Today, music is a quintessential part of the wrestling business. Not only do performers walk to the ring with their theme music blaring, but music is used to announce the impromptu arrival of a star in the arena. Theme music communicates a wrester’s personality. Theme music excites the crowd. Some guys use the same song for years—for decades even. Others can’t get away from the songs assigned to them quickly enough, or have shifted music as their characters have evolved.
But theme music wasn’t always a part of the show. Before the concept occurred to anyone, let alone before the technology was prevalent enough to make it a consistent part of wrestling shows, wrestlers walked down the aisle without any anthems to spur them on. So how did music become such an important part of the wrestling business? Who started it and why did it stick?
Besides the history of music in wrestling, there’s an assortment of controversies, allegations, and bizarre origin stories behind the songs applied to different professional wrestlers. Music has a colorful history in wrestling. The stories behind it run the gamut, ranging from stars who used the same song, to performers who hated their entrance music. There are major bands that offered up their music for use in the wrestling world, and there are those bands that got angry with wrestlers for the perception they’d ripped off their songs. This article reveals and explores 15 little known secrets related to music in the professional wrestling business.
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15 Our Lady Peace Recorded Chris Benoit’s Theme Music And Stopped Playing It After His Family Tragedy
Years after the Chris Benoit murder-suicide in 2007, I found myself listening to some Our Lady Peace and encountered the song “Whatever.” As a wrestling fan, I immediately recognized it as Benoit’s old theme music.
I assumed that the band had licensed the song out to WWE and never given it a second thought. Upon further research, though, a 2012 interview with The Huffington Post revealed the band was not only conscious of the song’s connection to Benoit, but deeply moved by the Benoit story. The band’s lead singer Raine Maida lamented that the song now had too much baggage, so the band had officially retired it from their live performance repertoire. “It’s so tied into him and the tragedy that happened,” drummer Steve Mazur followed up, “I just couldn’t get it out of my head.”
14 Jimmy Hart Wrote The Lyrics To Dusty Rhodes’s Theme Song
In his recent appearance on the Legends with JBL talk show for the WWE Network, Jimmy Hart discussed his role in writing or assisting with a variety of wrestlers’ theme songs during his time with WWE. Among them Dusty Rhodes, already a wrestling legend by the time he signed with WWE, but ready for a colorful new theme song to fit the WWE landscape.
Hart wrote the lyrics to “Common Man Boogie,” and in the interview claimed that he sold Dusty on the song based on one specific set of lyrics: “It don’t matter if you’re black or white. Redneck, funky, that’s all right.” Rhodes purportedly felt that those lines represented his style of drawing fans together. Ironically, Rhodes and Hart would be on opposite ends of the face-heel spectrum for Rhodes’s entire time as an active wrestler for WWE, but behind the scenes they shared this creative bond.
13 The Original Version Of The Mountie’s Theme Song Called Him Gay
Jimmy Hart was responsible for writing the lyrics to The Mountie’s theme song, too, which Jacques Rougeau pompously sang for himself in both the recording that blared live across arenas, and often in live performances to build extra heat in the ring. Hart claims the original lyrics were supposed to proclaim, “I’m The Mountie! I’m happy, I’m gay, I’m strong!” While Hart tried to sell him on gay being a synonym for happy, while building in a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor for the heel, Rougeau wasn’t comfortable singing that he was gay. I can only imagine if WWE management at that time was in agreement with him.
So, the official version of the song subtly shifted those words to, “I’m handsome, I’m brave, I’m strong,” which everyone involved seemed happier about.
12 Triple H Was Not A Fan Of His Song “My Time”
“My Time” was Triple H’s theme song when he separated from D-Generation X and started to pursue a main event singles career. The song offered some continuity with his DX days, performed by the same vocalist, Chris Warren, responsible for the original DX theme, and playing along similar themes of bucking up against authority.
While the song fit Triple H’s character at the time, he purportedly wasn’t a huge fan of it, and as soon as he had the clout to do so, championed the idea of collaborating with one of his actual favorite bands, Motorhead on new, heavier theme music. So, he arrived at his more iconic entrance music “The Game.” His next theme song, “King of Kings” would debut five years later and was another Motorhead track.
