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#ThemeSongTuesday: Exit Light, Enter Night


Who do you first think of when you say ECW? Rob Van Dam? Tommy Dreamer? Taz? The Dudley Boyz? Paul Heyman?

As much as I love all of those guys, when I think of ECW—and I mean OG ECW, not the WWECW remake from the late 2000's—I think of one guy and one guy alone.

I think of a man who gives no fucks about anything or anyone that it shows in how he carries himself.

I think of a man whose idea of morning coffee is a cold brewski and a pack of reds, something he can keep consuming all the way to the ring.

I think of a man who'll bust his own goddamn forehead open before he even makes it to the ring just because he can.

I think of The Sandman.

Now, I never watched an episode of ECW until I was introduced to it through ECW One Night Stand in 2005. But it was at that show that as a fifteen-year-old, I got my first look at the one wrestler who I immediately think of when anybody mentions ECW.


There was something special about that entrance, that moment.

It was the perfect convergence of the ECW faithful getting to relive its glory one more time, The Sandman being the perfect avatar for ECW's branding and image, and his entrance music just breathing life into an already raucous Hammerstein Ballroom.

That's what made The Sandman's entrance at ECW One Night Stand the best one he's ever done and will ever do since. And none of it would be possible without his theme, "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.

Released in 1991, "Enter Sandman" first had signs of life when Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett was jamming on his guitar in his hotel room at 3 a.m. Those who are into the occult will tell you that 3 a.m. is the scariest time of the night because it is when spirits are at their most volatile. It's also attributed to it being the inverse of 3 p.m., the time of Jesus Christ's death.

While the song itself could be interpreted as spooky because of the picture it paints—that of a boy who suffers nightmares after the Sandman pays him a visit—it has also taken on a whole new meaning as a song that inspires fearlessness, as Jesse Sendejas, Jr. of HoustonPress wrote about in 2015.

He writes:

The song opens with lyrics that concede we are born with it. Fear, the true original sin. We “sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight.” We pray for ourselves and others and those prayers - whether they're literal or figurative in the forms of drugs, money, sex, etc. - try to keep us free from the sin of crippling fear.

"‘Til the Sandman, he comes," that is. The Sandman, in this reading, is the embodiment of your acceptance that you and all your fears will one day perish. Not the knowledge, but the acceptance. Once you have that, the fearlessness follows.
This new reading gives "Enter Sandman" a whole new meaning in the context of The Sandman (the wrestler) and ECW, as a whole. Paul Heyman's ragtag, underground promotion reveled in being contrary to the mainstream. It made its own niche and captured an entire generation that was looking for something as brash and unapologetic as they were becoming. ECW was as much a product of that time in the mid-to-late 90s as the Attitude Era was. And a lot of it was because of the resistance to fear and whatever was considered to be "normal."


What makes the song so iconic—and reusable in different sports, arenas, and settings—is how it builds to an explosive start that does not let up until the song actually ends. That ominous riff, that bass drum beat, they naturally build to an entrance that screams, "LOOK AT ME. I HAVE COME TO TAKE WHAT'S MINE."

And then James Hetfield's guttural vocals add another layer of grit and texture that crystallize the picture it paints so well. It absolutely helps that even when Hetfield screams in the hook, it's still a song you can sing/scream along to. Notice all the ECW fans in attendance just losing it and singing along from start to finish. You won't necessarily have to make your throat bleed to get into the song, unlike a song from Killswitch Engage, for example.

One of my favorite parts of the song has to be Kirk Hammett's guitar solo, which is a gleeful exhibition of power and freedom. The guy knows he's awesome and he's pretty much showing off just because he can.

You also have to appreciate Lars Ulrich's work on the drums on this song, something that former Metallica producer Bob Rock paid close to attention to during recording. What you're hearing isn't just a stadium anthem or a signature song. It's a work of art that took a tremendous amount of effort to put together.


You won't be able to watch The Sandman entering to "Enter Sandman" in all his drunken glory on the WWE Network. The song has since been censored out due to copyright infringement laws, so what you'll hear is a watered-down approximation of the Metallica hit. So if you want to appreciate the entrance in all its glory, I suggest you scroll back to the embedded video above and take it in.

From the moment the intro plays, there was a visceral roar from the crowd because they knew exactly who was coming. That roar turned into hysteria when The Sandman himself appeared on one of the upper boxes amidst the crowd.

Chanting "E-C-W!", raising their hands, fists, devil horns in euphoria, screaming and celebrating in their purest form one more time—that's a rare feeling to have. That's one of those emotions or moments you bottle up and treasure for a lifetime.

And then when Hetfield's vocals come in, the crowd turns into The Sandman's own Greek chorus, "Enter Sandman" being their anthem of rebellion and opposition.

It's one of the best entrances I've ever had the pleasure of watching and it never fails to bring me to tears.

Feel that moment. And believe.

After all, as Mick Foley himself says on commentary, "They believe because he believes!"


Screenshots and images 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 one of the hosts of The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He also used to be one of the hosts and writers of The Wrestling Gods on FOX. He enjoys watching WWE, NXTLucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. You can ask him questions about wrestling, Survivor (yes, the reality show), or whatever you like on his CuriousCat account.

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