Ranking Every 'America the Beautiful' Performance in WrestleMania History
"America the Beautiful" is the unofficial song for WrestleMania's opening ceremony and has been performed by some of the biggest stars in music.
It's a shorter, better song than "The Star Spangled Banner." It's a powerful number that has kickstarted many a WrestleMania.
WWE's premier event has otherwise opened to the national anthem, or in one case, "Oh Canada." At WrestleMania VII, Willie Nelson instead sang "God Bless America." Reba McIntyre went with the national anthem at WrestleMania VIII.
The following are the megastars and lesser known acts who have made "America the Beautiful" their own.
Ranked on the star power of the performer, the emotion they produced and the general quality of their singing, here are WrestleMania's "America the Beautiful" renditions, from worst to first.
18. WrestleMania XIV: Chris Warren and the DX Band
Chris Warren performing "Break it Down"
Choosing Chris Warren and The DX Band was a case of WWE miscalculating its audience.
This opening song is an opportunity to toss another big name into the event. Chris Warren is no big name.
Known for performing DX's entrance music, this is a band with no star power, no celebrity beyond WWE.
The band's nu-metal style did not go over well. Fans booed, and the band's screeching performance is not remembered fondly by many.
17. WrestleMania V: Rockin’ Robin
Photo credit: WWE
Former WWE women's champion, Rockin' Robin wasn't ready for prime time outside of the ring. WWE made a major mistake in not recognizing that before she went on in front of the whole world.
The story goes that WWE officials saw her perform a karaoke song fantastically. They thought, "She'd be great as WrestleMania's opening act." Those karaoke skills didn't transfer to the WrestleMania stage.
Robin's voice cracked. Her tone meandered.
This has far less life and gusto than many of the best versions, likely stemming from a lack of confidence.
Hear her rendition here.
16. WrestleMania XI: Kathy Huey
Screenshot of WrestleMania XI
It wasn't Kathy Huey’s performance so much that ranks it so low here, but the strange choice to select her in the first place.
WWE selecting a Special Olympian to sing "America the Beautiful" made it feel like WWE was trying too hard to look good-hearted. It just ended up being awkward.
Just like the Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow main event, going with Huey must have sounded like a much better idea in the meeting room.
15. WrestleMania XIX: Ashanti
Known as the Princess of Hip-Hop and R&B, Ashanti was at one point red hot with momentum. She found her way onto several Billboard charts before WWE snatched her up for WrestleMania XIX.
Hers was a pretty rendition for the most part, but not among the best.
Ashanti too often bordered on yelling when she hit the high notes. She seemed also to be holding something back, as her voice is more powerful than she showed.
14. WrestleMania 22: Michelle Williams
When WrestleMania came to Chicago, WWE chose a singer from the Windy City to open the event.
Michelle Williams' powerful voice is impressive at times, but the high notes aren't fantastic. Most fans would probably sum this up as good, not great.
Williams dressed up the song with a touch of vocal, something that purists will frown at, but most others will appreciate the pizazz she put into her performance
13. WrestleMania XXVII: Keri Hilson
Photo from HipHopHollywood.com
Keri Hilson certainly doesn't have the name recognition as some of the artists on this list, but she did well on WWE's biggest stage.
WWE was clearly trying to go for a younger, more hip audience by selecting Hilson. As a bonus, she is from Georgia, and that year's WrestleMania was held in the Georgia Dome.
Hilson appeared to be somewhat nervous, not belting it out like she's capable of. It's as if her powerful voice was pulled back by a set of reins.
Hear Hilson's rendition here.
12. WrestleMania X: Little Richard
Little Richard had a chance to deliver one of the best musical performances in WrestleMania history, but he didn't live up to his ability.
With a choir dressed in red below him, it felt like Little Richard was about to give an enormous performance sparked by his infectious energy.
Instead, he saved his personal style for the very end. He spent most of the song singing quietly and not all that well.
It wasn't until the last verse that he let loose, that his passion began to penetrate his voice. There was a bit of a spectacle feel to the performance, but not as much as fans might have hoped.
11. WrestleMania 21: Lilian Garcia
WWE's own, Lilian Garcia opened two WrestleManias with her singing voice. The ring announcer certainly didn't add any star power to the event, as she was already at most WWE shows, but she was probably easy to convince.
