The Music of Wrestlemania- Chapter 2 (1990-1998)
Mar 14, 2017 - 10:40:54 PM
Welcome back to Chapter 2 of the Music of Wrestlemania series, hosted here in the Schoolhouse. For those who may have missed the first chapter, which higlights the first five years of the event, check out the table of contents below for the link. There you’ll find the full introduction, which explains why we’re talking about Wrestlemania theme songs.
Consider how quickly fans react when they hear a particular theme song. Almost immediately, a flood of emotions and memories rushes forth, good or bad, prompting some kind of reaction towards who or what they are seeing in front of them. During the 1990’s, it seems that WWE better understood the importance of continuity in creating this kind of response in their fans. Perhaps this is why they stuck with two themes for the better part of the decade. If you were born in 1990 or earlier, let me warn you that today’s theme songs may bring back strong waves of nostalgia.
The music of Wrestlemania might just be one of the most overlooked components contributing to the mood and magnitude of the event. For many wrestling fans, by the time Wrestlemania comes around, we have likely tuned out the theme because it has been played so many times leading up to the event. For others, the connection to a favourite band or artist creates a true feeling of pride and vigour for their role in making the event kind of a big deal. There are those who don’t regard Wrestlemania themes as very important at all, and, certainly, there are some years where I would agree with them.
For new readers, or to remind continuing ones, here are some of the questions that guide the discussion for each ‘Mania theme:
Does the music accurately reflect the stories and matches of each individual ‘Mania?
Does the music support the grandeur and size of this massively successful sports-entertainment celebration?
What kind of mood and theme is suggested by a Wrestlemania theme?
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the music of Wrestlemania.
Table Of Contents
The musical themes in the history of Wrestlemania fit into 5 distinct eras. Each era features discussion on each theme in that era and how it reflected the time period, the card, and where applicable, a more specific explanation of the theme’s connection to wrestlers on the card or the geographical location of that year’s Wrestlemania.
The chart below divides the music of Wrestlemania into 5 distinct eras.
|Wrestlemania I-V||Wrestlemania VI-XIV|
|Wrestlemania XV-2000||Wrestlemania X-7- 25|
Wrestlemania VI-XIV: In All Of Its Majesty
VI, VII & VIII: "The Grand Spectacle"
Click here to listen.
For many wrestling fans, this Wrestlemania theme is the one that comes to mind when they think of the granddaddy of ‘em all. Honestly, it isn’t too far a cry from some of the instrumentals we’ve already heard. Its lineage can be drawn back, most prominently, to WM2’s theme, which blended instrument families quite smoothly to produce a major sporting event feel. So, what makes this one work even better than the last five themes? The main hook leaves a stronger impression on the ear because the tempo is slower than previous themes.
The main hook is played by an electric guitar, employing a more crunchy and crisp distortion than the fuzziness of WWF’s last guitar-based WM theme. It alternates between a 5 and 6 syllable pattern, playing up and down between 3 notes. This makes it easy to remember for the amount of notes and easy to retain because the notes are close together in the scale, making them easy to hum or whistle. This riff is beautifully accented by a huge brass sound, playing a high-pitched 2 note blast during the first bar and fourth bar of the riff. Blasts of electric guitar and brass instruments can be found in the calmer section after the main riff as well, bolstering the theme with moments of intensity and action. What you’re essentially getting is a theme that is memorable and big sounding, which is exactly how Wrestlemania needs to be seen and described. It is a BIG deal and deserves a BIG theme.
The walking pace of the song also contributes to this feeling of grandeur. This is not a song that is rushing by or moving too quickly. The moderate tempo of the song offers the listener a chance to process its greatness. Never is it moving so fast that the listener’s ear is trying to catch up to the speed of the notes or the various instrument parts. The speed is a perfect choice for representing the fact that Wrestlemania deserves the attention and admiration of the public, and that it will be an event that will remain in our minds and hearts long after it is over. The theme sounds important, thus making the event more important.
For main event matches such as Warrior/Hogan, Hogan/Slaughter, Savage/Warrior and Savage/Flair, WWE truly found a theme that could represent the greatness of all of those matches, while not being event or period specific. That’s one of the things I find so enamoring about this theme: it goes beyond catering to specific genres or time periods of music. It is unto itself unique and deserves to be remembered as such.
