Ever since the Rock 'n' Wrestling era of the 1980s, music has played an integral role in sports entertainment. Even before Hulk Hogan told fans he was a real American with the eye of the tiger, legends of the industry like Gorgeous George and Mildred Burke experimented with the idea of entrance music as far back as the 1950s. With this much history behind the idea, one might expect the business has a pretty good grasp of what makes good entrance music so good.
Unfortunately, WWE still makes huge mistakes with music to this day, occasionally giving terrible, unfitting songs to athletes who are supposed to be big stars. A song sounding pleasing to the ears isn’t the only requirement to become a given wrestler’s theme, as it should also somehow relate to their character, personality, and general style. If it doesn’t, or if the fans don’t care about that style in the first place, music can hurt way more than it can help. In theory, WWE should be able to recognize when things aren’t working and switch things up appropriately, but that isn’t always the case.
Sometimes, Vince McMahon realizes he’s made a huge mistake with a wrestler’s music just in the nick of time, giving them a new theme at a key moment in their career to truly propel them to the next level. On the flipside, he’s also doled out truly atrocious songs to wrestlers right when they were supposed to be getting their big break, causing everyone to fall flat on their faces the second the music hits the speakers. For all the details, keep reading to discover 8 music changes that saved a wrestler’s career and 7 that killed them.
15 Saved: The New Age Outlaws
Oh, you didn’t know? Before teaming up and hitting it big, “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn and the “Road Dogg” Jesse James were both basically on the WWE chopping block, and they had been for years. Despite his status as a former WWE Tag Team Champion, Billy had wallowed in the lower midcard since The Smoking Gunns split, and his career was reaching a true nadir in 1997 when he was known as Rockabilly, with twangy country music. At the time, Road Dogg had a similarly southern fried theme, a remnant of his time with Jeff Jarrett as The Roadie. There was a whole lot wrong with both of their characters from top to bottom, and simply teaming up wasn’t going to fix everything. However, throw in an outrageously catchy hip hop song and a introductory spiel to go with it, and the two nobodies became one of the most popular tag teams of their era.
14 Ruined: Road Dogg
After the New Age Outlaws inevitably broke up, there was a genuine question as to why exactly WWE would even bother keeping Road Dogg around. There wasn’t really anything for him to do on his own, an issue WWE soon recognized by putting him in another tag team with a newcomer named K-Kwik (better known today as R-Truth). This just might have worked if not for the fact Road Dogg ditched the catchy Outlaws theme song for a new track he and Kwik rapped called “Getting’ Rowdy.” Gone were the catchy melodies and sing-along portions that made Road Dogg so popular, replaced by almost terrible shouting from both parties, with virtually no backbeat behind it. Road Dogg was also suffering from some personal problems at this time, and thus got fired before the song itself could have truly killed him. But the fact remains when few fans even remember the change, it's a sign it wasn’t going to work.
13 Saved: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
By this point, most fans of Steve Austin are well aware that changing his gimmick from The Ringmaster to “Stone Cold” was the turning point in his career that eventually made him the most popular superstar of the Attitude Era. However, one thing that gets lost in this knowledge is just how much changed when Austin made the switch. In addition to fully shaving his head and wearing cooler clothing, he also stopped using the Ringmaster theme, which sounded like it belonged in a weird horror film, and replaced it with the far more vicious and confrontational glass-shattering sound fans know and love. Even with all the alterations to his look and attitude, had Austin kept walking to the ring using the ethereally haunting strings he originally entered to, none of it would have worked in the slightest.
12 Ruined: Billy Gunn
Forget everything this list already said about how Road Dogg needed a catchy sing along for fans to care about him in the slightest. Billy Gunn’s problem when he stopped using their New Age Outlaw theme song and switched to a backup tune when he went solo had nothing to do with fans being unable to understand him or chant along. No, the big problem with Billy Gunn’s new theme song was that it took his nickname far too literally, repeatedly boasting about how he was an “Ass Man.” As if a wrestler entering the ring to a weird voice shouting “ass” over and over wasn’t bizarre enough, the lyrics were truly something to behold, outlining the many ways in which Gunn took his love of buttocks to the extreme. Not only does he like looking at them, which is usually what “ass man” means, but Billy also enjoys flaunting asses, shoving asses, and picking asses. Granted, the song also pointed out he occasionally kicked an ass or two as well, but by that point, people were too busy shaking their heads to notice.
