Ring music isn't as make-or-break for a wrestler as gimmicks, charisma, and wrestling/promo skills are, but it's nonetheless an important part of a wrestler's identity. Would generic '80s rock riffs have suited "Macho Man" Randy Savage as well as "Pomp and Circumstance"? What defined Bam Bam Bigelow better: the happy ring theme he had as Oliver Humperdink's babyface protege, or the dark, menacing heel theme punctuated by growls of "BAM BAM!"? And to use a more contemporary example, what do you think of Roman Reigns inheriting The Shield's entrance music, with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins getting different, arguably less badass themes after the stable's disbandment?
Ring themes can enhance a wrestler's character or make them look less impressive. They can stick to your head like peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth, or they can be so annoying (see: Brie Bella's singles entrance music) you'd want to hit the mute button A-S-A-freaking-P. And as we've seen in previous decades, the turnover of wrestlers from WWE to WCW or vice versa has seen changes in ring music, some for the better, and some for the worse.
So which entrance themes were better, and which were worse, as far as WWE vs. WCW is concerned? Let's look at 15 wrestlers who competed for both companies, and see which company gave them the better theme. Due to the sheer volume of wrestlers who had stints with Ted Turner and Vince McMahon alike, you can consider this a semi-random sampling, as we're including some lower-card and midcard guys in a mostly legendary lineup.
16 LEX LUGER
WCW – Lex Luger left WWE in 1995 and was so upset with his creative direction that he rejoined the company for what could have been no more than 80 cents on the dollar. Thankfully, he got himself a pretty good entrance theme in the form of “Slammer,” which was fast, exciting, and not as dated and/or unoriginal as many other themes of the era.
WWE – Jim Johnston is usually a master at creating themes for WWE wrestlers, but it just wasn’t working with Luger. Was it because he didn’t have the charisma or mic skills to replace Hulk Hogan as WWE’s alpha babyface? Was it because Luger’s WWE themes included a schmaltzy ballad called “I’ll Be Your Hero”? Or maybe the music just felt too dated and generic. Either way, none of those themes worked for the Total Package, and his “Narcissist” theme wasn’t much to write home about either.
WINNER: WCW (1)
WCW – Back in the 1960s, Jimmy Hart was co-lead singer in a band called The Gentrys, and aside from their biggest hit “Keep on Dancing,” they also hit the Billboard charts with a cover of “Cinnamon Girl” – credit to the Mouth of the South for sounding very much like Neil Young did on the original. Some 25 years later, Hart was pushing his luck big-time in WCW, and he was a virtual Xerox machine as a writer of ring music. Case in point? Raven’s WCW ring theme, which had an eerie resemblance to Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” (As a mini-spoiler, this is the first of two Nirvana rip-offs in this list!)
WWE – We will mercifully leave out Raven’s ring music as Quebecers manager Johnny Polo, because at the end of the day, it’s associated with Jacques and Pierre, who are not the Mounties, as they’ll so helpfully tell you. Instead of making Kurt Cobain roll in his grave with a faux version of a Nirvana song, Jim Johnston stuck to raven sounds and dark and heavy guitars to make his point and establish Raven as a similarly dark and enigmatic character.
WINNER: WWE (1)
14 THE GIANT/BIG SHOW
WCW – Back in his WCW days as The Giant, Paul Wight had one of the better entrance themes out there. And there wasn’t anything really fancy about it – just slow, metallic riffs and growls of the word “CHOKESLAM!” that emphasized what a force of nature Andre the Giant’s onetime kayfabe son was supposed to be. Considering how WCW loved borrowing riffs from rock’s biggest names back in the ‘90s, this was actually quite good in comparison.
WWE – Unfortunately for WCW’s music writers, “Chokeslam” doesn’t hold a candle to Jim Johnston’s “Big,” or as it’s now known, “Crank it Up” by Brand New Sin. Regardless of what you prefer to call it, you know what’s coming when you hear a long, drawn-out “WELLLLLLL” – big, bluesy riffs and lyrics about the “Big, Bad Show.” Big Show’s WWE theme, which has remained relatively unchanged since his debut for the company in 1999, is one of the company’s most iconic of all time, and truly symbolic of the legacy of the World's Largest Athlete.
