Entrance music is one of the most important aspects of a professional wrestler’s image. Even before you lay eyes on them, their music sets the emotional and aesthetic tone for the performer you are about to see. I will frequently base my initial opinion of a wrestler on their entrance song. Sometimes a good entrance song will trick me into thinking I like a wrestler a lot when I actually think they’re just okay, or into assuming they’re a babyface when they’re actually a heel. If a wrestler I like has a bad theme, I can’t ever like them as much as I want to. Sometimes a theme can fit a wrestler so perfectly that my feelings about the theme and my feelings about the wrestler grow and change simultaneously.
With that said, here are five themes from the 2010s that I feel do a perfect job of working in tandem with the wrestlers they’re introducing.
5. Oedo Tai: Oedo Tai Theme
Who wrote this song? I have no idea, honestly. Here’s what I do know. It rules. Formed in 2015 and solidified in the wake of Act Yasukawa’s career-ending injury, Oedo Tai has been consistently one of the coolest parts of World Wonder Ring Stardom for the latter half of the decade. The Oedo Tai theme does its job perfectly, setting the right tone for the stable members and getting the audience excited. Oedo Tai are a rowdy, alcohol-fueled stable of lovable heels named after Japan’s feudal Edo Period. Oedo Tai’s entrance theme is catchy and guitar-driven, with enough pop punk energy to make you think “these are some lovable scamps” and enough bamboo flute to make you think “oh yeah, history!”
With Hazuki retired as of this week and Kagetsu’s retirement announced, the future is looking a little unsure for Oedo Tai at the moment. But as long as they have this theme, I believe that Oedo Tai’s dream of dancing around, drinking beer and making trouble will stay alive.
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4. Ringkampf/Imperium: Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9
Ringkampf’s (and now Imperium’s) use of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (a suggestion made by the great Tim Thatcher) marked them as incredibly unique, not just in their use of a piece of classical music in a field dominated by buttrock and 10th wave punk, but their use of a piece of classical music that is familiar to the average listener without being immediately identifiable. Sure, we’ve all heard Dvořák, especially this Dvořák, but I couldn’t tell you where. (Compare that to Ric Flair’s use of Strauss.) It makes Ringkampf feel stately and dignified, like they’re bringing some decorum to the chaotic hellscape of pro wrestling, a space that feels like it is ruled over by increasingly identical guitar rock. What makes it an even smarter choice is that Dvořák’s whole backstory in writing it was coming to the United States and being influenced by different kinds of regional music. Imbuing American folk culture into an international tradition feels pretty apropos for the European wrestling scene. Also, it just slaps.
3. Taichi: “Pageant” by Moi dix Mois
Taichi’s gimmick is a singularly brilliant one. A theatrical rock singer guy who is BAD and loves to CHEAT but also is really good at wrestling? It rules. After experimenting with a few different entrance songs (all of which he sang live on his way to the ring, naturally), he settled on the Moi dix Mois single “Pageant.” Don’t believe he’s singing live? Then how come the New Japan official website lists his entrance theme as the instrumental version? Check and mate.
In all seriousness though, pairing the lush sounds of Moi dix Mois with Taichi’s incredibly lax lip-sync performance does end up giving even an uninitiated audience a good sense of Taichi’s whole deal. Yes, he’s very dramatic. No, he doesn’t like to try very hard if he can help it. Even western audiences unfamiliar with J-rock recognize Juka’s sultry vibrato as being goth theater kid bullshit, mentally categorizing Taichi as some kind of Phantom of the Opera thot. It’s also just a great song, with the exact right amount of arch campiness to suit a comedic visual kei heel.
2. John Cena: “The Time Is Now” by John Cena
Okay, fine, having debuted the tune in 2005, John Cena’s entrance theme long predates the 2010s. Fine. FINE. You caught me red handed, officer. Go ahead and lock me up in mark jail. Okay, now that all the babies and cowards have closed the tab, yeah! Like, yes, this song was in use before 2010, but was John Cena not the iconic WWE Superstar™ of the 2010s? Was “The Time Is Now” not the most iconic, memorable, memeable tune in WWE this decade? You didn’t even click play on the video, and you have it stuck in your head already, don’t you?