11 Saved: Mankind
All right, so Mankind’s career wasn’t exactly at the point of ruin when WWE realized his slow, sad, ethereal entrance music wasn’t working out for him anymore. In fact, he was reaching his absolute peak, with the last instance of his original theme song playing the night he won his first WWE Championship on Raw. That said, by this point, Mankind’s character had gone through such a massive transformation that the schizophrenic odes to Freud that introduced him to the ring didn’t make any sense. Especially after he won the gold, Mankind was downright happy-go-lucky in his brand of insanity, which is exactly why giving him new music that started with a violent car crash was pure genius. Mankind was still insane, crazy, and borderline masochistic, but his depression was gone, replaced by a desire for cheap pops and jokes about Al Snow. While it might be a stretch to say this “saved” Mick’s career, it definitely cemented his next few years in the business as something special.
10 Ruined: D-Generation X
The formula seems so simple, it really should have worked. Take one of the most popular wrestling stables of the 1990s, mix them with one of the iconic rap groups of all time, and have them make a song together. For whatever reason, when WWE tried placing D-Generation X and Run-D.M.C. into the appropriate slots in this formula, the result was an absolute mess. First of all, Rev Run and D.M.C. were way past their primes in the year 2000 when the company decided DX needed to switch things up on a musical level. Second, this was also just around the time Triple H decided he was too big for DX, meaning it was just the underlings left to sort out who the new leader was amongst themselves. Maybe things could have survived with the classic DX theme keeping them together, but this awful Run-D.M.C. track made fans wish WWE just got rid of the group altogether. Before long, they did, at least for the next 15 years or so.
9 Saved: John Cena
Almost a full year after John Cena’s debut, he was still using extremely generic music that did nothing to separate himself from the various other newcomers to the WWE Universe circa 2002. Suddenly, after being caught rapping to his friends backstage by Stephanie McMahon, Cena underwent a massive character overhaul that gradually made him the most popular and marketable superstar of the modern era. Recognizing Cena’s own talent for wordplay, his theme switched from forgettable, generic rock to a rap song he wrote and performed himself called “Basic Thuganomics.” In a very real way, this new song s because WWE didn't know what to do with him. Since his raps proved to be so popular, the idea of firing him was out of the question. Several years later, Cena introduced a second rap song, “My Time Is Now,” which became so popular, it further cemented his status as the biggest wrestler in the world today.
8 Ruined: X-Pac
When D-Generation X finally parted ways once and for all, or at least for over a decade, X-Pac was the last standout to keep using remnants of the gimmick in his solo career. Even when he wasn’t flat out using the DX theme as his own, X-Pac’s solo music was written and performed by the same band and featured constant references to “breaking it down” and the fact he was a degenerate. Clearly, he needed to shed the act entirely and move on to something new, but unfortunately, WWE picked the worst song possible for him in a slow, country dirge by Kid Rock’s buddy Uncle Kracker. To say the song and style clashed would be a massive understatement, and the mere fact X-Pac inexplicably started wrestling in overalls during this time period didn’t do much to help things. Nor did throwing in Justin Credible and Albert as his lackeys, especially since all this did was allow Albert to instantly eclipse his fame.
7 Saved: The Godfather
Unless you happened to be paying close attention during the Attitude Era, it probably felt like Charles Wright’s transformation from Kama Mustafa to The Godfather happened overnight. In fact, the future WWE Hall of Famer slowly made the transition from a militant supporter of black pride to the more fun-loving pimp everyone knows and loves today for several weeks, if not months. First, he simply started to shift away from their Nation of Domination brothers, wearing more stylish clothing while doing so. Next up was a bevy of pretty ladies who occasionally accompanied him to the ring, followed, finally, by the blaring whistle of the “Ho Train” in new, hip hop music. As alluring as the women were, it was actually the music that took Godfather to the next level, as they couldn’t exactly dance to the chanting cries of the old NOD theme. By taking it easy and rolling up a fatty with this pimp daddy, Godfather found a way to keep fans entertained without even needing to do that much wrestling.
6 Ruined: The Sandman
Of all the wrestlers on this list, none were more inexorably linked to their theme music than five time ECW World Champion The Sandman — the dude’s name was in his song’s title, for crying out loud. Ask anyone who witnessed it first hand and they’ll agree The Sandman’s epic entrances were pretty much the entire reason he was so popular. The lights went out, Metallica hit over the speakers, and the white trash anti-hero downed dozens of beers as he stumbled toward the ring. It almost sounds embarrassing on paper, but make no mistake about it, this practice made Sandman a massive star in Paul Heyman’s little hardcore company that could. Unfortunately, when Sandman finally made his way to the WWE Universe, Vince McMahon wasn’t willing to pay Metallica the huge fees it would cost to keep using their song on a global scale. Forced to hit the rings to a generic rock song composed by WWE’s in-house team, The Sandman’s aura entirely vanished, along with his popularity and value as a performer.
