The Music Behind The Action
June 28, 2005 by Rohit Ramnath
It's about time we appreciate those who have given so much to wrestling without being recognized for it. Those people who don't get into the ring but who pave the way for the men and women who do. Yes, it's time to honor the musicians.
Clearly the least appreciated of the lot, one fails to recognize what impact the musicians have on the wrestlers. Word Association...Stone Cold Steve Austin- Glass breaking, Undertaker- Death Knell, etc... Most superstars are recognized today by their themes and the songs are almost like the property of the superstars. This close bond between the wrestlers and the songs cannot be denied.
I personally believe Vince McMahon is one of the stupidest men on the planet when it comes down to making the customer satisfied with the product, but you have to admit the man has a talent for scouting out good musicians and good songs to promote his wrestlers. Let's take a look at really what impact the theme music has. But its not only Vince but Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman had an amazing talent when it came down to theme songs for the superstars.
Example No.1: ECW One Night Stand - The main event is just about to begin and the Dudleys and Tommy Dreamer have shown up. Then you hear the guitar play the chords of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and the crowd goes wild. The Sandman shows up and the crowd SINGS THE THEME MUSIC!!! Does it strike anyone as odd""" Are the supporting the wrestler by it, yes. How""" They are singing a song. But it's the WRESTLER'S song. It's Sandman's theme. You can see the bond that the superstar and the song share. Imagine when you ever hear that song again you'd go "Hey, didn't Sandman come out to that music"""" It's almost like wherever he walks that song plays. The Sandman isn't the Sandman without his theme. Thus, the song helps to identify a superstar even when you can't see him.
Example No. 2: Countless no. of times - Either there's a brawl in the ring or a superstar is cutting a promo. He is generating a huge amount of heel heat insulting a specific superstar in the back. Suddenly the glass shatters, Disturbed's "Step Up" Theme booms across the arena and that specific superstar walks down the aisle. Now everyone remembers that moment, the second the glass shatters and you know what's going to happen. Stone Cold Steve Austin was defined by the shattering glass. You knew you were in for something when the theme played and you could feel the intensity through the TV screen if you were at home. Now imagine that same scenario if Austin was given some sort of a pop theme like an N'Sync number...same impact""" Hell No!!! A theme song helps to generate all the heat a superstar needs. The impact and the electricity is accentuated by the theme and the compatibility of the character and the theme is very important to the development of the character.
Example No. 3: SmackDown - A superstar is standing in the ring and cutting a promo. He is calling himself a "Wrestling God" and saying that he is an unstoppable force in the WWE. He claims to have beaten Eddie Guerrero and Booker T. He says there is no man living who can stop his roll. The lights go out and then, BONG!!! The Graveyard symphony begins to play and a tall man clad in a black trench coat and a hat slowly walks to the ring. The superstar in the ring becomes visibly afraid and signs of fear are also shown in the younger audience members. You can feel the chill of death coming on as the Undertaker confronts JBL to a match at SummerSlam. The character of the Undertaker depends so much on his them that it's unbelievable. The Undertaker went basically through 2 characters. The Dead Man and a biker. While the graveyard symphony heralded the oncoming of the dead, Limp Bizkit's "Rolling" and Kid Rock's "American Badass" brought out the biker. And each character was showcased by the theme. To recap, thus far, we have seen that the theme can get the audience really pumped up for the appearance of the sandman, feel the electricity when stone cold walks to the ring and complete the persona of the undertaker, but there's one last thing it can do.
Example No 4: SmackDown and RAW during the WWF - Mick Foley is waiting for a tag team partner to take on another team. The audience knows who it is, so does Mick and so do the opponents. But when "If you smell...what The Rock...is cooking" is heard by the thousands in attendance, and the Brahma Bull (haven't heard him being called that in quite a while) makes his way down the ramp; you know the audience is pumped. But have you noticed how catchphrases are so important to the song. Even Booker T's "Can you dig it...Suckaaaaa!!!" or Owen Hart's "Enough is Enough and its time for a change" had so much more meaning when it was part of his theme.
I could go on and on about how each superstar's theme is so important to his character or how he benefits from the theme given to him. Triple H had a theme written specifically for him, Hulk Hogan's entire character was his theme song much like Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and the NOW got a huge ovation and the sound of the guitar as did Jeff Jarrett, The Wolfpac howl was a cherished sound to hear when the good guys were losing, theme songs are just so important to the entertainment its unbelievable. None of the superstars would be who they are without their themes. Imagine anyone, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Ultimate Warrior, DDP, Sting, Randy Savage, RVD, anyone with a different theme and it would be the most comical thing you ever thought of.
So in conclusion, as much as I hate Vince for killing angles, destroying storylines, damaging the WWE product, providing "Sports Freaking Entertainment", I must appreciate him and his theme song department because they truly provide the superstars with all the heat and impact they need.
by Rohit Ramnath..
You're just right. I remember when Vince Russo left WWF(E) someone of the top management said that the loss of a writer wouldn't be as bad as the loss of Jim Johnston, who was (and afair still is) the man behind the themes.
Remember the guitar riff at the beginning of the old Bret Hart theme" I was electrified as soon as I heard it. Remember the truck horns in the old Diesel theme" Anybody in the building was totally sure that the federation is running on Diesel power as soon as it was heard. The squealling tires in the Razor Ramon Theme" The list is sheer endless.