Her first try was a touch more subdued than her second. It's a solid performance with little risk.
The highlight was her harmony work, which added a layer of beauty to the song.
10. WrestleMania XXVIII: Lilian Garcia
Lilian Garcia's second try is very similar to her first, but she gave the Miami crowd more gusto, more umph.
She did well to nail the high notes.
Hers was a classic rendition with little variations or vocal play. Garcia's voice is pretty here, but not at the level of some of the names higher on the list.
9. WrestleMania XXV: Nicole Scherzinger
Bill Olive/Getty Images
Lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger didn't give a sexified, modern version of "America the Beautiful" that some fans might have expected from her.
She gave a surprisingly classic rendition of the song marked by powerful high notes. Scherzinger was emotive, giving the song plenty of heart.
Based on tonal quality alone, critics may nitpick this, but Scherzinger's energy carried her to one of WrestleMania's best performances.
Check it out here.
8. WrestleMania XXIV: John Legend
Smooth, cool and confident, John Legend brought a sense of style to the classic song.
His voice is smooth and strong. Some may not like how much he played with the notes, but it gave the song an infusion of originality and energy.
There's a fine line between keeping true to the original song and making it your own. Legend did well to straddle that line, making "America the Beautiful" more entertaining while keeping the core of it intact.
7. WrestleMania XXVI: Fantasia Barrino
American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino powered her rendition of "America the Beautiful" with her unique voice. There is something charming about how she pronounces each word with such passion, how individualistic she manages to be with an old favorite.
Like John Legend, Fantasia delivered the right mix of classic delivery and improvisation. Her performance was powerful, authentic and heartfelt.
This is how the song is meant to be sung, like the singer truly believes every word of it.
6. WrestleMania IV: Gladys Knight
Gladys Knight is a multi-time Grammy winner and a Motown legend. For WWE to get her on board when WrestleMania was still young was quite a coup.
Her full, robust voice makes this one of the better renditions of "America the Beautiful" at WrestleMania, or anywhere.
She manages to make the song feel big without much accompaniment or spectacle. She only needs her voice to captivate an entire crowd.
5. WrestleMania XV: Boyz II Men
Photo from WWE.com
The Philadelphia crowd must have appreciated seeing a group that came from their city being represented at WrestleMania.
The R&B group shined. They did their usual harmonizing magic and brought their own style to the classic song.
The only reason Boyz II Men don't rank higher is that they offered little variance throughout the song. There aren't any high and lows, staying steady throughout.
Here them in action here.
4. WrestleMania XX: Boys Choir of Harlem
WWE went in a unique direction for WrestleMania XX at Madison Square Garden, veering away from celebrities and choosing the Boys Choir of Harlem instead.
The move paid off. The young men gave a tremendous performance that at times was hauntingly beautiful.
The originality of the selection and the impressive singing ability of the choir helped create one of the best renditions of "America the Beautiful" to ever kick off a WrestleMania.
3. WrestleMania 23: Aretha Franklin
The legendary Aretha Franklin was so impressive at her first WrestleMania that WWE asked her to come back 20 years later.
Her second try was freer. She drew out the notes more, played with the song more.
While it's a more fun rendition than her first, it's not as emotive or powerful as her first time around. A slightly less good Aretha performance still beats out just about everybody else though.
2. WrestleMania III: Aretha Franklin
Photo from WWE.com
The Queen of Soul opened WrestleMania III with a captivating performance.
Sitting at her piano, Aretha Franklin's smooth voice traveled through the screen and throughout the audience.
Her backup singers add a boost of energy and depth to the sound, but it's Aretha’s ability to soak the song with emotion that makes this so great.
Watch her leave the crowd in awe here.
1. WrestleMania II: Ray Charles
Soulful and gorgeous, Ray Charles' rendition of "America the Beautiful" needed no frills.
It was the most moving, most powerful version of the song WrestleMania has ever seen. Ray had complete mastery of the song from the opening note.
He showed off his voice, but not excessively. He gave the song new life without veering far from tradition.
Every future singer who is asked to sing WrestleMania's unofficial theme song needs to listen to this version over and over again.