<
>

Sean 'Diddy' Combs and his love affair with WWE

Hip hop recording artist Sean 'Diddy' Combs enjoyed his time at WrestleMania 29. Marc Serota/AP Images for WWE

Sean "Diddy" Combs wasn't about to let his pride get in the way of telling a good story.

So when the hip-hop recording artist, producer and actor, known worldwide as "Puff Daddy," was asked how his relationship with WWE first came to be, he didn't hold back. Combs recalled sitting down to watch WWE and seeing the same familiar face pop up on the screen as a celebrity guest.

"I want to tell you the truth, I called [WWE] after I saw Snoop Dogg," Combs said.

Snoop Dogg, the iconic rapper and first cousin of current WWE women's champion Sasha Banks, has had such a memorable run on WWE telecasts in recent years that he was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in April. His success challenged Combs, a pro wrestling fan since his youth, to throw his own name into the ring.

"I had to put my ego down and make sure that [WWE] had my information because I did not understand why I hadn't been called yet," Combs told ESPN.com before letting out a hearty laugh. "And that really did happen. I'm not just saying that. I called Neil [Lawi, senior vice president and general manager of WWE Music Group] and was like, 'Yo, Neil, what's up?'"

Combs went on to make a pair of singing performances under the bright lights of the WWE stage -- in a 2010 "Tribute to the Troops" show in Texas and, most prominently, at WrestleMania 29 in 2013 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. But the self-proclaimed "Bad Boy" made headlines this week when it was announced a new collaboration with WWE was in the cards.

In addition to a brief appearance Monday on Raw -- trading one-liners with the WWE tag team champions, The New Day -- Combs was named as the soundtrack curator for the WWE 2K17 video game that hits stores on Oct. 11.

An opportunity for a reunion with WWE was something he jumped at.

"[The McMahon family] are a great role model brand and, most importantly, a role model family, as far as building an empire and passing your legacy on to your kids," said Combs, a wildly successful entrepreneur in his own right. "When you interact with the McMahons, it's so professional and so positive."

If there's a moment in pro wrestling history that affected Combs, 46, above the rest, without hesitation he points to Hulk Hogan's victory over Andre The Giant in the main event of WrestleMania III in 1987. In fact, he said just talking about it brings back flashbacks and chills because of how positive the excitement was.

"You have to understand, there was no sports spectacle like it that I've ever experienced," Combs said. "That was my first sports spectacle. It was like the craziest thing in school and it was just like, 'Wow, man. These guys are actually living gods on earth.'"

Combs, in fact, outright credits his time as a WWE fan during his formative years with laying the groundwork for the swagger and confidence he would one day project to great success in the music and entertainment business.

"You have to understand, there was no sports spectacle like it that I've ever experienced. That was my first sports spectacle. It was like the craziest thing in school and it was just like, 'Wow, man. These guys are actually living gods on earth.'" Sean "Diddy" Combs

"You have to be able to pump yourself up and create that character," Combs said. "Growing up watching it as a kid, it subliminally starts to teach you these characters of confidence. In a day and age where so many people are insecure about different things, the positive impact of that power of belief at a young age, it powers you to really believe some really crazy things."

In order to be successful as an entertainer, Combs says you have to be crazy -- but crazy in a good way. Not only does an irrational belief in yourself need to be present, it's the way your imagination flows, allowing you to let go and be free, he says, that ultimately empowers you.

Combs can remember many times being backstage before a show, staring into a mirror and pumping himself up like he was cutting a promo in the ring, saying, "I'm a black super hero. This is what I'm going to do tonight." He refers to it as a type of audacity that could only have been instilled in him by watching WWE.

His love affair of both wrestling and performing came full circle when he stood out in front of 80,000 people at WrestleMania 29, something he considers a badge of honor in his career. Combs says WWE fans get him out of his "regular zone" in ways that's unique to traditional concert goers.

"I think it's just the energy level of the WWE fans -- they are one of a kind," Combs said. "They are already so excited and it gets you excited. I can honestly say I get a little nervous before I come out and perform on a WWE stage because you can feel the energy and vibrations in the room. You know the crowd is ready to erupt. But it's a good nervousness.

"I do a lot of TV performances, but when I perform on WWE, once I get off stage my phone is lit up. People from all over the world I haven't spoken to and people that are so excited who just tuned in. I get more calls when I perform there than when I perform on the Grammys. People are so in-tune and excited about it."

Combs is set to embark later this month on a Bad Boy 20th anniversary reunion tour, which he calls the "Kobe [Bryant] victory lap" of his career. But will that career be complete without one day taking part in a real WWE storyline?

While "Puff Daddy" says he isn't ready to make an announcement of any kind just yet, he is plenty interested in the idea.

"I am coming, just so everybody knows," he said. "In my dream, I'm waiting for that call from Mr. McMahon. I believe and have faith that it's going to happen soon."