One of the most important facets of any wrestler’s persona is his or her entrance to the ring. Today’s performers come to the ring amid a blitz of pyrotechnics, synchronized strobe lights, and personalized jumbotrons that flash their names, highlights and finishing moves. Similarly, a wrestler’s choice of music for his or her entrance is just as important. In today’s landscape, a wrestler has few choices of music due to licensing cost for commercial artist pieces, especially the United Sates. A higher visibility promotion will often compose its wrestlers’ entrance themes. This is a complete divergence from what old-school wrestlers implemented for their entrance themes.
Wrestling entrances during the golden-age of wrestling—the mid-1980s to early 1990s—were rife with unauthorized music use. A wrestler could pluck just about any song heard on the radio, a record player, a tape cassette or a compact disc and use it for his or her entrance. Remember those music playing mediums, anyone? Old-school entrances provided raw nostalgia, bolstered a character’s personal story arc and evoked strong fan emotions. Simply put, there was an art to it! The following old-school wrestling entrances were works of art whether you loved or hated them, the latter being a little more tied to the wrestler’s persona—or maybe not. Get ready for several references to face-paint, spikes and warriors!
15 Loved: The Skyscrapers, “China White” – The Scorpions
Hailing from “Metropolis” and managed by former referee Teddy Long, Dan Spivey and Sid Vicious were the epitome of big badass wrestlers! Their slow walk to the ring was in step with China White’s thundering bass chords and devastating intro riffs. It was Road Warrior-esque, a team the Skyscrapers would eventually feud with in World Championship Wrestling (WCW); more on the prior later. Fans may recognize the second version of the team consisting of Spivey and Mean Mark Callous, the latter who would later be known as the WWE’s Undertaker. Both Spivey and Callous would use their intimidating saunter and entrance theme to similar crowd responses and in-ring results. The Scorpions, hailing from Germany, were more renowned for one the greatest meteorological songs ever—“Rock You Like a Hurricane!” No matter the combination, a Skyscrapers’ entrance was a sight to behold.
14 Hated: Ric Flair, “Also Sprach Zarathustra” — Richard Strauss
Conduct a poll of who the greatest wrestler of all-time is and Ric Flair will be in the top-five. Conduct an interactive music poll asking what song “Also Sprach Zarathustra” is from, A—The theme for 2000 Space Odyssey; B—Ric Flair’s Theme Song; or C—South Carolina’s Gamecock Pregame Entry Song, and odds are “B” edges out “C,” even in the Deep South. He did use a few other entrance themes sporadically in Florida and other cross-promotional events. Flair’s “Zarathustra” entrance, whether in the NWA, WCW or WWE, was slow and methodical much like the song, thus adding to the heel-heat he wanted fans to feel. Borrowing from the entrances of legends such as Gorgeous George and “The Original Nature Boy” Buddy Rodgers, Flair’s entrance combined with the song is one of the more pretentious entrances in wrestling history. Dude, get to the ring already!
13 Loved: Lord Humongous, “War Machine” — KISS
Lord Humongous has been played by more guys than Batman, including the previously mentioned Sid Vicious and his son. Nevertheless, one character constant was the song by which he entered the ring—KISS’s “War Machine.” Hey, you need a tough sounding song when coming to the ring in an S&M outfit and hockey mask! Lord Humongous was brought into the Mid-South wrestling area as a gimmick on the heels of Hollywood’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Starting to see a trend of spikes and warriors here? Speaking of trends, KISS was a trendsetter with face paint, spikes and fire laden performances. It’s ironic that KISS was initially considered a music gimmick much like Lord Humongous’ maligned usage in the Mid-South area. Interestingly, and in another twist of irony, KISS and Lord Humongous are both still performing concerts and independent shows, respectively. Say what you will about either gimmick but “War Machine” gets your attention!
12 Hated: Eddie Gilbert, “Hot Stuff” — Donna Summer
“Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert looked like that older guy your high-school crush dated. Or, he was that older guy you dated in high-school to the dismay of your high-school admirers. Loud mouthed and cocky, Gilbert feuded with several stars in the Mid-South and eventual Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF). Consequently, he formed his own faction, “Hot Stuff International,” allied with the Russians at one point as well as managed the Bladerunners, a combination who fans might know as Sting and the Ultimate Warrior. Aside from his heel accomplishments, he was an irritating dude! He was so irritating that he came out to Donna Summer’s disco hit “Hot Stuff” during his time in the UWF. Really, who would have used that song for an entrance theme unless they wanted to generate some real heel-heat? Oh, now we get it!
