I am going to preface this entry by stating that I am quite aware of the scripted, theatrical nature of pro-wrestling as a profession. Although people really do get hurt sometimes when doing a show, I am aware that it is not actual fighting in the sense that the premise of "Street Fighter" and "Virtua Fighter" would have you believe it is - if that were the case then Zangief probably would have been programmed to be able to whip every other character's arse very easily in the game as the final boss in place of Bison; instead he was the most vulnerable character in the game when he wasn't using his throw moves ( getting sidetracked here ). In any event, pro-wrestling does have the stigma attached to it of being seen as puerile or childish. Is it entirely justified? Probably. Even that being, there is no doubt that the flashy entrance music that was in use 35 years ago enhanced the overall presentation quite a bit. Back then, it was not like today where all the music is contracted out to a bunch of no-talent hacks whose unremarkable songs mostly sound the same - maybe that sounds harsh but, I am unimpressed with all the monotonous nu-metal stuff that wishes it were as cool as Ultimate Warrior's theme was. The new guys they have doing the music now cannot compare to the sublime work done mostly by just three people: Jim Johnston, Jimmy Hart ( "Mouth of the South"), and J.J. Maguire. I'll give an honorable mention to Rick Derringer, the guy who composed the Hulkster's theme from the days when he was at his peak as the babyface hero of the circuit, sporting his iconic red and yellow tights. There were also a few themes that the now defunct WCW had that were good too but, I don't remember any that could hold a candle to the WWE's "Federation Era" - I would say Ric Flair but his theme song was simply taken from the movie "2001: a Space Odyssey." Maybe classic Sting ( the wrestler, not the singer ) before he adopted his "Crow" persona during the Heel Hogan/NWO Era.
So why am I writing about classic WWE Music on a site dedicated to anime/manga and gaming? Oddly enough, it could be argued that there is some overlap in the art direction, particularly back in the day. It is well known that pro-wrestling is at least as popular in Japan ( maybe more so ) than it is in the United States, and hence one of the reasons I write this. To be honest, it would actually be kinda cool to see more anime/manga about pro-wrestling done in a more down-to-earth way...preferably with less violence than Kinnikuman had.
And which classic entrance themes do I personally find the most musically pleasing to the ear and why? I already know that probably everyone else would answer Bret " The Hitman" Hart or Ultimate Warrior - both have huge devoted followings and both are excellent theme songs to be sure. I actually rather liked those of Mr. Perfect and the Million Dollar Man quite a bit. Rather than certain theme songs which were intentionally made to sound menacing or threatening as in the cases of Sycho Sid ( <-- the correct spelling ) and Bam Bam Bigelow, I tend to gravitate more to the ones that sound more like actual songs. In particular, these following four would be my personal picks for the GOAT ( greatest of all time ). I will also be sharing my own thoughts about the songs themselves and the personalities who walked to the ring to them. All of these songs were from before the infamous "Attitude Era."
First up, we have Razor Ramon ( aka Scott Hall ). Mr. Hall actually passed away earlier this year ( RIP ). The character he portrayed in the WWE was a reference to the movie "Scarface." I was first introduced to him from playing "Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game" and "Royal Rumble" on SNES at my cousin's house ( fond memories ). The first time I remember actually watching him wrestle on TV was after he had already jumped ship to the ill-fated WCW and founded the NWO with Nash and Hogan. As often the case with the heels ( per the unstated rule of "kayfabe" ), Scott was reportedly a very nice guy in real life ( at least to his fans ); in character, he always acted like a total jerk and a bully on camera ( rather convincingly ), which lets us know that he was very good at his job, one of the best. Whatever backstage politics or scheming he was supposedly up to with his buddies in the whole HBK "Kliq," it is hard not to admire this man's contributions to the profession in hindsight. Without Scott, the overall character of the sport would have been wanting. For many fans, he basically introduced them to the concept of the bada$$ anti-hero babyface. I never did care for his NWO gear...that spray paint logo looked really cheap and tacky; in my opinion, it was ill-befitting for his in-ring persona. Razor's WWE entrance had a very nice application of keyboard and synth drums.
