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Solie's Tuesday Morning Report: EXTRA!

Volume 1, Issue 73
November 6, 1996

An Informal History of Wrestling Music: Part 2

by Jeff Yelton

jyelton@ccpl.carr.lib.md.us

Editor's Note: This issue of Solie's Wrestling Newsletter is again devoted to the music used as entrance themes by our favorite sports-entertainers. In this installment, Solie's newest contributor, Jeff Yelton, continues his exploration of the music that helped define our wrestling heroes and villians.

It was through the efforts of three mega-icons in the sport that music was made a viable option. One was Hulk Hogan, who used Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III to enter WWF arenas. In fact, the first time he ever used it, Hulk wound up beating the Iron Sheik for the WWF title. It stuck, and it worked. For the next year or so, Hulk would make Survivor even richer than they were.

And the other two were a tag team that Verne Gagne took a liking to and signed with the AWA. I'm talking, of course, of the Road Warriors. Although the LOD recorded a song called "The Warriors Tonight", it was Bill Ward's opening drumbeats that sent a chill through all of our bones as Ozzy Osbourne pronounced, "I am Iron Man"! Cue the Roadies running down the aisle, whereupon they'd enter the ring and proceed to beat the snot out of their opponents. These guys took an old Black Sabbath number and made it a staple of professional wrestling history. It was the most perfect fit any commercial theme ever had to the people using it.

Well, pretty soon, everybody had theme music. Some of it worked, like Junkyard Dog clamering down the aisle to Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", to Eddie Gilbert strutting his stuff to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff". Ricky Steamboat had the awesome intro to Alan Parsons Project's "Eye in the Sky" to accompany his new "Dragon" persona. The Rock and Roll Express, upon joining the NWA, began using the 1950's-tribute song recorded by ELO, "Rock and Roll is King". Dusty Rhodes used lots of different music, including Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" and some Willie Nelson stuff, while Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo accepted the Reagan-era patriotic yells of the crowd to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA". And Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez became the first of many to use George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone".

There were lots of clunkers, too. Songs that just didn't fit included Manny Fernandez coming out to Michael Jackson' "Beat It"(?), the High Flyers (Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell) appearing to Bruce Springsteen's "Badlands" (which may have referred to the AWA front office at the time), and what did Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" have to do with Iceman King Parsons? (I have a personal hate for that song, being a fan of the 1979 Baltimore Orioles, who lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who made that song their theme. It is stuff like this that traumatizes the youth of our country,....)

But the songs fit. "Iron Man" described the Road Warriors to a T. Dusty Rhodes was a hard-partying Southern boy who had a flashy "Stardust" persona (Any wonder his son is now cross-dressing? Goldust was a role Dusty was meant to play!) Jimmy Garvin and later the Fantastics WERE "Sharp Dressed" men. And the Fabulous Ones, who abandoned that song for Kenny Loggins' "Footloose", were a couple of crowd-pleasing pretty boys who liked to shake it for the females in the audience, who would serenade Steve and Stan with ear-splitting screams.

Now the problem with this was that every time the wrestlers used these songs, the wrestling organizations had to pay a cut to the artists. Vince McMahon, being the prescient being that he was at the time, decided to make original theme music, at first, just for the first WWF Wrestling Album, but also to keep the costs down and to put more money in WWF coffers. It worked, of course, because Vince and the Hulkster knew big wheels in the entertainment industry, and made music in the WWF a big-budget deal. No expenses were spared, because Vince was making money hand-over-fist. Vince got a good bunch of musicians, with the help of Cyndi Lauper and Rick Derringer, to make quality songs for his wrestlers. From the first Wrestling Album came "Real American", Hillbilly Jim's "Don't Go Messin' with a Country Boy", and "Grab Them Cakes", as well as Nikolai Volkoff's awful "Cara Mia", and Jimmy Hart's cute "Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield", (What ever happened to Rick, anyway?), and since the WWF owned the publication rights, they never had to pay royalties fees again.