11 Loved: The New Breed, “Fight For Your Right” — Beastie Boys
Claiming to be from the year 2002 in 1986, the New Breed, consisting of Sean Royal and Chris Champion, were ahead of their time in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Or were they behind the time? They sported wild hair designs, wrapped themselves in foil jackets and wore patterned pants that looked eerily similar to Jams—if you remember those. Wait a minute! If the New Breed were from the year 2002, why didn’t they have entrance theme music from Smashing Pumpkins, Pantera or Nickleback for that matter? In all seriousness, Royal and Champion were amusing and their use of the Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right’ made their ring entrances dynamic. The Beastie Boys most popular song, as well as their albums, still holds up even if the New Breed didn’t. Originally a hard punk band, the Beastie Boys would lay a blistering trail of influence from the 1980s to present for artists such as Eminem, Rage Against the Machine, Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. Unfortunately, the New Breed lost promotional momentum due to injuries sustained in a car accident.
10 Hated: Jimmy Valiant, “Boy From New York City” — The Manhattan Transfer
Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant is the cool guy you meet at a Widespread Panic concert. Or he’s the dude with the most awesome “tobacco” stories at his pipes and bong table at the flea market. Hell, he even lent Dusty Rhodes a hooker during one of Rhode’s “hard times.” Jimmy Valiant exploded to the ring like he just chewed five Vivarin tablets. His incessant hand-clapping and head-bobs were in sync to the Manhattan Transfer’s cover song “The Boy From New York City.” The Manhattan Transfer were no one-hit wonders, garnering Grammy recognition in the mid-1980s for their lively jazz and pop mash-up style albums and performances. Simply put, they fit with Handsome Jimmy’s amped persona. Unfortunately for younger fans who went to wrestling events with their parents, Valiant’s entrance and music made parents get up and dance. “Sit down, Mom, please!”
9 Loved: Jimmy Garvin, “Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top
“Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin was no stranger to the Freebirds, the Road Warriors and the Four Horseman for that matter. Garvin always seemed to be lurking close to the main event picture in promotions such as the American Wrestling Alliance (AWA), WCCW and the NWA. He was great on the microphone and had a great look. Being embroiled in feuds with the likes of Rick Martel, David Von Erich, the Road Warriors, Ric Flair and the Midnight Express, Garvin, along with his valet Precious, would have considerable television time. With television time came matches by which he entered the ring to ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” Precious would lead the way spraying Aquanet while Jimmy Garvin strutted in an ensemble of glittery suspenders, jacket and pants while jawing at ringside fans and the occasional cameraman. Garvin’s interpretation of what a sharp dressed man should wear was somewhat off. However, his ring entrance theme wasn’t.
8 Hated: Superstar Billy Graham, “Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas
Superstar Billy Graham’s early wrestling persona directly influenced at least four members on this listing. His flamboyant albeit colossal presence, ring tenacity and quick-witted microphone skills put him on another level of champion-heels during the 1970s. Graham jumped several wrestling promotions and territories after his successful WWE run in the late 1970s. He would wrestle in Japan, Texas, Florida and then end up in the NWA during the early to mid-1980s. During the latter timeframe, Graham transformed himself into a bald-headed, goatee sporting, karate pants wearing grappler who would join Paul Jones’ Army to feud with Jimmy Valiant. Graham’s later switch to good-guy status brought a change in demeanor and ring entrance theme, the song “Kung Fu Fighting.” Fans with knowledge of Graham’s previous Superstar status couldn’t help but to cringe with his nonsensical entrance. Graham would return to a more conservative and regal entrance with his second and unfortunate injury-riddled run with the WWE. Yet, Graham’s NWA entrance theme needed a kick to the curb.
7 Loved: Manny Fernandez and Rick Rude, “We Will Rock You” — Queen
“The Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez and “Ravishing” Rick Rude were one of the most underrated tag-team combinations in NWA history. Consistently feuding with fan favorites like the Rock n’ Roll Express, Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors lent to their credibility. Likewise, coming to the ring with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” only added to their heel personalities. The song’s bombastic foot-stomping and repeat triad of claps got the crowd standing and going—even if they weren’t a supporter of Fernandez and Rude. However, fans knew that Fernandez and Rude needed to get the action started quick because the song transitions into Freddy Mercury’s tranquil intro to “We Are the Champions”—a song that doesn’t scream old-school ass-kicking. Nevertheless, Manny Fernandez and Rick Rude owned “We Will Rock You” and their entrance!
6 Hated: Rock n’ Roll Express, “Rock n’ Roll is King” – Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
The Rock n’ Roll Express, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, were an entertaining combination to say the least! Their matches with the Midnight Express, the Russians and the Four Horseman were among some of the greatest high-energy matches NWA fans had ever seen. Eardrum shattering shrieks emanated from the “teeny boppers” for not only the Express’ entrance but for Ricky Morton’s eventual milking of the crowd’s emotions during a heel beat down. If you were a teenage boy at the time, you already had Menudo, New Kids on the Block and Married with Children’s David Faustino to contend with for female attention—it wasn’t fair, damn it! In all honesty, it’s not known if anyone actually heard their theme song—ELO’s “Rock n’ Roll is King” because the first identifiable bass chord sent the female crowd into a frenzy! For us dudes, we just rolled our eyes.
