McGuire’s Mondays: Music and Pro Wrestling, a match made in heaven


By Colin McGuire, Staffer (@McGMondays)

For as long as I can remember, my life has been about music. I’ve always been involved with some type of project. I’ve written about it professionally for more than 15 years in magazines and newspapers, and on websites. My current band is readying the release of our third album. I’ve been to more concerts than I can either remember or forget.

Such is why there’s always one thing in my mind as I consume professional wrestling these days: The parallels between the two industries are almost freaky. Maybe that’s why you see Andy Williams, otherwise known as The Butcher of The Butcher and The Blade, split his time between landing bodyslams in AEW and tickling strings as the rhythm guitarist in the band Every Time I Die.

The marriage between the two forms of entertainment isn’t something new, of course. Head back to the 1980s when you had Hulk Hogan’s “Rock N Wrestling,” or even before that when the Fabulous Freebirds strutted their way to the ring, and you’ll see that this relationship is, at the very least, more than 40 years old. Still, as we head into somewhat of a new era in professional wrestling, with the arrival of AEW a year ago and a global pandemic compromising any and all plans for the sport in 2020, I thought that there might not be a better time than now to take a look at how that relationship has evolved over the decades.

And, really, there’s only one logical place to start …


Comparisons. Yes, they are overwrought, and yes, they can be debated for the rest of time. But, mind you, they are also fun. So, let’s have a look.

As the biggest dog in the yard (sorry Roman Reigns), WWE has established itself as the premiere professional wrestling company in the mainstream. Even people who don’t know the difference between a wrist-lock and a wrist-watch know about The Hulkster or The Rock or Stone Cold. In fact, WWE is so popular in American pop culture that the company has successfully moved into the “Brand To Hate” stratosphere among die-hard wrestling fans and that only comes with a very specific level of success.

Naturally, then, it should come as no surprise that WWE’s counterpart in the music world is U2. Think about it. You have a set of fans who suggest the band’s best years came in the ’80s, much like when Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior ruled the world. Then, as the ’90s hit and morphed into the early 2000s, both entities enjoyed their share of acclaim, with albums like Achtung Baby and All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and stars like … oh, I don’t know, everyone in The Attitude Era.

And yet multiple phases of gigantic success weren’t enough for either U2 or WWE to give it up (and, to be fair, at least in the case of the latter, it’s awfully hard to imagine that ever happening anyway, but I digress). Even so, the ambition to remain relevant has seen both the band and the company struggle to connect with fans in recent years. U2 blindly downloaded an album onto everyone’s Apple devices without asking anybody if they wanted it in the first place and subsequently suffered a shot across the brow that in the end saw them take a step back from world domination. The WWE, meanwhile, has King Corbin.

Need I say more?

As for the other major player in the wrestling business, AEW, it’s tough to not immediately point to The Shiny New Thing that re-defined pop music if only for a fleeting few years or so: Billie Eilish. Now, it’s not like she’s the first artist to capitalize off the shoegaze-y, understated electronic pop fun that a band like, say The XX re-made popular a decade ago.

But the same can be said for AEW, which is kind of like a mix between WCW and ECW, with the natural TNT correlation already there and a rabid fanbase intact. AEW hasn’t reinvented the wheel with its success; it’s merely reminded those who are tired of the accepted, played-out tropes of what it’s like to love professional wrestling again. Eilish, love her or hate her, has done the same with hipster teenagers (and, of course, a handful of even more hipster parents).

You can keep going with the list if you want. Impact Wrestling and California rockers Everclear have more similarities than either one wants to admit. I’m not saying Ring Of Honor has the same checkered past as Ryan Adams, but I am saying that the company has some baggage it’s probably not proud of. New Japan can be anyone from Perfume Genius to Lana Del Ray to Waxahatchee, depending on the year because no matter what, the cool kids will always like it.

Speaking of which …


There was a time when all the cool kids loved Dawes. Shoot, a lot of cool kids still love Dawes. Hell, a lot of people still love Dawes. The problem?

Dawes got more popular than some people wanted them to get.

Ah, yes. Fandom. Just like those who love music, those who love wrestling can be awfully precious about who or what they decide to give their heart to, and if that’s ever betrayed, look out, because everybody these days is armed with a case of Red Bull and a Twitter account, and no, there won’t be any prisoners taken. As if politics hasn’t underlined the polarization of conversation enough these days, professional wrestling, much like music, has a large faction of people who aren’t just happy to be insulting to prove a point, but sometimes, they go looking for a reason to be unkind whenever they merely feel like taking their anger out on something or someone in the first place.

Don’t you dare criticize NXT because if you do, you’re just an AEW mark who has an unreasonable hate for anything WWE. Don’t you dare criticize AEW because if you do, you refuse to change with the business and you have bad taste in wrestling. It’s the same thing with music. It’s cool to openly enjoy Taylor Swift’s work, but my goodness, if you occasionally rock out to some Nickelback, you better do that behind closed doors.

It’s all so fickle. In both worlds, we hear a small subset of fans that advocate for what is perhaps the most reasonable standpoint: Like what you like because you like it, and there is no shame in enjoying any brand of wrestling or any genre of music. All that was well and good 20 years ago, when the virtual cool kids tables on all social media platforms didn’t exist, but these days, be careful what you say, no matter how mundane you think it might be. Your cool card could be revoked in an instant.

And it’s not just fans who behave this way …


It’s also those who write about both industries. Here’s a secret: I like the band Train. Yeah, I know. That takes away points from the cool column and adds them to the mom jeans section, but I have my reasons. One time, many years ago, I wrote an essay for a fairly popular music site that covers all the cool music stuff defending my love for Train.

It took me months to get people to read anything I wrote again.