11 Kurt Angle And The Patriot Used The Same Theme Music
Kurt Angle’s theme song, “Medal” isn’t much to write home about from a musical perspective. It’s a relatively generic instrumental number with vaguely patriotic overtones that only became iconic on account of the wrestler it backed. With Angle at the helm, the song became a platform for the fans’ rhythmic “You suck,” chants, and one of WWE’s most recognizable songs of all time.
In support of the argument that it’s a relatively generic song, though, Angle wasn’t the first one to use it. The patriotic melody was first applied to none other than The Patriot, a masked wrestler who wound up a successful career with a short run in WWE, feuding with Bret Hart. I suspect that, given The Patriot was around for less than a year, WWE felt comfortable that not many fans would recognize his music, and would readily associate it with newly arrived Angle. Angle would use the theme for the length of his WWE run.
10 Hulk Hogan’s Theme Was Originally Assigned To The Tag Team Of Barry Windham And Mike Rotunda
There may be no wrestling theme more iconic than “Real American,” the song that Hulk Hogan marched to the ring to, and the song that blared behind him as he flexed and posed to end so many PPVs in the 1980s and early 1990s. It’s fascinating to think, then, that the Rick Derringer track was not originally earmarked for The Hulkster, but rather the tag team of Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda. They were billed as The U.S. Express.
The proof on this one is well documented. The Wrestling Album, a 1985 musical release from WWE. The album, features Jesse Ventura, Vince McMahon, Gene Okerlund providing commentary between tracks, and after “Real American,” Ventura openly complains, “I can’t believe that’s for Windham and Rotunda. Derringer, you should have buried yourself and stayed buried.”
9 Sgt. Slaughter Was The First WWE Superstar With Entrance Music
In WWE’s DVD dedicated to its 50 greatest Superstars of all time, Sgt. Slaughter discussed how he pitched the idea of playing a recording “The Marines’ Hymn” on his way down to the ring. No one in the territory had used entrance music and the powers that be were baffled at the request. They went along with it, though, perhaps just out of curiosity. Lo and behold the fans were awestruck with the presentation, and from that appearance forward Slaughter always came out to music.
The trend would catch on in WWE, which was a territory that always inclined toward showmanship. Music became more and more prevalent as more arenas were technologically equipped to play music for the crowd to hear. But it all started with Slaughter in a patriotic moment that really drove home the roots of his character.
8 Michael Hayes Claims To Be The First Wrestler To Use Entrance Music
While Sgt. Slaughter may have introduced entrance music to the WWE landscape, Michael Hayes claims to have been the first man in all of professional wrestling to use it. While that milestone is up for debate, Hayes is known to, for sure, be an early adopter, and most agree that “Badstreet USA” was the first original song written to be a wrestler’s theme. The legacy is befitting given Hayes’s duel career pursuits as both a wrestler and a musician who wrote songs and sang.
For all of Hayes’s influence on music in wrestling, and his iconic entrance music, his later efforts weren’t as great. They included “I’m a Freebird, What Was Your Excuse?” which, particularly based on its original live performance by Hayes and Jimmy Garvin, has been the subject of joking and ridicule for quite some time. He also recorded a “Freebird” knock off called “Freebird Forever” for WCW’s Slam Jam album, which wasn’t much better received.
7 Brodus Clay Used The Same Song As Ernest Miller
For some wrestlers, the music is the gimmick. Such was the case for Brodus Clay who, after playing Alberto Del Rio’s protégé turned heater espoused a new character as The Funkasaurus. He came to the ring in a track suit, flanked by The Funkadactyls, to and danced more than any big man this side of Rikishi. His signature song? A funky Jim Johnston track called “Somebody Call My Momma.” The music was so intrinsic to the character that it became a part of Clay’s featured segment at WrestleMania XXVIII in which he danced with his kayfabe Momma and a group of other mommas.
As much as the song was tied to him, Clay wasn’t the first to use it. After a higher profile run in WCW, Ernest Miller worked with WWE for a little over a year. His theme song? None other than “Somebody Call My Momma,” built off of a catchphrase he’d cultivated in WCW. The music was a major part of Miller’s gimmick, too, complete with a lengthy dance interlude to it during the 2004 Royal Rumble.
6 CM Punk Made Living Colour An iTunes Best Seller
When a wrestler gets the right theme song—particularly a recording by a major artist that WWE has to pay to license—the music typically elevates the performer. Giving CM Punk “Cult of Personality” did enhance his presentation, both for fitting his persona and offering a callback to his work as an independent wrestler when he used the song. The strange twist in the story, however, is how much Punk using the song helped the band’s sales.
