Approximately 12 hours ago, Bad Bunny performed at World Wrestling Entertainment’s annual Royal Rumble event—and yet, even though more than enough time has passed, he has still not been nominated into WWE’s Hall of Fame. If you have better things to do than to watch glitter-covered muscular people hurl themselves into each other or are confused as to what the Royal Rumble is, allow me to be your guide. The Royal Rumble is the “first stop on the road to Wrestlemania” wherein there are two rumbles, one for men and one for women. There are 30 participants in each rumble and the last person standing in the ring is the winner who gets a guaranteed slot in Wrestlemania—WWE’s Super Bowl, if you will.
On Sunday night, during the Royal Rumble pre-show, Bad Bunny performed his latest hit, “Booker T,” which is a reference to a wrestler named Booker T. In the music video for “Booker T,” the titular wrestler, Booker T, is just standing right there just flexing, as he was on Sunday night while Bad Bunny performed around him. The stoic nature of Book’s performance, if that’s what we’re calling it, captured the cool factor that has been the signature of his lengthy wrestling career.
Bad Bunny is a long-time fan of wrestling—he’s worked with Rick Flair and Stone Cold on previous projects—and his performance and subsequent surprise appearance in the Men’s Royal Rumble match is the culmination of a dream that thousands of young boys have, but only a handful can ever fully realize. When Bad Bunny appeared on the screen, dressed like he was trying to be the fourth member of The Shield, it was as if the good Lord herself had sent a gift to soothe the Sunday Scaries and guide us all into Monday in a blissful stupor. It can’t get better than a young Puerto Rican icon enjoying his peak on one of the longest-running, whitewashed, racist programs in America.
But that’s the thing about wrestling, the show is always looking to top itself, and particularly this year it’s trying to push its racist history down the garbage disposal. After Bad Bunny’s performance, the Women’s Royal Rumble match featured a moment never before seen in the company’s history: Bianca Belair, a Black woman, won the whole thing. Belair, who has shown herself to be one of the most promising rising stars to come out of the brand in years will be going straight to a coveted time slot at Wrestlemania. The show could have ended after that, but I guess the men also needed to still have their match because equality or some shit.
The men’s match was largely uninteresting and uneventful until Mike “The Miz” Mizanin (his name should sound familiar if you watched the 1998 season of Real World/Road Rules Challenge) got into the ring. Earlier in the show, The Miz tried to recruit Bad Bunny to do a collab track with him, to which Bad Bunny declined. The Miz then started insulting Booker T, saying that he was clinging to his last shreds of relevancy (which is not a complete lie). This backstory is crucial—wrestling is nothing if not decades of backstory. A half-hour after this theatrical shit-talking, The Miz was in the ring doing fine until wouldn’t you know it, Bad Bunny came out from backstage and jumped off the fucking top rope like a boss, knocking out The Miz and his irrelevant tag team partner.
The moment was made more interesting by two things that I think only wrestling fans can really appreciate. The first is that the transition to the top rope was aided by fellow Puerto Rican wrestler Damien Priest, because WWE does not like to participate in any racial or ethnic mixing when it comes to pairing people off. The second is that Bad Bunny didn’t just make his leap and walk off into the sunset; he sold it in the way those moves need to be sold to work. The arm-flailing, the fake anger, the look back to the virtual crowd, and the holding of any body part, wincing, as you walk back up the ramp. This man isn’t just a wrestling fan, he is a student of the craft.