WINNER: WWE (2)
13 LANCE STORM
WCW – You can rag on Lance Storm all you want for his lack of flash in the ring. Heck, we’ll even admit it – he wasn’t an exciting wrestler for the most part, despite his technical skill. But WCW did give him some good themes, proving that if you give Jimmy Hart and Howard Helm a chance, they could come up with quality original material.
WWE – As the first WCW wrestler to “invade” WWE post-buyout, Storm did get a decent midcard push, as the company’s music writers doubled down and gave him an industrial-tinged entrance theme, seemingly giving Jim Johnston and company the edge. Then, the decision was made for Storm to lighten up his serious act and start dancing and cavorting with pretty young ladies. That’s when we were introduced to “Party All Night,” a generic R&B/hip-hop tune that 50 Cent wouldn’t dare touch. No wonder Storm went back to being boring and serious soon after his brief attempt at being fun.
WINNER: WCW (2)
12 RANDY SAVAGE
WCW – As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Classical music and metal/hard rock licks can mix quite well with each other, and to be fair to “Macho Man” Randy Savage and his WCW theme, it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, the guitar work on WCW’s take on “Pomp and Circumstance” was very reminiscent of Queen’s Brian May. Unfortunately, this theme just didn’t feel necessary, as the Sir Edward Elgar original is public domain anyway. Why mess with a good thing, even in the name of making things feel more modern?
WWE – No need to add anything here. It’s not the Macho Man without “Pomp and Circumstance,” preferably in its unadulterated form, just as it was when Savage was competing in the old WWE.
WINNER: WWE (3)
11 CHRIS JERICHO
WCW – In those long-haired, youthful, pre-Y2J days, Chris Jericho was one of WCW’s more talented cruiserweights, holding the division’s title four times and coming up with the precursor to today’s List of Jericho – that list of 1,004 holds he created to one-up Dean “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Malenko. He also had one of many sound-alike themes WCW used for its wrestlers back in the day. Officially, the song is known as “One Crazed Anarchist” by Aircraft Music Library, but any rock fan will tell you it’s a near-facsimile of Pearl Jam’s grunge classic “Even Flow.”
Oh, and you may also want to check out the very first WCW Jeri-theme. It may have debuted in the mid-'90s, but as TheSportster had pointed out previously, it had "'80s training montage" written all over it. Too bad Jericho wasn't rocking a mullet back then.
WWE – Jericho can say what he wants about not realizing the song’s lyrics included references to one of his favorite bands, British metal legends Judas Priest. And it does seem like a rather gratuitous way to work Rob Halford and company into a song’s lyrics. But all things considered, “Break the Walls Down” is a rambunctious, loud-mouthed, swaggering rocker that captures Y2J’s personality perfectly, and that’s simply what makes it way better than his faux-Pearl Jam theme from his WCW days.
WINNER: WWE (4)
10 TUGBOAT/THE SHOCKMASTER
WCW – Up to this day, Fred Ottman is still laughingly remembered as the infamously clumsy Shockmaster, who stumbled and bumbled his way to gales of unscripted laughter on Ric Flair’s talk show segment A Flair for the Gold. And it wasn’t a shock that the Shockmaster was repackaged from faux-Stormtrooper to clumsy construction worker, and given a ring theme closely resembling the Beatles’ “Day Tripper.” We see what you did there, WCW, and we actually liked it.
WWE – WCW may have had a field day repurposing present-day and classic rock hits into “original” entrance themes for their wrestlers, but at least they weren’t as unimaginative as to introduce a kayfabe sailor with the sounds of a tugboat blaring over a processed ‘80s synth-rock backdrop. That’s the entrance theme the old WWE used for Ottman, who debuted as Tugboat before turning heel, joining forces with Earthquake, and becoming Typhoon of The Natural Disasters.