In the NWA, Jim Crockett had the same idea, but for not the same reason. The trouble was, he couldn't afford to pay the artists to use their songs anymore. He was trying to keep up with Vince. So Dusty Rhodes did "You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover", which was pretty good, considering Dusty's lack of vocal range, and Ricky Morton, unfortunately, took his tag team name too seriously and recorded the truly awful "Boogie Woogie Dance Hall", one of the worst songs ever in recorded history, right up there with Roseanne's "Star Spangled Banner" and that tape of your Aunt Winnie singing "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin Along" at your fifth birthday party after she took a couple swallow of her own punch bowl from her flask in her pocketbook. At least Dusty could carry a tune. He couldn't carry it far, but,....

The ironic part of it all was that other organizations, who were losing money (and ground) to Vince, couldn't afford to make original songs, so they had to pay royalties' fees to use commercial songs. Still, they did the best they could under the circumstances, and if one of their wrestlers had an original theme, like Adrian Street or Michael Hayes, that got played. In fact, an AWA fan rewarded a budding Leon White for winning the prestigious World Cup of Wrestling Tournament in Europe with a theme song, "Bull Power", alluding to the way Leon had cut his remaining hairs in the sign of the bull. This was the first step leading Leon to a prosperous career as The Man Called Vader.

As we get to 1988, the WWF unleashed its second wrestling album, "Piledriver" with Koko B. Ware singing lead on the title track. He was given the song as his new theme music, but it didn't fit him at all. His 1990 "Bird, Bird" was much more Koko-esque. In fact, he still uses it in the AWF.

That album gave us Rick Derringer's "Demolition", which is one of the best wrestling themes ever, Jimmy Hart's "Crank it Up", which was inexplicably given to the good guy tag team of the Young Stallions, and of course, the annoying, but endearing, Honky Tonk Man theme. We also got our first taste of rap from Slick, with "Jive Soul Bro" which accompanied he and his wrestlers for the next couple of years. But what did Robbie Dupree's "Girls in Cars" have to do with Tito Santana and Rick Martel?

The WWF, though was striking on all cylinders with a lot of its instrumental stuff. Jake the Snake Roberts' dark, organ-driven theme is still scary stuff today, embracing the coldness we all have inside. And I don't think they ever could match a guy up better with an original theme song better than the music that accompanied Brutus Beefcake to the ring. It was not rock and rollish,...it had a trace of dance music with its drum machine beat, and the sense of the comic with its tweaking at the end of every other stanza. That was a good suggestion of either the snipping of hair or the almost see-through Chippendale clothes that Brutus wore to the ring. You decide for yourself.

All this stuff had a residual effect on the business as a whole. As wrestling became more instrumentalized, wrestling became less sport and more entertainment. The matches were quicker paced, and the music contributed to that, giving it that circus feel that many have demeaned so much.

But...it worked. (to be continued...)

Jeff Yelton lives in Westminster, Maryland and has watched wrestling for 23 of his thirty years. He holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland. In his spare time Jeff collects wrestling tapes (he owns over 60 of them) and baseball cards, surfs the net, watches TV, and helps manage the Global Wrestling Alliance, an e-mail fantasy wrestling fed, which is in its fifth year in Cyberspace.

Watch for Part 3 Next Week!

WWF Official Statement Concerning the Incident At the Pillman Home

The statement below was posted last night in the America On Line WWF area by the management of Titan Sports.

As you already know from watching WWF Television, specifically MONDAY NIGHT RAW, we sometimes go to the edge to create compelling programming. For the last two weeks, we have transmitted live via satellite from remote locations in order to reveal to our audience the rising level of intensity of Stone Cold Steve Austin as he is determined to kick #!* in the WWF. Some of our fans, via phone and AOL, have expressed dislike for the actions and unfortunate language used just prior to going off the air last night. Many of the other callers loved the action and drama, and thought it was the best show we had ever done.

While controversy creates interest, it is never our intent to allow unnecessary vulgarity to offend a portion of our audience. Last night was an isolated incident in live TV programming and we are taking measures to ensure it will not be repeated.


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