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    Tuesday, January 23, 2018

    #ThemeSongTuesday: The Music Of Monday Night RAW

    Happy #ThemeSongTuesday and happy #RAW25!

    If you were looking for a nostalgia piece the same way you tuned in to RAW 25 for the trip down memory lane, then you came to the right place. But if you were looking for one last push as we barrel towards this year's Royal Rumble event, then you better get the hell outta here 'cause we ain't got no time for that. Hey, RAW didn't either.

    Over its 25-year history, Monday Night RAW has had several theme songs to open the show. Unlike long-running shows like The Simpsons, Law & Order, and Friends, RAW was the type of show that couldn't just have the same opening billboard (OBB) theme. It wasn't that WWE was averse to maintaining a signature feel for the show. RAW, much like the wrestling industry itself, had to grow and adjust with the times.

    You'll see it in the first three themes that RAW used from 1993-1997.

    "Monday Night Raw" (1993-1997), "Raw" (1993-1995), & "I Like it Raw" (1995) — Jim Johnston

    All three songs sound straight out of the soundtrack of a NASCAR broadcast or video game. The production and mixing alone screams "early 90's." It's basically the equivalent of watching something from that era in 2018. It sounds like it really belonged in its time; it just wouldn't have aged well.

    Notable elements from these themes include the heavy percussions, a saxophone riff, and sirens making noise in the background. 

    "I Like it Raw" stands out among the three because of it takes the blues influences and doubles down on them. It plods through like a country ditty you're more likely to hear at a karaoke bar than at a wrestling event. Props to whoever Jim Johnston got to do vocals on the song for evoking the feeling of lustful desire in his delivery of the lyrics, particularly the words, "I like it raw."

    "The Beautiful People" (1997) — Marilyn Manson

    It's a shame WWE never got to use this song for longer than two weeks. Looking back, "The Beautiful People" laid down the blueprint for what we'd come to think of as memorable RAW themes. It has to go hard, be intense, and make you feel like you want to kill a motherfucker. Or at least put one down for a three-count. This Marilyn Manson song does exactly that and is the antithesis of Green Day's "Know Your Enemy," which should never ever be used in the context of wrestling ever again.

    "Thorn In Your Eye" and "We're All Together Now" (1997-2002) — WWE Superstars & Slam Jam

    My earliest memories of watching wrestling actually come from the Attitude Era, when I was a young boy being taken into the city to see a marching band trying to sneak a peek at the bald guy who kept raising his middle finger and kicking back cans of beer. I remember my dad telling me not to get caught by my mom, and then my mom catching me anyway not long after, taking me away from the room and sparking my curiosity into why the bald man was so angry at his boss.

    I don't really remember much of what I saw or heard, but I do remember how loud these songs were. If Marilyn Manson went hard, these guys took it up a notch and sounded like they were willing to make their throats bleed as they screamed into the mic. As an adult, I could see myself occasionally letting these songs play while I'm at the gym, trying to get through my last set of squats.

    One thing that remained consistent with the earlier themes—save for the Marilyn Manson one—was the inclusion of sirens. I don't know what it was with WWE and sirens in the mid-to-late 90s. I guess it gave the program an air of badassery because these characters were portrayed as outlaws.

    With the grittiness of the vocals and overall arrangement, it wouldn't shock me if a lot of wrestling fans my age were introduced to metal through songs like these. Now that I've gone back and rewatched some older episodes of RAW, I can just as well associate these songs with the image of Stone Cold Steve Austin in a vest and jorts, setting up some place on fire. Man, if only they ever explained why those guys were wrestling in a decrepit warehouse that was about to get blown up.

    "Across the Nation" (2002-2006) — The Union Underground


    Alright! Now we're getting to the good stuff!

    "Across the Nation" was the first WWE OBB I recall hearing when I started watching wrestling and it'll always have a special place in my heart and in my Spotify playlist. But what is it about this song that makes me want to keep working out to it in 2018?

    For starters, it's metal but it doesn't go full edgelord. The lyrics also aren't that hard to hear and memorize, and you could sing along or scream along to them. Pop songwriters will tell you that the latter bit is actually an important factor in making a song memorable to listeners.

    The song's music video was released in 2002 and features shots of WWE Superstars, interspersed with shots of the band performing and having ladies all over them. It's a fun watch, if only to see which Superstars were highlighted at the time, who was at which part of the card, and how they all looked some 16 years ago. Imagine young Brock Lesnar only getting one shot of his intense mug. It's a fun watch, but not necessarily on a rewatch because the strobe effect of the video might actually cause seizures. You've been warned. Here, have a look at the intro from 2004 instead.

    "...To Be Loved" (2006-2009) — Papa Roach

    I can't blame you if the only other Papa Roach song you can think of is "Scars," from when the band was trying to latch on to what was then a burgeoning emo rock scene. I first heard Papa Roach on Tough Enough 2004 on SmackDown, when their single, "Getting Away with Murder," was used as the theme song. So while I was upset that "Across the Nation" was replaced, I didn't mind because Papa Roach's music at least had some history with WWE.

