Used primarily to alert the audience of the immediate arrival of a wrestler, entrance themes are commonplace in professional wrestling.
The first record of entrance music being used in wrestling dates back to the 1950s, however, it was not until the 1980s when this practice grew in popularity due to the likes of the Fabulous Freebirds, Hulk Hogan, and The Junkyard Dog using music during their entrances.
These days, wrestling and entrance music go hand in hand. The importance of a wrestler’s entrance theme cannot be understated, helping to add depth to the wrestler’s character and enhance their gimmick. When the glass shatters, you know Stone Cold Steve Austin is about to arrive, raise hell, and drink some beers. When the gong strikes, you know that the Undertaker is about to rise from the dead once again. When you hear “If ya smell”, you know The Rock is in the kitchen.
Because of the importance of the theme, a safe option would be to use already popular and well-established songs, however, this does come with an additional cost. Due to licensing costs, entrance themes are often composed by the promotion for which the wrestlers perform in order to avoid having to pay royalties. The solution? Produce new music that sounds like other popular songs, while sounding ever so slightly different enough to avoid royalty fees.
WWE has employed in-house producers such as CFO$ and Jim Johnson to produce a plethora of themes that they will then own the rights to, while sounding suspiciously similar to other popular songs. This practice is nothing new and is a long-standing trope, dating back to early WCW with Jimmy Hart being the prime culprit.
Here, we explore 5 times that WWE has done exactly this, plagiarising popular songs (but somehow managing to pass the Turnitin checks) and passing them off as their own.
1. Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins initially debuted in WWE as a member of the Shield, alongside Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. The Shield would enter through the crowd, using the Shield music which is still used by Roman today. After Rollins turned on The Shield in 2014 and aligned himself with the Authority, he began using a new CFO$ produced theme titled ‘The Second Coming’ with the words ‘Burn it Down’ later added to the intro.
This theme will forever be iconic for the Wrestlemania moment it helped create. After weeks of negative fan backlash to the almost too predictable ending of the Main Event of Wrestlemania 31 where Roman Reigns was scheduled to defeat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, Rollins’ music hit out of nowhere to the rapturous glee of fans in attendance, and indeed around the world.
Rollins cashed in his Money in The Bank contract in the Main Event of Wrestlemania 31, defeating Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar to win his first WWE Championship. This marked the first time that the contract had been cashed in mid-match, and also the first time the contract had been cashed in during a Wrestlemania event making it a truly historic moment.
What you may not know about this theme is that it is not a pure original, and is based heavily on Fear Factory’s Powershifter.
This song is not well known in mainstream music, so it’s easy to see why Rollins’ theme has gone under the radar as being a knock off. Rollins has made no secret of his fandom of heavier metal bands such as Parkway Drive, so it’s only natural that his theme is based off a song from that genre.
2. AJ Styles
Widely regarded as the best wrestler on the planet never to have worked for WWE, AJ Styles made his WWE debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble.
After a brief stint in WCW, and a handful of dark matches and WWE tryouts, WWE opted not to sign the Georgian highflyer. Styles would go on to make a name for himself by wrestling the independent circuit, with the most notable work early in his career taking place at Jeff and Jerry Jarrett’s newly formed promotion NWA: Total Nonstop Action (or TNA for short).
Fast forward to 2013 TNA, Styles is now a 6 time X-Division champion, a 6 time World Tag Team champion, and a 2-time Global champion, not to mention a 5 time World Heavyweight champion, and the first-ever Triple Crown and first-ever Grand Slam champion.
In a decision that still baffles me to this day, TNA opted not to renew AJ Styles’ contract due to a pay dispute, which led to the Phenomenal One parting ways with the company. It is rumoured at this point that WWE made an offer for Styles, however, he was not content with the amount being offered as well as the gruelling schedule, so he instead chose to open a new chapter of his career in Japan.
Styles made a major impact in NJPW, joining the Bullet Club faction and becoming a two-time IWGP heavyweight champion. Styles’ left New Japan following New Year Dash in early 2016, when the Bullet Club turned on him, kicking him out of the faction in the process. Rumours began circulating among the internet wrestling community as the future of AJ and fellow club members Karl Anderson and DOC [Luke] Gallows, and in January of that year it all became clear where their futures lay when AJ entered the Royal Rumble while debuting a new CFO$ produced entrance theme, much to the delight of wrestling fans around the world.
