Songs in the Key of Elite

Double or Nothing 2024 marked 5 years of All Elite Wrestling. For the fans who tuned in on day 1 in 2019, it’s been a surreal feeling to witness the feisty alternative upstart become a preferred wrestling destination spot for some of the world’s biggest stars.

Being such a young company, AEW wasn’t blessed with readily available nostalgia for American TV wrestling fans. There aren’t decades worth of footage to pull from and much of the pre-AEW careers of some of their most established stars are under copyright. So what do you do when you want to call upon history in familiar ways for wrestling fans without the usual resources at hand? You get the rights to some of the most legendary wrestling songs of all time.

AEW’s latest trip to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas reminded me of AEW’s usage of music to elevate the storytelling of their performers and blow the crowd’s minds every now & then.  To date, there’s been 6 Double or Nothing events so here are 6 of my personal favorite musical moments in AEW’s history:

6. The Elite Return at Full Gear 2022 (Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas)

Video from @AEW on X

Compared to other entries on this list, this one probably had the most potential to go wrong. Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks had been suspended for months following Brawl Out 2022. The AEW fanbase was in disarray and it wasn’t certain how The Elite would be received upon their return. For the weeks leading into Full Gear, there were teasers of The Elite’s moments in AEW history being “erased” and finally it was announced that they’d face Death Triangle for the AEW Trios Championships that were stripped from them.

With a return this significant from 3 of AEW’s founding fathers, they needed something new and they found it in Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas, a song The Bucks had wanted to use throughout their careers. That night was coincidentally my first PPV in-person experience and I can say firsthand that the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ came absolutely unglued, 1. Because they missed The Elite and 2. Who can resist a Carry On Wayward Son singalong with 12,000+ of your best friends? As a song, Carry On Wayward Son tells a story of self-encouragement and perseverance which was quite fitting for both The Elite & AEW at the time. You can’t spell All Elite Wrestling without The Elite and this moment was a reminder of why.

5. Adam Copeland’s Entrance For AEW Dynamite in Toronto (Metalingus by Alter Bridge)

Despite being in AEW for less than a year, there are several Adam Copeland moments that could’ve made this list, particularly his debut at WrestleDream 2023. However, there’s something so special about his final singles clash with Christian Cage on Dynamite in Toronto that has to be acknowledged. It’s rare in wrestling to have all the stars align for the perfect moment but this was one of those times. The fathers of the TLC match went head to head in a chaotic I Quit match in the birthplace of their story and four decades-long friendship, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

As breathtaking of a full circle moment that already was, the magic began at Metalingus. Adam Copeland’s theme song by Alter Bridge with the unforgettable “You think you know me?” opening has followed him throughout his career for decades and made his debut in AEW feel so much more surreal. For a song this iconic, I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined there could be greater moments attached to it this late in Copeland’s career but Toronto proved everyone wrong. The crowd in the Coca-Cola Coliseum was vibrant and sang the words to Metalingus directly to Copeland, serenading him and paying tribute to a song that’s been synonymous with their formative years as wrestling fans. Copeland was visibly emotional in his Toronto Blue Jays-inspired attire and as if it couldn’t get any more poetic, the beautiful moment was halted by Father of the Year, Christian Cage. Maybe fairy tales do come true!

4. CM Punk’s Revolution 2022 Entrance (Miseria Cantare by AFI)

Video from @AEW on X

CM Punk’s tenure in All Elite Wrestling was tumultuous at best but Revolution 2022 may be his singular greatest moment with the company. He & MJF had been engaging in an exhilarating feud for weeks & months that resulted in a previous match where MJF had gotten a victory via nefarious actions and promos that left the wrestling world abuzz. As mentioned before, as a young company AEW doesn’t have access to video libraries and other tools to provoke nostalgia around their talent’s pasts in other major wrestling companies but this is one time when the stars aligned. Mere days before, Tony Khan shocked the world and purchased Ring of Honor, a promotion where many of AEW’s top stars were initially put on the map.

This opened the door for Punk’s Revolution 2022 entrance to be a direct callback to his time in ROH. Ahead of their Dog Collar Match, MJF had repeatedly referenced idolizing Punk growing up and thinking of him as a hero. In an effort to turn the tables and play a few mind games of his own,  Punk recreated his Ring of Honor aesthetic from the “XXX” on his gear to reviving Miseria Cantare by AFI for one night only. The crowd was overcome with excitement with the diehard ROH fans singing their hearts out to every word. Despite the turmoil that ensued in the months and years later between CM Punk & AEW, this moment still holds up as one of the most efficient uses of musical storytelling in recent wrestling memory.

