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    Tuesday, July 16, 2019

    #ThemeSongTuesday: OH! WALK WITH ELIAS!

    I was watching the finale of The Amazing Race Season 31 a few weeks ago—yes, it's lasted this long and a 32nd season, which includes a Philippine leg, is in post-production and slated to air next year—and the final leg of the race was set in Detroit, Michigan. As the teams approached Hart Plaza in Detroit, they found out that their last task before racing towards the finish line was to assemble a drum kit correctly from scratch while an entire plaza of musicians was loudly playing The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" over and over and over again.

    Assembling a drum kit is difficult enough on its own for non-drummers. Hearing "Seven Nation Army" over and over again in the background while being unable to talk to your partner makes it downright confounding. Imagine focusing on the task but getting lost in the hypnotic beat and riff of this stadium anthem. Frankly, I'm surprised eventual winners Colin and Christie kept it together without Colin getting frustrated and yelling, "MY SNARE IS BROKEN!!!

    As the two teams in the lead assembled their respective kits as quickly as they could, I couldn't help but hum, "OHHHH, ENZO AMOOOORE!" in my head. Another friend who had watched the finale sent me a message to ask if he was the only one who was chanting, "OHHHH, WALK WITH ELIAS!" during this part of the episode. Too bad there aren't a lot of wrestling fans who keep up with The Amazing Race as I'm sure someone would've asked if I was humming, "OHHHH, ZACK SABRE JUNIOR!" too.

    Here's the best part about "Seven Nation Army." I wouldn't be surprised if you'd be able to sing or hum the riff off the top of your head without even having heard the song in full until today. The song has become so pervasive in sports and pop culture that it is quite literally everywhere.


    Recorded in 2002 and released as a single in 2003, "Seven Nation Army" is The White Stripes' signature song, the track that has become most associated with any artist. When you say the Backstreet Boys, you think of "I Want It That Way." Oasis? "Wonderwall." Nirvana? "Smells Like Teen Spirit." You get the picture. It's been almost a decade since Jack and Meg White parted ways as a performing duo, and yet, "Seven Nation Army" is as part of their identity as their very name.

    There's a reason Rolling Stone described the iconic riff as the "greatest of the 21st century" last year when the magazine published a list of the 100 greatest songs of this century. What makes the riff in "Seven Nation Army" fascinating is the fact that its bassline is so simple and catchy... and it wasn't even recorded on a bass guitar! Prior to "Seven Nation Army" and through much of The White Stripes' run, they never even used a bass guitar. This riff, in particular, came to life through Jack White's semi-acoustic, 1950s-style Kay Hollowbody guitar through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

    Image from The White Stripes on Spotify

    The riff itself is so easy to remember. It's got just six notes and repeats throughout the entire song. It also helps that it's a bassline, which makes it low enough for adult males—and people with low voices, in general—to sing and chant along to. But how did "Seven Nation Army" make its way from Jack White's garage to stadiums all around the world?

    It started in October 2003, at a UEFA Champions League game in Italy between Belgium's Club Brugge KV and Italy's A.C. Milan. The Club Brugge KV fans began singing the riff and continued to do so after their striker, Andrés Mendoza, scored a goal. Club Brugge KV went on to win and for some reason, "Seven Nation Army" went on to become their unofficial theme song.

    Three years later, Club Brugge KV took on A.S. Romawon and the fans of the latter team caught on to the riff being chanted so that stuck, too. At that year's FIFA World Cup, the Italian fans chanted the "Seven Nation Army" riff using the syllable "po" as they sang. Alan Siegel of Deadspin wrote in 2012 about how many Italians came to know "Seven Nation Army" as the "po po po po po" song and it became their unofficial theme, even more so when Italy won the World Cup and their countrymen erupted and sang the iconic riff in the streets of Rome!

    Those are just the origins of "Seven Nation Army" being used in sports. Since then, you can hear the song at virtually any sporting event all around the world. That's why Rick Karr of NPR called it "the world's most popular anthem" last year. 

    As for wrestling? Well, we have to start with British fans, who are just so quick with chants, particularly those you can sing along to. There's the "OHHHH! WALK WITH ELIAS!" chant, which people still burst into, regardless of Elias' alignment.

    That pop after Elias played the riff himself was insane and well-deserved.

    Shit, the crowd kept chanting along to it through the commercial break until the match began!

    And then there's Enzo Amore. Remember when he was universally beloved in WWE? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

    And who could forget Zack Sabre Jr? The Cruiserweight Classic introduced mainstream WWE audiences to "OHHHH! ZACK SABRE JUUUU-NIOR!" which you still hear at ZSJ matches worldwide. I remember even participating in it myself when I caught him live at an ICW show in London three years ago.

    Speaking of ICW, Joe Hendry (LOCAL HERO!) and Davey Boy parodied "Seven Nation Army" and made a custom entrance video for the late Lionheart at #ICW100 in 2016. I'm not familiar with that storyline at all but the use of "Seven Nation Army" and the entire skit was pretty damn funny. RIP, Lionheart.

    Interestingly enough, there's actually a group of wrestlers in the Sydney independent scene called The 4 Nations, which actually uses "Seven Nation Army" as their entrance theme!

    Those are just some of the instances in which "Seven Nation Army" has made its presence felt at a pro wrestling show. Now that I think about it, I wonder when a Filipino crowd will burst into song and use this song/chant at a local show. Time to take this idea and run with it, Filipino wrestling fans!

    If you go beyond the hypnotic drum beat and the catchy riff, the lyrics of "Seven Nation Army" come across as very anti-authoritarian, which also led to the song's popularity over the years. Wrestling, at its peak, has always been about defying the status quo and sticking it to the man—why do you think the Attitude Era still resonates with fans past and present to this day? It's just one more thread that connects the song to our favorite sport and one I can certainly appreciate.

    What's your favorite "Seven Nation Army" chant in pro wrestling or in sports? Sound off with your own Seven Nation Army in the comments below!

    Image from WWE


    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: OH! WALK WITH ELIAS! Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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