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    Tuesday, June 22, 2021

    Theme Song Tuesday: Who's the Justin Timberlake Here?

    It's Tuesday. You know what that means.

    Over a month ago, WWE Music's YouTube and Spotify accounts uploaded a bunch of new themes from out of nowhere. Anybody who's been faithfully following WWE Music on social media knows that they like to take their sweet time when uploading new theme music. So that mass upload was a bit of a shocker. Even more surprising was the fact that they included a lot of new songs that we'd only heard on TV weeks prior! This week's #ThemeSongTuesday will feature two songs from that batch of uploads: the new singles themes for Adam Cole and Kyle O'Reilly.

    I want to start this off by saying that I'm incredibly sad that nobody got to keep the old Undisputed Era theme. That was seriously one of the best WWE-produced entrance themes of the modern era, and it's a damn shame that we're not going to hear it on TV anymore. Then again, who among the UE boys would've logically kept it when the group and its subsequent split left such a bad kayfabe taste in each of their mouths? I guess it made sense that we'd never hear "Undisputed" again. Pressing F for respect here.

    Let's start with Adam Cole's theme, shall we?

    "Thunder Boom" feels like it's born from elements of "Undisputed." From the random vocal elements interspersed throughout the song, to the main riff sounding like equal parts guitar picking and turntable-scratching, it sounds a lot like the song really was meant to carry the spirit of the Undisputed Era's old theme song. 

    And it does make sense that they'd do that since the UE was a group formed in Adam Cole's image and likeness. He was the linchpin of that group, so I can see how and why its theme would feel a lot like Adam Cole's musical equivalent. That's why I get how "Thunder Boom" can feel a lot like "Undisputed." It's like when a boyband member tries to go and have a solo career. Sometimes, they go and try to completely shed the sound and feel of their boyband origins, like Justin Timberlake or ZAYN. And sometimes, they just sound like the guy is singing something the boyband would, except on his own, like Nick Carter.

    Adam Cole's theme, "Thunder Boom," falls under the latter category here, and it's not a bad thing. In fact, it's a good thing because it means that the theme's sound alone can communicate which wrestler it's associated with. That's always been important for me when evaluating entrance themes. I mean, the theme actually allocates a specific part for signature moments in Adam Cole's entrance. You can hear a specific part at 1:03, where def rebel inserted the "BOOM!" so Cole and the crowd can do it together. And then at 1:10, there's actually a part that goes, "ADAM COLE BAYBAY!" So, yes, this theme was definitely custom-made for Adam Cole, and I appreciate how this level of detail was put into the song, when that same attention to detail isn't really present in other Superstars' themes.

    Does it perfectly capture who Adam Cole is as a braggadocious star who feels that not everyone is on his level? Not as much as "Undisputed" did. But I'm willing to give this song a bit of time. It's decent at best, and inoffensive at worst.

    Alright, let's look at Cool Kyle's new theme.

    I gotta be honest here: I wasn't really into "Axe & Smash" when I first heard it at TakeOver: Stand and Deliver a couple of months ago. Maybe they should've had KOR come out to it an episode or two before the big event so I could've gotten used to it by the time he and Cole had the Unsanctioned Match. I felt that while it did have a big fight feel to it, the fact that both O'Reilly and Cole's new themes were being played for the first time took away from the excitement. Maybe that's what makes wrestling unique: we should know these themes by heart, or at least recognize them, because that speaks to the attachment and investment in these wrestlers.

    Kyle O'Reilly's new entrance theme doesn't feel like "Undisputed" the way "Thunder Boom" does, and for good reason. KOR is not Adam Cole. They're not the same people. They don't have the same vibe. Adam Cole is all bombast and me-me-me, so it makes sense that his theme makes you think of those things. In contrast, Kyle O'Reilly's theme makes you want to... play air guitar through the entire track. And that's exactly who Kyle O'Reilly is! After all, this is the dude who treated his championship belts like freakin' air guitars!

    That alone is already a win in my book because def rebel was able to zero in on this one tiny character thing that Kyle O'Reilly does during his entrance... and they turned it into the foundation of his singles theme. Brilliant. 

    On its own, "Axe & Smash" isn't anything to write home about. It's not going to take you on an emotional journey. It's not an epic story told through a three-minute track. It's just a nu-metal song that goes hard enough for you to want to play air guitar for as long as it's on. And honestly, that's totally fine! I love how the scratching is more audible alongside the main riff, as opposed to "Thunder Boom," where the scratching is there but isn't as easily audible. The drums are also a bigger component in this song than they are in Adam Cole's entrance theme. Overall, this song works as an instrumental theme. I wonder how it'd sound if they'd had someone rapping over it like Peak Limp Bizkit would have in the early 2000s. Then again, it might take away from the air guitar vibes.

    I've been wondering for weeks what "Axe & Smash" meant for Kyle O'Reilly. I didn't realize it referred to this signature combo I'd seen him do in the ring for years.

    Kyle O'Reilly himself even acknowledged this tweet, so I guess that's the explanation behind the name and the logo on his entrance gear. 

    Overall, "Axe & Smash" is a track that'll likely grow on you the more you hear it. That's been my personal experience with the theme. I also don't feel that it's a complete track, but maybe that's just me. That said, I get more excited whenever I hear this theme because any excuse to get up and do air guitar is a good excuse—especially on the slowest of days. That's why I like KOR's theme more than I do Adam Cole's theme. I'm just not really into this repackaging of their entrance theme. And if I had to pick which one I liked better just because, it'd be Kyle O'Reilly's—and it's all because of that fucking air guitar.

    Images in the header 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: Theme Song Tuesday: Who's the Justin Timberlake Here? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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