The Music of Wrestlemania- Chapter 1 (1985-1989)
Mar 8, 2017 - 12:44:21 PM
Wrestlemania is called the “Super Bowl of professional wrestling” but I think its 33 year legacy has outgrown that moniker. Nothing, in North America, quite compares to the pageantry and electricity of a Wrestlemania event. It is its own entity and a big part of creating the hype for Wrestlemania, each year, is the music chosen to represent each year’s edition of the Grandaddy of ‘em all.
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.
My experience, as a fan and a student of music and wrestling, lies somewhere in the middle of all of these opinions, but I’d like to offer a more critical take on how these theme songs represent the event. Some of the questions I respond to, as we look at each ‘Mania theme are:
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?
For so many of us, our idea or memory of the Wrestlemania theme is tied to a particular ‘Mania, often one that we watched in our childhood or youth. It is one that we hold in high regard for reasons of nostalgia and of the genuine thrill we received in being a spectator of that event. It is my hope that as we journey through the music of Wrestlemania, you will be able to re-experience that nostalgia and joy, and the pride and excitement that comes from a genuine, emotional connection with the “Showcase of the Immortals”.
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 I-V: Classy and Contemporary
1: Phillip Bailey ft. Phil Collins: Easy Lover (Instrumental)
Click here to listen.
Wrestlemania I began a trend here by associating its event with celebrity through its first theme. Bailey, and especially Phil Collins, were big names in the 1980s and this song even hit the top of the charts around the world during the Wrestlemania season. It reached #2 in the US and #1 in UK, Canada, Japan, and Holland. Easy Lover followed the famous “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” as Collins’ next single to give you some context for what a big deal this was for WWF. That song was his first number 1 as a solo artist and led to him winning a Grammy in 1985.
Easy Lover, as an instrumental, is quite reminiscent of the SNL theme, a landmark of NYC television which is where Wrestlemania originates. While SNL focuses on horns to produce their upbeat jazz funk sound, Easy Lover uses the electric guitar and synth to produce a similar feel. Although the tempos are slightly different (SNL being faster), it still comes across as energetic, late-night, big-city kind of music.
2: "Wrestlemania 2 WWF Original Theme" (instrumental)
Click here to listen.
For Wrestlemania II, the WWF seems to have chosen an in-house theme, possibly composed by Jim Johnston. The one you are listening to has been noted as only appearing on the Coliseum Home Video release, but, at present, I haven't been able to track down the theme from the original broadcast. The theme that we do have access to has more of a sports broadcast feel to it, perhaps choosing to highlight the athletic contest side of things. Certainly, WM 2 did feature some major sporting stars in its Chicago event, with a number of NFL stars entering the Battle Royal, most notably William “The Refrigerator Perry”, Mr. T returned to ‘Mania to box Roddy Piper in the NY card, and the LA card and main event comprised of stars solely from the WWF roster.
The choice to go with multiple main melodies is also intriguing...opening with a very quick moving, almost telephone ringing type electronic xylophone pattern (think Baba O’ Riley). This reflects the new sounds of the 80s and the focus on the synth as a main instrument. 20 seconds in, a second main melody is introduced, played by trumpets and trombones...a mid-tempo, triumphant sound, akin to that of a major sporting event broadcast. With WM2 being an event broadcast from multiple locations, the only one of its kind, I find this theme fits well to represent the uniqueness of WM2.
III: “Wrestlemania III Original Theme” (instrumental) Click here to listen.
+ “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” by Aretha Franklin Click here to listen.
Uncovering an accurate answer to the theme for Wrestlemania III was much more difficult than I expected. In numerous places, a theme called “Showcase of the Immortals” that sounded strangely like “The Grand Spectacle” was dubbed as the theme. During my Wrestlemania research, though, I found that that theme seemingly has no connection to the third installment. Instead, the event opens with a theme that is much closer to that of Wrestlemania 1. After the sauntering opening, which uses a stuttered bass drum and snare beat, the song immediately takes off into a fast walk, much more suitable to the energy of the event. There’s more of a jazz influence on the piece than Easy Lover, and, this time, there’s less guitar and synth. An alto saxophone is responsible for the main theme.