“Cult of Personality” came out in 1988. In the summer of 2011, the song went from being a non-factor in music downloads before leaping into the top one hundred most downloaded song on iTunes when Punk started using it. As a victory lap, Living Colour played the song live at WrestleMania XXVIII to accompany Punk’s entrance for his match against Chris Jericho.
5 Chris Jericho Has Used His Theme Song For Nearly 20 Years
Few professional wrestlers have enjoyed greater longevity in WWE than Chris Jericho. He debuted for the company in 1999, and while he’s gone on a few sabbaticals, he’s nonetheless been a part of WWE programming now for nearly two decades.
Wrestlers who’ve been around that long have tended to have different theme songs over the course of their tenure to match their evolving characters or to change with the times. Jericho and his song, “Break The Walls Down” are remarkable for working so well continuously throughout his WWE tenure. While there was a brief period when he used a song by his own band, Fozzy, in 2004, and he’s mashed up “Break The Walls Down” with the themes of his tag partners (most notably with The Big Show) the song has held up and he’s still using it today in WWE.
4 Paul Heyman Skirted Copyright Laws For ECW Theme Songs
This past fall, the WWE Network aired a new original interview special—The Authentic Untold Story of ECW—which featured Paul Heyman and some of his top stars discussing the history of Extreme Championship Wrestling. Moderator Corey Graves inquired about ECW’s usage of mainstream music for wrestlers’ entrances, such as The Sandman using Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Heyman explained that the company did not license any of its music, but rather found a loophole. ECW played such music over the microphone, but not using the arena’s official PA, or not up to a certain volume. Thus, they skirted rules about public performance and use of recordings in favor of the music being classified as incidental noise in the arena.
Not unlike Heyman negotiating bereavement fares to get his wrestlers cheap flights, or having wrestlers pull double duty working the phones and shipping merchandise, this was yet another clever, cost-cutting measure for ECW. While fans tend to laud Heyman as a creative mastermind and knock his business skills, the guy certainly knew how to stretch a buck and make the most of the limited resources available to him.
3 Kaitlyn Accidentally Tweeted About Hating Her Theme Music
While AJ Lee wound up being the definitive female star to rise out of WWE’s all-female season of the NXT television show, Kaitlyn was the kayfabe reality show’s official winner and early on got equal, if not greater billing on WWE programming.
In 2011, while WWE’s use of social media was still in a relatively fledgling state, Kaitlyn involved herself in a major snafu. She tweeted to a fan, “I just hate the generic music they have for me.” Shortly afterward, she followed up with another tweet to clarify, “I accidentally posted a message meant for a DM.”
Kaitlyn would be stuck with the music she apparently hated for the better part of a year, but did get her music switched up twice in the months to follow, before she finished up with WWE.
2 Dave Sullivan’s Theme Song Was Released As Part Of Hulk Hogan’s Album
WCW fans from before the nWo angle may remember the transformation of bruising heel big man The Equalizer, into Kevin Sullivan’s younger brother Dave, which culminated in him revealing himself to be a huge Hulk Hogan. Dave’s became more and more childlike and silly as time went on.
A part of the gimmick change involved taking on new theme music, a song called “I Want To Be a Hulkamaniac.” The version of the song that played Dave down to the ring featured a deep voice repeating, “I want to be a Hulkamaniac—have fun with my family and friends.” The song was actually a track on a fuller album WCW released in 1995, which was universally panned, though wrestling fans have kept the memory of it alive and well as a guilty pleasure and inside joke from the era. Best of all? The full album recording of the song features Hogan awkwardly rapping a hodgepodge of life wisdom ranging from staying loyal to one’s friends, to staying away from drugs to recommending kids, “always go swimming with a buddy.”
1 DDP Got Heat With Nirvana Because Of His Theme Music
In an interview for The Score, Diamond Dallas Page recalled the conception of his WCW theme song, “Self High Five.” He said that the song was based off of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because he felt the sound was very contemporary, and he wanted to lend his character that same feeling.
Page went on to explain that when former Nirvana drummer turned Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl heard the song, he was upset and said WCW owed the band money. DDP claimed that WCW’s production team had made their version of the song just different enough to be recognizable, but not put them into any legal trouble. Unsurprisingly, when he made it to WWE, the choice was made to give him a new theme altogether to avoid any further controversy or legal risks.
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