This Sunday is the granddaddy of them all, the sports entertainment spectacular, WWE’s Wrestlemania 30. It’s amazing to consider the Spring tradition has been wowing fans and the media alike for three decades now. But along with the grappling action is the sheer spectacle for the senses, including music. Let’s take a look back at the best musical moments in Wrestlemania history, brother.
The importance of music to Wrestlemania dates back to the inaugural event at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on March 31, 1985. The “Rock ‘N’ Wrestling” connection of the then-WWF and MTV brought professional wrestling to the forefront of cutting edge mainstream entertainment. After wrestling manager Captain Lou Albano made a cameo appearance in pop star Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” video, WWF/E CEO Vince McMahon decided to utilize the publicity, having his stars Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper feud on the network. This ultimately lead to him bringing in television star Mr. T to team with Hogan against Piper in the first Wrestlemania’s main event, as well as appointing Lauper as female wrestler Wendi Richter’s manager for her title match that same night. The event also featured Muhammad Ali, Liberace and The Rockettes, making it not just a mere “wrestling show,” but a full blown pop culture spectacle.
The event’s kept that tradition, and regardless how absurd the musical and celebrity guests have ranged over the years, there’s always been a touch of class found in the event’s opening moments. With 27 of the previous Wrestlemanias taking place stateside, the majority have traditionally began with a special performance of “America the Beautiful.” When asked years ago why he chose it over the national anthem, McMahon stated “‘America the Beautiful’ is a bit more beautiful than our national anthem in terms of the way that it sounds. We wanted something to wrap our arms around other than the national anthem, which of course opens many sporting events and many other events as well… It just literally personifies who we are as a country. It’s majestic, and so is WrestleMania. We’re together… WrestleMania’s a slice of Americana.” Music legends such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Little Richard and Gladys Knight have all sung “American the Beautiful” over the years at WrestleMania, as well as contemporary artists in their prime like Boyz II Men, John Legend, Ashanti and Michelle Williams. There’s also the case of Toronto’s Wrestlemania 6, where Robert Goulet performed “O Canada.”
Musical acts are typically scattered throughout the show, most often playing a particularly bombastic entrance for one of the high marque stars making their way to the ring. Last year, Living Colour performed “Cult of Personality,” on the song’s 25th anniversary for superstar CM Punk’s walk to the ring at Metlife stadium. Motorhead have twice signaled the arrival of veteran grappler and current WWE Executive Vice President Triple H. Among the most ambitious was Salt-N-Pepa’s 1995 Wrestlemania performance of “Whatta Man” where they went as far as to rewrite the lyrics to cheer on NFL great Lawrence Taylor as he ventured into wrestling to take on Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event.
There’s also a number of musical artists who’ve gotten themselves into the action ringside. Following Lauper’s tradition, Ozzy Osbourne once managed his countrymen The British Bulldogs and Alice Cooper sat in the corner of 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Jake “The Snake” Roberts for his Wrestlemania 3 collision with The Honky Tonk Man. Not to mention the unorthodox celebrity tie-ins of jazz great Cab Calloway as an appointed judge of a boxing match between Mr. T and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and Wrestlemania 10’s guest ring announcer, New Kids on the Block’s Donnie Wahlberg.
Then there’s also the musical performances that happen in the middle of the show, seemingly “just because.” In the early 2000s at the height of the nu-metal era, groups like Drowning Pool, Saliva, and Limp Bizkit performed songs that served as official themes for the events. These types of performances serve as something of a snapshot of their respective eras. 25 years ago, Tougher Than Leather-era Run-DMC kicked off the show with their “Wrestlemania Rap.” Two years ago, Flo Rida and Machine Gun Kelly played their hits in succession to pump the Miami crowd for the main event of John Cena vs. The Rock. Last year, Diddy hit all the right nostalgia buttons by performing “Mo Money, Mo Problems” and “Victory” for the New York/New Jersey crowd at MetLife.
WWE’s been surprisingly mum about which musical acts are going to be performing this Sunday. The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Mark Crozer let it slip on Facebook a few weeks ago that he was going to be playing “Live in Fear,” the entrance theme of ominous cult-leader character Bray Wyatt, but the company hasn’t publicly confirmed this. What can be assured is that the they’ve set the standard high, and with the newly launched WWE Network allowing fans to relive many of these classic moments, they’re going to attempt to suplex their way into making history again.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 4, 2014