The music of wrestling has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.
It helps that a lot of it comes from guitar based or hip hop music, both genres that I love, but it’s more than that. A good piece of music that fits a character and suits who they are and what they represent is just so important to a well-rounded performer.
I draw on my experience for an example: I remember sitting cross legged on my sister’s floor with wrestling on the TV, aged about seven or eight. As usual for those times, a ‘jobber’ was introduced to little fanfare outside of the Fink’s brilliant vocals. “In the ring at this time, weighing 275 pounds, Iron Mike Sharpe!”
Suddenly, the crash of cymbals and an angry guitar riff smashed into my ears. A blur of tassels, face paint and waving arms sped towards the ring. Sweat was flying, the audience was roaring, and everything about that five-second rush screamed energy at me. I was fixated on the screen.
The Ultimate Warrior’s entrance was a glorious tantrum, live and in living colour. He smashed right through into your living room and made you excited to be watching.
Jim Hellwig was an absolutely awful wrestler, by all accounts. Many who worked with him have told how he was sloppy, stroppy, hard to get along with and selfishly did all he could to make sure that he alone was the one who got ‘over’.
But I’ll tell you now: to that impressionable young man watching this force of nature on his screen, none of that mattered. He was the greatest wrestler in the universe.
I never had tonnes of access to Sky in my youth, but late at night there used to be weekly NWA/WCW Worldwide shows on TV along with Raw Power/Noisy Mothers, a rock show fronted by DJ Krusher and often I’d end up taping them together which made up my Sunday morning viewing.
Being a ‘rebellious’ rocker, I’d watch Krusher interviewing rock gods, hear new music and see performances and videos of artists I loved at the time, and then on would come the NWA/WCW show and once again I’d hear those artists performing the music for wrestlers like the Steiner Brothers (Guns n Roses – Welcome to the Jungle) or Flyin Bryan (Def Leppard – Rocket).
I was pulled right back into what made wrestling for me. The characters, the action, the music, it was a mesh of everything I wanted to be as I sat hung-over after yet another crazy weekend.
Then there was Demolition. To me, they were the Judas Priest of wrestling. Studs, leather, heavy metal music, face paint like Kiss as a young rocker growing up I wanted Demolition to be kings of the world. And the fact their music was custom-made, as opposed to being an existing chart track assigned to them, was the cherry on the cake.
Of course we grow and experience more in the world, which can make us a bit more jaded. We get that look behind the scenes and we lose the wonder of our youth. But for me, that doesn’t matter in wrestling and it never will. You give me a good character with an amazing soundtrack behind them and I’ll be a believer.
Sometimes a connection to the music can give you an automatic connection to the wrestler. Triple H is a good example of my own experiences of this.
In his early WWE days as the blue blood snob, I couldn’t have cared less about him. Sure, he was decent in the ring and never really put a foot wrong as far as his body of work was concerned, but there was no real package to him other than a snooty accent and a posh bow.
You could see he was trying. But there wasn’t really anything to make him be anything other than he was: a mid-level bad guy. And though his entrance music was certainly on brand with his character (and be fair: Ode To Joy was a great walkout for a snob heel – Ed), it wasn’t my sort of thing.
A couple of years down the line, via D-Generation X and that 1999 breakout heel turn, the real Jean Paul Levesque was really starting to show through as the gimmick fell away. And when “One two, is this on?” hit for the first time, I was in.
A year-and-a-half later, HHH managed to get Motorhead to record The Game for him. With his character already honed, this was the final piece of the jigsaw.
Fast forward to Wrestlemania 17 with Motorhead playing him out live with that very song, and you see Trips almost break character trying to stop himself marking out. I believed it when he stood up at Lemmy’s funeral and made a tearful, amusing, loving speech about the great man.
As a fan of that music, and with a little knowledge and time spent with Lemmy myself, no matter what people think of him and his legacy I believe everything Triple H does. He is one of ‘mine’, one of my tribe, He’s earned that credit through his actions.
I was lucky in my 20s: I had all the wrestling I could consume and I was playing music at clubs every single weekend, where I found a real synergy between the world of heavy metal, rap and wrestling.
I found myself doing mini wrestling sets at rock clubs, playing a few ‘theme tunes’ of the ECW and WCW guys that used commercial tracks, and even (rarely but it grew) dropping things like Hulk Hogan’s theme in there for a giggle. People loved it!
Moving on through the late 90s, bands like Rob Zombie, Limp Bizkit, Cypress Hill, Seether and many more were jumping on the WWF bandwagon to make themes for performers and shows, plus creating or remixing tracks to add to the performer’s overall packages.
At the very height of rock and metal music breaking into the charts (a time we may never see again) wrestling and popular music went hand-in-hand and it just worked.
One name you might not hear a lot is Chris Warren. He did many tracks for the WWF and he collaborated with a German band called H-Blockx while doing so, co-creating Stone Cold’s side track ‘Oh Hell Yeah’ on Aggression) which did better for H-blockx than most of their own music. He was the vocalist on HHH’s original ‘game’ theme and DX’s music as well. It was the ‘biggest’ thing he did in music.
Wrestling became a valid outlet for rock bands to test out new tracks and in return WWF got amazing songs that their stars and production team could use, that theme has continued through to this day with bands like Code Orange (Alestair Black), Slipknot (NXT theme), Poppy and many others.
It’s not just rock, either: lots of rappers have got involved as well from Kid Rock to MGK. That all stems back to the 90s with DMX, Run DMC and Snoop Dogg all contributing to this wonderful melting pot of culture.
Wrestling music helped to make Jim Johnston and Rick Derringer industry legends for their contributions, many of their songs are still used today for new stars (Natalya still samples Bret Hart’s theme and it still sounds as fresh as day one) and CF0$ certainly has a handle on making some great entrance music in the present day.
I still utterly adore some of the music that wrestling has given me, from Demolition’s theme to “Love Fury Passion Energy” or pretty much Edge’s entire back catalogue of walkout music. I also love wrestling for keeping some bands I adore in the spotlight when they might have vanished, like Living Colour (CM Punk) and Monster Magnet (Matt Hardy).
WWE still know how to make a track fit a superstar, or a video package. Ever since Cindy Lauper led out Wendy Richter at Wrestlemania 1, there’s not been a mesh like rock music and Wrestling.
That’s not to say they always get things right. Of course they don’t. Wrestling has always been a performance art. It’s about the overall package, the 200 pieces of the puzzle that fits together to make a ‘whole’ item.
It’s the moves, it’s the outfit, the mannerisms, the ability, the lights, camera, and yes, for me, a huge part of that will always be the music.
Oh and if you’re a fan of fantastic wrestling music by fantastic wrestling people, go check out Joe Hendry’s YouTube channel. You’re welcome.