3. The First Ever Anarchy In The Arena Match (Wild Thing by X)

Video from AEW on X

The first Anarchy in the Arena match was the natural evolution of Stadium Stampede, a match birthed from the limitations of a global pandemic and a lack of fans in person. 2022 marked the fourth iteration of AEW’s debut event and the return to Vegas after two years of running the event in Daily’s Place due to COVID-19. Needless to say it was imperative to create a moment worth the wait and they certainly did.

Anarchy in the Arena I had all the violence and gore of Stadium Stampede with the pleasant addition of 14,000+ screaming fans and its own background music. While in AEW, Jon Moxley inherited Atsushi Onita’s Wild Thing theme music and made it his own. It was only fitting that when the Blackpool Combat Club, Eddie Kingston, Santana, & Ortiz went head to head with the Jericho Appreciation Society at AEW’s anniversary event the Ace’s fight song played for the first half of the match, much to the delight of the live crowd. Outright playing music for the duration of a match felt so different and so AEW to the point that for many fans, the first AITA match will always be the best. The image of a bloodied Eddie Kingston with a gas canister in hand coupled with the most unconventional singalong (to that point) are moments that will live forever for fans and wrestlers alike.

2. Sting & Darby Allin Arrive at All In London 2023 & Revolution 2024 (Seek & Destroy by Metallica)

Video from @AEW on X

This spot on this list is shared by two separate moments and only one Icon could be responsible for such a feat (I am admittedly biased by being present for both). When Sting debuted in All Elite Wrestling, we knew that the ride wouldn’t last forever. For a legend of his caliber, one last match before riding off in the sunset surely would’ve sufficed but in his own words, “The only thing for sure about Sting is nothing is for sure”. For three years we were blessed to witness arguably the greatest retirement tour for a North American wrestler, featuring memorable matches, dangerous stunts, and so much more.

It’s no secret that Sting is loved by wrestling fans worldwide but U.K. fans have especially gravitated towards him whether he was a Surfer in WCW, a Joker in TNA, or simply an Icon in AEW. I had the privilege of being in Wembley Stadium for All In London 2023 and if that place had a roof, it would’ve blown off as soon as Metallica’s Seek & Destroy rang out and touched 80,000+ people in attendance. As WCW’s singular most impactful figure, much of Sting’s career is under copyright and unable to be featured in his final video montages.

However, it only took the power of one song to remind the world exactly how the Stinger became a beloved Icon in the world of professional wrestling. Over five months later when he officially retired at Revolution 2024 with an unforgettable entrance where his sons dressed as eras of his past (Surfer Sting & Crow Sting respectively) & his faithful tag team partner Darby Allin stood at his side for a final voyage, it was fitting that Seek & Destroy played the Icon to the ring one last time in Greensboro Coliseum where his story truly began, putting a beautiful bow on a career well done.

Video from @AEW on X

1. Anarchy In The Arena III Capping Off AEW’s 5th Anniversary (The Final Countdown by Europe)

Video from @AEW on X

Was it even up for debate? When the opening seconds of Europe’s The Final Countdown began to play in the MGM Grand at Double or Nothing 2024, it instantly became the most AEW moment in AEW history. On one side was the new Elite including founding fathers & EVPs Matthew & Nicholas Jackson, “Scapegoat” Jack Perry, and Kazuchika Okada in an ultra rare plunder match. Their opponents were FTR, Darby Allin on his 14th life, and The American Dragon Bryan Danielson in a record 3rd Anarchy in the Arena match.

The Final Countdown was notably Bryan Danielson’s theme song in his Ring of Honor days. Danielson hasn’t been shy about this being his last year as a full-time wrestler and has pledged to make his final year the most epic one yet. It doesn’t get much more epic than securing the rights for one of the most iconic (and expensive!) songs of all time to serve as this year’s soundtrack to celebrate 5 years of AEW. The euphoria of witnessing Darby Allin hit a Coffin Drop off the stands directly in time with “IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!” is an experience that will forever be cherished and could never be duplicated.

In a match that featured Matthew Jackson being fiscally responsible, Jack Perry being drowned and then set on fire, Kazuchika Okada delivering a Rainmaker with a sleeve of thumbtacks, and downright dastardly uses of Reebok Pumps, hearing The Final Countdown in the place where it all started was a full circle reminder of why alternatives in wrestling are necessary and that when AEW commits to being the alternative, they’ll continue to change the world as they promised in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Hangman Page’s Revolution 2023 Entrance (Ghost Riders in the Sky by Johnny Cash), RVD Debuts on Dynamite (Walk by Pantera), Orange Cassidy’s Blood & Guts 2022 (Jane by Jefferson Starship)