Piledrivers and Power Ballads: Pro Wrestling's Musical Moments - Rolling Stone
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Piledrivers and Power Ballads: Pro Wrestling’s Musical Moments

When grapplers get on the mic, who’s going to tell them it’s a bad idea?

chris jericho fozzy

Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images

The world of professional wrestling is as littered with failed gimmicks as it is stalled musical careers; for whatever reason – the pyro, the physiques, the proliferation of Spandex – these guys (and gals) seem to think that the transition from ring to stage will be an easy one. But more often than not, they flop like a Kennel from Hell match.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: Take Chris Jericho's Fozzy, which began as a joke-y cover band but has since morphed into a formidable heavy metal machine, releasing six albums (their latest, Do You Wanna Start a War, came out last week) and performing at festivals around the world.

But mostly, when music and wrestling meet, the results are catastrophic. Yet, we have every reason to believe that grapplers will be releasing albums until the end of time…after all, who's going to tell them it's a bad idea? Here are 15 of the most memorable – and not entirely awful – musical moments in pro wrestling history. By James Montgomery and Kory Grow





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Gene Carroll and the Shades, ‘Is It Ever Gonna Happen’

Now here's a deep cut: Long before he became the most famous announcer of his era, "Mean Gene" Okerlund was known as rocker Gene Carroll, and in 1959, he and his band cut a 45 for a Sioux Falls label that featured the instrumental "Red Devil" on one side and "Do You Remember" – featuring Gene's vocals – on the other. They played parties throughout the Midwest and the Dakotas, and in 2009, were inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association's Hall of Fame. Of course, at that point, Okerlund was already a Hall of Famer in the WWE; he was inducted in 2006 by his old pal Hulk Hogan.

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Beauregarde, ‘Testify’

The man born Larry Pitchford rose through the ranks of Pacific Northwest Wrestling in the 1970s, thanks in no small part to his charisma; he'd often create his own costumes for characters and wrestle as historical figures. He was also one of the first grapplers to use an entrance theme…with good reason. In 1971, with the help of the Wipers' Greg Sage and Dave Koupal, he cut a self-titled album of psych rock, and more than 40 years after its release, "Testify" is still as badass as Beauregarde himself.

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‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie, ‘Pencil Neck Geek’

The Classy One turned "pencil-neck geek" into a putdown for the ages during a career that spanned decades; and in the late 1970s, he recorded a musical version for Raunchy Tonk Records. The song – featuring X guitarist Billy Zoom and wrestling manager/musician Johnny Legend – quickly became a favorite of Dr. Demento, who played it on his radio program. It would also show up on several Demento compilations released through Rhino Records.

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Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler, ‘Wimpbuster’

Two years after Jerry Lawler took comedian Andy Kaufman to task for wrestling women and naming himself the Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion, the King found a new adversary: wimps! Lawler got his Ray Parker Jr. on with his sax-infused parody of the Ghostbusters theme and even welcomed the help of fellow Wimpbusters "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Jimmy Valiant and more in the video. The clip also made a good case for Jimmy Hart's wimpiness by including footage of his fight with Lawler; Hart was later nicknamed "The Wimp" by fans. Who you gonna call?

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The Wrestlers, ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’

It's the opening track on the epochal Wrestling Album, released in 1985 at the height of the "Rock 'n' Wrestling" craze, and the video features just about every single wrestler from the era (even Chief Jay Strongbow shows up for half a second), plus Rick Derringer – who produced most of the album – Meat Loaf and Cyndi Lauper, who understandably wears a wig and sunglasses to hide her identity. The song itself is a staple, made famous by Wilson Pickett in 1966, but rarely has a version featured this much unintelligible yammering from Nikolai Volkoff.

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NRBQ, ‘Captain Lou’

For reasons apparent only to them (which, come to think of it, would be a decent title for their career retrospective), NRBQ teamed with wrestling manager Captain Lou Albano in the mid '80s, "hiring" him as an adviser and even recording the album Lou and the Q under his tutelage. This theme, taken from that record, features plenty of Albano's boasts – "I'm a bitch on ball bearings, brother! I'm a motherfucker on wheels!" – but no matter how loud he shouted, Lou couldn't overshadow the Q's knack for writing razor-sharp pop.

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Vince McMahon, ‘Stand Back’

Equal parts Tom Jones and mid-Eighties soda commercial soundtrack, "Stand Back" shows wrestling heir and part-time pummeler Vince McMahon's individuality in campy lyrics like "They never understand the man I am/ I do my own thinkin', got a lot of big plans." But the real reason other wrestlers may want to keep their distance is the mean hip shake he pulled off with his skirted flamenco dancers at the Slammys – years before Shakira perfected the move. Stand back indeed.

