix either. So that was the idea behind Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Cornette was really cool and he had the vision to do it, and I just supported it. Turns out, it’s a really difficult business; it’s not a fun business to be in if you don’t know about it.”

Rubin’s love of pro-graps crossed over into his work in the music industry. Rubin’s most famous pupils, the Beastie Boys, were heavily influenced by wrestling, which they were introduced to by Rubin. They were particularly inspired by the braggadocio of one Rowdy Roddy Piper

“There’s no question that, early on, the Beastie Boys were very influenced by pro wrestling. One-hundred percent. The idea of being bad-guy rappers, saying really outlandish things in interviews, that all came from a love of pro wrestling. We didn’t say it because it was true – we said it because it was entertaining. To me, it was performance art; we were as inspired by pro wrestling and Monty Python as we were music. I remember showing them videotapes of old matches, because I was the fan, and we’d laugh about the stuff on there. And at that time, there was a wrestling hotline, and we’d call and listen to prerecorded messages from Roddy Piper and get inspired by the crazy things he’d say.”

Speaking of white guy rappers, what does Rubin think of WWE’s 250-pound wannabe Beastie Boy, John Cena? Well, it’s clear that he’s not one of Rubin’s favorites, although that’s mostly down to Rubin not liking the way WWE books its good guys (preaching to the choir here, Rick)…

“It’s the idea of the babyface; how they book them. It’s always interesting to me when they choose to keep something in a babyface that I would say nobody likes. John Cena, for example – I would say the main reason people don’t like him is the Five Knuckle Shuffle [laughs]. But they keep working it into his matches! That’s another interesting thing in wrestling; it’s like a Jerry Lewis movie, where he’ll do something, and it’s funny, and he’ll keep doing it and it’s not funny anymore.”

There’s even more interesting stuff to be found in the full interview, including Rubin’s thoughts on some of WWE’s competition and whether the company is overusing evil authority storylines. If you ever get tired of the handsomely paid music guru gig, feel free to get back into the wrestling game, Rick. Anybody who helped create both Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the Beastie Boys is alright with me.

via Rolling Stone