    Longtime listeners of the band would know that while "...To Be Loved" piggybacks off the hard rock sound of their previous album, it also is a return to their roots. Jacoby Shaddix raps at the start, picks up the pace, and then transitions into fast screaming into the chorus. I remember listening to this song a lot when I was trying to psyche myself up for debate tournaments as a high school student. This song, along with "Some Bodies Gonna Get It"—Mark Henry's theme song—usually did the trick.

    It's also the type of song that was uptempo enough to suit a montage of wrestlers coming one after another, which is basically what you expect to see in the OBB of a wrestling TV show. All that said, "...To Be Loved" sounds like it was made to be the theme song of a weekly WWE program.

    "Burn It to the Ground" (2009-2012) — Nickelback

    I took a quick break from wrestling sometime after WrestleMania XXIV; and by the time I came back into the fold in 2010, the WWE I found felt pretty different. For starters, Papa Roach was gone and replaced by... fucking Nickelback. Talk about going sawft. It's like you replaced a guy's entrance theme from an Eminem banger to a song from... G-Eazy.

    Over time, though, this song ended up growing on me just because it wasn't as soft as most of Nickelback's singles. Think "How You Remind Me," Rockstar," and "Far Away." 

    "Burn It to the Ground" didn't feel as filled with adrenaline as its predecessor. But coupled with the video editing prowess of WWE's production team, it made for a so-so OBB. Chad Kroeger's not the best vocalist in the world, so hearing him try to be Jacoby Shaddix lite gets sadder and sadder as the years pass. And that's way before he tried to record a ballad with Avril Lavigne. Jeez. 

    Fortunately for Nickelback, the guitar riffs in this track—while basic—bring enough intensity to convince you that you're indeed watching a wrestling show.

    "The Night" (2012-2014) — KromestatiK and CFO$, "The Night" (2014 Remix) (2014-2016) — CFO$

    Aaaaaaand this is where the themes get even sawfter.

    The original cut of "The Night" should have been the foreshadowing for CFO$' songwriting formula, which I've devoted almost a year of my life to calling out at this point. They give you a decent hook, maybe a solid verse, then rinse and repeat. At first, it doesn't sound that way because there are actually two verses that go one after the other, and they're rapped by the guys from KromestatiK who tag in and out. But once you get past the first loop, you'll realize you've been, well, looped.

    I've made no secret about my disdain for CFO$' penchant for using white rappers on their songs, too. It's really not a race thing. It's just that the guys they get don't have that swagger that I'd expect from someone like A$AP Ferg, Future, or Tech N9ne, at the very least. What's worse is that the guys from KromestatiK sound like The Lonely Island. Whereas Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer are self-deprecating and self-aware in their identities as comic musicians, I think KromestatiK and CFO$ actually believe they're go as hard as they think are. (They don't.) 

    There isn't a lot of synth on this track, something that CFO$ is also guilty of using over and over again. However, the vocals are so heavily autotuned, that they sound like robotic white dweebs, who can only split basic bars. Somebody introduce these cats to McKata real quick.

    As for the 2014 remix, CFO$ actually bothered to add a second verse, while enhancing the percussions, giving it an edge the original cut sorely lacked.

    "Enemies" (2016-present) — Shinedown

    I didn't know "Enemies" was a song all on its own before writing this article. I actually thought it was another CFO$ creation, much like 99.9% of new WWE themes. This song was first introduced following the brand split in 2016, but "Enemies" was originally released in 2012.

    Admittedly, this song doesn't come close to my favorites in the bunch. But it's better than "The Night" by miles. For starters, drummer Barry Kerch brings a lot of fire into the drums, particularly during the bridge, which made me feel like I was listening to a System of a Down track. Brent Smith's vocals are a bit autotuned, but if he were in a spectrum with Marilyn Manson and Kromestatik as polar  opposites, he'd be somewhere in the middle—probably below Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, but above Chad Kroeger of Nickelback.

    After several listens to the full track, I've come to appreciate how smoothly the song switches gears from the verses, to the pre-chorus, to the actual hook. The transitions aren't jarring at all, despite the intensity in the song. I actually wouldn't mind adding this to my workout playlist. It helps that the pace makes it suitable as an OBB for a wrestling show. I think I just talked myself into liking RAW's current entrance theme.


    How was your trip down memory lane through the lens of the music on RAW? Which RAW theme is your favorite? Which one do you hate the most? Keep me from falling asleep like J.R. and King did by hitting me up in the comments section!

    Photo from YouTube user TheAlfaOriginal


    Stan Sy (@_StanSy) is the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ on Wave 89.1, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.
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    Item Reviewed: #ThemeSongTuesday: The Music Of Monday Night RAW Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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