It was September 5, 2021, it was the climax of the highly entertaining AEW All Out PPV and Kenny Omega was addressing the packed crowd after a terrific main event. Omega was busy berating the crowd when the lights went out and a buzz of anticipation filled the arena in Chicago. Suddenly, seven words boomed out of the PA system:

“You know it’s all about the boom!”

Adam Cole made his entrance and the world popped. His new theme music bellowed through the air and fans rejoiced, happy to see one of their favorites debut in AEW. A lot of factors went into that moment and those moments that followed, from the hot crowd to the hard work of management, as well as the graft of the in-ring performers, but what made that moment so special for me was the theme music. The explosive vocals, the booming guitar riffs, all tailor-made to the performer and it instantly made a great moment better. That’s how it’s done, folks.

For me, that moment was a reminder of how music enhances the world of wrestling.

Can you imagine what a chore professional wrestling would be without such banging theme songs leading wrestlers to the ring? For some wrestlers, the theme music can be a vital piece of the overall puzzle.  A good theme song can enhance a performer instantly. What would Stone Cold be without his iconic glass shattering theme? Would D-Generation X be as cool and over without “breaking it down”?  Can you imagine Gangrel’s entrance without his brooding, haunting tune?

Music isn’t everything in professional wrestling, but without it, everything else may fail to function. Entrance music is so powerful it can have a negative effect if it fails to hit the mark. An unsuited or in some cases lazy choice of music can devalue a performer and without the right song, a performer may not reach their full potential.

Since AEW has risen to offer an alternative to WWE’s brand of wrestling entertainment, they have mostly tasked one man with the job of provided electric theme music for their roster. That man is Mikey Rukus.

Rukus is the man responsible for providing the awesome Adam Cole theme, as well as countless others and he’s been doing so since AEW opened its doors, essentially becoming their Jim Johnson, tasked with the job of creating a musical piece to enhance the overall appeal of their performers.  Rukus has job has been assisting the AEW audience in identifying performers by providing a musical piece that makes them instantly recognizable.

It is no easy task.

Powered by RedCircle

Take the previously mentioned Adam Cole. Rukus was tasked with creating theme music for his debut. Before Adam Cole debuted in AEW, I and so many other fans were so familiar with his Undisputed Era theme that I could not imagine him coming down to anything else after being conditioned seeing him and the musical number being associated with each other for so long. The song suited him and his persona immensely, it enabled the audience to identify him easily once the song hit. As Cole got ready to walk through the curtain that night in Chicago, anything less than that could cause Cole’s entrance to be lackluster, underwhelming and unfulfilling.

Now imagine the pressure that weighed on the shoulders of Rukus. I wouldn’t be envious of that situation personally, but Rukus not only delivered but after a few bars of “All About Tha (BOOM)” it was evident that Rukus knocked it out of the park. He didn’t buckle to the pressure, he thrived in it and as a result, the song has been a key ingredient in the success of Adam Cole’s transition to All Elite Wrestling.

But who is this man named Mikey Rukus?

Rukus first came to my attention when searching Spotify to see if any AEW theme songs were available in 2020. Some theme songs just stick with you, burrowing into your head like an infectious worm and refusing to leave. I have always had a deep appreciation for wrestling-based tunes. I always recall my surprise and joy when I came across a copy of WWE the Music Volume 3 in my local HMV way back when. I have the same joy to this day when searching for popular ‘rasslin tunes on my Spotify as I did when I threw my WWE CD into my Sony Discman. Flicking through some AEW playlist, the name of Rukus was ever-present.

Rukus is a regular guy who enjoys creating music. Mikey spoke to Chris Van Vliet previously about where he started from.

“I worked in retail management and I needed to do something to supplement my income out of a need to survive, so I said ‘I’m going to make entrance music'”

Mikey began reaching out to people via social media and began commission work with some MMA fighters. After a year in, he managed to get his music played at UFC 142 and he was off to the races. He built up his resume and worked on a commission basis with a variety of individuals and entities, such as NBC Sports while simultaneously doing something he was passionate about.

Seeing an opening in the independent wrestling scene, which was booming around 2016, Rukus branched into the crazy world of pro wrestling. It wasn’t an easy journey for Rukus to make it to AEW. He detailed on the AEW Restricted podcast that he had to hustle and network to get to the place he is today. He began by working off a commission basis for MMA tracks before networking his way to professional wrestling.

“I started to network, couldn’t lock down anybody. I was trying to get a hold of Cody. I was trying to get a hold of Brandi. My mom was actually doing a search for Cody’s phone. My mom was like, ‘I’m gonna find him for you. I’m going to find him for you. I’m gonna find his number.’ I messaged a couple of people outside of the industry to see if there was a way that I can find a way back in, through mutual acquaintances, and in the midst of all of this, I had previous clients that I had worked with over the last nine or ten years start speaking out on my behalf.”

Mikey was not taking no for an answer and he kept plugging away, like a beagle dog looking for his bone in the backyard, until he eventually got his foot in the door before their inaugural show. A late-night call from Chris “Mookie” Harrington resulted in Rukus being a late addition to the AEW team.

“Chris Harrington called me and was like, ‘What’s life like for you right now?’ At 11 o’clock at night, he’s like, ‘Is this a bad time?’ I was like, ‘No, not at all.’ He’s like, ‘I want to know what your life is like right now because I think we want to bring you on as part of the team,’ and I remember hanging up the phone and trying not to scream because it was 11:00 at night. And I’m out in my front yard, and I’m like this, this is it. This is what I’ve worked towards.”

The rest appears to be history. Since then, Rukus has composed some extremely enjoyable pieces for AEW talent and they range from the ear-crushing Matt Hardy theme to the eerie, mysterious Sting theme, “Arrival”.  The music in professional wrestling always has a need to be wide-ranging and versatile and the work of Rukus exemplifies that.  Mikey attributes his flexible abilities to the situations he’s experienced in life and his high school teacher. He played in cover bands and also a jazz band in high school, as well as the marching band and his teacher encouraged him to play a wide variety of instruments.

If you’ve ever interacted with Mikey or watched one of his interviews, he comes off as a hardworking, knowledgeable individual yet extremely modest guy. He is easygoing and appears humble at the place he has in professional wrestling. He tells stories of the theme music he enjoyed growing up, mentioning his appreciation of Goldberg and Warriors themes and how they would get him going as he strolled into work. For me, it’s stories like this that are instantly relatable to me and make me feel “I’m not the only one”. Rukus now has the ability to create music that resonates with people just as the music of wrestling resonated with him in his youth.

It’s a tough gig creating music these days, especially in the sea of negativity that can be social media. Every song is scrutinized and compared to the bangers of yesterday year, but Rukus has been steadily producing quality work and now, following the All Out PPV, he appears to have solidified his status as the top guy in professional wrestling theme music.

And he gets it.

Whether it is infusing Adam Cole’s theme with the essence of his character or the initiative to create a theme for the insufferable Vickie Guerrero character using her own voice, Rukus appears to have his finger on the pulse of what works as he marries professional wrestling and music together. The result is me and countless other fans bobbing their heads or tapping their toes in appreciation of the melodies we hear.

What is on the Horizon for Mikey Rukus? The tough task of possibly replacing the Rebel Heart theme of Johnny Gargano for an AEW audience perhaps? Or providing an epic theme to accompany Keith Lee to the ring? Maybe he will get the opportunity to delve into his creative juices to provide a song for Danhausen if he ever walks down the AEW aisle? One thing is for sure, Rukus is up to the task and I personally can’t wait to see what songs he creates next.

Thank you for the music Mr. Rukus.

Powered by RedCircle