Listen to the music… Wrestlling has and always will be a spectacle. From the larger than life superstars to the pay per view sets, to the dream matches, to the physicality to the all around magic that going to a wrestling show of any kind can provide. This column takes a walk through the many themes that have stood the test of time and made so many superstars, just that much greater.
Imagine if you will, seeing the Immortal Hulk Hogan, walking down that aisle, he’s posing for the crowd, he’s getting everyone all riled up, he gets into the ring and at the exact right moment, he tears his shirt off and the crowd goes literally bananas… Now, picture that exact same scenario, but without the music. Take out the iconic Derringer and the “When it comes crashing down.” Take out the guitar and the drums that make that song so iconic… Did you do it? Now tell me, does Hulk’s entrance feel the same?
Or take Stone Cold Steve Austin, a man who made his name by raising Hell week in and week out no matter what show he was on. Riding four wheelers, driving zambonis, monster trucks, you name it, he’s driven it down to the ring. But what comes before all the craziness? What gets you so pumped up knowing that you are going to see Stone Cold come through the curtain? Before the beer drinking and the finger raising and the non conforming. Have you guessed it yet? The breaking glass!!! If you take away the shatter, and the big drums and the guitar rifts, would Stone Cold still be the same Stone Cold? Do you think you would be as excited as you are if that music wasn’t blaring through the arena? I would venture to say, that I don’t think so.
The same can be said for so many.. The Ultimate Warrior. If he just simply ran down to the ring and shook the ropes with no music, it just wouldn’t have the same effect. The Big Bossman – sure, you would be able to ascertain that he has something to do with law and order, but there’s something to be said for taking a trip to Cobb County, Georgia and the possibility of serving some hard time isn’t there?
I could go on and on, Chris Jericho with his countdown, The Rougeau Brothers telling the entire world that they are “All American Boys” Rick Martel exuding Arrogance and literally carrying it with him in a bottle. Mr. Perfect with that glint in his eye as he sauntered to the ring just overflowing with confidence because deep down he knew that he was better than anyone else, and if his catch phrase didn’t make you believe it, his music surely did.
Now, I would be amiss if I failed to mention the man behind so, so many of the great wrestling tunes that we all know and still love today, and that man is Jim Johnston. It’s been said that Jim would sit for hours composing music and then working with the stars one by one with his sole focus being to ensure that the piece that he was working on truly matched the heart and personality of the wrestler that he was writing it for. If this writer has anything to say about it, he did one hell of a job.
Throughout the 1980’s the then WWF took great pride in creating and producing original themes for it’s stars, which was a far cry from the early days when music was first introduced onto the wrestling scene. Back in the olden days, music was not commonplace and many wrestlers would just walk down to the ring and would be introduced. But with the addition of music to a wrestler’s repertoire, not only did it make it easier for that particular wrestler to stand out, but it gave promoters a way to distinguish for the fans as to who was “special.” Ladies and gentlemen, it still works today. Fast forward to the modern era. You have stars like Triple H, and Randy Orton, Andrade and Kevin Owens and so many more. You can bet almost your last dollar on the fact that each and every fan knows when their favorite is about to enter the building from the first note.
This brings up another point. Let’s go back to the excitement factor shall we? Who knew that having the ability to amp up a crowd with one simple music note could be a possibility. This means that you can elicit and emotion even before a fan lays eyes on their most favorite to even their most despised enemy. Your target audience can get butterflies in their stomach knowing that in just a few seconds their dream of being able to see their number one, the one person that they perhaps have watched on television for most if not all of their lives, THAT PERSON is coming out before their very eyes, and they know it not by seeing them first, but by hearing one simple note.
We truly are in a time of firsts. Wrestling shows are happening across the board with no fans in attendance. While it may have taken some getting used to, I don’t think it would have been as easy a transition as it has been if the music was also made to be absent. Music can also be used and is being used for marketing and even just as a way to grab and hold your attention and it has been used in this fashion for decades if not longer. Whether it be a toy commercial close to Christmas or an advertisement for Monster Jam to any number of other sporting events, to even a commercial for things like miracle whip, laundry detergent and even furniture. Music is always a constant.