The other theme associated with Wrestlemania III is Aretha Franklin’s “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”. Although it was originally released in 1985, Franklin’s appearance at the Pontiac, Michigan based event played a major role in adding to the celebrity of the event. She, having lived most of her life in Detroit, was seen as a native daughter of the city and, as a Motown legend, was a perfect fit for an event hailing from this part of the USA.
Who’s Zoomin’ Who is absolutely 1980s pop and an influential tune on many early 90’s hit sounds, including those of Paula Abdul and Mariah Carey. Everything from the compressed snare drum sound, to the electric piano that sits a little farther back in the mix, creating more of a three-dimensional sound, to the “who’s zoomin’ who” male and female backing vocals characterizes it very much as a period piece. I would argue, however, that it lacks a certain triumphant and “big” sound that should connect with an event like Hogan and Andre. Nonetheless, I can completely understand why WWE chose these themes, choosing to focus on the connection to its host city and to previous installments of what was quickly becoming the most important event in North American pro wrestling each year.
IV: "Wrestlemania IV Original Theme” (instrumental)
Click here to listen.
There is no official theme song for Wrestlemania IV, aside from the 40 second instrumental that precedes the event on tape/DVD. This instrumental resembles WM2’s theme in tempo and quickness of notes, but otherwise orients itself into a driving rock song. The focal point are the electric guitars, which use power chords to produce a fuzzy but thick texture. There really is nothing fancy or nothing particularly memorable about this theme. It reminds me of the Ultimate Warrior’s theme song minus the cymbal crashes or of the kind of theme you might have heard when your local TV station would throw to that day’s scores in sports.
Does it work as a Wrestlemania theme? Yes, but only barely. It does have energy to it, creating a sense of excitement for what’s to come and for the title tournament that would await us. The prestige of the past three years, however, is missing, perhaps signifying the desire to move in a new direction. There’s just not enough there though to warrant a significant conversation on the meaning behind this song.
V: "Wrestlemania V Original Theme” (instrumental)
Click here to listen.
In the similar vein of the themes that have gone before it, Wrestlemania V’s instrumental theme plays off of WMIII’s to achieve the result of anticipation and excitement for the show. A blaring and raspy saxophone note kicks off the song as a synthesized electric piano chord fades in and sustains. This introduction is immediately followed by that same drum beat from WMIII, demonstrating a fast-moving, energetic tempo. The mood created from this song is certainly a happy one as the saxophone continues to solo over the drum and bass combo. These themes are short and sweet, and don’t appear to have too strong of a connection to the event. When we consider that IV and V took place at Atlantic City and Trump Plaza, we have a better idea of why this theme may have been chosen. What kind of music would you associate with a rich and swanky hotel and casino? Rock and roll certainly isn’t my first choice and I’m guessing it wouldn’t be yours either. So we have an interesting blend here of jazz/rock&roll saxophone and a driving rock drum beat which is a fine blend between the two worlds.
An interesting note is that Run DMC performed a wrestling rap at V. It’s a shame they weren’t asked to help out with a theme for this event. That would’ve made for a stronger celebrity connection and, perhaps, a better theme as well.
The discussion period is about to begin. Share your thoughts on this opening chapter of Wrestlemania music. It's evident that the themes were quite different than those of today, both in style and meaning and purpose.
Why do you think WWF largely stuck to instrumental themes during the first five years of Wrestlemania?
Do you enjoy any of the themes that have been presented or do you find them boring and uneventful?
I'll return later this week with the next chapter, VI-XIV, which features my favourite Wrestlemania theme of all time and my wish that it would still be the 'Mania theme today.