So not only phrases or noises at the start of a theme, even riffs can have that effect. And that sceme is it what made the themes so great.
Chris Betts wrote:
Congrats on a great article. The music really does "Set The Scene" for
wrestlers. It defines them, tells us who they are before we see them.
Some of my favourites:
Goldust : Combine this with his Costume, Titantron and Entrance, it just
makes for a great "Spectacle" which is what his character is all about. You
see the gold sparks coming down, and you hear them in the sparkly
triangle\xlyophone music. Great mix.
Christian : "AT LAST YOUR ON YOUR OWN"... This song told you that E&C where
finished, and that Christian was on his own. Has a touch of arrogance yet
class, telling people. Good Guitar Riff, which is a very commonly used
riff, on other songs including Gangrel, Tazz.
D-Generation X: Break It Down. Perfect theme for the Attitude Era's
flagship faction. Combines a fast drum and guitar beat with more lyrics
than are normally found in a WWW\F theme.
Some of the not so good:
Christian : Just Close Your Eyes. This song seems more like something a
Diva would use. It does'nt have the character that "At Last" has. I hope
they are not using it anymore.
Divas : Take your pick, most of them are just horrible. Trish Stratus,
Christy Hemme, they just plain suck. Victoria's have been atroicous from
Shane O Mac: Here Comes The Money - This is ultimate "White Boy" bling
bling song. Truly horrible music.
Again, great article.
I'm going to step back in time a little further, but few themes got
bigger reactions than the Road Warriors/LOD. Whether it was "Iron
Man" (the single best-suited entrance music EVER) or "What a Rush", it
took exactly 1 second for the crowd to freak.
Tyler Keef wrote:
Thanks for the article Rohit, I've always liked the way music is associated with the wrestlers. Just like Edge's Metalingus by Alterbridge. It starts off with "you think you know me", and the crowd knows Edge is there. Then the jilting and hard rock gets the crowd pumped. In 2002-2003 The crowd knew Hulk Hogan was coming because of the guitar intro at the beginning. There is not much I could say except "Step Up" is not a Disturbed song, it is Drowning Pool's.
Agree completely with the article. Great thinking.
It wasn't a WWE front office worker who said the music was important, though, it was Vince Russo. Having jumped to WCW he tried to get Time Warner to make an overture to Johnston, who I believe WWE then put under contract.
Music was key to a moment I witnessed firsthand recently; when John Cena was drafted to Raw, the second his music started playing, the crowd exploded. I have been to many WWE events and seen many memorable moments, but this was one of the loudest. Though I don't think it came across as well on TV, another was later that night, when the ECW music blared through the arena.
I have been a wrestling fan for over fifteen years, and I remember many great moments, but most of them stick because of a soundtrack.
Great column, Rohit. As a working musician I personally appreciate the acknowledgment to the significance of music in any form of performing arts. In my estimation, right next to Hogan's "Real American" theme should be Ric Flair's music. Flair's theme was originally popular as the theme from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey ("Also Sprach Zarathustra"). Though 2001 is one of my favorite movies, I will always associate the theme with the Nature Boy. This music is so perfect for Flair oftentimes it seems the Ric Flair character was based on the music itself. For those who own the Flair DVD, check out his entrance at Starrcade '83 compared to that of Harley Race. Seriously, could there have been any doubt who'd win that match"""
Flair's theme proves the theory that the intro does not have to be tough-guy hard rock to get the crowd pumped. Ted Dibiase's Million Dollar Man theme won't frighten anyone, but its totally unique. Randy Savage & The British Bulldogs fit into this catagory as well. And a discussion about wrestlers entrances could not be complete without a nod to the Midnight Express. Not a great tune by itself, but when combined with the fog machines & light shows of the late 1980's, man its unbelieveable!
Great article. One thing that was not mentioned is how well music can get Heel heat. When most fans here the opening chord and then "Time to Play the Game", they start booing like crazy. The Stock market bell sends a message for them to turn on the Snooze alarm, while the aforementioned "You Think You Know Me" and then Metallingus by Alterbridge, (Great CD BTW) it sends the message to start chanting "You Screwed Matt" or, like at Vengeance, " She's a Crack W$#%^"
Brian Bertrand wrote:
I agree, the music sets the stage and tells the people just who's coming out. There are some errors and overlooked connections that you made.
1) It's not "Step Up" by Disturbed. The official song you're thinking of is "Glass Shatters" by Disturbed, which was Stone Cold Steve Austin's theme song from 1999. "Step Up" was made by Drowning Pool and used for Wrestlemania XX.
2) In many, many scenarios, the music will completely fit the gimmick and sort of explain what is it that you, the mark, is supposed to think about. Case in point: You mention the Undertaker's Death Knell theme. In 1990 when he first came out to it people already knew what he was going for, a dead man type zombie gimmick. In Ted DiBiase's themesong in the WWF you hear "Money, money, money, money, money! Everybody's got a price...That everyone has to pay!" which gave you an idea that he had a rich-man gimmick. It all fits to how these wrestlers get over with the fans. That's one thing that I give Vince McMahon, James Johnston, and John Tittsworth credit for. They're the three guys that make the fans buy the music soundtracks and have the fan's minds click to know that a certain wrestler is making an appearance.
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