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Hillbilly Jim and Gertrude, ‘Waking Up Alone’

The man-mountain from Mudlick, Kentucky was beloved during the '80s, even if his in-ring skill set never really progressed beyond a bear hug. So, after showing up on the Wrestling Album's "Don't Go Messin' with a Country Boy," the WWF braintrust decided to expand his role on the follow-up album, 1987's Piledriver. The end result was "Waking Up Alone," a tender duet with someone named Gertrude that actually works as a bit of meta commentary about the lonely life of a professional wrestler. Or maybe we just took one too many steel-chair shots to the head.

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Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, ‘Never Been a Right Time to Say Goodbye’

This treacly bit of training-montage fluff features Hart "singing" (or, more accurately, mumbling) over what sounds like half of Rick Wakeman's synth collection. Oh, and it's a love ballad, too. Written by Mike Stock and Pete Waterman – two-thirds of the team behind smashes like "Never Gonna Give You Up" and "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" – it was supposedly intended for David Hasselhoff, though apparently even he thought it was too cheesy.

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Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band, ‘Hulkster in Heaven’

About three feet beneath Hulk Hogan's rock-hard pecs beats a heart that feels emotions deeper and stronger than most mere mortals'. Want proof? Listen to Hogan's weepy, string-laden pop requiem "Hulkster in Heaven," a track off the wrestler's multi-genre 1995 offering Hulk Rules, in which he pays tribute to a recently deceased Hulkamaniac. "I wish Hulk's love could bring you back again," sings a voice (that may or may not actually belong to usually Kool-Aid Man­–sounding wrestler). It's all so tender that Hulk Rules as a whole actually reached Number 12 on Billboard's Kids Albums chart.

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The West Texas Rednecks, ‘Rap is Crap (I Hate Rap)’

During the death-spiral of World Championship Wrestling, the folks behind the scenes thought it would be a good idea to bring Master P and his No Limit Soldiers into the mix…as good guys. Not surprisingly, they failed to connect with audiences, and the stable of heels assembled to oppose them – the West Texas Rednecks – became the faces by default. They also had an anthem, "Rap is Crap," which became nearly as popular. Hooray for racial tension!

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Wyclef feat. the Rock and Melky Sedeck, ‘It Doesn’t Matter’

Featuring a hook based on the Rock's catchphrase from his silk-shirt era (he was also really into pie around this time), samples of Slick Rick and British ska act Bad Manners, and lyrical nods to everyone from Shabba Ranks and Paul McCartney to Pink Floyd and John Denver, "It Doesn't Matter" is basically a Royal Rumble of terrible ideas…which is to say, it's one of Wyclef's better tracks.

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‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, ‘Be a Man’

Hot diggity damn! Randy Savage attempted to start a rap feud with Hulk Hogan in 2003 with his diss track "Be a Man," a record he promoted by doing a concert tour with Brian Adams (the wrestler, sadly). "You try to ignore me thinkin' I'll go away/ But I'm-a keep on messin' wit you, dude, day after day," promises Savage in one verse. As for why the Macho Man was so irate with his on-again, off-again buddy at the time, the lyrics offer these theses: Hulk dressed like a ballerina in commercials (giving way to a homophobic lyric from Savage), Hogan's pay-per-view event was "a joke," the Rock "spanked" Hulk and the Hulkster bailed on fighting Savage at a charity event. Savage drives home his diss track with this nimble turn of phrase: "'Cuz like Rodney Dangerfield you gets' no respect/ So come on, Hulk, let's wreck so I can put you in check."

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John Cena feat. Bumpy Knuckles, ‘Flow Easy’

Throughout his career, Cena has worked very hard to remind folks that, yes, he can rap ("Word Life"), so it was perhaps inevitable that in 2005 – just around the time he claimed his first Heavyweight Championship – he would release his debut album, You Can't See Me. Surprisingly, it was both a moderate success (peaking at #15 on the Billboard 200) and not entirely terrible; "Flow Easy" even featured a verse from Long Island MC Bumpy Knuckles, aka Freddie Foxxx.

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Fozzy, ‘Lights Go Out’

"Now I lay you down, but no one's sleeping," wrestler and Fozzy howler Chris Jericho sings on "Lights Go Out," a gut-checking heavy-metal slow burner that also just happens to be one of the WWE's official themes for SummerSlam this year. No other wrestler has fostered a music career the way Jericho has, having just issued Fozzy's sixth studio album, and no other wrestler has done a better job of mixing fighting and fucking metaphors quite as seriously as on "Lights Go Out."

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