Ever since Gorgeous George convinced an arena’s organist to play “Pomp and Circumstance” as he walked to the ring (possibly before that, depending on which version of wrestling history you believe), professional wrestling and music have been inextricably linked. It’s hard to imagine a wrestler without theme music now, whether it’s something written specifically for them or a pre-existing song that perfectly sums up the character. Sometimes, the first note of a song—maybe even less than that—is enough to let fans know who’s about to come through the curtain. But the wrestling-and-music relationship is a two-way street. Wrestlers are still using music as part of their art, but now there’s no shortage of musicians using wrestling as part of theirs.
Whether you’re traveling to Florida for the corporate spectacle of WWE’s Wrestlemania 33 or just driving down the road to an armory or high school gym to see your local favorites, here’s a list of wrestling-inspired music to listen to on the way.
Vinyl LP, Cassette
Though it might not seem that way at first, vaporwave and wrestling are an oddly perfect
match. The genre’s distorted ‘90s nostalgia overlaps seamlessly with a worldwide spike in professional wrestling’s popularity (thanks to the Monday Night Wars, perhaps). It was really only a matter of time before a genre that stripmines late-20th-century pop culture for samples and references set its sights on pro wrestling. Limousine’s two releases don’t just present wrestling fans with screwed-and-chopped, slowed down entrance themes, as you may expect. There’s a little bit of that, sure, but there’s also an artful looping of the music and samples from promos woven throughout. This takes Limousine beyond mere novelty: these are fully realized compositions that stand up to repeated listens.
The straightforward nature of Cheap Pop’s In Gorilla is deceptive. At first listen, it’s easy to get caught on the sweet hooks—stylistically, they’re pure Mr. T Experience-style pop punk. But there’s a lot going on here. Sure, some songs tell it like it is:. “Wrestlemania III,” for instance, is a song filled with nostalgia for a 30-year-old Wrestlemania, one that took place at the beginning of pro wrestling’s first surge of national popularity. (The lyrics also rhyme “Wrestlemania” with “entertaining, yeah,” which is pretty great.) “Great Romances in Federation History” uses well-known on-screen romances (like that of of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth) as a metaphor for outside-the-ring, real-life relationships. The anthemic “Face’s Lament” closes the album with a meditation on the fan/wrestler dynamic that says more in four minutes than pages of dirt-sheet think pieces.
Philadelphia MC Mega Ran is best known for his video-game related work, but on his 2016 release “Mat Mania” he focuses on professional wrestling, and the results are no less entertaining. Producer Lynx Kinetic layers samples from promos and entrance themes over driving beats, and Mega Ran pays tribute to some of his favorite wrestlers of the past and present. His summation of the 2017 Royal Rumble match, the aptly titled “Royal Rumble Rap-Up” continues the theme, condensing the one-hour-plus match into a tight two minutes. These are the only two wrestling themed releases in Mega Ran’s catalog so far, but for such a prolific artist whose love for the sport is obvious, these two are likely just the beginning.
Louisville, Kentucky’s Vaderbomb makes music that moves a bit faster than their namesake Big Van Vader, but it’s just as pummeling. Vaderbomb tackles some pretty deep wrestling history here—there are no songs in praise of Ric Flair, Randy Savage, or Hulk Hogan to be found. Instead, you’ll find musical tributes to athletes such as Earthquake, Bob Backlund, and “Flyin’” Brian Pillman. There’s also, as you’d expect, a song about the time Vader’s eyeball got knocked out of his head during a match against Stan Hansen. If you need a change of pace from all the wrestling songs (though I can’t imagine that you would), there are also covers of songs by The Ramones and Black Flag. But those are afterthoughts, really. You can tell these guys are all about the pro wrestling, and that’s the way it should be.
The band name, along with a logo that re-imagines Screeching Weasel’s iconic mascot as a mustelid version of Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, lets you know right away what you’re in for. The music is, of course, bouncy, rough-around-the-edges three-chord punk, but it’s well done and never wears out its welcome. The Razor Ramones have several demos available and it’s interesting to trace the evolution of a song like “Listen to Bret Hart” as it makes its way from what sounds like an early rehearsal all the way to the more professionally-recorded “Rocket to Rusev” album from 2006.
This high-concept work from singer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Mickens, a sequel to his play “Kayfabe: Game of Death,” employs various musical styles to trace the career arc of a fictional Senegalese wrestler and explore the concept of “kayfabe,” the code of secret-keeping under which all of pro wrestling operated before the Internet showed up and exposed the business to the world. A sprawling and theatrical exploration of character vs. reality, the wrestling references here aren’t overt, but they’re in there if you know where to look.
Legends of Wrestling’s light-speed drum machines and lengthy samples of promos and interviews from wrestling superstars remind the listener of a grindcore version of Mortician. Thematically, though, the distorted (but still-intelligible) vocals focus less on the terror of the undead than on the terrors found in the squared circle, and there’s plenty of that to be found. The demonic Kane could burn you alive at any moment, Jake “The Snake” Roberts could throw an angry python at your face—or, scariest of all, you could get audited by taxman Irwin R. Shyster. Their album “Halloween Havoc” features probably the best song ever written about the time Big Boss Man cooked Al Snow’s dog and made him eat it.
The Road Warriors vs. Power and Glory at WrestleMania VII was over in less than a minute; the Road Warriors’ hands were raised in victory almost before their opponents could register the ringing of the bell. Like that match, both of MartyXJannety’s releases are short, fast, and powerful. There may not be much material from this Welsh band, but what there is is as powerful as a Shawn Michaels superkick. There’s no time for the sample-heavy presentations you may hear from other bands on this list. These songs grab you out of nowhere, and before you know it, you’re on your back, counting the lights on the ceiling.
The wrestler names on this album are familiar, but they all inhabit an alternate universe. Roman Reigns is a good boy who always cleans up his toys, John Cena is a pro skater, Goldberg drinks blood instead of tea, and wrestlers sometimes just want to kiss each other instead of fighting. These alternate entrance themes, each lasting about a minute and a half, could very easily have fallen flat, but the catchy songwriting and shiny production ensure that you’ll be singing these songs when your favorite wrestler comes out at WrestleMania. This album also offers more (speculative, I assume) information than you probably want about the bladder sizes of many of the wrestlers featured. It’s all very stupid in the best possible way.
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
Ultramantis Black differs from the rest of the releases included on this list in that this is music not about wrestling, but performed by a professional wrestler. Current CHIKARA Grand Champion UltraMantis Black leaves the ring behind for blistering powerviolence-influenced hardcore with deep social and political messages addressing (among other issues) environmental devastation and animal rights. Legend has it that the musicians you hear are connected with groups like Pissed Jeans and the more-literally-wrestling-themed The Ultimate Warriors, but as with most things in the world of professional wrestling, there’s no real way to know for sure. One thing here is certain, though, the conviction behind this music is deathly serious.