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    Tuesday, November 3, 2020

    #ThemeSongTuesday: Scary Mask


    Alternate entrance themes are a thing of beauty.

    As someone who loves wrestling theme songs and writes about them, I wholeheartedly appreciate it when wrestlers have a second theme song—their music as part of a tag team/stable/faction doesn't count—because it feels like they're really turning it up to another level when they tap into this different mode.

    Think of it like Finn Bálor, back when he'd be Demon Finn for special matches. (Anybody remember that?) He came out to the same song, but the intro would be longer and more ominous when he'd come out as The Demon.

    Triple H is a more classic example. He's been associated with Motörhead's "The Game" for the longest time that it felt a bit jarring at first when he started to come out to "King of Kings," another Motörhead ditty, at WrestleMania 22 in 2006. Over time, he began to use it as an alternate theme, only busting it out for special matches until he transitioned into being Corporate HHH. These days, "King of Kings" sounds more like his regular theme as it plays whenever he comes out in a suit, while "The Game" is the theme he uses when he goes to the ring for his annual WrestleMania match.

    I always felt like you had to be a really big deal for you to have an alternate entrance theme as a singles star, which is why I have a feeling that WWE—or at least, NXT—has a lot of faith in Io Shirai. Not only is she still NXT Women's Champion after a feud with Candice LeRae that should've ended a month ago, but, well, she actually has an alternate entrance theme!

    Io Shirai came out to Poppy's "Scary Mask" about a year and a week after she came out to the same song during a special episode of NXT. Both times featured Poppy performing the single live and both entrances were for an Io Shirai match against Candice LeRae.

    We all thought this was a one-time thing last year because Io Shirai's heel turn was fresh at the time. She was finding this new edge to her character and "Scary Mask" and its dark undertones seemed to fit the story Io was trying to tell. Poppy has previously explained the meaning of the song in outlets like Paper Magazine and Revolver that the song was about putting a mask on when you feel like you don't belong. She has also talked about how liberating it is to act in a way you normally wouldn't when you have a disguise on.

    All these things fit with Io Shirai, who used to wear a luchadora mask in her entrance as a babyface because it was her way of paying tribute to the lucha libre style that has a very special place in her heart. She'd unmask once she'd made it to the turnbuckles to pose for fans and we saw her smile and pander to audiences all around the world until she just snapped following loss after loss against Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women's Championship.

    Ironically, it was when Shirai had turned heel that we saw what came to be the more natural edge to her character. Being freed from the shackles of being a babyface let us see who the real Io Shirai was and ironically, that edge made everyone love her even more. And now she's an even more badass character than she ever was. In a way, the progression of Io Shirai's character is a mirror image to the story of Poppy's "Scary Mask," which is why I love how the song was used to highlight her initial heel turn last year and how it came back this year, now that Io and Candice's alignments have reversed.

    The version of the song we hear during Poppy's live performances of NXT sticks to the angry guitar buildup from the verse to the chorus and the chorus itself, which when you play in a loop, sounds very much like your standard WWE entrance themes. "Scary Mask" is a banger on its own, but this particular cut—or the slightly longer one from last year's live performance—works in establishing Io Shirai's character as someone who had been pushed to their dark extremes in order to bring out the best in them at the expense of their opponents.

    Watch how Io Shirai seems to revel in the moment while Poppy performs live. She looks crazy, well, because she's in character. But the woman also feels so revitalized and liberated. And watching her come out to this theme makes me feel so happy that she's finally being written to be the top star that she's always been destined to be.

    I'm all for wrestlers having a secondary entrance theme if their characters have earned it. Given how Io Shirai's narrative has turned out, as well as her long history with Candice LeRae, I'd say she has earned this theme. And I'd love to see her come out to "Scary Mask" again, or maybe even have it be licensed by WWE as an official theme for Io.

    As for the full song? If you want to flip the switch between doo-wop and crazy apeshit nu-metal several times over the course of three minutes, then go put this song on loop. It's a fucking trip.

    Now go wear your scary mask and be free.

    Header 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 the host of On Deck, as well as one of the hosts of The Wrestling-Wrestling Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, AEW, and the occasional New Japan match.

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    Item Reviewed: #ThemeSongTuesday: Scary Mask Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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