Last week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown was notable for two things: First, it was Daniel Bryan’s last night on the show, as his loss to Roman Reigns in the main event was a SmackDown Career vs. Title match. Secondly, far more importantly, it marked the debut of Roman Reigns’ new theme song, and the retirement of The Shield’s.
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I love The Shield’s theme music, and I honestly never minded that Roman Reigns kept it as long as he did. As Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins went their separate ways, they adopted new characters that required a change. Reigns never really did. He was resolute. Immutable. He wasn’t a heel, and the male contingent of WWE fans who think the universe (WWE and otherwise) revolves around their desires would not allow him to be a face. So he kept the tactical vest, he kept the pants, and he kept the music. Thinking about the 2016 promo where he said “I’m not a good guy, I’m not a bad guy, I’m the guy,” it makes sense.
He is still the guy. His character, the Tribal Chief, the Head of the Table, lives and dies on his status as the guy. But he can no longer say that he’s a bad guy. And in the months since his return from self-imposed, pandemic-related exile, he and Paul Heyman and Jey Uso have moved further and further from the light, creating one of the most distinct, singular main event heel characters of this or any era in WWE history.
A background element of this character and its arc is its slow burial of the pieces of Roman Reigns that fans had an opportunity to embrace but instead spurned. The tactical vest was the first thing to go. Now it’s The Shield’s theme. It’s sad, in a way. A late era Jim Johnston banger, “Special Op” has everything you expect from a classic WWE theme song: meathead riffs, drums that are heavy on snares and symbols, and a propulsive, commanding presence. It was perfect for the trio of Reigns, Rollins, and Ambrose, a special ops unit hired by CM Punk and Paul Heyman to protect Punk’s WWE Championship, complete with an underlying, helicopter-esque “wub-wub-wub-wub,” and it worked well for Reigns as a solo act, reworked a tad to make it as heavy as the man it heralded to the ring.
I suspect that it’s supposed to be sad, at least if you’re a Shield lore person, but it is what it is. All theme songs are eventually doomed to dust and bad clip compilations at some point, you know?
What about the new theme song?
At first blush, I pretty much hated it. This wasn’t a knee jerk reaction to losing the old theme—I tuned into SmackDown because people were tweeting about it. So I heard it in the context of him winning a match and continuing a beatdown on a fallen rival, which is absolutely not the purpose it was composed for. The Shield’s theme song—really most great theme songs—said two things: “I am going to whoop your ass” and “I just whooped your ass.” Reigns’ music also says two things, but those are “Among you walks a god of wrestling,” and “Welcome to SportsCenter.”
It also isn’t trying particularly hard to escape the shadow of “Special Op.” The instrumentation is different, but the first note the Hans Zimmer sounding intro hits is similar to Reigns’ prior theme, and the two notes that serve as the transition from fanfare to theme were lifted from it, too. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but outside of the insane decision to throw a harpsichord break in around 0:50, they’re the best elements of the song.
Even with that flourish, the song feels like it could have been composed for any number of gigantic men on WWE’s roster, or any purpose the company needed it for in the moment. By “Welcome to SportsCenter” I mean SportsCenter as a genre—there’s a “Top 10 Plays of the Night” quality to the walkout portion of this theme that wouldn’t be out of place in a movie or video game that couldn’t snag the ESPN license, like you’re about to watch a dozen or so bone-crunching tackles on the JumboTron at Ford Field just before the your beloved Detroit Lions get their lunch eaten by the Green Bay Packers.
What I’m trying to say is that it isn’t a theme song befitting Roman Reigns. Or at least it isn’t right now. We’re long removed from the era where theme songs for iconic wrestlers seemed like they came as easily to their composers as breathing, and even further from a time when WCW could pull jobber music out of a rolodex and create a lasting phenomenon like Goldberg.
More often than not, this era’s theme songs are like a AAA video game on day one of release: They suck, but the player, having already made the investment, plays around the flaws until they’re made better. Unlike a AAA video game, that improvement won’t come on account of a patch. This new theme song is Roman Reigns’ project, something he’s going to have to make good by sheer force of will.
Do I think he can do it? Absolutely. He made “Special Op” his despite its association with two other wrestlers who’ve dominated the wrestling landscape since the group’s disbanding, and he’s so special in this role that it hardly matters whether the song was composed for him specifically or him in the sense that he’s a large man who loves to tackle people. It’s his song now. One day it actually will be his song. Then he’s going to switch to trunks and make us all lose our minds again.
Roman Reigns' New Theme Music
Kinda majestic, kinda generic—how a fool might describe Roman Reigns himself, though probably not to his face.
- Actually the BWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOMPs fit with that weird bronze hologram of Reigns.
- Harpsichords should be in more theme songs.
- The hell is this, a Roman Reigns entrance or a trailer for Christopher Nolan's new movie? Ha ha, am I right or am I right?
- Pretty sure that Roman Reigns just got taken by the New York Jets in the 4th Round of the NFL Draft.
- WWE could have gone big and gotten an outside artist to acknowledge their Tribal Chief but instead got someone to do it in GarageBand.