5 Saved: Rikishi
Apparently, a wrestler’s theme music need not necessarily be original for it to completely turn their careers around. In the case of Rikishi, all he had to do was co-opt a theme already in use by a moderately popular tag team, and suddenly all three wrestlers involved found themselves shooting into the stratosphere. Prior to joining Too Cool, Rikishi had floated around WWE for years with a variety of bad gimmicks and themes that failed to make him stand out despite his unique look. In 1999, Rikishi returned to the company after a brief retraining related hiatus with another forgettable entrance song, only to quickly turn things around by being in the right place at the right time and doing a fun little dance with Scotty II Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay. From there, it was only natural for Rikishi to start using their theme song so he could keep on dancing, and he inevitably became a hugely popular superstar because of it.
4 Ruined: Rikishi
The only thing faster than Rikishi’s meteoric rise to become one of the most popular WWE superstars of his era was how quickly he crashed to the bottom of the barrel after turning heel. After barely a full year of unprecedented popularity, Rikishi threw it all away by revealing he ran down “Stone Cold” Steve Austin with his car prior to Survivor Series 2000, thus becoming a bad guy once again on behalf of “the people.” Obviously, he couldn’t shimmy and shake his way to the ring using Too Cool’s music anymore, so he instead started entering to the sounds of Dirty Ike’s “Bad Man.” While Rikishi remained slightly successful from a storyline perspective, briefly reigning as Intercontinental Champion and participating in a few WWE title matches, fans harshly rejected his new persona, and the bland, boring music taking away the one thing that made him relatable and fun certainly didn’t help.
3 Saved: William Regal
Truth be told, a wrestler with a propensity for spending time in the woods and thus becoming a “real man’s man” isn’t all that bad a gimmick. To say the least, Vince McMahon has definitely had worse ideas in his day. Then again, the decision to give said “real man’s man” persona to William Regal of all people ruins any good will that could have been associated with it. The ridiculous theme music attached to the role didn’t help, either, as even a legitimate big, burly lumberjack would look like an utter fool if a booming voice repeatedly talked about them being a “real man’s man.” No matter what, audiences across America are just going to see the “Brawny Man,” plain and simple. Regal needed a whole bunch of changes to ever get taken seriously, shedding the entire manly man persona for one far more similar to his own, yet the most important part of the process was changing his theme song to a more pretentious composition.
2 Ruined: Goldberg
WWE got a whole lot wrong about Goldberg the first time around, but one thing they did right was decide not to mess with his theme song. The pounding drums, ethereal strings, and tension were the perfect backdrop for fans chanting Da Man’s name in iconic fashion, an essential part of his aura and fame. While it was WCW’s production team that originally created this theme, WCW being WCW, they also felt the need to switch things up for no real reason, almost killing their biggest star in the process. For a brief period in 1999, Goldberg started making his way to the ring to the blaring metal of Megadeth’s “Crush ‘Em.” Gone was the epic chanting, in favor of loud screechy guitars that didn’t at all fit Goldberg’s image. Even the brain trust at WCW realized they were making a huge mistake, which is why they switched Goldberg back to his original theme in a few short weeks, preventing the damage from getting out of control.
1 Saved: Triple H
It may come as a surprise considering his current seat at the top of the WWE Universe, but the game didn’t exactly start for Triple H the minute he walked into the door. For the first full year of his career, he was practically a nobody, appearing at the bottom of the card in jokes of feuds against names like Henry O. Godwinn. Not until he linked up with Shawn Michaels to form D-Generation X did Triple H truly become a star, but we’re not talking about the classic DX theme. Switching from Beethoven’s 9th symphony to the Chris Warren Band helped Triple H rise up the card, but it was later ditching the DX theme and taking on “My Time” that made him standout as a true star. After Shawn Michaels left DX, the group remained extremely popular, but there was no way anyone involved was going to reach the main event. They were immature goofballs no one could take seriously as threats to the WWE Championship, which Triple H inevitably wanted more than anything else. “My Time” changed his character to a point where he was ready, with the song’s titular boast definitely holding true.