EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, February 26, 1998
The music is the matter
Have you ever sat down and watched Monday Night Raw or Monday Nitro? Wait, trick question. Have you ever sat down and listened to either of the aforementioned shows? This is important, so think: are you aware of what's going on, audibly, during a wrestling program?
If you're not, let me fill you in. When the crowd cheers and jeers are not deafing the viewer or shorting the microphones, the arena or stadium in question's PA system is probably being used, whether to fake interest in 'Goldberg,' to spark interest in 'Gillberg,' or to let everyone in on what Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels are doing down in Texas. But wait, there's something else. I know I'm forgetting something. Possibly even the subject of a previous column. Oh yeah, theme music!
About five to ten seconds before a wrestler emerges from the oh-so enigmatic 'backstage area,' his music plays loudly to the thousands in attendance. This is a signal to the audience: cheer now, so-and-so's about to come out. Make him appear popular.
Of course, you all knew this, so big deal, right? Wrong. I only realized a few days ago just how important this whole theme music thing is. I was talking to my girlfriend, trying my level best to get her hooked to the 'sport,' and I was explaining the importance of theme music in wrestling. In the background, we could hear the sounds of the WWF's latest attempt at an album, which probably deserves its spot near the top of Billboard's top-100 list. I was quizzing her. "What's this," I asked, as the sounds of the broken glass of track 14 played. "Uh, Stone Cold Austin," she replied, adjusting it quickly to "Stone Cold Steve Austin." She was right and I was pleased. But then she asked me something. "Do they ever play the wrestler's music when he doesn't come out?"
My first thought of was yes, of course they do, because sometimes the wrestler gets beat up backstage and that's how the audience finds out that he can't come out when he's supposed to. But that wasn't her point. She was asking me whether they played the music aimlessly from time to time. It's a reasonable question, given that they certainly have no qualms with marketing the music as a CD. But I laughed. I feel bad about it now, because the point was indeed valid. Why not just play a wrestler's music, during an intermission or something. The answer, I think, is that it would just confuse people, and they wouldn't be nearly as ready to explode when they heard the broken glass or the Question (do you sm...?) if they had heard it five times that day and never had anyone come out.
And besides, it just wouldn't make sense. You hear the gongs, the Undertaker comes out. You hear the organ, Kane comes out. Life just works like that.
It's thinking like that which demonstrates the importance of music in wrestling. Now I think I'm repeating myself. Onto the point.
Exactly when, I ask, will wrestling become a big enough business that companies will stop pirating mainstream music and using it as their own? I mean, I'm not sure how it works exactly, and I could be way off base about all of this, but give me a read and see for yourself.
Take, for example, Chris Jericho. Can you mentally play his theme music in your head? If not, why don't you pull out Pearl Jam's best CD, Ten, and play track two. Sound familiar? Take out the words, and "Even Flow" becomes Chris Jericho's entrance music.
Or how about the most famous example of all: Diamond Dallas Page? Track one off Nirvana's Nevermind, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," has an unmistakable resemblance to his entrance music, so much so that it's just obvious that he ripped it off from them. I watch my words, though. I mean that he took it from them, not necessarily via illegal theft. He may have purchased the rights or requested their permission or something. But that doesn't seem right to me. If he did that, why remove the words? It just makes the song sound like a cheap imitation. And played at that volume, a song doesn't sound that different with or without words.
If you want more blatant examples, look to ECW. They just rip off artists, and I'm pretty sure I mean theft because I know, at least, that small-time wrestlers don't even think about asking. Maybe they do, I don't know. I'm not levying any accusations, I'm just suggesting that it's fishy. Anyone who remembers Al Snow from ECW knows that he didn't come out to his catchy WWF head-banging tune. He used to trot out to the sounds of "Breathe," by a certain British techno act. I wonder if the permission is still pending on that one. [Editor's note: You don't produce a major CD-release like ECW did without getting legal rights to the music.]
I'm not really sure where I'm going with all of this. It just seems unprofessional to either rip off songs without permission or to get permission and then to use just the base-lines or something, like they don't want to give credit and exposure to the bands whose songs they are so kindly using. I'd like to hear some comments about this, especially from anyone who knows what they're talking about when it comes to this sort of thing.
Normally, I'd do the reader mail-bag right about here, but nearly all of the reader responses about last week's column about Jacques Rougeau were of a personal nature, so I took the time to respond to everyone who wrote. As for his next show, I'll be giving updates as I hear of them and I'll let you know before his next show just what's on the card and when and where and so on.
I would like to take this time to solicit some mail. I would like some old-fashioned feedback. Am I biased in one way or another? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What kind of style am I best suited at here and what should I stick with? What kind of columns (by me) do you most like to read? This kind of stuff interests me, and I'll include a lot of it in next week's column about up-and-coming talent.
Have a great week, see you in seven.
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