AEW Music Producer Mikey Rukus was on a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast with Tony Schiavone and Aubrey Edwards. Rukus has worked with AEW since the beginning at Double or Nothing, and he detailed his journey that started with a Dustin Rhodes tweet.
“I saw where Dustin had tweeted about Cody and the announcement of AEW, and immediately, I felt inside that this was mine. This was my opportunity,” Rukus stated. “I started to network, couldn’t lock down anybody. I was trying to get ahold 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.
“They started tweeting to Cody and Brandi. ‘Mikey Ruckus is your guy.’ People from the World Series of Fighting. People from the UFC. People from NBC Sports that I had worked with, and it was just kind of like this groundswell, and someone had given me the number to Matt Sells and said, ‘Text this guy. He knows who’s involved. So I text Matt Sells, and then QT [Marshall] was the first person to reach out. And we had a conversation there, and then literally three days later, Brandi had emailed me and said, ‘Let’s have a conversation.’ So I’m in my store in the break room having a conference call with Brandi. We had a good conversation, and she said, ‘The one thing that stands out amongst others, because we’ve had people all over the world that have contacted us about this, you had people that spoke on your behalf. That really means something to us.’ So I was really really humbled and thankful in that moment.
“So the back-and-forth started with, ‘Okay, how much do you charge for one theme? How much you charge a five? We actually need 15 for Double or Nothing.’ So I just kind of threw it out there. I said, ‘Look, I can either do the 15, or I can work here forever, bring me on as part of the team and let’s do this.’ And I never thought that they would go for it. I was just like, what’s the worst they could say is no. And that’s when 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.”
When Chris Jericho and MJF were teaming together, their theme songs were mixed together. Rukus recalled working on Jericho on the mixed theme music.
“Jericho and I have this thing where he’ll just kind of text me randomly, and we’ll start talking about different music ideas,” Rukus said. “And it was a Saturday night, probably close to midnight, my wife and I are sitting in bed. She’s watching TV and playing a game on her phone, and I’m on my laptop. And I don’t remember what I was doing, probably working on cue sheets or something like that, and I got a text from Jericho that says, ‘Hey, you think you can do a mash-up of Max’s theme and Judas?’ So I texted him back. I said, ‘You goddamn right we can Chris Jericho,’ so he texts back kind of laughing and everything, and I did a voice text.
“And I sent the voice text, and he was actually sending the voice text to me at the same time. So we both kind of send it [Rukus sings the theme]. And my wife looked at me, and she’s like, ‘I hate you, dude.’ So when he sends it back to me, and I’m playing it back, he was like, [Rukus sings what Jericho sent him] Oh, I wonder if he’s had anything to drink this evening because that’s what it kind of sounded, and she was like, ‘Go play with your friends. Go play with your friends.’ So I immediately went upstairs and started working on it right off the bat. So I put it together that night. I didn’t go to sleep that night.”
Rukus revealed that the first theme music he made was for Nyla Rose, so that theme holds a special place for him. Rukus also named other themes that also hold a special place for him.
“So Jurassic Express was another one. Originally, we didn’t even have a name for Jurassic Express yet,” Rukus recalled. “I had heard and seen through emails that they were looking at linking them up, and I had actually pitched to the team, ‘Listen, when I see them in the crowd,’ I watched the crowd’s reaction when they came out, ‘it’s just pure joy. It’s adventurous. I think they need something that kind of accents that.’ So they said, ‘Go to it.’ So that was all me. That was all of my idea, and when I sent it up, I remember Matt Jackson emailing back,’ This theme rules.’ That was literally the first time I had actually pitched my own ideas on a project, so that was something that’s special to me.
“The Butcher and The Blade theme is special to me because outside of what you hear on TV, I wanted to create this movement of chaos. So there’s a lot of different sections. It’s super technical. It’s super heavy. I created that entire drum track just with a mouse, clicking and programming grids. Sting’s, of course, is up there just because that was my all-time that I always wanted to create for. I was really happy with the way that turned out and the Brodie [Lee] tribute, no one asked me to do that. That was something that I just felt moved to do. We had lost some friends of ours in high school, and the only way I knew to express myself was to play and I remember going on stage with another friend of mine, just a guitar and a bass.
“And we we played a song, and the entire auditorium was in tears and people were walking out because they couldn’t handle it. But at the same time, as I was moving them, it was helping me deal with the loss. So I really wanted to kind of go into the theme that I made for Brodie, The Exalted One, and just take it to a completely different level, and just add this element of emotion and just tapping into the heart and soul of how everybody felt about him. And I had only spoken to him a couple times, but it was easy to see why everybody had gravitated towards him and the impact that he had. So I wanted to produce something to help other people have closure. So that one is up there as well.”
Rukus noted that there are no themes that are on hold. If a theme isn’t used, he said that gets used for something else. He detailed working on various themes for Christian Cage and Paul Wight.
“The week that Christian came in was right after Paul Wight came in, and so Paul wanted something along the lines of Lenny Kravitz. And Christian wanted something that mirrored what he had when he was in TNA,” Rukus said. “So I started making these different ideas, and putting them together and sending them out. With the Lenny Kravitz tune, you want the certain type of guitar tone. You want the certain type of lyrical content, and Paul loved it.
“And Cody and Tony [Khan] said, ‘Well let’s try something different,’ and then Tony said, ‘Let’s try something different,’ so I made four or five different iterations. And Paul said he loved all of them. At one point, he actually sent one to Lenny. He’s like, ‘Dude, I think this is shots fired. He’s giving you a run for your money.’ I was like, ‘Dude, you did not do that to Lenny Kravitz.’ He’s like, ‘Who knows, man, maybe you guys can jam one day.’ I was like, ‘Please make that happen!’ But we didn’t really settle on anything because we had a bunch of different ideas.
“So we kind of held off on that. We’re probably going to pick that up again in a couple months when the time is right, and for Christian’s theme, I created one that was kind of mimicking but it was a completely different song from his TNA theme, and then I did another one, then I did another one. So it was enough to create a whole album of b-sides, or they all go on the video game, and then at the very end, we settled on a note for note cover of his TNA team, which is a cover of Evanescence, ‘My Last Breath’.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.