Wrestling themes were a huge evolution for the sport. It's no secret that the right music for the right time can elevate a moment astronomically. When a wrestler's recognizable theme hits the speakers it can cause a stadium of thousands to erupt in cheers or boos before they can even see the actual wrestler.
But who did it first? Of course Hogan has claimed that he suggested it to Vince for WrestleMania but there were several others who used it years before that. Glen Stride is often mentioned and Sgt Slaughter also used the Marines' Hymn a decade before the first 'Mania. And we can't forget the Freebirds who loved rockin' Lynrd Skynrd before copyright laws cracked down on all the fun.
Who did it first is up for debate, but who did it BEST is very clear. The WWE has always had the best production values and their lead composer Jim Johnston is a HUGE part of that. His iconic themes have given McMahon's promotion a massive edge over the competition. His ability to capture the feel of each wrestler's personality is magical. Austin's glass break and Undertaker's bell toll can pop the crowd within the first second.
Jimmy Hart has an impressive body of work as well. His 'Sexy Boy' theme for Shawn Michael's (hilariously sung by Vince on an earlier version) lasted from its early 90s debut until his Hall of Fame induction. He also composed great themes for the Hart Foundation, L.O.D, and The Nasty Boys. But it wasn't just 80s guitar rock, he would stretch his writing chops when he composed the west coast rap theme for Kevin Nash's Wolfpac.
Unfortunately, Jimmy is also responsible for many of the bad themes we are about to list. He was a big proponent of ripoff tracks that sounded just different enough that he could get away with it.
So let's go ahead and take an audio journey down the dark path of WCW's worst themes!
15 A Man Called Sting
The song itself isn’t terrible. It’s a piece of music that could only have been made in that era. You can hear the teased up curly hair as the band generically rocks through it. The lyrics are suspect as well: ‘he does this, he does that…..drives the girls wild, old people act like a child’. But the biggest culprit of the song is that it has zero personality. A great theme song should capture the essence of the wrestler or stable. But anyone in the company could walk down the aisle to it if you changed just one word (A man called Flair/Sid/Jim).
14 Rey Mysterio' First theme
A fantastic theme for someone else.
Mysterio had such a vibrant charisma and huge personality that he deserved a more upbeat song. After he got himself over in spite of WCW’s top-card bias, the fans went crazy for him. The energy that he created needed to be matched with a true banger of a song.
Although BOOYAKA BOOYAKA is a little annoying to me, at least the Reggaeton beats somewhat match Rey's vibe.
13 Chris Jericho's Pearl Jam ripoff
As a musician, I despise the idea of tweaking something just enough that you avoid legal implications. Despite what the courts decide, it’s theft from a hard working artist. Pearl Jam fought for the people as evidenced in their highly publicized beef with Ticketmaster. They gave so much to the fans and they didn’t deserve to be ripped off by a company like Turner. And this wasn’t the only time they’d stoop this low. Heck, Jericho's a musician himself, they could've just had him make one himself, couldn't they?
12 DDP - Smells like a lawsuit
So how do the WCW wrestlers feel about their themes blatantly stealing from artists like Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl? Let’s have DDP explain it you himself.
"Jimmy Hart and I did the song together, and Jimmy is a genius. I felt that (Smells Like Teen Spirit) was the sound of the 90s that was awesome for me. Dave Grohl was hot cause that was like a rip off of their music. He heard it and was like "WCW owes us money." We did just enough (in terms of) changing the notes. So it was it, but wasn’t.”
Instead of a self high five maybe he should give himself the middle finger.
But that wasn’t the only Nirvana song they would ripoff...
Most teenagers who picked up a guitar in the 90s first learned Nirvana's 'Come as You Are' riff. Looks like Hart learned that riff too as he tweaked it slightly for Raven's theme. The angsty grunge feel fit Raven's character perfectly, but again, stealing from a treasured band is the ultimate tackiness.
You shouldn't speak ill of the deal, and you shouldn't steal from them either. That'll get you some bad voodoo!
Yet another Jimmy Hart ripoff. This time he went after Static-X.
As if these two guys didn't already have enough problems getting away from generic gimmicks they were saddled with another clone of a theme.
The song didn't even fit their gimmick. Sure they were big tough dudes, but their promos were centered around getting high and getting paid. Couldn't they have ripped off Dre's Chronic instead?
9 Bret Hart's first theme
From the opening talk-box guitar squeal it's clear this is going to be bad. Hart debuted in WCW in 1997 yet this song screamed '87. Their obvious rip of his WWE song sounded like a wet fart.