In my research, and on the video for WMIX, the introduction to the event features a very short theme, similar to WM2, followed by what is supposed to be a Roman-influence trumpet theme. This theme, of course, corresponds with the Roman theme of the entire show, which was set at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. America The Beautiful was not sung. Instead, introductions of the event’s hosts, Caesar and Cleopatra, along with announcers Savage and Heenan, took place. This Wrestlemania is an anomaly for the first twenty years of ‘Mania. At no other time was a cultural motif so distinctly presented and, therefore, the need for a period or culture specific theme is limited to Wrestlemania IX. The theme that introduced the event certainly fit the era and motif WWF was going for in this one. Click here to listen.
IX, X, XI, XII, 13 & XIV: "WrestleMania"
Instrumental Version- Click here to listen.
Lyrical Version- Click here to listen.
All that said about WMIX, it appears as though “WrestleMania”, by Mike Stock and Pete Waterman off of the WWF album of the same name, is also connected to WMIX. The timing works since the single was released in 1993. It is the longest-running theme in Wrestlemania history and it can be found on the WWF album of the same name.
There are two versions: one with lyrics about the event and soundbytes from superstars like Bret Hart, Big Boss Man and Tatanka. Fun fact: the lyrical theme reached #14 on the UK singles chart! The music is very much a product of its time, and much of its style can be attributed to the 90s pop, dance and hip hop scene. There are chorus parts, performed by the male backup singers, singing things like “Oh-oh-oh, Wrestlemania” and “pump it up, pump it up” and “just like that, just like that”. In the middle of the song, there’s a rap part that focuses on the slamming and bumping and jumping that will occur at Wrestlemania. The lyrical version, however, isn’t the one that continues on through this series of mid 1990’s events—the instrumental gets the push and, even without words, this is one catchy piece of music.
Again, we have a hook played by electric guitar, probably many layers of electric guitar, producing a thick, reverberating guitar sound and a riff of about 3 notes alternating back and forth before descending. These notes are all close to one another, producing an easy to learn, easy to remember riff. Supporting this riff is a thin, somewhat chiming synth sound, which continues on into the second section of the song, which also includes some funk bass notes and early 90s keyboard orchestra hits. Even the snare drum sound has a sharper, more treble based sound than its 80s counterpart, signifying a change in the times. The “Wrestlemania” theme was almost certainly influenced by Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”. Have a listen and let me know what you think...
What’s amazing about this theme isn’t just that it is very clearly a not so distant cousin of Black or White, but that it continued to represent Wrestlemania for 4 more years. This single theme is responsible for representing matches like Bam Bam vs. L.T., HBK vs. Bret Hart, Undertaker vs. Sid, up to Austin vs. HBK. It somehow managed to transition along with the WWE from its “New Generation” era to the “Attitude” era. The piece is definitely not representative of Attitude, which was better represented by the RAW theme songs at that time, and would be better represented by themes in future Manias. This is a scenario where WWE may have missed an opportunity to more clearly define 1998’s Wrestlemania XIV as a new look for the company. They did so in just about every other way except for its theme.
That said, I think I would have less of an issue with this if Wrestlemania had the same theme song every year. “Wrestlemania” is THE theme I think of when I reflect on what Wrestlemania is, was, and should be. It goes beyond genre and celebrity and gives ‘Mania a unique identity, which needs nothing to support it but one of the catchiest melodies in sports-entertainment. The legacy of Wrestlemania is so strong at this point that if the WWE decided to run with this theme, it may very well become one of the most beloved and well-known themes of all-time.
Alternate themes for the above WM’s include:
XI: "WrestleMania (Instrumental)" / "Sports Open Theme" Click here to listen.
XII: "WrestleMania (Instrumental)" / "Dreamchild" Click here to listen.
The discussion period is about to begin. Share your thoughts on this second chapter of Wrestlemania music.
Would Wrestlemania benefit more from having a consistent theme song or a unique theme for each year’s event?
Agree or disagree: “Wrestlemania” is ridiculously catchy.
Wrestlemania 33 aka Wrestlemania Orlando, since numbers are no longer recognized by WWE, is less than 3 weeks away and we’ve already reached Wrestlemania XIV in the series. Things will begin to slow down soon, however, as the shift is made towards songs produced by bands and singers not affiliated with WWE. Stay tuned for Chapter 3, which features the transition to lyrical themes, written especially for Wrestlemania usage.