It’s the same thing with what I lovingly refer to as “EOY Time” — around November, publications seek what everybody’s favorite albums of the year were, and then they compile their best-of end-of-year lists and writers are asked to contribute blurbs. My problem? If I submit a list that doesn’t line up with what I know whatever a publication wants, my votes and blurbs will be null and void.

It’s kind of the same thing in the wrestling writing world. One thing I’ve noticed is that you’re either accepted or you’re not, and if you’re not, you become incredibly conscious of all you say, write or think.

There’s a weird back-and-forth between people in the wrestling business and people who cover the wrestling business. Only a selected handful are taken seriously by those in the wrestling business, while so many others are constantly being poked at on social media or any of the zillion podcasts wrestling people put out. Wrestlers make fun of some who use terms like “push” or “pop” or “getting heat back,” and contend most fans and writers don’t actually know how to correctly use the terms. Fans and writers, meanwhile, continue to criticize each and every movement of those in the wrestling industry, setting the stage for a matchup between those who are on the defensive and … well … those who are on the defensive.

And so I ask: If a wrestling media personality says he or she loves WWE, does that mean he or she has bad taste in your eyes? If a wrestling media personality says he or she doesn’t like and/or appreciate AEW or NJPW, does he or she instantly lose credibility with you as a reader? Or, as this section highlights, would that person be shunned from 50 to 70 percent of other wrestling media gigs and/or opportunities as he or she tries to carve out a career in covering the wrestling business?

Either way, most everybody is in the same boat, because …


The live wrestling industry is at a standstill. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, the live music industry is at a standstill, too.

I often think about how hurt a lot of wrestlers and musicians are this year because they aren’t able to get out and perform. Imagine quitting your day job to pursue your dream and six months into it, there’s no avenue for you to make any type of sustainable income. Before COVID-19 wrecked everything, wrestlers and musicians alike could tour to help supplement their dream-chasing. Just look at the age-old formula: Drive 300 miles one way. Get up in front of eight people. Earn 50 bucks.

Then do it again.

Then do it again.

Then do it again.

Sure, it’s called paying your dues, but it’s also the fuel that keeps the fabric of these industries going. In some ways, I do feel like it’s the responsibility of the big boys, like WWE and AEW, to help give some wrestlers a look now that they need it more than ever. But then again, just because your uncle put out an acoustic EP in October … well, that doesn’t mean he should be signed to Interscope.

Still, it’s a sad thing to watch as both industries are aching to fully get back to where they were before the pandemic set in. Limited attendance wrestling shows seem to be working in some capacity, and drive-in concerts, I’ve seen first-hand, can lift up a music community in need. But the truth is that nothing is going to be OK until both music and wrestling can fully return to its grassroots and life blood.

Until then …


Well, both industries are beholden more than ever to those who have become rich off their artistic accomplishments. That isn’t to say major record labels aren’t hurting, and it’s also not to say wrestling companies all around the world aren’t struggling to find a path forward. But in truth, there are only a select few who can pull the strings no matter if you’re a musician or a wrestler.

There’s Vince McMahon and there’s Tony Khan. There’s Jimmy Iovine and there’s Michael Lynton. Sprinkle in some others, and you have a very concentrated place for power that spreads over industries that have tentacles reaching so many corners of the world. Should it be like that forever?

The short answer, in my mind, is no. The more diversity we have in authority, the bigger chance we have at finding diamonds we didn’t even know were buried in the rough. But, at the end of the day, this leads me to the one thing the music and wrestling industries don’t have in common (yet): Unionization.

The conversation about wrestlers unionizing has heated up again in the last month or two, but for all those who think unionizing is the surefire answer, let me remind you that there is, indeed, a musicians union, and … well … it hasn’t necessarily changed much. If you’re good at writing songs and you’re good at playing a guitar in front of people, you have a better chance to succeed in the music business than those who can’t carry a tune in a five-pound bucket. Likewise, if you’re good at making people very angry at you and you can throw a punch without bloodying someone’s nose, you have a better chance to succeed in the wrestling business than those who think walking to the refrigerator constitutes as enough exercise for one day.

Plus, it’s not like Bono stood in line to get his union card before he wrote “With Or Without You,” or Billie Eilish checked with her union rep to make sure she could die her hair green. In both wrestling and in music, the key to success combines some form of skill, luck, commitment, work and drive. If you can land a great-looking dropkick, you don’t necessarily need the backing of a union to ensure your success as a wrestler.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder what lies ahead for both industries as they come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, whenever that might be. And for as much as they have in common, it’s kind of/sort of odd that neither industry has found a way to cross-pollinate with one another in a meaningful way. The Butcher has worked out well, but his guitar days are rarely if ever mentioned when he wrestles. The Elias gimmick worked in a fun way for a second, but man, they’ve run that into the ground. The Honky Tonk Man shook, rattled and rolled his way into oblivion. Mickie James has a Christmas song out, but she can’t get on TV.

The exception to the rule is obviously Chris Jericho, who somehow managed to combine the two worlds successfully, and it’s not like that happened over night. Jimmy Hart gets an honorable mention, but they never quite played up his music-writing abilities while he walked Hogan or Hart down the aisle before they got into the squared circle. And if you’re telling me I should take John Cena seriously as a rapper …

Well, if WWE is U2, then let’s just say Cena’s rhyming skills gave a whole new meaning to what “Pop” means in the annals of history when it comes to both songs and snap-mares.


Readers Comments (1)

  1. As a ginormous U2 fan I highly enjoyed this article and the analogies you presented made some pretty decent points. Never in a million years did I think someone would find a way to compare two of my favorite loves but there you go! LOL. Great article, great subject matter, well-written and argued.

    For the record, I’m a major fan of U2’s 90s stuff, personally, but that’s also because that’s when I discovered them. Holds a special place for me.

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