When I was a kid, I LOVED WWF Wrestling (now WWE Wrestling – but we all know it’ll always be the WWF). I could talk for hours about all of the awesome plot lines from back in the day – the Macho Man (R.I.P.) elbows Ricky the Dragon Steamboat in the throat and he can’t talk for months, the insanity that was the Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man and Hulk Hogan fighting over Elizabeth (R.I.P. – I could be writing that a lot this article), and many, many more.
One thing that still stands out in my mind is the music they played when they walked to the ring. It was always the same song for a particular wrestler, but the songs became iconic. When I played Pomp and Circumstance in my school band, I thought it was weird we were covering the Macho Man’s theme song. I hear Real American and I instantly think of Hulk Hogan (I don’t constantly hear Real American often, for the record). There’s the Ric Flair entrance track Also Sprach Zarathustra, which is originally a Richard Strauss tune, also famously used during the intro to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Richard Strauss – Also Sprach Zarathustra
Whenever the music was played and the wrestler was off screen, you KNEW who was coming to the ring – the musical connection was that strong. It also helped cue your emotions and whether or not you should cheer happily or yell obscenities in the moments that followed.
The music was often tied to the type of wrestler or image being portrayed. The all-American hero, Hulk Hogan, got Real American. The Undertaker got a bell tolling and dark, graveyard music. Roddy Piper – bagpipes, of course.
What other sport (well, quasi-sport) has such a strong musical association with each and every athlete and character? Sure, baseball has walk out music and you can link Metallica’s Enter Sandman to Mariano Rivera, but outside of a handful of baseball players, I would wager that the average male 18-35 could name more WWE entrance music than entrance music for baseball players.
Amazingly, the WWE also released music compilation albums, starting way back in 1985. Initially set up as albums of wrestlers singing, the company found more success by featuring theme songs, and often songs and remixes by popular bands such as Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson, and others. The WWE has released 25 compilation albums, with the most recent being in August, 2013. These albums have debuted in the Billboard top 10, with WWF The Music, Vol. 5 hitting #2 in February 2001 and WWF Forceable Entry landing at #3 on Billboard!
The wrestling albums aren’t limited to just the notorious entrance music. Wrestler John Cena and his cousin Tha Trademarc (probably not his real name) released an album in 2005, called You Can’t See Me. How did it do? It sold 43,000 copies in the first week – an amount that doesn’t always happen in one week these days. However, it was a little more common then, and debuted at #15 (sidenote: can you imagine the 15th place album selling 43,000 copies in 1 week these days? By comparison, at the end of September, the #4 album was the MMG: Self Made 3 compilation, which sold 50,000). For those of you eager for more John Cena (note: aren’t we all?!), rumour has it another new album, Chain Gang Revolution, was in the works, but has apparently been scrapped. If it sees the light of day, it will probably not sell more than 40,000 copies in its first week.
John Cena – Bad Bad Man
So who is the man behind some of these ‘epic’ tunes? That would be Jim Johnston, who has been doing it since the mid 1980s. He’s been there as the musical trends have changed over time, as well as that dreaded nu-metal phase that practically goes hand in hand with aggression and thus wrestling. He’s released 17 albums in the Nielsen SoundScan era (from 1991 onwards), with a combined 5.9 million albums sold.
Several musicians have even started their own wrestling companies. Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan founded the Resistance Pro Wrestling in 2011, so now he’s smashing chairs and pumpkins. He even made a sort of awesome furniture commercial that was linked to his company. Previously, Corgan had appeared in an Extreme Championship Wrestling event, using an acoustic guitar as a weapon. Likewise, Insane Clown Posse started Juggalo Championship Wrestling back in 1999.
Billy Corgan and Walter E. Smithe Wrestling
Maybe music and wrestling go hand in hand more than we consciously realize. Both are art forms, with a show being put on, and a crowd of fans wanting to be those people on stage. Some musicians want to be wrestlers, and some wrestlers want to be musicians. Both often involve use of illegal drugs, be it steroids, acid, or others. Many of the performers sadly die young – the whole “live fast, die young” lifestyle. I am terrible at both music and wrestling.
I’ll leave you with a collection of some of the best and more memorable theme songs from the WWF/WWE, which hopefully bring back some memories (of smashing your best friend with a foldable chair in your basement).
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