There’s a man in wrestling who has sold over 6 million albums — and it’s not The Honky Tonk Man. We’re talking about Jim Johnston, a man who has been with the company since 1995 and has created some of the most memorable entrance themes including the iconic glass-breaking followed by guitar riff tune signaling that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was about ready to kick some butt. He’s the brain behind the gong and eerie sound of The Undertaker’s entrance theme and crafted the brilliant “No Chance in Hell” that accompanies Vince McMahon every time he comes to the ring. With almost 30 years behind him, it’s easy to see why Johnston has sold so many WWE theme song albums.
Johnston hasn’t been the only person working in the WWE music department, but he’s been the face of it, including starring in a special called Signature Sounds, a 60-minute documentary with Johnston discussing his favorite themes of all time and the thinking that went into creating them. Somebody who can come up with themes as diverse as AJ Lee’s, Razor Ramon’s and Bret Hart’s has to be a musical genius, but even geniuses have bad days.
Johnston and those who have worked with him in the WWE music department (including Jimmy Hart) have turned out a lot of stinkers, too. What causes a bad theme song? Having to create something for a wrestler who has a horrible character is probably the biggest reason, but it probably comes down to the fact we just all have rough days at the office. With all love to Jim Johnston, we look back at some of his not-so-greatest hits with the 15 Worst WWE Theme Songs of All Time.
15. The Big Show
You know how you now dislike a food because 10 years ago it made you sick and simply seeing it or smelling it turns your stomach and makes you nauseous? For most wrestling fans, hearing the first few words of “Crank It Up” is almost enough to induce vomiting. “Wellllllll, it’s the Big Show…” doesn’t mean you’re about to see a fantastic wrestling match. It means you’re going to see a really tall guy with really bad cardio bore you for the next 8 to 10 minutes. It’s hard to believe any piece of music could freshen up this guy’s career, but it is interesting that he’s one of the few WWE wrestlers who has kept the same theme song since they debuted.
14. Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS
Before he was Kane, wrestler Glenn Jacobs arrived in the WWE (then-WWF) as Jerry Lawler’s evil dentist, Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS. For some reason “The King” thought his dentist was the best person to wage his war against Bret “Hitman” Hart. With blonde hair and grime-covered teeth, the character was a far cry from the heights Jacobs would reach in WWE, and his theme song should have been an indication there was a limited shelf life for the dentist. His song was appropriately just the sound of a dentist’s drill with some limited instrumental faintly in the background, likely to mock the elevator music heard in most doctor’s offices.
13. William Regal
Oh, to be a fly on the wall when WCW wrestler Steven Regal arrived at the WWE offices and was introduced to his first character of “A Man’s Man, William Regal.” Aside from the out-of-left field first name change, the former blue blood was now slated to play a real-life version of the guy you see on the Brawny paper towel wrapper. His theme begins with a steam whistle, the kind that signaled the end of the day at work in Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen videos and it’s all downhill from there. In a direct rip-off of the melody and cadence of the TV theme song to ‘Rawhide’ the lyrics are just “He’s a man! He’s a man’s man! He’s a real man! He’s a real man’s man!” Looking like little more than the construction worker from The Village People, Regal dropped the Man’s Man gimmick not long after it began.
12. Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes will be remembered as one of the most colorful and popular wrestlers of the 1970s and 80s with his wars against Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship defining a generation of southern professional wrestling. Always somebody who worked behind the scenes with the NWA (and then WCW), Rhodes took a job with the WWE that would allow him to step away from the backstage politics and focus on what he did best: wrestle in polka dots. Unfortunately, this legend’s WWE run will be remembered not for his title reigns but for his polka-dotted tights, his fish-out-of-water manager Sapphire and his theme song. The content of the song reflected many of his best-remembered NWA promos and invoked his longtime nickname, “The American Dream” over and over, but that was the end of the comparisons between NWA Dusty and WWE Dusty.
This is just embarrassing. WWE has moved away from the 1980s formula that every wrestler had to have an occupation or be an ethnic stereotype, but there were still remnants even 15 years later as “Kung Funaki” proves. Funaki, a decent Asian wrestler had kicked around WWE with different nods to racism in the past, such as overdubbing his lip synching like a ‘Godzilla’ film or being paired with a manager that said things like, “I chop chop your wee wee” in broken English. You’ve got to know somebody in creative saw the first two letters of his last name, saw he was Asian, and realized they had to have a theme song that was little more than a bad homage to the 1970s novelty hit “Kung Fu Fighting.”
10. Ted Dibiase, Jr.
There was a Ted Dibiase, Jr.? Yes, and he was even relevant for about 20 minutes in the WWE because of his name, but once it was clear that neither his charisma nor his in-ring ability could hold a candle to his father’s, he was quickly relegated to jobber status and retired from the sport. Everything about him was a vanilla version of his father, right down to his theme song, “I Come From Money.” Sounding like an auto-tuned American Idol audition that didn’t make it to the next round, it might have worked for someone who didn’t look and act so wholesome when they weren’t just being flat-out bland.
