This article originally appeared on Noisey US.
World Wrestling Entertainment has always been known for its dramatic chair shots and body slams, but the theatrical “sports entertainment” program has also delivered some of the most recognisable original theme music in modern television. Since Monday Night RAW began broadcasting in January, 1993, the WWE has used hundreds of songs to accompany their wrestlers’ entrances – some rehashed hard rock songs from known bands, but the show mostly opted for originally crafted anthems specifically created for their characters. Composer Jim Johnston was the company’s main songwriter for more than three decades, and has consistently landed his theme songs on the Billboard charts. In November, 2002, WWE Anthology soundtrack even topped the charts during a 17-week run.
Entrance songs play a vital role in helping build a wrestler’s character, whether it’s The Undertaker’s music, which sets the ominous mood the show wants portrayed, or Hulk Hogan’s music, where the song literally explains what the wrestler is fighting for (America).
Monday Night RAW will celebrate its 25th anniversary on this week’s episode and Noisey is looking back on the best 25 wrestler themes to ever come from television’s most popular pro wrestling company.
Mick Foley was strange and intriguing. The hardcore wrestler fought under three different personas in the 90s: Dude Love, Cactus Jack, and Mankind. If his split personalities showed any insight to different portions of Foley’s persona, the “Mankind” character clearly showed his dark and mysterious side. Mankind’s theme music was even more odd. While other wrestlers came out to heavy guitar riffs with pyrotechnics shooting off around them, Mankind awkwardly shuffled his way to the ring with a gently tragic piano playing him in. It was disturbing, unsettling, and perfect.
24. Mark Henry
At one point in time, Mark Henry was (legitimately) the strongest man in the world. Henry’s monstrous presence also comes with a comedic side, being a part of some of the WWE’s most outrageous storylines of all time, from dating senior citizens to becoming the father of a mysterious human hand. That’s why his badass Three 6 Mafia entrance music is so perfect. It flashes hints of serious threat but is also so outwardly playful that it can make you laugh.
23. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens’ theme song captures what has changed about WWE entrance songs over the years (for the better) by dropping the annoying Chad Kroeger 2.0 voice that ruined so many of the hard rock entrance themes curated during the mid-2000s. Instead, Owens’ theme just lets the music speak to his character. It’s simplistic and delivers a loud and clear message of intensity without relying on those cringy vocals and even worse lyrics. The song also highlights the crossover appeal that many WWE original songs have, as Owens’ music – along with many other WWE themes – can often be heard inside stadiums during sports events around the country.
The WWE theme songs created in the 2000s and early 2010s were pretty bad all across the board, but Edge’s entrance stood the test of time – largely because Edge did, too. Being forced to retire early because of injuries, Edge hung up his boots in the prime of his career. His music, which intertwines post-grunge vocals with over-the-top guitar riffs, now reverberates with a hint of bitterness and bit of sadness – that part comes with the tragically ironic line, “I’ll never long for what might have been.”
21. Sami Zayn
This America’s Funniest Home Videos-sounding track perfectly goes with the happy-go-lucky mannerisms that come with fan-favourite Sami Zayn. The Canadian wrestler often wears a smile – no matter if it’s a genuine one or delirious when he’s playing a heel (“bad guy”) – and his upbeat music perfectly translates the excitement surrounding the indie-upstart’s presence in the WWE. Plus, who doesn’t need a little ska in their life every once in a while?
20. The Brood
The indecipherable whispering that opens The Brood’s entrance portrayed what fans knew of the secretive, late 90s vampire wrestling trio. The group’s thirst for dramatics – and blood – was part of the then-WWF’s efforts to build more inhuman, monster characters alongside The Undertaker and Kane during the Attitude Era. And the music painted the exact picture the company wanted its fans to see: a blurry, but startling warning that something was coming.
19. Bobby Roode
Sometimes, really well-crafted theme songs can make crowds believe, without specific reason, that a wrestler is a certified star. In Bobby Roode’s case, his entrance music shot him to the moon. In less than five months, Roode went from debuting in the WWE to earning a title shot for the company’s NXT Championship, due in large part to his insanely popular theme song which crowds immediately took to singing along with while he walked to the ring. It’s battle-cry butt rock, but it is catchy.
18. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan’s G.I. Joe-like character made him a cult hero and a household name in the late 80s and early 90s. Hogan’s theme, where he declares his creed of being a “real American” that will stand up for his freedom-loving fans, is the crux of it all. When Hogan came out and promised to “fight for your rights,” you knew you could trust that he’d Hulk-Up and come through in the end.
