SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, September 8, 2000

Music makes it memorable

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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It's a shame that written columns are purely visual in nature. I have this great idea for an intro, but the problem is, you can't hear me hum. And written descriptions of sounds tend to be cliched at best. So you'll have to settle for this: broken glass. If that doesn't trigger a reaction, I don't know what will.

Music is important to wrestling, more so than many give it credit for.

I've written about this before. Still, it's been awhile, and the topic remains relevant. In fact, I always listen to music as I write, and if nothing else, that alone keeps subtly reminding me that this has to be said.

The world of WCW has been increasingly rocky lately. After finally achieving some momentum, it looked like they were on the right track, but unfortunately, there are now more complex and important issues at stake than ratings. World Championship Wrestling is on pace to lose somewhere between forty and eighty million dollars this year. I'm not their accountant, so I don't know the figure, but people seem to agree it's in that ballpark. For a wrestling company, in a business where the upside can be less extreme than the downside, that's a horrible statistic. It could take many years of relative success to even match that number, let alone finally turn a profit.

So, with motivation like that behind him, whomever makes these decisions in WCW -- I think Brad Siegel -- decided that some things would have to go. We saw many talent cutbacks in August, some long overdue and some out of nowhere. In addition, despite the creation of what I'm told is a very expensive new production truck, production values are again going to be cut back, with Thunder taped right after the live Nitro show and costs cut wherever possible.

One such cut, I have to imagine, is going to be theme music. In truth, no one's really going to notice that particular change. That's because WCW music has been mediocre for years and will only continue to diminish in quality.

I'm trying to recall the theme songs of important WCW wrestlers. Some do come to mind immediately: Harlem Heat's, the New World Order's and nWo Wolfpac's, and Goldberg's. I can imagine the guitar strum that starts off Jeff Jarrett's music -- no wait, that's from his WWF days. That's really about it. And I have to pay enough attention to Nitro to recap it.

Meanwhile, over on the WWF side, it's easy: Stone Cold Steve Austin's (previously mentioned broken glass), The Rock's, Triple H's, Chris Jericho's, Undertaker's, Kane's, The Big Show's, Eddie Guerrero and Chyna's, and even Steve Regal's ('he's a MAN's man!'). That's just off the top of my head, without struggling too much.

I watch just as much WCW television as WWF television. Still, the audio themes are so much more prevalent and memorable on Raw, Smackdown!, and pay-per-view that it's so much easier to remember.

Granted, that's not the biggest deal in and of itself. The WWF doesn't make a whole lot of licensing money on my remembering their music. But music does add, rather heavily, to one other facet of their business: crowd reaction.

Forgetting for a moment about planned matches, the WWF has a huge edge when they want to bring out one of their bigger stars to interfere in a match. They have music that will instantly -- faster than instantly, if that's possible -- inform everyone who's coming out, encouraging them to go all the more nuts before and once they see him. The shattered glass of Steve Austin, Rock's spoken line from his own theme, the three consecutive annoying sounds that mark the start Triple H's music, Jericho's countdown followed by a hard rock intro, Undertaker's gong (or Kid Rock anthem), Kane's loud organ -- all of them signal to the fans what's coming, and do so in a loud, obnoxious, and cheer-mongering way.

Fans go nuts, and that does two things. One, it creates this awesome atmosphere which anyone who's been to a WWF show, even a house show, knows about. WCW has had periods in which they could match reactions at a WWF house show, but never consistently over a long period of time. In addition, it creates an atmosphere of success for those watching at home on television. As much as the simple lack of people and their relative silence makes Nitro sometimes look bush-league, loud and rabid fans make Raw seem like the place to be. It all helps to keep momentum going forward.

I can still remember Hulk Hogan's music, or Mr. Perfect's. Randy Savage, the Hart Foundation, and even Yokozuna all had memorable themes. I guess Diamond Dallas Page and Chris Jericho had cool WCW music, but you can thank Nirvana and Pearl Jam for that. [Editor's note: Molinaro and Oliver are in a bar last night. Bob Seger's 'Strut' comes on. Both immediately remember Doom with Woman coming to the ring.]

If you're not entirely sure that I speak the truth, pay some attention. Listen to it on television or experience it in person, and you'll see.

Meanwhile, WCW is spinning in a vicious circle. Their program has improved dramatically, but I don't think viewers are going to give them a chance until other aspects of their performance are perfected. Then, and only then, will they be able to market it to fans as something more worth watching than the competition.


Unfortunately, a rare technical glitch by MSN Hotmail has left me without reader letters to respond to this week, with the exception of one, which came in after the malfunction. So just one letter this week. writes:
"Uh I think you're taking wrestling a little too seriously, The Hardy Boyz were supposed to look sore and beat up just like Edge and Christian and The Dudley Boyz did as well. I mean sure there probably sore but they were just exagerating it and just seeling the match they had. I think you need to get a reality check."

You know, part of me wishes I had the rest of this week's letters, since so many of you were sympathetic to the Hardy Boyz and their futures.

You, however clearly are not. Many wrestlers -- heck, professional athletes in many sports -- have to pay a steep price for their successful careers. Don't ever anyone who pitched in the major leagues for twenty years about arm pain -- it gets pretty bad for some of them. Hockey and football players often suffer worse fates. Muhammed Ali is another example of a sports great who's paid the price.

Now, they may not be too terribly relevant, but these folks are: Mick Foley, New Jack, and all your favourite former hardcore wrestlers who can't really afford to wrestle anymore. How many years did Mick cut off his career by going the route he went? I don't even want to know. I don't blame him, but I stand by my thinking that if we focused on things other than crazy stunts, then these guys might be able to entertain us longer, let alone live comfortable lives afterward.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and have a great week!

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