9. The Red Rooster
There are times when you just have to assume Vince McMahon has it out for someone and hires them simply to embarrass and spite them. Such is the case with Terry Taylor, who was an above-average southern wrestler known as having a good mind in the business for most of the 1980s. He’s made a name for himself as a backstage agent and trainer in several companies, most recently NXT. However, his introduction to the WWE was an all-new low for characters. He was… a rooster. With a dyed red mohawk and a fowl-mocking strut, Taylor was forced to come to the ring to a song featuring a rooster sounding off. Hopefully he was well paid.
8. The Goon
If you blinked, you probably missed his run in WWE, which lasted less than a year in 1996-97. Before he arrived, he’d made a name for himself as “Wild” Bill Irwin, a badass outlaw cowboy known for wrestling in jeans and as one-half of the underrated tag team The Long Riders with his brother Scott. Unfortunately, his brother died in 1987 and Irwin spent most of the next decade floating around what was left of the territory system. When the offer from the WWE came, he probably jumped at, even though his character was simply a hockey player. You know how you start getting irritated at games when the organist plays the “Charge” theme a few too many times? That irritation will carry over to this theme.
7. Big Boss Man
A note to all tourists courtesy of the WWE theme makers: “If you ever take a trip to Cobb County, Georgia, you better read the signs and respect the law and order or you’ll be serving hard times.” That’s the kind of stuff you just don’t get from Frommer’s ‘Guide to Georgia Prisons.’ All kidding aside, the late Ray Traylor had that mix of size, athleticism and charisma that made him a perfect WWE character in the late 1980s. He was just threatening enough that he made a credible opponent for Hulk Hogan, but you knew at the end, he wasn’t going to get the job done. Despite coming out wearing a prison guard uniform, this song sounds more like a reading of the big man’s resume than anything else.
6. The Mountie
Sherwood Schwartz, who was the creative force behind shows like Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch once said his philosophy to theme songs was to simply explain the situation and the characters who the viewer was about to meet and that whether you were a longtime viewer or it was your first time, everybody was on the same page. This line of thinking had to be behind the theme song for The Mountie, played by Canadian wrestler Jacques Rougeau. “I’m The Mountie. I’m handsome. I’m brave. I’m strong. I’m the Mountie and I enforce the law. You can try to run, you can try to hide, but The Mountie always gets his man.” Now, an argument could be made this song is so cheesy, especially since it’s sung by Rougeau, that it is good, but that’s an argument you’d lose.
5. Bastion Booger
This is a case of a really bad entrance theme that could have gone so much worse. After all, when a theme starts with the statement, “I am the booger man” you’ve set the bar very, very low. And yes, that was “booger” not “boogy.” Thankfully there is no further descent into what you find in your nose in this song, if you can even call it a song at all. Instead of any music playing, the rest of the theme just sounds like two pieces of metal being clanged together. It’s hard to say why they would do that for an overweight, disgusting wrestler. Maybe the metallic symphony is supposed to mimic this beast’s walking, but it really just became an earworm that nobody wanted to suffer from.
4. Right To Censor
Back in the Attitude Era, the perfect foil for the over-the-top sexuality and hardcore wrestling antics was Right To Censor. A stable of wrestlers meant to protest the content of WWE programming, it featured grapplers with formerly risque characters who had seen the light and changed their ways, like The Godfather (who became The Goodfather) and Val Venis. The best character was undoubtedly Ivory who morphed from a sexy bra-and-panties match participant to looking more like a 1940s school teacher. It wasn’t enough that they would run out and cover the scantily clad women, they had to do it to this theme song, which isn’t really a song at all. It’s more of what you’d expect to hear in a fallout shelter.
This should have worked. It really should have. Mash-ups are usually cool and when one of them is one of the greatest WWE themes of all time, Chris Jericho’s “Break the Walls Down” it just seems like you’re going to have something great. Unfortunately, the other half of this mash-up was the The Big Show’s horrible “Crank It Up” which is No. 15 on this list. Instead of improving the Big Show’s theme, all this mess does is drag down Jericho’s theme. It must have been just as much work to create this dreck as it would have been to come up with a new song and, despite a few new heavy metal lyrics spicing up this nightmare, there is no way that a new song would have been this bad.
2. Billy “Mr. Ass” Gunn
Long after Billy Gunn achieved tag team gold as part of the Smokin’ Gunns and the New Age Outlaws, Billy Gunn explored his sexuality. It ended with a botched gay wedding to Chuck Palumbo, but it’s the discovery years – the Assman years – we celebrate here. In this song, he’s not just saying he has a nice ass, but he shares his appreciation for asses in general. “I love to drop ‘em, I love to kick ‘em, I love to shove them, I love to stick them, I love to flaunt them, I love to watch them…” and he continues on with other things you do to asses, not all passively either. Gunn never quite had the charisma or microphone skills to be a singles wrestler, but giving him the gimmick as a person who loves all things ass certainly didn’t do the guy any favors.
The former One Man Gang came to the ring to the song “Jive Soul Bro” sung by his manager Slick, who may have dressed like a pimp when walking his men to the ring, but confirmed it with this song and low production value video the WWE produced. Think about the progression of this: The tough-as-nails biker gang member One Man Gang decides to find his African roots and becomes Akeem. OK, whatever. A white tribal member from Africa. It’s wrestling, we’ll go with it. Then, he is paired up with a pimp for a manager and walks to the ring with the manager singing a song about being a pimp. Would you want your manager to sing about being a pimp? Wouldn’t that just make you a prostitute?