Sometimes the goofiest things catch on in professional wrestling. Enter Fandango, a ballroom dancer who erotically repeats his own name and fights anyone who doesn’t carry his same spirit for dance – you know, typical stuff. His hypnotically catchy song became an overnight hit during Wrestlemania weekend in 2013, with crowds chanting the melody and dancing along to the Latin-infused beat. Its sales increased over 4,000 percent, according to the WWE, and proved that in pro wrestling, sometimes the less serious things are the better.
16. Dusty Rhodes
It makes sense that probably the most wholistic WWE theme song ever made was for one of pro wrestling’s most beloved characters. Dusty Rhodes was the family-friendly version of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin one generation before The Rattlesnake unleashed chaos on Vince McMahon’s WWF. Rhodes’ song, which celebrated the “American Dream” and trumpeted this “common man” who looked nearly nothing of the wrestling type, was a funk-driven hit and became the soundtrack for pro wrestling’s most unlikely hero.
15. Bray Wyatt/The Wyatt Family
English musician Mark Crozer’s eerie, Southern-style “Broken Out in Love” was purchased by the WWE and has since been used as the entrance theme for their Manson-esque cult character Bray Wyatt and his “followers.” It’s the rare case where, instead of commissioning a song to be written, the WWE came across what ended up being a perfect fit for the character they were pursuing.
During the 90s and 2000s, the WWE embarrassingly treated women’s wrestling as a sideshow. Glitzy and oversexualised Britney Spears rip-offs would often be the go-to for WWE when it assigned theme songs to its female fighters. But since 2015 and the WWE’s “Women’s Revolution” that gradually took place over the last three years, the overhauled division has been competitively booked and more fitting entrance music has come along with it. The unbeatable Japanese striker Asuka has one of best songs on the WWE’s current roster, aptly titled “The Future.”
13. Finn Balor
Finn Balor is one of the most complex characters in professional wrestling today. But his theme music is simplistic in the way it checks off nearly all the boxes on being the perfect WWE theme song. Balor’s song can go on as long as it needs with its continuously looping riff, it has an orchestral, James Bond vibe that the WWE’s new primary songwriters CFO$ have been leaning towards in recent years (see: Shinsuke Nakamura, who later appears on this list). But most importantly, its cold drum open allows it flexibility, which the WWE production team has already expertly played around with to match Balor’s changing character during specific entrances.
12. Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho’s “Break Down the Wall” is one of the most recognisable pro wrestling entrances there is. Jericho’s long-running tenure in the WWF/WWE has made the track a generation-crossing wrestling hit that – like The Rock’s theme music – has gone through handfuls of versions and edits throughout the past two decades. Jim Johnston, the WWE’s longtime residential composer, had an excellent run with rap-rock during the Attitude Era in the late 90s, solidifying hits with Jericho, Degeneration X, and Vince McMahon.
11. Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon’s constant threats of firing his wrestlers made him pro wrestling’s biggest heel and the perfect adversary for Steve Austin’s blue collar, no-bullshit heroics. Everything about McMahon painted the picture of an untouchable corporate elite: his suits, his trademark strut, the limos, the constant reminders that he was the boss, and even his song. One of Johnston’s rap-rock homeruns during the WWF’s Attitude Era, the track taunts the fans by calling them puppets and reiterating that there’s “no chance” Vince McMahon would ever be thwarted from power. 25 years later and he still really hasn’t.
The WWF’s Attitude Era in the late 90s was all about defying authority and playing by your own rules. Nothing captured that ideology more than Degeneration X. And DX’s constant crotch chops and “suck it!” insults were perfectly supplemented with its Rage Against the Machine-style theme music, voiced by New York musician Chris Warren. With rhetorically rebellious lyrics like “You think you can tell us what to do? You think you can tell us what to wear?!” being thrown around, DX’s entrance music was basically the “O Holy Night” for the church of trash-talking children.
9. Aleister Black
Oftentimes, the WWE’s scariest characters are the ones who never say anything or reveal anything about themselves. In Aleister Black’s case, the once mute monster can probably be interpreted as some sort of vampire… or something, but his entrance music speaks enough for itself. The track truly brings an “end of times” mindset with it, which speaks volumes alongside Black’s silent death stare. Code Orange and Incendiary, the New York hardcore band who recorded the song, played Black’s introduction together live at Barclay’s Centre last August in what was probably the best live-intro entrance the WWE has ever put together.