This kid "nose" a good tune when he hears it. Quite a performance. https://t.co/wE8hzHmDyu
— John Cena (@JohnCena) September 9, 2015
Is it “good”? God, I don’t know. What does that even mean? I’ve been trying to figure out a way to determine if something is “good” or not for months, and have gotten basically nowhere. It’s certainly not a better piece of music than Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. It’s not even a better piece of music than “Judas.” Still, as a wrestling entrance theme? As an original WWE-owned song? As a meme? It’s unbeatable. Its horn refrain is the most recognizable element of any wrestler theme since, what? The Stone Cold guitar riff? “My time is now,” could not have been a truer statement than it was in the 2010s. This decade saw John Cena become WWE’s biggest star and then what may very well be the end of John Cena’s in-ring career. So let’s all raise an unreasonably fancy glass of expensive alcohol in our Tampa cigar rooms. Here’s to you Mr. Cena, and your 50 suits, and your giant horrible house. Doo doo doo dooooo, dooo dooo dooo doooooo.
1. The Young Bucks: “MMMBop” by Hanson
Regardless of where any of us rank them in the “best tag team” argument, I think we can all agree that the Young Bucks have been one of the most important forces in pro wrestling in the 2010s. (Look at their t-shirt legacy and try to argue with me.) They may have receding hairlines and 1000 children now, but at the start of the decade, they truly were young bucks. “MMMBop,” a song they used for the bulk of their career on the independents, is really a brilliant choice for them. It isn’t even just because they forged their identity as the Young Bucks to the catchy 1997 hit, but because… well… let’s think about the Young Bucks for a second.
The Young Bucks’ entire appeal is “this is annoying…but I love it?” They’re brothers. They’re Christians. They have long dumb hair just like Hanson. Their in-ring style isn’t “catchy” per se, because that’s not really a term you can use to describe wrestling styles. But, according to a guy named David Suisman who wrote a book called Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music, who is cited in the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for “Catchiness,” two things required for catchiness are familiarity and simplicity. What is more familiar and simple than a superkick? Watching people do cool flips in tandem probably stimulates dopamine production the same way Hanson’s major harmonies do. It’s the perfect song for them, and their subsequent use of other, less bubblegummy entrance music is a real shame. I hope Tony Khan is reading this and decides to shell out the money to license “MMMBop” (and Tony, while you’re at it, get “Tarzan Boy” back for Jungle Boy. In fact, license everyone’s indie entrance music).
There were a lot of other themes that I thought about putting in this list. Fandango’s music, which became something of a meme, was a notable exclusion. The Itoh Respect Corps’ “Setsunairo” is simply a banger of a pop tune, but wasn’t really in use long enough to merit inclusion. Not including a single entrance theme by CFO$, whose work for WWE since 2013 has defined the decade in WWE, also made me feel a pang of guilt. From Sasha Banks’ excellent “Sky’s the Limit” to “Glorious,” the best thing about Robert Roode, to Shinsuke Nakamura’s fantastic theme, CFO$ has been a huge part in solidifying the identities of some of the biggest stars in the company. But do I have any of those songs on my workout playlist? Sorry, the answer is no. So they don’t get to be on the list.
Here’s a few that almost made it onto the list, but didn’t, either because I couldn’t make a good enough case to situate them in the decade or because something else knocked them out of the top five:
- Dr. Wagner Jr: “Bad Medicine” by Bon Jovi
- Minoru Suzuki: “Kaze Ni Nare” by Ayumi Nakamura
- Orange Cassidy: “Jane” by Starship
- Jonathan Gresham: “Sky High” by Jigsaw
- Rich Swann: “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie
- Hiroshi Tanahashi: “High Energy” by Julia Claris
- Los Perros Del Mal: “Perros” by Cartel de Santa
- Drew Gulak: “Tell It To My Heart” by Taylor Dayne