aew’s bounty hunter bryan keith on knocked loose, rise against, and japanese hardcore

“Record Exchange” is a series where see/saw and a fellow punk enthusiast bring two songs each. The first installment is with a Swisha House-sponsored ass kicker from Houston.

aew’s bounty hunter bryan keith on knocked loose, rise against, and japanese hardcore
Bounty Hunter Bryan Keith, photos courtesy of AEW

“Record Exchange” is a series of conversations between see/saw’s Evan Minsker and a fellow punk enthusiast. Each person brings two songs to discuss. The first installment is a chat with AEW wrestler and Swisha House-sponsored Houston ass kicker, the Bounty Hunter Bryan Keith. Please consider subscribing to this reader-supported newsletter!

Years before he was collecting bounties and appearing as a fully feral All Japan apostle (which means hits his unlucky opponents with extreme force), Bryan Keith worked as an assistant manager at a Hot Topic. As a younger dude, he only listened to rap, balking when his friends would play punk songs in the car. Working at a cookies spot in the mall, he eventually fell in with the Hot Topic crew, got a job there, and started going to Warped Tour every year on the company’s dime. Unsurprisingly for such a gleefully violent wrestler, he absolutely thrived in the pit.

He learned about bands not just at work or Warped Tour, but the way so many of us found our first favorite bands: in wrestling highlight reels and video games. These days, he’s a dad who mostly finds time for hardcore when he’s in the gym or driving. “I also love showing my kids different types of music, and they listen to metal and hardcore with me,” he says, laughing. “I’ve been teaching them how to mosh.” Listening to his two picks during our record exchange, he bangs his head and sings along. When the Knocked Loose track goes ominously quiet, he makes an announcement: “Nobody’s safe.” Rocking a Swisha House t-shirt, he lifts his hands, grits his teeth, and starts doing his pro wrestling taunt as I laugh uncontrollably.

Keith is relatively new to the AEW roster, getting his All Elite status earlier this year after a banger with Eddie Kingston. He’s part of a roster that includes wrestling gods like Kazuchika Okada and Bryan Danielson. The dream match possibilities are endless, and over on the independents, he’s wrestling KENTA at DEFY for the title this Friday. “I'm a big NOAH guy and a big All Japan guy, so for sure I'm a big KENTA guy. And I spent many a time surfing the internet as a child watching KENTA beat the crap out of people. I’m blessed and honored that I get to add to that list, but you know what? He ain't gonna be the only one dishing out the ass whoopins.” 

Keith’s pick: Rise Against’s “The Good Left Undone”

I saw Rise Against once before Warped Tour at the Verizon Center here in Houston. I really learned about them from playing wrestling video games. They were on the soundtracks. I remember hanging out with my friends and memorizing the whole soundtrack. I started doing my research and just figuring out how cool of a band they are. One of my friends Javier Vega, he's a wrestler here, and I feel like our friendship was strengthened through wrestling, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Rise Against. That's why Rise Against is one of my favorite bands—a lot of the intimate and cool moments that I had with my friends, Rise Against was playing in the background. 

I remember looking up The Sufferer & The Witness. I didn't skip a song the first time hearing that whole album and I still don't to this day. A GOATed album. You know what's crazy? I played it so much me and Javier Vega literally got in a car wreck while we were playing that CD. The car got totaled and the CD was stuck in the player and I never got the CD back. Me and him think about that to this day. We were jamming out to that album, going to wrestling practice, and bam, T-boned by a truck. Bro thank god we’re both alive and OK, but that was my only copy of that CD!

see/saw’s pick: The Chisel’s “Cuts Like a Knife”
Thinking about what’s “my version” of a Rise Against song, something that isn’t a Warped Tour band but feels like an emotional punk song, I’m picking one off the new Chisel album. I’ve been listening to it a lot, this track about fatherhood with a sparkly pop outro.

That was a hell of a song. That’s sick, and that message, too, man. I got kids myself, as a man, sometimes you think about yourself in those positions like that. You know: It’s now or never, you got to change your life when it’s time. And I saw they had that Blackpool tag on Bandcamp? They should do a highlight package for the Blackpool Combat Club, like where they’re beating the shit out of everybody and that’s playing in the background?

Keith’s pick: Knocked Loose’s “When the Light Divides the Holler”

I got into Knocked Loose because one of my friends that got me into hardcore listened to Knocked Loose. He was playing it in the car and I was like, “Bro, who the hell is this?” I’ve been jamming it more and more. I’m not as well-versed as I am in Rise Against, who I’ve been listening to forever, but Knocked Loose is one of my favorite bands now. Especially when homie starts barking on the track, it’s like, bro, I’ll strangle somebody.

Watching you listen to that, I got a very brief and terrifying insight into what you’re like in the pit.

Yeah I'm a monster, man. I enjoy being in there. That's what it's all about, going to Warped Tour with my friends and we're just out here spending the whole day beating the crap out of each other, but at the same time, loving each other, you know? There's pit rules. If anybody falls down, you pick them back up. Everybody's coming together. But, you know, walls of death all day, circle pits all day. I love it, man.

see/saw’s pick: Kriegshög’s 虚空
Admittedly there’s some recency bias with this one. It’s the opener from the Japanese hardcore band Kriegshög’s just-released album Love & Revenge. That song title translates to “Void.” 

Fire. That gallop, I love it. This is right on brand for me, baby, 100%.

Yeah you recently wrestled in Japan for the first time; what did you think?

Brother, I've waited my whole life to go to Japan and I had an expectation for it. And I was there for two weeks and it blew my expectation out of the water. It was way better than what I expected. I definitely want to go back as soon as possible. Everybody was nice, treated me as kind as possible, it was a phenomenal time. While I was over there, they had a metal/hardcore bar that you could go to. They had a suggestion box. You write your song with the artist and they play it. In the visit that we were there, I put two or three songs and they all got played. I wrestled for DDT, and Mao, one of the DDT guys, he's in a hardcore band called Dos Quatro. 

But wow, I can't say enough about Japan, man. Japan was an amazing experience. I'm heavily influenced by Japanese culture, so I had to do it. I wrestled at Korakuen Hall, bro. Oh my God. It was crazy. I got to see Jun Akiyama wrestle, just in the back of the stands watching down. I was like, “What is life right now?” Pinch me, bro.

Bounty Hunter Bryan Keith shoulder tackles Eddie Kingston
Bounty Hunter Bryan Keith shoulder tackles Eddie Kingston, photo courtesy AEW

Special thanks to David Anthony for additional consultation here.