The 411 Wrestling Top 5 11.04.13: Week 241 – Top 5 Musically Influenced Wrestlers
Posted by Larry Csonka on 11.04.2013
From John Cena the rapper, the KISS Demon and Jillian Hall to 3 Count, Curt Hennig's West Texas Rednecks, the Honky Tonk Man and more, the 411 staff breaks down their top 5 musically-influenced wrestlers of all time!
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling's Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.
So, onto this week's topic…
The Top 5 Musically Influenced Wrestlers
Name your top five Musically Influenced Wrestlers.
5. Jillian Hall - Honestly, Jillian Hall would probably be on my list of Top 5 underrated wrestlers of the last seven or eight years. She wasn't always the best from a mechanical standpoint in the ring (though she often didn't have great opponents), but she was aces when it came to portraying a character in the ring and putting in little touches that made her performances memorable. She became even more awesome when she donned her gimmick of being the world's worst singer, allegedly a knock on Hulk Hogan's daughter Brooke that arose during a period when the WWE brass wasn't too friendly with the Hulkster. Every time you saw Jillian hit the screen, you knew you were in for a laugh, and the gag reached its peak with her so-called Christmas album, "A Jingle with Jillian." Even though she's no longer with us, those songs will be part of my Yuletide for years to come.
4. Toshiaki Kawada - Ahhh, HUSTLE. I feel truly sorry for those of you who missed out on the glory that was HUSTLE. The "fighting opera" promotion of Japan took everything about professional wrestling and turned it on its head with fantastic results. One of the most mind-fucky parts of the promotion was when it took Toshiaki Kawada, who for years had been the most badass of badasses in All Japan Pro Wrestling and turned him into . . . a lounge singer. No, I am neither kidding nor exaggerating. The man who was once most famous for dropping his best friends on their heads at odd angles turned into the sort of crooner that Seth McFarlane dreams about being. HUSTLE fans being what they were, the gimmick actually got over from pretty much the first time out and continued to be one of the most popular acts in the promotion during its dying days. Then again, I'm also talking about the promotion that turned a bunch of Toryumon guys into Power Rangers, Magnum Tokyo into a private detective, and Akebono into an adult baby, so I don't know that I should be surprised.
3. John Cena - Word life. This is basic thuganomics. There's no denying that John Cena is the most successful professional wrestler of the last decade. We're all aware of what his current gimmick is (some of us would say painfully so), but it's easy to forget that his ascension to superstardom started not with the square-jawed modern-day superhero we see in 2013 but rather with rapping, a blend of Eminem and Vanilla Ice that began when Stephanie McMahon saw Cena joking around and "free styling" on the back of a tour bus. The man from West Newbury had plenty of memorable moments in the gimmick, including naming his finisher the "FU" in a diss on Brock Lesnar, fighting Eddie Guerrero in a parking lot brawl, winning his first WWE singles championship at Wrestlemania XX, and getting censored for a "too soon" line about John Ritter's death. If Cena were still in this gimmick today, it would be an easy number one, but the fact that it's a distant memory puts it at number three.
2. The Honky Tonk Man - The self-proclaimed "Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All Time" held on to his title for fourteen months, taking an Elvis-impersonating gimmick that a lot of people thought would flop and turning it into one of the most memorable heel personae in the modern era of professional wrestling, one that he still makes a comfortable living off of on the independent scene to this day. Interestingly, despite the fact that Honky is best known as a bad guy, the WWF originally attempted to bring him into the promotion as a babyface, and it was only after the Fed's fans started to reject him that the heel turn occurred. Even more interestingly, though some might assume that the gimmick is so over-the-top that it only could have come from the mind of Vince McMahon, the Honky Tonk Man as a character actually existed in southern "rasslin" territories for some time before he got the call up to Titan. Honky even had a music-inspired gimmick BEFORE he became Honky, as he spent a period with bleached blond hair under the name "Punk Rock" Wayne Ferris.
1. The Fabulous Freebirds - You cannot deny and will not even attempt to deny the greatness that is Badstreet USA, dammit. The Freebirds, obviously taking their name from the Lynard Skynard song, took professional wrestling by storm in the 1980s with their southern rock ethos. Michael "P.S." Hayes (later known by another musical moniker, Dok Hendrix), growled out lyrics to several songs about his tag team over the years, and he lived the gimmick to the point that his cool factor rubbed off on the aging, decidedly non-rock-n-roll Buddy Roberts and made it feel as though he fit in. As for the schmaltzy "Freebird Forever" single that appeared on the WCW Slam Jam album in the early 1990s, we'll just pretend that one never happened . . .
5. Aiden English - This is a fairly recent (and fairly obscure, unless you watch NXT) development, but Aiden English has taken to singing his way out to the ring before matches, and then performing an "encore" after he has won. He's supposed to be a heel, but because he's so smarmy, the fans have quickly taken to chanting for him, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's singing his way to the ring on RAW or Smackdown in the very near future.