WINNER: WCW (3)
9 BRET HART
WCW – As we have covered multiple times in this list, WCW had a thing for ripping off rock heavyweights when it came to entrance themes. In Bret Hart’s case, WCW ripped off, or at least tried to rip off the Hitman’s driving, chugging entrance theme from his WWE days, replacing the beefy riffs of the original with ill-timed talk box licks that didn’t quite hit the spot like Jim Johnston did. Later Hitman themes in WCW were better, but it’s the earlier ones that really stand out, and not in a good way.
WWE – Regardless whether you’re talking about the “classic” Hitman theme back when the company was known as WWE, or the updated version currently used by Bret’s niece Natalya (and Bret himself during his occasional appearances), this one’s a classic among WWE ring themes. WCW ruined Bret Hart's career? Probably, but they definitely ruined his entrance music as well.
WINNER: WWE (5)
8 DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE
WCW – And once again, we’ve got more rock anthem rip-offs in the form of Diamond Dallas Page’s two WCW themes. The first one, entitled “Glam Rock,” was an over-processed take on Gary Glitter’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll (Part 2),” or that song with the word “HEY!” as its only lyric that’s been played and overplayed in sporting events since the mid-1970s. The second one, “Self High-Five,” is probably the biggest Nirvana hit that didn’t involve Nirvana, a version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with a few chord changes and DDP’s exclamations of the title replacing Kurt Cobain’s snarling vocals.
WWE – Leave it to Jim Johnston to give DDP a solid, slightly unspectacular, but far more original theme song when he joined WWE in 2001 to get his butt kicked by the “Bikertaker” and his then-wife Sara. There’s no contest here – Page’s WWE theme wasn’t the greatest of its era, and his push with the company was rubbish, but at least it was better than him entering to a song that smelled like a rip-off.
WINNER: WWE (6)
7 THE OUTSIDERS
WCW – Wondering when you were going to see us mention the New World Order’s theme, a.k.a. “Rockhouse” by Frank Shelley? Here it is, and we’re using it to represent Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as The Outsiders. Listening to the wah-wah licks and guitar tone in some parts, it would appear as if Shelley was trying to emulate Jimi Hendrix with his composition. But in the end, it’s a sleazy, seedy-sounding instrumental that did well in driving the message home – the nWo, starting with The Outsiders, had arrived in WCW to take it over, and have some fun while doing it.
WWE – This is an easy win for WCW, and it’s likewise easy to understand why. As Razor Ramon, Hall entered to a song that sounded more appropriate for Crockett and Tubbs staking out drug lords on Miami Vice. And as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, Nash entered to a generic blues that also sounded more appropriate for ‘80s cop show scenes. You know those scenes where the cops would seek out the bad guys in strip clubs and ask the strippers and bouncers for information? Yeah, those ones.
WINNER: WCW (4)
6 EDDIE GUERRERO
WCW – Even when WCW wasn’t trying to rip off someone else, they seemed to be sneaking in some references to a classic or present-day rock hit. In the case of Eddie Guerrero, it seemed as if they were working in something similar to the refrain of War’s 1970s hit “Low Rider.” You know, because Mexican-Americans often love driving around in low riders. Complete midcard fodder, just like Eddie often was treated as one of WCW’s “vanilla midgets.”
WWE – Guerrero’s move to WWE coincided with his rise to stardom, and he had likewise gotten himself quite a good ring theme when he and his nephew Chavo Guerrero teamed up as Los Guerreros. May it be in its original form (“We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal”) with Eddie and Chavo doing the rapping, or in the tweaked version Eddie would use as a singles competitor, this was a catchy ditty anyone could rap along to, and another vast improvement over WCW's pablum.
WINNER: WWE (7)
5 CHRIS BENOIT
WCW – In his days as an underappreciated “vanilla midget,” Chris Benoit’s WCW themes were similarly vanilla in nature. “Replica” wasn’t a replica of anything – just generic ‘80s-style riffage and drum machine beats for a wrestler who was competing in the ‘90s. “Too Much Information,” which was the Rabid Wolverine’s second theme, was better by a mile, but didn’t really carry that sense of urgency you’d expect from an up-and-coming young star.
WWE – Just like he did in WCW, Benoit had two themes when he competed in WWE. “Shooter” was packed with heavier guitars and more industrial, contemporary-sounding drums, and was already a huge improvement over the old WCW entrance music. But it was his second theme, performed by his countrymen Our Lady Peace, that really stood out as the definitive Chris Benoit ring music. OLP was at the top of their game with this song, which was among the best of the Ruthless Aggression Era.