8. CM Punk
CM Punk will go down as one of the greatest underdogs in professional wrestling history. Initially brushed off by the WWE as not being the right guy to be “the guy” holding its WWE Championship on TV each week, a tattooed and lean-looking Punk used his candid skills with a microphone to throw a coup within the company, spilling backstage secrets in revolutionary in-ring promos that blended off-screen reality with on-screen fiction. Punk won the WWE Championship and left the company for a brief few weeks before returning with Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” as his new entrance music. Leading a growing sector of WWE fans who were tired of seeing muscle-busting jocks as the show’s leading protagonists, Punk truly became the self-proclaimed anti-hero his theme narrated about and helped lead pro wrestling into a modern era.
7. Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks’ entrance music could’ve been a serious summer hit in the early 2010s. Most professional wrestling songs that gain mainstream traction are simply because of their ties to wrestling and its enormous fanbase, but Banks’ theme is one of the few WWE tracks that you could see get serious radio play on its own merits. Snoop Dogg (Banks’ real life cousin) solidified this when he performed the song live at Wrestlemania 32 as a part of Banks’ ring entrance. Other times, Banks has been carried to the ring by an entourage of bodyguards while the pop jam played. It’s all part of the illusion that she’s not just a “legit boss” – a catchphrase she claims – but a legitimate celebrity in the eyes of the WWE fans.
6. Triple H
In a discography of cheesy lyrics and overblown jock rock riffs, it’s not hard to point out that Triple H’s theme (played by Motörhead) is one of the best there is. But Lemmy’s voice gave an already credible star a boost into hall-of-fame presentation. With the recognisable legend’s voice at the helm, Triple H’s theme translated one thing: that he was an unparalleled star. As soon as his music hits, Triple H (also known as “The Game”) goes from a character who could hold championships to “final boss” type stuff.
5. Shinsuke Nakamura
“Strong-style” wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura came from the land of hard-hitting, “actually make brutal contact” land of New Japan Pro-Wrestling before joining the WWE in 2016. But his entrance music, while still powerful, has a sense of grace and elegance. With violins winding around a light EDM drum beat, crowds often sing the song’s main riffs in unison, even during the middle of Nakamura’s match. In the modern era of pro wrestling, where a crowd’s enthusiasm often dictates which wrestlers the WWE gives more attention to, theme songs like this are a win-win for everyone involved. And Nakamura’s is an instant classic.
4. John Cena
John Cena is the biggest star the WWE has had since The Rock and one of the greatest of all time. But Cena’s music didn’t gain widespread recognition until it got memed into the social universe, when “Unexpected Cena” became the viral hit of the summer in 2015. Now, Cena’s self-rapped intro song is common knowledge to anyone who grew up with YouTube, and another success story for wrestling stars who voiced their own entrances.
3. The Undertaker
In a soap-opera sports show, emotions can run high when long-term storytelling reaches its climax. But when The Undertaker’s music hits in season-finale settings like Wrestlemania, Taker’s smoggy, bone-chilling entrance is almost numbing while he slowly emerges to the tune of church organs and lightning cracks. It’s often said an entrance can make or break a wrestler, and The Undertaker’s unsettling theme is in large part why his introduction is the most thrilling and iconic of all time.
2. The Rock
After Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson left the WWE in the early 2000s to try his luck at becoming a movie star, his pro wrestling appearances became sparse but “superstar” moments. Nothing embodied his stardom like the Hollywood version of his epic theme song, first used in 2003. You knew you were seeing something special when that organ swell began. WWE theme songs are often modelled after other successful tracks (i.e. the theme song for current Smackdown Live star Carmella is a blatant rip off Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”). In this case, that near-minute build at the beginning of The Rock’s intro is reminiscent of the gradual build up in Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius,” which the WWF previously used as theme music for legendary wrestler Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and was also being famously used throughout the 90s for Chicago Bulls introductions at games. After all, The Rock is to the WWE what Michael Jordan is to basketball.
1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s intro music changed the sound of glass shattering for an entire generation in the late 90s. That “OH SHIT, IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL” sound meant you were about to see someone’s ass get kicked by The Rattlesnake himself. Austin, the main protagonist of pro wrestling’s most celebrated era, was a mean-mugging, shit-talking mad man who routinely threw wrenches into ultra-bad guy Vince McMahon’s evil plans and was always there to save the day. Like a modern-day bat signal, Austin’s entrance music didn’t just mean you were about to see a serious brawl, it meant everything was going to be alright.
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