What you may not know however is that this theme, titled ‘Phenomenal’, is actually based heavily on DMX’s Aint No Sunshine.
Coincidentally, before AJ’s WWE debut, there was a false leak that led many fans to believe that DMX had recorded a new song for AJ Styles to use as his entrance, which turned out not to be the case. Styles has a history of entrance themes that slap, and this theme certainly continues that trend.
3. Brie Bella
Perhaps regarded as one of the most annoying WWE themes of all time, the least said about this one the better. You may be surprised to hear that this theme is, in fact, a blatant rip of Taio Cruz’s hit, Hangover. If you watch Total Bellas, you’ll know how appropriate this one is for Brie.
Whatever happened to Taio Cruz?
4. Nia Jax
Previously a plus-size model, Jax signed with WWE in 2014, reporting to the WWE Performance Centre. A series of vignettes aired prior to her NXT TV debut in 2015, and while the majority of her NXT run were squash matches, she did unsuccessfully challenge Asuka for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT Takeover: The End.
Nia was drafted to RAW as part of the 2016 WWE draft, which saw her engage in a series of unremarkable feuds including a strange relationship angle with Enzo Amore, that was thankfully dropped when Amore was released from the company.
Perhaps Nia’s most notable run in the company came in 2018, where her and then RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss severed their alliance and began feuding after Jax discovered that Alexa had been body-shaming her behind her back. This led to the two facing off at WrestleMania 34, where Jax would defeat her nemesis to become RAW Women’s Champion. It would be Bliss who had the last laugh on this occasion, however, as two months later at Money In The Bank, Alexa cashed in the contract she had won earlier that night to regain her title.
There’s no denying that Nia Jax is different from the typical WWE Women’s Division wrestler, and as her entrance theme correctly points out, she’s not like most girls. What you may not know about this theme is that it is a near-identical copy of Essex based electronic band The Prodigy’s 2004 single, Spitfire.
The Prodigy first emerged in the underground rave scene in the early 1990s and achieved popularity and worldwide recognition with UK number one singles such as “Firestarter” and “Breathe”. The future of the band looks unclear following the tragic passing of lead singer Keith Flint in early 2019, but The Prodigy will forever be one of the most iconic British electronic music acts of all time.
5. Undisputed Era
Debuting at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly appeared following the NXT Tag Team Title match between SAnitY and The Authors of Pain, beating down both teams. The team formerly known as reDRagon appeared again later that night following the Main Event, aligning themselves with former Bullet club member Adam Cole and attacking the then NXT Champion Drew McIntyre. Undisputed Era went on to recruit Roderick Strong to their ranks following an injury to Bobby Fish, with Strong turning on Pete Dunne in the final of the 2018 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic at NXT Takeover: New Orleans.
Since then, the black and yellow faction have run the black and yellow brand in a manner that Wiz Khalifa would surely approve of. As NXT Tag Team Champions, Kyle O’Reilly would often strum his title belt like a guitar during this theme.
While this is possibly the best theme ever produced by CFO$, and as talented a guitarist the O’Reilly is, you may be surprised to hear that this theme is in fact based on another popular guitarist’s work in the form of Tom Morello’s ‘Face Off’ from the soundtrack of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
Best known for his tenure as a guitarist for rock bands Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, Morello is renowned for his unique playing style which consists of heavy metal/punk hybrid riffs and hip-hop-inspired sounds, incorporating feedback noise, unconventional picking, special effects, and tapping.
As a side note, the potential copying from Undisputed Era goes further with their logo resembling that of the Venicci brand of pushchairs and baby accessories.
So there you have it, 5 WWE entrance themes you would be forgiven for thinking they are originals, but are in fact based on other popular songs. Stay tuned (Get it? Do you get the joke?) if you have enjoyed this list, as this will be the first in a series of pieces covering wrestling music that has been inspired, influenced, and sometimes flat out copied from other popular music.