WINNER: WWE (8)
4 SHANNON MOORE
WCW – Now here’s an interesting entry – a wrestler who sang his own ring music in both WCW and WWE. Back in WCW, Shannon Moore was one-third of the boy band stable 3 Count, and together with Shane (a.k.a. The Hurricane) Helms and Evan Karagias, he sang on the faction’s official ring themes, which were parodies of the bubblegum pop purveyed by boy bands in the late-‘90s. As a lifelong rock fan, this writer would normally barf on anything boy band-related, but since “Can’t Get You Outta My Heart” and “Dance With 3 Count” were such great parodies of the genre, they somehow turned out to be quite entertaining.
WWE – Upon joining the freshly-rebranded WWE in 2002, Moore was free to work a character closer to his punk rock roots, and he doubled down on all that during his second WWE run in 2006, where he entered to the tune of “I’ll Do Anything,” a song where he sang lead vocals. It’s pretty much standard heavy pop-punk, nothing awful but nothing too special at the end of the day, and for that, the “Prince of Punk” may have made better music in his bubblegum boy band days.
WINNER: WCW (5)
3 CACTUS JACK
WCW – Bear in mind that we’re referring to Cactus Jack, not the two other faces of Mick Foley. He had two ring themes during his WCW days, the first being “Funeral March,” which wasn’t too bad at all, but was probably better-suited to a dark, supernatural character, not a scruffy brawler who seemingly loved feeling pain. His second ring theme was far more apt, a Southern rocker called “Mr. Bang Bang” that was co-written by Michael “PS” Hayes, and wasn’t exactly in Lynyrd Skynyrd territory as far as seminal Southern rock goes.
WWE – Now there would be no question that “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns ‘n’ Roses), “Born to Be Wild” (Steppenwolf), or“Back in Black” (AC/DC) would have been surefire winners as Cactus Jack’s non-WCW/WWE themes. But due to copyright issues, WWE turned to songwriting mainstay Jim Johnston to write Cactus’ new theme, which was still in the Southern rock vein, but with better production values and crunchier guitars. WWE still takes this one quite easily.
WINNER: WWE (9)
2 HULK HOGAN
WCW – And now, we’re down to our last wrestler and what could be the ultimate showdown as far as ring themes go. But is it really that close? As we mentioned above, the nWo theme is way better than anything Kevin Nash and Scott Hall got in WWE as Diesel and Razor Ramon, and its slow, funky vibe accentuated the stable's "cool" heel image. But when talking about Hulk in WCW, he also used Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” but also had a brief run in 1999 when he traded his nWo black for his classic red-and-yellow, and entered to a generic hard rocker that sounded like it came straight out of 1985, and had some annoying, over-the-top vocals.
WWE – While Hogan had likewise entered to the tune of “Voodoo Child” in his first WWE run post-WCW, his legacy is arguably summed up by one song – “Real American,” a song composed by Jim Johnston and performed by Rick Derringer. A good deal of the ‘80s rock this writer listened to in his pre-teens didn’t age well, but “Real American” still stands the test of time as the iconic theme of Hulkamania and the Hulkster himself. Add the aforementioned usage of "Voodoo Child" during Hogan's 2002 WWE return, and you've got WWE taking this battle of ring themes.
WINNER: WWE (10)
1 CONCLUSION: WHO ROCKED IT BETTER?
As you can see, WCW oftentimes wasn't any slouch at all when creating ring themes for lower-card and midcard performers who didn't do much better before or after in WWE. Sometimes, they got it right with the main event and upper midcard guys. But way too often, they'd resort to the head-scratching tactic of taking a popular song's basic melody, changing a few chords, and turning it into somebody's entrance music. Did Jim Johnston or (later on) CFO$ ever do that? Definitely not on purpose, and that's the main reason why WWE beats WCW by a 2:1 ratio in this "semi-random" sampling of 15 wrestlers.
FINAL SCORE: WWE beats WCW, 10-5.
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