Next is the entrance theme for another of one of the most infamous heels in wrestling history. Jake the Snake is probably best remembered for the feud he had with the Macho Man, wherein he struck Ms. Elizabeth on camera and sicked his cobra on Savage while he was down. In the new TV series called "Heels" ( one of the few modern non-anime shows I can even stand to watch anymore ), the fictional character Wild Bill Hancock shows signs that he was intentionally designed after this very individual. Whatever one thinks of his in-ring gimmick, you can never say that he wasn't a good showman. Although he was already retired before I started watching during my childhood, I knew him by his reputation. He was a very colorful character in contrast to the vanilla cast we see today. Jake's entrance theme is basically straight up synthwave through and through. Jim Johnston's talent as a keyboardist really shines in his song titled, "Snake Bit." Truly an epic masterpiece that deserved play on the radio.
The next entrance theme is one of the few great masterpieces that Jim Johnston and crew had nothing to do with. It would be impossible for me to pick an absolute favorite among these four but, I would certainly say that this one is my favorite entrance theme to rock out to. It was performed by Robbie Dupree and became the entrance theme to the now largely forgotten babyface tag team known as "Strike Force." Of the two of them, I only remember Ricky Martel ever being somewhat successful after their split. Under his new moniker, the "Model", Ricky would be featured on wrestling board games and card games - and probably video games too...hey, I haven't played all of them. The sound of the song is very bright and optimistic in the most quintessentially 80s way, though I think it was being used during the early 90s. People have remarked that it sounds like a song from an 80s Saturday Morning Cartoon. Others point to the similarity of the song's rhythm to Elecman's stage theme from Mega Man I - this actually isn't the only song from that era that sounds like that ( maybe in pro-wrestling ). A bizarre little known fact about this song, is that it was actually given to Ted Dibiase ( Million Dollar Man ) on Wrestlemania for the NES ( in 8-Bit chiptune form ) due to the fact that Ted did not yet have his famous Money Inc. song at that time. I actually posted the official video for this song in another entry but, the audio quality is noticeably better on this upload.
It feels fitting that the theme I should close this out with is Lex Luger's original entrance theme from his introduction as the Narcissist. Unbeknownst to many people, Lex was originally intended as a bad guy. Vince, desperate to find someone else to fill the big shoes of the Hulkster after he had left the company, decided to turn Luger into a face which would lead to him adopting his better known All-American persona where he became the tag team partner of the British Bulldog. This change never did take with the fans, who mostly favored Hart, HBK, and Razor as the principle good guys following the departure of Ultimate Warrior, Hulkster and Savage. Regarding my thoughts about this musical composition, I absolutely love this song but, it just seems entirely unsuited for being used as the entrance music of a heel character. It has a happy, yet poignant sound about it. The airy ethereal notes of this number make it feel as though you are hearing the sounds of Heaven or the Elysian Fields as you walk on the clouds...this is going to sound corny ( I know it does ) but honestly, it is hard for me to listen to this without feeling like I am going to choke up in tears of joy. It's almost like having a spiritual experience. It induces a tremendous emotional state which Generation Y has eloquently termed as "the feels." It really is that good. Some people have stated that it sounds like a song from a "Final Fantasy" title; I'm not big into RPGs, as they seemingly make obvious choices needlessly complicated - legendary video game journalist Adam Sessler actually made fun of this aspect of RPGs in a skit he did years ago on one of the many iterations of his long running video game review show he used to have. The only video game Lex appears in as a selectable character that I know of to feature a chiptune version of this song was Royal Rumble for the SNES ( Super Famicom ). Like Razor, it was through video games that I first became familiar with Lex.
I forgot that this other character ever existed, awesome theme song though...even if the voice-overs in it are just sound samples repeating the same thing. I had to include this one. That makes five if anyone here has the superstition that the number 4 is unlucky. I will also give an honorable mention to the themes of Big John Studd and Owen Hart's first theme before he changed it. RIP Owen and John.
Jimmy Hart & J.J. Maguire - Repossessor Blues
[ YET ANOTHER EDIT ]
I went back and listened to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine's theme again. I've changed my mind, Greg's theme is legit and it belongs here. To be honest, I have always preferred the more outrageous gimmick of his old tag partner Brutus Beefcake when watching old footage. That entrance theme of Greg's is something else though...
Jimmy Hart & J.J. Maguire - Hammer Man
Edited by Kōyamaki