4. John Cena - This slot was originally going to go to J-E-Double F J-A-Double R-E-Double T, but then I remembered the millions of heartbroken fans who found out that it wasn't Jarrett, but his Roadie, who sang "With My Baby Tonight". Then I thought about awarding it to Men on a Mission, but then I remembered that they attacked Oscar, and that just wasn't cool. Then I was going to give it to the Rockers, but they were only tangentially related to music (at least until HBK sang his own theme song). So, I mean, it had to be 3MB, right? But then I remember how successful Slater, Jinder, and McIntyre are, compared to the Doctor of Thugonomics, so I took pity on him and put him on the list.
3. Honky Tonk Man/Rhythm and Blues - I didn't want to include WWE's resident Elvis impersonator and leave out his tag team partner, Greg Valentine. There was absolutely no way this gimmick should've worked, and yet, it did, so don't despair, Los Matadores fans, there's still hope for Primo and Epico yet! HTM is still the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion (in spite of Santino's best efforts to break that streak), and that says something for a wrestling Elvis. He'd probably be higher on this list if he hadn't been a part of one of the worst musically influenced gimmicks, Rockabilly.
2. The Fabulous Freebirds - Big hair, bigger attitudes: what more do you need to know? Michael "PS" Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts introduced me to the concept of a three-man tag team, and it's a concept I've loved ever since, whether it was the Freebirds, Raven/Saturn/Kanyon, DDP/Bam Bam Bigelow/Kanyon, or the group featuring the number one wrestler on my list. To top it all off, they used "Free Bird" as their entrance theme for five years, followed by a song that was sung by Hayes (and wrestler themes sung by the wrestlers themselves will always have a soft spot in my heart). For these reasons, The Fabulous Freebirds are at number two.
1. "Sugar" Shane Helms - As part of WCW's resident boy band, Three Count, Helms was involved in a whole bunch of fun trios matches with the Jung Dragons in WCW's waning days. And while Three Count was composed of Helms, Shannon Moore, Evan Karagias, and Tank Abbott, only Helms went on to really do anything of note in his career. His moveset in WCW was second-to-none, clearing displaying the speed and fluidity he learned while wrestling with the Hardys in OMEGA, combined with some neat variations on pretty standard moves (his floating neckbreaker is a move I'd love to see someone like Sami Zayn utilize), and the sweetest finisher I could imagine at 18 or 19 years old, the Vertebreaker! Sure, Helms went on to greater notoriety as The Hurricane, but he'll always be Sugar to me. And honestly, with the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys/NSync resurgence, I'm surprised TNA hasn't busted out the green spots and reunited Helms, Moore, and Karagias.
5. John Cena - Since this topic is ridiculous, my list will follow suit. If you are looking for anything serious or worth while, just keep on scrolling (insert joke). Done? All the punch lines over with? Okay, the best name to start off with is John Cena. Why? Well, the guy dressed up as Vanilla Ice back in 2002. Plus, he released an album and has rapped for many years in his WWE career. Seems like a perfect fit to me. While some fans may want him to return to those roots, I am happy he moved on. If Cena had stuck with his 'rapping gimmick' for the past ten years, trust me - it would have gotten stale eventually. He moved on at just the right time and became the face of the industry. Not too shabby...
4. Honky Tonk Man - He was the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all-time. Don't believe me? Just ask him. Anyways, singing your own entrance theme is a big plus for this list. On top of that, he had staying power. Being a flash in the pan and moving on is one thing. Staying in the business for decades and continuing to make a great living is another. Props to the man and his very musical
3. Jillian Hall - Didn't one of her songs legitimately do well on i-Tunes or something? Either way, she played the part she was given and ran with it. I can't fault anybody for doing that. She got television time and made a fool of herself. All the while, Jillian made some money and even got a title win out of her career. More than many women can say! While I won't hold my breath, her having a cameo return to WWE one day would be funny to see. Love the gimmick or not, Ms. Hall was great.
2. 3 Count - Ah, the theme music! Ah, memories. If there was one saving grace from WCW at that time, it was that silly song. When the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and TRL are referenced, you know nothing will be taken seriously. Ultimately, that is the one drawback. They were all talented inside the ring. Just like Jillian Hall though, their stuff never had a real impact because of the comedic element. Oh well. Everybody three count...one, two three. One. Two. THREE!
1. 3MB - We're a three man band! These songs are so catchy, aren't they? Has this entire group ever won a match on Raw or Smackdown? I know they get the occasional win on Main Event, Superstars, or Saturday Morning Slam. On the two main shows? I don't know. Maybe I should "Ask" somebody who knows wrestling history. For WWE and folks backstage, they are big fans of Heath Slater. Thus, he will get screen time despite his past Wellness suspension and lack of crowd reaction. Good for him though - hard worker, friends in the right places and even came up with 3MB idea himself to get a spot on TV. Kudos for that! Whatever works, right? Jinder Mahal is still hit or miss for me. Who knows what his future will look like? Drew McIntyre is more than capable to be a single's star but is wrapped up in this mess right now.
Matt O'Connell Let me begin by saying that because I love goofy musical gimmicks so much, and because there is just so much to choose from in the wide swath of wrestling history, I'm going to limit my choices to 1999 WCW. Ready?
