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    Tuesday, December 12, 2017

    #ThemeSongTuesday: Wrestling Themes That Ripped Off Mainstream Songs

    As someone who struggles through writer's block more than I'd like, I understand how tough it is to be pressured to constantly come up with new material. That said, when you're on the clock and have to churn something out for immediate release/consumption, then you have to get creative even when you're out of creative juices.

    That's why I understand that even though we've heard many original entrance themes in wrestling that have blown us away over the years, it's been equally possible for entrance themes that have been ripped off existing songs from other artists. What makes this interesting is how blatantly they were ripped off and which elements were used in the wrestlers' entrance theme. This week, we'll take a look at a small list I've put together with the help of the folks here at the Smark Henry Offices.

    "No Sunshine" - DMX and "Phenomenal" - CFO$ (AJ Styles)

    I distinctly remember people at the Royal Rumble 2016 viewing party yelling that WWE used DMX's "No Sunshine" as AJ Styles' entrance theme. That would've been awesome because these days, it's pretty uncommon for a WWE Superstar to come out to a theme performed by an established recording artist.

    It turns out that the Phenomenal One wasn't coming out to "No Sunshine" after all. His theme, "Phenomenal," just used a very similar beat, with almost the same tempo, as the DMX single from 2001. Listen to it side by side with "Phenomenal." You can actually rap AJ's entrance theme over DMX's beat.

    Of course, in the excitement of Uncle Allen's debut, it would've been too hard to tell the difference. Can't blame you, fam.

    "Fancy" - Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX and "Fabulous" - CFO$ (Carmella)

    Remember when Iggy Azalea was relevant? Yeah, that seems so long ago.

    But in 2014, almost everybody was rapping along to "Fancy," white appropriation of hip-hop culture be damned. It's pretty unfortunate that CFO$ took over a year to ride that wave and produce this theme for Carmella.

    Seriously, listen to it. You don't even need to listen to the Iggy original to know that they blatantly ripped her off. It's got pretty much the same bouncy beat, bassline, and lack of dating (as in the Tagalog word). It's actually pretty sad.

    "Can't Get You Outta My Heart" - Jimmy Hart & Howard Helm (3 Count) and "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" - Backstreet Boys

    We can't have an article like this featuring this theme and this gimmick.

    Alright, anyone who knows their boyband music will know right off the bat that they jacked this beat and loop off the Backstreet Boys. I'm literally waiting for AJ McLean to go, "everybodyyyyy!"

    Sadly, Jimmy Hart and Howard Helm take out the BSB vocals and replace it with some generic boyband drivel that sounds more like 2Be3 or Natural—yes, those are actual one-hit wonder boybands. And then they put in a couple of rap verses in between the hooks a la LFO just because it was the late '90s.

    As a boyband fan, I feel so let down that this is all we got from the only boyband gimmick in pro wrestling.

    "Raven" - Jimmy Hart & Howard Helm (Raven) and "Come As You Are" - Nirvana

    This here's another obvious rip-off.

    Before edgelords started making their presence felt on social media—and even in professional wrestling—there was Raven, whose character embodied the grunge wave that was prevalent in the West Coast rock scene in the U.S. during the '90s. 

    During his WCW run, he used this theme, which is essentially a slowed-down instrumental of Nirvana's "Come As You Are." Much like how I waited for AJ McLean to come in during the 3 Count entrance theme, I sat here waiting for Kurt Cobain to start rocking out, to no avail.

    What makes the WCW version cheap is that they didn't even make any effort to get the percussion patterns into the song. It was just a simple drum beat that didn't really kick into high gear throughout the song. Plus, the guitars and bass sounded so cheap compared to what Cobain and Krist Novoselic put out on this track.

    "Self High-Five" - Jimmy Hart and Howard Helm (Diamond Dallas Page) and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana

    Speaking of Nirvana ripoffs...

    Yeah, it can't get any more in-your-face than this theme. Jeez. It's like Jimmy Hart and Howard Helm didn't even want to fucking try. How did these fuckers not get sued by Kurt Cobain's estate, at the very least???

    Well, there's a story behind it. DDP once said in an interview with Kayfabe Commentaries that Hart just changed the notes used in "Smells Like Teen Spirit" so that it sounds similar, but isn't actually the real deal. Apparently, that defense was enough to get WCW to avoid being sued by Dave Grohl. Shit.

    "Semisweet Symphony" (Trent Baretta & Caylen Croft) and "Bitter Sweet Symphony" - The Verve

    The year was 1999 and Cruel Intentions was one of the biggest films of the year. When the credits were rolling, a song from a semi-known Brit alt rock band was playing and lasted in the ears and minds of anyone who caught that movie. It was The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony," a song that continues getting numerous requests on the radio whenever throwback hits are on the menu.