However, after only 10 attempts, WCW finally got Bret a great song. His 10th and 11th themes were actually pretty good. They had a badass fuzz build into a hiphop sound effect over a dirty sounding rock beat.
It's too bad that by the time his good theme came around nobody cared about WCW.
8 Jericho's first theme
Jericho really fought against all odds to get himself over at WCW. They started him off as a bland babyface with this terribly out of place track that belonged nowhere near a wrestling venue.
I'm convinced an 80s movie company somewhere threw out all of their worst montage music ideas and WCW picked them up for a bargain. Although knowing how WCW spends money, they most likely overpaid for those too.
Jericho must have known he made the right move when the WWE gave him a very impressive Y2J debut and magnificently badass music.
7 Marty Janetty isn't blonde
The Hollywood Blondes theme was very menacing and could have been very effective with the right monster heel. It's dark guitar riff features a cool 'hiccup' on the beat. The track rocks hard and builds to a psychotic flurry and badass wah-wah solo. The problem is they never used it on the right guy!
The Hollywood Blondes had a great 'cool' bad guy gimmick going way before that idea was popular but they weren't 'heavy' enough for this theme.
Using it for a cruiserweight babyface like Marty Janetty was the worst possible idea. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if the guy in charge of all this was blind or deaf. What's more likely is that no one was in charge at all.
6 Cactus Jack - Mr. Bang Bang
Cactus Jack's WWE theme is pure badass guitar. The opening riff immediately grabs you and evokes the dangerous style that Foley would bring every night. His WCW theme pales in comparison.
The legendary Frank Zappa had a hand in writing it but he couldn't save 'Mr. Bang Bang' from becoming just another mediocre piece of fuzz.
Although Jack's awesome WWE theme was actually just a stock track (that had also been used in an adult-film) McMahon proved that whether original or stock, the WWE's tunes were almost always better.
5 Dustin Rhodes - The Natural
The melody and lyrics to this tune are actually quite fitting for lil Rhodesy but the execution left a lot to be desired. If they had beefed this track up with some heavier guitar, drums, and vocal delivery it could have kicked some serious ass. But instead they went with a lukewarm and gentle approach that sapped any chance of intensity.
What could have been a barn burning ass-kicker became a candle-lit bath.
4 The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea
Another Jimmy Hart - Howard Helm ripoff. Did these guys think they stumbled upon the secret of songwriting or did they just do whatever WCW wanted while cashing the cheques? Prince and his purple lawyers must have gotten involved as this theme is now edited (badly) out of WWE Network videos.
Why the sudden gimmick change from Samoan Prince to Purple Poser? Well, the rumor is that Iaukea had an affair with the wife of a WCW executive.
That's what it's like when WCW doves cry.
3 Hulk Hogan Real GENERICan
Hogan's WWE theme Real American was a white hot laser beam of 80s rock goodness.
His WCW theme failed miserably at replicating the energy and excitement of the original Rick Derringer tune. How generic was it?
Well, on August 9th, 1999, WCW wanted to shock the world bringing the good ol' red and yellow Hogan back. But when his music started blasting, the crowd reacted with barely a whimper. This is because no one recognized this crappy song. It took the fans to physically see him and his old colors before they went bananas.
Of course we all know Hogan's best theme is Hendrix's Voodoo Child, but there's no way Vince wanted to pay for THAT.
2 Ricky Steamboat
Wow, somehow WCW managed to make Ricky the friggin' Dragon Steamboat uncool with this epically lame song. This song would be perfect if Steamboat starred in his own 80s family sitcom on the Disney Channel. It would also be perfect if Steamboat was a precious little butterfly who flew through rainbows and spread tiny hearts everywhere. But he wasn't a cute butterfly, he was supposed to be a DRAGON. He was supposed to be the guy that recently wrestled the greatest match of all time at WrestleMania 3; give him some appropriate music!
I can't tell what WCW hated more, wrestlers or music.
1 American Males
WCW had an unhealthy obsession with the idea that wrestlers should look like chippendales dancers. Perhaps they were chasing the female audience that was largely ignored by professional wrestling....perhaps not.
This track is your usual WCW lame-rock but it's dressed up with some lame-techno sound effects and robot-vocals endlessly singing 'American Males, American Males, American Males, American Males...'
And how about these lyrics that make them out as violent sex offenders.
'If they want to talk to you, you better not listen.
You might wind up in critical condition'