The brass not only in WWE, but also throughout the territories really hit the nail on the head when they started implementing music not only to intro their shows but to intro their rosters as well. Now, the biggest company in the world has even capitalized on this music by releasing several volumes of their superstar themes in the form of CDs and prior to that they tested the waters with not one, but two wrestling album records, those being appropriately entitled The Wrestling Album and Piledriver. I can proudly say that I am the owner of the latter, and I spent many a night on Napster (I know I just dated myself… Shut up Gordon) searching for not only Piledriver but for many more slightly more elusive themes including the likes of Koko B. Ware, The Orient Express, The Narcissist Lex Luger and even Demolition and quite possibly my personal favorite… JIVE SOUL BRO!!!!!!! (That’s right Gordon, the good stuff!)
There are so many absolutely amazing pieces of music, some of which have inspired yours truly. Heck, take my theme (Villain by Theory of a Deadman) you would be surprised at how much thought went into just that theme alone. Keep in mind that the choice of theme that is made is one that could potentially stay with you for your entire career. Especially if you make it big. It is something that could make you or break you.
Truth be told, the independent wrestling scene would be quite different if music wasn’t part and parcel of it. For me personally, each and every worker that has stepped through the ropes and into an MCW ring is not only defined by their work in ring, but also by their music on the way to the ring. If you are anything like me, and you take a song and really listen, really break it down, you can break apart and piece together someone’s personality. But then, you have to make the choice. You get to decide whether or not you think the personality that you come up with from the particular theme that is used is the real personality of said wrestler as a person, OR is it the personality of the character that the wrestler is portraying? The next time you step foot into a venue for a wrestling show, give it a try, break down a song and it’s lyrics and see if you can decide which is which.
One thing that people seldom remember, is that music is not only to distinguish the superstars. For years, the NWA, AWA, Smoky Mountain and so many other territories, notwithstanding WCW and the WWE differentiated their larger shows, with music. Who doesn’t remember the iconic theme for WrestleMania? Or the one for Bash at the Beach? Or SummerSlam? Heck, even Tuesday in Texas had it’s own theme song.
They say that the music that stays with you, the tracks that you remember and resonate with the most are those that you hear when you are 14. The music that I had on when I was 14 was almost always that of a wrestling event. To this day and beyond, it isn’t a top 40 hit on the radio, it’s not a number one rock song, I mean, yes I can remember some of the greatest and most iconic tunes that there ever was (I specialized in radio in college, yes, Nicky Martin went to college… Again, take a walk Gordon.) but despite knowing and loving A LOT of music, nothing has ever stuck with me like the music of my favorite wrestlers growing up. It makes memories, it creates epic and unforgettable moments and it can add so much to a presentation. What is pyro without music? What is a magnum opus without music? What is a muscle car without a ridiculously loud radio and 8 extra speakers blaring in the back? The answer my friends is simple, all of those things, are just not the same.
Music is a release. It holds that in common with wrestling. Wrestling, like music is also a release. If only for a few hours, you can get lost in its glory. Whether its a crazy awesome drum solo, a gritty guitar rift, or a combination of the two, you sometimes find yourself closing your eyes and just taking it all in. Just like wrestling. Close your eyes, take in the sights and sounds. The loud boom of the pyro, the roar of an electric crowd, the smell of concession stand food, the announcements and the visuals… And then folks, it all comes together with the music.
A lot of what has been mentioned above are things that most people, whether it be a fan, or someone within the business, all of these things are things that have been taken for granted, so when you find yourself back in a seat and back amongst the many screaming fans, when you climb down the stairs to your seat at the next event that you enjoy, whether it be a concert, a sporting event, or what I am most looking forward to, the first elusive wrestling event that brings us all back together, do me a favor, while you are looking around, while you’re taking it all in, while you’re watching and waiting and you are on the edge of your seat. When you feel those familiar butterflies as it gets closer and closer to show time, bell time or puck drop, just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and remember to appreciate… The music.
“Everybody wants to be like me, the villain is the one that you came to see, sick of all the good guys savin the day, cause the villain always wins when the hero’s away.”
What is your all time favorite wrestling theme song? Leave your answers in the comments and feel free to leave feedback!
This has been another look into my Magnificent Mind… You’re all welcome!!!