All Mixed Up 03.30.09: Rock and Wrestling Connection
Posted by Tom Santoro on 03.30.2009
This week I look at how music helped the WWE set up the first Wrestlemania. I also look at Jim Johnston, the genius behind most of the WWE theme songs over the past 20 plus years. Finally, I give you my thoughts on 25 WWE theme songs.
In honor of this being Wrestlemania week, I thought I would give a little insight on wrestling theme music and Vince McMahon's long history of using music to promote the WWE. Music has been a big part of the WWE's success since the mid-1980s. In 1985, Hulk Hogan was becoming a break out star because of his appearance in Rocky III. However, Vince needed to reach his demographic of teenage boys.
Also in 1984, Captain Lou Albano appeared in Cyndi Lauper's music video for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". The WWF was gaining mainstream appeal. In order to reach his demographic, he contacted Lauper about appearing on WWF television. She accepted and the angle that set up the first Wrestlemania was born.
The feud started as Captain Lou versus Cyndi Lauper. Captain Lou claimed that he made Cyndi a huge music sensation because of his managerial skills. To settle the disagreement Cyndi chose and trained Wendi Richter to oppose The Fabulous Moolah, who was chosen by Capt. Lou to have a match to settle their differences. The angle was done through a series of Piper's Pits and a series of events shown on MTV called The Rock N Wrestling Connction. The feud ended with Richter becoming WWF Woman's Champion.
After the match, they turned Albano into a face by giving him "shock treatments". The WWF had an "award" ceremony for Lauper in December of 1984 to celebrate her achievements in Rock and Wrestling. Lauper in return gave Albano a Gold Record. Roddy Piper then showed up and claimed he set the whole thing up and smashed the Gold Record over Albano's head. He then kicked Lauper and was run off by Hulk Hogan. This incident set up the main event for Wrestlemania I.
Because of the cross promotion with the music industry, WWF saw huge success and is the main reason Wrestlemania has become a huge tradition. At each Wrestlemania since there has been some memorable musical elements. Like Aretha Franklin singing "America The Beautiful" at Wrestlemania 3 and Alice Cooper throwing Damien on Jimmy Hart in Wrestlemania 3. Ozzy Osbourne in the corner of the British Bulldogs at Wrestlemania 2. Or last year when Snoop Dogg was Master of Ceremonies for the Bunnymania match.
After the success of the Rock n Wrestling Connection, the WWF produced and released their own albums starting with The Wrestling Album and then a few years later with Piledriver. These albums were new compositions to be used as theme songs. Hulk Hogan's familiar "I'm a Real American" was on the Wrestling Album, even though the liner notes say it is for The US Express (Windham & Rotunda). It also features Vince McMahon doing "Stand Back" as DX pointed out a few years ago.
To make these albums possible, Vince got smart and hired an in house music producer named Jim Johnston. He has been the creative force behind some of the greatest themes in wrestling history like Stone Cold Steve Austin's "I Won't Do What You Tell Me" and The Rock's "If You Smell." Heck Kurt Angle's theme "I Don't Suck" got him heat when it was played as the crowd would chant, "you suck" as he came to the ring. Who doesn't recognize Austin's theme when the glass shatters or the Rock's theme when he yells his familiar phrase?
He has also been responsible for some misses like William Regal's "Man's Man" theme and anything having to do with Billy Gunn aside from the New Age Outlaws' theme.
During the height of the Attitude Era, mainstream artists started composing their own versions of WWE Superstar theme songs, using parts of Johnston's compositions and incorporating them into their own like Triple H's "The Game" done by Motorhead and Matt Hardy's theme done by Monster Magnet.
I have always loved the theme music for the WWE superstars. Vince McMahon gives his wrestlers identities and wants those identities to be conveyed in every way possible. He wants the people to get up out of their seats as soon as they play the first note of the theme song.
Here is my Top 5 Lists of WWE Themes:
TOP 5 MUSIC RELATED WWE GIMMICKS:
1. "DOUBLE J" JEFF JARRET (THE ROADIE) – "WITH MY BABY TONIGHT"
REASON: There was actually a feud over the song because Jarrett never actually sang the song. The Road Dogg did.
2. THE HONKY TONK MAN – "I'M THE HONKY TONK MAN"
REASON: Why wouldn't an Elvis impersonating wrestler sing one of the greatest WWE theme songs?
