It may appear surprising that Poppy – the answer to the question: “What would Nine Inch Nails sound like if they were fronted by Kylie?” – is choosing to release her new EP via the label Sumerian Records and World Wrestling Entertainment. Yet, fans of the squared circle will be aware that rock and wrestling have enjoyed close ties for decades.
So much so that when WWE (formerly WWF, before the panda charity of the same name intervened) promoter Vince McMahon looked to position his high-octane soap opera in the realms of respectability – shedding the carnality that had dominated wrestling for much of its history – he looked to pop music, in particular MTV, to give his grimy product some glam. It’s an era that has come to be known as the Rock’n’Wrestling Connection and culminated in actual Cyndi Lauper taking part in the inaugural WrestleMania in 1985.
Since then, McMahon has returned to the well often. When the trial of nu-metal is eventually held at The Hague, the conversation about whether wrestling instigated the genre’s late-90s boom, or vice versa, will be long and convoluted. Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit appeared at WWF pay-per-view events during this era almost as often as Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock. But perhaps wrestling’s closest musical confidante these days is hip-hop. Stick a pin in a Wu-Tang or MF Doom record and you’ll likely find a wrestling reference. Ric Flair Drip was a minor hit for Offset in 2018, while his wife, Cardi B, is rumoured to be the host of this year’s SummerSlam PPV.
Then there is the multiple women’s world champion Sasha Banks, the real-life cousin of Snoop Dogg, himself an inductee of the WWE Hall of Fame. Snoop has previously performed live at WrestleMania, joining the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Little Richard on the list. And, um … Pitbull. Just this year, the WWE enjoyed a short but storied relationship with the Puerto Rico-born rap superstar Bad Bunny, who held a title belt, the gimmicky 24/7 Championship, and – alongside countryman Damian Priest – came out victorious in a tag-team match at WrestleMania 37.
Poppy announced the EAT EP on an episode of NXT, the edgy, sub-brand of WWE run by Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the husband of McMahon heiress Stephanie. Levesque was friends with Lemmy (Motörhead soundtracked his walk to the ring) and he’s previously booked the likes of Code Orange and Halestorm to perform, as well as striking a brand relationship with Billie Eilish.
WWE’s relationship with Poppy isn’t so much about harnessing respectability – this, after all, is a $6bn company – as it is acquiring cool. Same as it ever was, but different and louder.
By James McMahon