    What makes "Bitter Sweet Symphony" an interesting part of this list is the fact that The Verve went through a plagiarism charge, too, when this song was released in 1997. The main loop that you hear throughout the song samples Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham's orchestral version of "The Last Time," a Rolling Stones track from 1965. The Verve eventually added Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Stones to the song's production credits.

    Funnily enough, in 2009, WWE's music team would go out of their way to sample rip off this song, too, when they made the first entrance theme for the short-lived team of Trent Baretta and Caylen Croft, The Dudebusters.

    As if all this sampling ripping off wasn't enough, Jason Derulo's 2010 hit, "Ridin' Solo" initially sampled "Bitter Sweet Symphony," which you can hear in the original demo. Unfortunately for Derulo, the sample wasn't cleared, so it was replaced with electronic motifs, which you can hear in the version of the song you're more familiar with.

    "One Crazed Anarchist" - William Allan Bookheim (Chris Jericho) and "Even Flow" - Pearl Jam

    Oh, hey, since we're talking about songs that are rip-offs of rip-offs, did you know that Pearl Jam's "Even Flow" is a "tribute rip-off?" Yes, their words, not mine.

    Their lead guitarist, Mike McCready, talks about the song's funky guitar riff as a tribute to legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. He explains that while Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard wrote the riff and the song, McCready just followed the pattern and stole everything he knew from Vaughan to put into the track. And that's how he copped to that funky riff in "Even Flow" being a rip-off.

    So when Chris Jericho needed a new theme during his WCW run, their music team had the brilliant idea of ripping off another established song from a mainstream group. Welp.

    As you can guess, Mr. Bookheim used the same technique that Jimmy Hart and Howard Helm employed in their rip-offs. They used similar-sounding notes and riffs to achieve that same feel and tone, without using the actual song. It also helps that the guitars sound more synth-y in this version than in "Even Flow," which at least lends way more legitimacy to the real deal. But, damn, I can't believe Chris Jericho allowed himself to come out to this shit once upon a time.

    "Trouble" - Dale Oliver (Ethan Carter III) and "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)" - Fall Out Boy

    I remember first hearing this theme a few years ago and actually liking it, but it wasn't until I listened to it a second time that I took the time to notice how it also stole a key element from a Fall Out Boy song.

    "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)" was Fall Out Boy's comeback single in 2013, following a four-year absence. For the band, there was no better way for them to scream that they'd returned than with a powerful anthem like this. It ended up being used in various hype montages, particularly in the sports world.

    So it shouldn't be surprising that TNA's music team, led by Dale Oliver, would go on to use elements of this track into a theme song. He particularly used the anthemic "WHOA-OHH" cries—which you can hear in the intro right before the first verse and in every hook—in EC3's eventual entrance theme. Even part of the cadence in EC3's theme draws from this FOB track, which is pretty interesting to me as a fan of the band. Honestly, I can't blame wrestling fans for still liking this entrance theme, despite it also clearly stealing from a mainstream single.

    "Next Level" - CFO$ (Roderick Strong) and "The End Of Heartache" by Killswitch Engage

    We'll end this list with Killswitch Engage, a band whose music is still near and dear to wrestling fans' hearts thanks to CM Punk's first WWE entrance theme, "This Fire Burns."

    But Punk wasn't the only wrestler who used Killswitch Engage's music to announce his entry. During his indy days, Strong actually used their single from 2009, "The End Of Heartache," as his entrance music.

    After reading about this, his entrance song suddenly makes so much sense now. He comes out to a track called "Next Level," which is clearly a second-rate distant cousin to "The End Of Heartache." But a lot of familiar elements—the main guitar riff, the intense plucking, and a fraction of the intensity in the drumming patterns. I wouldn't say it completely ripped Killswitch Engage off, but a close listen to both tracks will reveal the similarities.

    The differences lie in "Next Level" having the synth key and guitar elements, instead of the pure guitars and bass that Killswitch Engage has on their song, for obvious reasons. CFO$ has always had a tendency to rely on these synth instruments, so it shouldn't be surprising anymore.

    Oh, and in case you needed one final note to confirm how much Roddy loves "The End Of Heartache," remember that it's what he calls his finisher!


    There you have it, nine entrance themes through the years that have blatantly ripped off existing songs from famous artists to varying degrees. This was actually a fun list to put together, and I know that I may have missed out on some other less obvious pairs in writing it. So if you have any other songs you want to send my way for comparison, then feel free to hit me up on Twitter or down below in the comments section!

    Photo from Online World Of Wrestling


    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, NXT, Lucha 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: Wrestling Themes That Ripped Off Mainstream Songs Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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