Musical Gimmicks

WILPW

Obviously, music has been tied to professional wrestling for a long time. It started in the 1950s but really hit its stride in the seventies and eighties with the marriage of rock and wrestling. This basically amounted to music playing as performers entered the ring and when they won a match. Also, music was obviously used in promos and advertisements. Later, I heard stories about music videos that were produced for Smoky Mountain Wrestling to introduce new members of the roster. Music is a powerful force that can provide a lot of information through tone and lyrics in a short amount of time and minimal effort. Also, a performer’s entrance music fires the crowd up and lets them know who is showing up so they can cheer or boo appropriately. However, what I want to talk about today are professional wrestlers who are actually musical.

Though, I actually want to start with those gimmicks that were music adjacent but actually rarely showed much musical skill. As usual on these overviews, I will probably expose some gaps in my knowledge but enjoy the ride and educate me in the comments if you must. First in this group is the Honky Tonk Man. Honky was a master at making people hate him but he was also a guitar-wielding, Elvis-inspired performer. He hit more people with his guitar more than he ever played it. Speaking of hitting people with a guitar, there was also Jeff Jarrett. He was supposed to be a country music musician who wanted to use pro-wrestling as a platform to become a star as improbable as that sounds. He never sang a word and he broke hundreds of guitars throughout his career. Funny enough, his entrance song was sung by another wrestler Jesse James but the WWF never went anywhere with that. I also think of people like Jillian Hall who did a tone-deaf pop singer gimmick, squealing into a microphone to the delight of nobody.

But no, I am here to talk about those with actual skill. The first that I want to talk about is John Cena. Those who only know him as a meme or as a Hollywood personality might not know his past in the early 2000s. Back then, he changed from being a fairly normal guy into a white rapper gimmick. I am sure there are many who would be surprised to know that he was a very competent rapper. It started with him recording his entrance theme “Basic Thuganomics” and doing 8 Mile-esque rap battles on Smackdown. He was dubbed the Doctor of Thuganomics and then he recorded his album which included a lot of great tracks including the aforementioned “Word Life” and “Bad, Bad Man”. His rap career started to fade away as his gimmick evolved but he did record his now iconic theme song of “My Time is Now” which a lot of people might recognize from the popular John Cena meme. Every so often, he breaks out the rap and stretches those muscles. Just recently at Wrestlemania 35, he got back in his Doctor of Thuganomics gear and laid a rap down on Elias.

Who is Elias? Well, he is what happens if you take Jeff Jarrett’s gimmick and you actually give it to a talented musician. Elias started down in NXT as The Drifter Elias Samson. He was a drifting musician who played the guitar down to the ring and was booed for slowing down the action for an impromptu concert. Eventually, the songs he sang did their best to insult the crowd. He eventually moved up to the Raw roster where he continued to “drift” around, playing his guitar. Eventually, he proved himself to be a really talented pro-wrestler and a very talented musician. He sang a lot of impromptu songs to insult the audience and his opponents. Like Cena, he actually released an album Walk With Elias (which he claims is what WWE stands for). He continues to impress with his music but lately every time he tries to play he gets interrupted. He is getting more chances to show off his in-ring skill which is great.

Probably the most successful is Chris Jericho. He earned a reputation as an artist in the squared circle. He has constantly reinvented himself over and over to change with the times. However, all during his career, he was always a huge fan of heavy metal. He idolized all of the greats but his dream of professional wrestling came first. However, in a weird real-life twist on the Jeff Jarrett gimmick, his fame from being a WWE superstar started to get him attention from a lot of his idols in professional music. He started to make friends with a lot of these guys and they saw that he was as passionate about music as he was about pro-wrestling. He was not just some wannabe singer who might assemble a band as a vanity project. He wanted to be an actual heavy metal singer. He was able to put together a band named Fozzy which is still touring today. They have put out numerous albums and they play huge concerts and festivals all of the time. Now, he has been able to extend his pro-wrestling career by balancing it with his music career which will probably allow him to do both for as long as he wants.

There are plenty of people who sang their own entrance themes. Shawn Michaels re-recorded his theme song (“Sexy Boy”) with his vocals. R Truth raps his way down to the ring live, showing without a doubt that he has some skills. There was famously the West Texas Rednecks (a group in WCW) who sang a song called “Rap is Crap” which actually charted and was played on the radio. Tyler Breeze recorded a theme song which is an ode to his gimmick as a supermodel and an actual banging electronica song. Meanwhile, Mickie James has recorded two Country albums and is working on a third which is why she has been away from the ring for a while. I am sure this list will continue to expand as the years go by and the stars of pro-wrestling get better at diversifying their talents. We already have plenty of pro-wrestlers in Hollywood, why not some who get a Grammy eventually?

(Written on 4/10/19)

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