5 Loved: Dusty Rhodes, “You Can’t Judge a Book” – Hank Williams and Huey Lewis
Dusty Rhodes used a slew of entrance music across several territories and promotions. During the apex of his feud with the Ric Flair and the Four Horseman, Dusty used an unlikely cover by a duet of Hank Williams and Huey Lewis for not only NWA television vignettes but for his entrances as well. The song “You Can’t Judge a Book By Looking at its Cover” is a cover of Bo Diddley’s 1962 hit. Williams’ country swank and Lewis’ raspy vocals complimented the oft display of Rhodes’ sassy gum-chewing and determined march to the ring. There’s probably no other entrance that echoed American Dream given Dusty’s physical stature. One really couldn’t judge a book by its cover as it related to Dusty Rhodes! Hank Williams and Huey Lewis—that’s sort of an odd pairing isn’t it? Yeah, so was the teaming of Dusty and Nikita Koloff. But it fricking worked for Dusty’s entrances!
4 Hated: Demolition, “Demolition” – Rick Derringer
It’s debatable if Axe (Barry Darsow) and Smash (Bill Eadie) of Demolition were the WWE’s reproduction of the Road Warriors. But man, they sure look like a combination of the aforementioned Lord Humongous and KISS. Alternating between heels and good guys, Demolition feuded with the federation’s top talent, lending to their credibility as main eventers. Still however, the team couldn’t shake the copy-cat handle as it related to the Road Warriors or Legion of Doom for WWE specialists. On the other hand, Demolition’s use of music and their entrance was not copy-cat. For their entrance theme they enlisted the help of Rick Derringer for their song “Demolition.” Derringer was part of the group The McCoys who crafted the one-time hit, “Hang on Sloopy.” The theme has a hint of campiness, going so far as to name Axe and Smash(er) in the song. This is not the last reference to face paint and spikes. Likewise, this isn’t the last reference for Derringer’s part in hated entrance themes.
3 Loved: The Freebirds, “Badstreet USA” – Michael P.S. Hayes
The Fabulous Freebirds—Michael P.S. Hayes, Buddy Roberts and Terry Bam Bam Gordy—were the first wrestlers to use music such as Lynard Skynard’s “Freebird” and Willie Nelson’s “Georgia on My Mind” for ring entrances on a consistent basis in the early 1980s. Rowdy, raucous and raw, the Freebirds were those in-between wrestlers battling the likes of the Road Warriors, the Von Erichs, the Four Horseman and the Rock n’ Roll Express across several promotions. During a stint in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), Michael P.S. Hayes recorded a song called “Badstreet USA” which was used for the Freebirds’ entrances theme during their Texas run and sporadically throughout their career. Although their song was not from a commercial artist, it is a piece of art nonetheless with a catchy hook about the Freebirds hometown—Atlanta, Georgia! I dare anyone to listen to it and not come away with it stuck in their head! “Badstreet USA” is one of the more underrated entrance themes!
2 Hated: Hulk Hogan, “Real American” — Rick Derringer
Hulk Hogan’s name is synonymous with wrestling. He’s one of the most successful draws in wrestling history and part of its most significant storylines. If fans saw Hulk Hogan’s entrance in the early 1980s in either the AWA or the WWE, they will have heard “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. Hogan scrapped that entrance theme shortly after winning the WWE world title and went for a more patriotic anthem with “Real American.” What you might not have known is that Rick Derringer put the “Hoochie Koo” in Hogan’s entrance theme song. Likewise, the song was originally intended for a tag-team named the U.S. Express, Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda. However, Windham and Rotunda bolted for the NWA and resultantly the Hulkster bear-hugged the song for himself. Even during the patriotic and conservative 1980s, Hogan’s WWE entrance theme sounded behind-the-times. It became even more dated during his later WWE run.
1 Loved: The Road Warriors, “Iron Man” – Black Sabbath
Ask who the best tag-team of all time is and you’ll get two answers: Hawk and Animal; or simply, The Road Warriors. The Road Warriors’ run through Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW), NWA, AWA and Japan tag-teams was unmatched in the 1980s. Their ring entrance using Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” was just as unrivaled. When fans heard the guttural beat drum beats, the power riffs and the distorted vocals “I Am Iron Man,” they knew it was about to get real! Hawk and Animal would doff the spikes and begin pummelling their opponents before Ozzy spit out the song’s first lyric. Black Sabbath could be considered the Road Warriors of metal—unapologetic and in your face innovators. The Warriors would use covers of “Iron Man” and their own specialized theme (“What A Rush”) in subsequent WCW and WWE runs. However, their use of Sabbath’s “Iron Man” is the mark of a great—if not the greatest—ring entrance theme!