5. The KISS Demon - Man, what a great idea this was. Partnering with a rock band, who would then perform a live show for a crowd who had in fact paid to see a wrestling show, is already a brilliant idea. But then dressing an average wrestler up as a member of the band and making him a regular member of your roster pushes the idea into genius territory. Personally, I'd have picked Journey as the band. They'd likely have asked for far less money, and if you ask me, Dale Torborg would have made a better Steve Perry than Gene Simmons any day.
4. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea - Looking for a way to repackage shoe-less cruiserweight Prince Iaukea as a more marketable star, the WCW braintrust naturally decided to dress him up in velvet and escort Booker T's future wife to the ring with purple handcuffs on. You may also be wondering: did they attempt to approximate the appearance of purple rain by dropping violet sequins from the rafters during his entrance? Yes, yes they did.
3. Ernest "The Cat" Miller - Like so many of wrestling's greatest superstars, Ernest Miller's character evolved a great deal since he first debuted. Steve Austin started as a generic bleached-blonde heel and wound up as Stone Cold, or Triple H developed from a goofy patrician to the King of Kings; you know the story. Ernest Miller started with the truly awful gimmick of being a real-life Mortal Kombat character, until he finally hit the big time as a guy who often said he was friends with James Brown. He would even do a kind of James Brown dance, and have his manager cover him with a cape after matches. It was truly breathtaking, and I truly hope that someday, after all these years, someone calls his mama.
2. The Maestro - I'm telling you, if wrestlers with goofy musical gimmicks are your bag, 1999 WCW was the promotion for you. Truth be told, the Mastro was a pretty average wrestler, but in my mind he will forever have the greatest entrance of all time. Don't talk to me about the Brood coming up through the stage, Undertaker floating through the haze, or Shawn Michaels zip-lining his way to the ring. I don't want to hear it, because in his big debut, the Maestro had candles. And did I mention that he wore an opera cape? Because he did. He wore an opera cape and there were candles.
1. Curt Hennig and the West Texas Rednecks - Minnesota native and technical wrestling stand-out Curt Hennig was saddled (heh) with this gimmick in 2000 as part of Vince Russo's systematic misunderstanding of how to book WCW. Evidently, Hennig and his group of old-school grapplers singing country music were supposed to make WCW's blue collar southern base rally to support non-wrestler Master P. Instead, the Redneck's delightfully cheesy single "Rap is Crap" actually got a little airplay on country radio, and Hennig himself looked to be having a blast wearing fringed gloves and a cowboy hat each and every week. The Rednecks were also the catalyst for the final shot fired in the Mike "Shane" Jones war of dumb nicknames, as he was eventually brought in as a reference to Vince's son and the 1953 Allan Ladd film. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
5. R-Truth - This WAS Maxx Payne, until I realized how big of a miss not having R-Truth was. A former NWA Champion, as well as a multitime tag team, and United States champion, R-Truth has been rapping to us since he showed up as K-Kwik (or K-Krush if you're cool enough to remember that). So musical, that a heel turn for him meant that he would no longer rap- it's that simple for him. I like R-Truth a lot, and have no problem giving him this spot over Maxx Payne, who was still a bad ass dude.
4. Van Hammer - Personal fave getting slipped in here, so I'm sorry. I loved Van Hammer. From his early 90's rock star start, I was in. I was a Hammerhead. I dug the Slingshot Suplex. I was bummed when Sid squashed him in 35 seconds and sent him packing. I was geeked when he returned in the late 90's. He's part of one of my all time favorite moments- after missing a big boot and crotching himself on the ropes, Hammer (in his hippie gimmick) yells out "Bummer!" before getting dropped. Huge rock star. Van Hammer, everyone!
3. Honky Tonk Man - He's cool, he's cocky, he's bad. He's the Greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time. With the Colonel by his side, he used his musical inclinations to decent success as both a singles and tag star. When you're so musical that you can inspire Greg Valentine to pick up a guitar, well, you've done something rather magical.
2. Double J - Jeff Jarrett wanted to use the WWF to climb to the top of the Country Music Mountain. Now, as Wyatt mentioned, it was later revealed that Jarrett was never singing "With My Baby Tonight"- it was the Roadie instead. However, Jarrett also discovered his baby- the guitar- while wrestling as Double J. Sure, he left it behind when he jumped to WCW, but found it again as someone you didn't want to piss off. From that point on, you could bank on EL KABONG showing up at some point in a Jarrett match. All because of Double J.
1. Michael PS Hayes - Others may induct the Freebirds entity as a whole, but I feel like Hayes is the reason the music was there, Hayes is the reason for "Badstreet USA", and Hayes is the man that deserves to get the ultimate listing. It's not a hidden secret that the Freebirds did it first, and by incorporating a "band" aspect to their wrestling outfit, only made it work even better. Like I said, this could probably be the whole group, but I just don't see Gordy or Buddy or even Jimmy Jam pushing for the music with quite as much gusto as PS did.
CSONKA's LIST FOR FUN
5. 3 Count
4. The Real Jesse James (ROAD DOGG IS FUCKING AWESOME)
3. Men on a Mission
2. Disco Inferno
1. Honky Tonk Man
YOUR TURN KNOW IT ALLS
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