3. JOHN CENA – "THUGANOMICS"
REASON: I prefer the old Cena who used to rap about his opponents when he came to the ring. This theme was a lot better before he became Marky Mark on his "album".
4. THE HEADBANGERS –
REASON: Because they were…metal? Grunge? Punk? Oh I don't know. It was just good to see that style of music represented.
5. MAN MOUNTAIN ROCK
REASON: He made like 2 appearances and played a guitar that shot sparks out of it. F#%$ yeah!
TOP 5 FUNNIEST WWE THEMES
1. THE REPO MAN
REASON: I though it was a funny theme. Just a deep voice done in Yello's "Oh, Yeah" style deep voice. I also never understood why a guy who was supposed to repossess stuff looked like a 1900 bank robber with a thin mask.
REASON: It was a knock on Hogan's theme only more "special".
3. "SEXUAL CHOCALATE" MARK HENRY
REASON: It sounded like he was a lothario, Barry White style. He banged fat chicks, old chicks and trannies.
4. DUDE LOVE
REASON: He was supposed to be the "Shawn Michaels" pretty boy type of guy instead he was a comical hippie.
5. WILLIAM REGAL – "MAN'S MAN"
REASON: They tried to get Regal away from the austere Englishman with the stiff upper lip, but making him a rugged outdoorsman blue collar type. It only lasted a few months as Regal disappeared quickly.
TOP 5 DIVA SONGS
1. LITA – "LOVEFURYPASSIONENERGY"
REASON: There will never be another diva like Lita. An athletic tatted up punk gimmick that matched her real life persona. Her theme song by Boys Sets Fire is a great theme.
2. SUNNY – "I KNOW YOU WANT ME"
REASON: The first "diva" was full of spunk and desired by all. Her song was a tease just like she was.
3. BERTHA FAYE
REASON: This love song breaks my heart every time I hear it.
4. BETH PHOENIX
REASON: It sounds like she is Wonder Woman and is fitting for a ‘Glamazon" whatever that is.
5. STACEY KEIBLER – "LEGS" BY KID ROCK
REASON: There are not many instances where I find Kid Rock's music appealing but this is it. It is her best quality and it was just to have a song written about them.
WORST 5 WWE THEMES EVER
1. THE RED ROOSTER
REASON: Horrible gimmick. Horrible Wrestler. Horrible theme. They actually put the rooster sound in the song.
2. Owen Hart – "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH"
REASON: I loved Owen Hart. If I had a son, I was going to name him Owen. That being said this theme of him being "dangerous" and it sounding like a warning was awful. They even added the drop of him saying "I am not a nugget". Epic fail!
3. "MACHO MAN" RANDY SAVAGE – "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE"
REASON: He is supposed to be a ladies man (funny since he is one of the ugliest human beings on the planet), but he comes out to a traditional graduation song. Really? They should have given the Village People's "Macho Man" a shot. Even his rap album would be better.
4. STRIKE FORCE – "GIRLS IN CARS"
REASON: I get marketing Rick Martel as a guy the girls would want, but Tito Santana? This song is one of the worst things ever recorded.
5. DIESEL – ORIGINAL THEME
REASON: There was a period where WWE was using just annoying sounds rather than musical notes and compositions. This was just a truck running and tooting it's horn. They also did this with Dr. Isaac Yankem where it was just dentist drills.
TOP 5 BEST WWE THEMES EVER
1. KURT ANGLE – "I DON'T SUCK"
REASON: It is rare that a song can get you instant heat, but this one allowed the fans to chant "You Suck" when the synth plays. The song played up his American Hero gimmick, while being just cheesey enough to match his character.
2. CHRIS JERICHO – "BREAK THE WALLS DOWN"
REASON: As soon as the countdown ended on Raw in 1999, this song blared out of my TV. It matched Y2J's wit and swagger. It will always be one of Johnston's creations.
3. TRIPLE H – "THE GAME" BY MOTORHEAD
REASON: It is Lemmy. What more do I have to say?
4. JAKE "THE SNAKE" ROBERTS
REASON: I always liked the ominous tone this song had. It was sleazy just like Jake and it fit his character.
5. BROCK LESNAR
REASON: The energy of the song matched his brute strength. The song kicked your ass before he even came down the ramp. Too bad he didn't stay around.
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