Many fans today take entrance music for granted. It’s a big part of the show to hear a particular wrestler’s music hit in the arena, as the music has come to signify the man or woman. It’s such a huge part of the landscape of professional wrestling that an entrance theme can make or break a wrestler. A bad theme will kill a crowd’s energy faster than anything.
It wasn’t always like this though. Once upon a time, wrestlers had no music that played on the way to the ring. The origins of using music is debated – some say it was The Freebirds, some say it was Jerry Lawler, some say it was this or that person in this or that territory. At some point though, wrestlers began using commercial music for their entrances and never sought the rights or asked the permission for the music.
As time went on, this lack of rights became problematic for television and reproduction on video. WWE, and later WCW, started to produce their own music for wrestlers or find music they already held the rights to in the case of WCW, which had Turner Broadcasting’s catalogue. Consequently, much of the music used in the 1980s and ’90s cannot be used on the WWE Network and will never be heard again outside VHS, DVD, or online video clips. Here are some of the best commercial entrance themes from that era.
10. Junkyard Dog – “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen
This song’s title not only fits the “dog” part of JYD’s gimmick but the music also fits JYD’s terrible herky-jerky stomping dances. He used this music mostly in Mid-South but also in his early WWF run.
9. Hulk Hogan – “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
The WWE Network as replaced all uses of “Eye of the Tiger” with “Real American” but anybody who saw his entrances live or on VHS in the ’80s or ’90s remembers for the first few years of his title reign he used this song from Rocky III as his entrance music. Fans wouldn’t have had “Real American,” the truly iconic ’80s Hogan song, if music rights hadn’t become an issue, so it’s debatable whether this was good or bad. There’s still a lot of power to this “Eye of the Tiger” entrance.
8. Eddie Gilbert – “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer
Nothing fits this cocky, heelish playboy better than Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff.” Gilbert’s colorful, over-the-top demeanor, replete with a strut and wild sunglasses complements the song completely.
7. Ricky Steamboat – “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project
The opening riff of “Sirius” has an Far East, slightly mysterious flavor to it that fits “The Dragon” well. It then turns into a serious but more upbeat ’80s tune with harsh chords and rhythmic drumbeats that fits the serious babyface character well.
6. The Midnight Express – “The Theme from The Midnight Express” by Giorgio Moroder
This is a wonderful theme song for anyone as the beat of the music matches anyone’s walk to the ring, but it particularly works here given the team’s name, which is taken from the movie of the same title. The music announces the confidence of the team, and the sound is a little futuristic given the time period which also works as The Midnights were ahead of their time in terms of double team maneuvers and workrate.
5. The Freebirds – “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
As mentioned at the beginning, this is considered by some the first use of music by any wrestlers, and it wouldn’t be surprising. The Freebirds were young, brash, and revolutionary southerners that did what they wanted, when they wanted. Their entrance coming to the ring was usually long as they strutted, as heels anyway, their way down the aisle. The best versions of their entrance found the music hitting its crescendo as they neared the ring and they’d suddenly run and slide in the ring to celebrate before the match even began.
4. Terry Funk – “Desperado” by The Eagles
Funk, who has used countless commercial themes in his career, first used this in ECW when his body was started to fail him. The usually wild and chaotic Texan had lost a step or two by this point, and “Desperado” blaring as this hardcore legend who had done things his way shambled his way to the ring is both haunting and beautiful.
3. Rob Van Dam – “Walk” by Pantera
Few stars from the past twenty years are identified by their theme as music as Rob Van Dam. When the music started, usually long before his appearance from behind the curtain, the crowd’s energy would increase and they would chat along with the chorus, “RE,” “SPECT,” “WALK.” The perpetually stoned RVD’s slow, casual walk to the ring both clashes and complements the song wonderfully.
2. Hulk Hogan – “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix
Just as iconic as, and perhaps even better than, Hogan’s babyface entrance theme is his heel entrance theme as founding member of the nWo. When Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” hit the speakers, out would come Hogan dressed all in black, even the black stubble showing through on his face, and he would casually play air guitar on his way to the ring. The cocky strut and smirk of arrogance he had in the entrance works so well because the character feels he’s just much of an icon to appropriate another legend’s song for his theme.
1. The Road Warriors – “Iron Man” by Ozzy Osbourne
Nothing came match the power and energy of the first riffs of this Ozzy song in a filled arena. Then the ethereal robotic voice says, “I am Iron Man.” The menacing, repetitious music that follows fits the musclebound, face-paint/spiked shoulder pad-wearing Warriors to a tee as they confidently fill the aisle with their hulking frames and stomp quickly and purposefully to the ring. The music and their image go hand-in-hand to create one of the most imposing visages in wrestling history.