What's in a Song? WWE Music and Its Role in Character Development

Cec Van GaliniAnalyst IIINovember 25, 2010

Whether it be in Hollywood Blockbusters or in the cartoon world of wrestling, music and more specifically, theme music has the ability to set a scene.

Imagine Apocalypse Now without that piece of music or the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns without Ennio Morricone.

In these examples, the music has almost become as famous as the film itself. We all have at some point whistled a few bars from Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries," and even if we haven't actually seen the film, we at least know its association with flying, Vietnam or helicopters.

The sheer number of parodies of this song alone, reflects the importance of music selection in creating memorable moments on screen.

In wrestling today, superstars mostly adopt modern music from various bands and groups. Randy Orton has Rev Theory, Triple H has Motorhead and Drew McIntyre has Shaman's Harvest.

And yet even with such mainstream choices, the music still seems to reflect the character of the wrestler.

The music becomes part of the wrestler's personna, McIntyre is the sinister Scotsman, and the beginning of Broken Dreams, is a reflection of such a trait. So too Orton's Voices theme, reflects the cold and sadistic nature of his Viper character.

The music becomes part of the character, it goes with the moveset, the mic skills and the ring attire. It sets the mood and personality of the superstar. 

Imagine the Ultimate Warrior coming out to anything but a high tempo generic rock, or the Undertaker pre-2001 without a graveyard symphony.

Even a couple of seconds of the theme is enough to set the scene for who is coming and what is about to occur, i.e. the smashing of the glass for the arrival of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Music does not make a superstar, but it adds dimensions to the character and helps sell the superstar as being unique.

However music selection can at times, hinder a superstar. The entrance of Daniel Bryan, ironically using the Valkyrie, seemingly takes away from his character. Where before he was a tough, no-nonsense superstar, the choice of theme takes away from this aggression.

The music is not Bryan, it distracts from what is unique about him. He cannot make that music his own.

Maybe they are trying to replicate the Flair adoption of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" but in this example, a piece used in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the grand nature of the music matched the character of Flair.

Should Bryan re-adopt a more "aggressive" theme, and combine it with his aggressive in-ring approach, he would have the potential to become a pioneer in the PG era...technically sound, controlled aggression, unmissable action and all within the confines of family-friendly television.

Just as the Miz was predicted to do well a few months ago, so too Bryan has a bright future, they just need to work out the kinks.

However, the reason why I first thought about the issue of music and themes is the return of a familiar "What's Up" theme from R-Truth.

Gone is the previous theme, where we asked to get......'crunk, bunk, funk or indeed Terry Funk,' fans simply did not know what they were meant to shout at the given moment.

The addition of lyrics on one edition of Raw, did little to assist the crowd. And when the fans do not know what is happening, they respond with silence. For a performer, silence is often worse than a jeer.

For R-Truth, his "What's Up" character and entrance, woke crowds up. If there was one superstar who could get crowds onto their feet and vocal, it was Truth.

On the back of this, he even opened several PPVs in recent months.

But the new music failed to spark a new direction or angle, and it has now been subsequently dropped. I initially feared for his character and its direction when he was arriving in silence, but this has now been avoided.

Truth has returned to asking us what is up, and the crowds are once again buzzing.

The development of a character is not easy. Even for gifted superstars, there are a hundred things that can go wrong in their pursuit of superstardom. Music may be a relatively small part of this, but it can add an important contribution.

Perhaps the most important indication of music comes away from the wrestling ring. Picture it, your sitting in the movies, watching a classic film. And all of a sudden, Also Sprach Zarathustra, the aforementioned piece comes on, the silence of the cinema is broken by someone doing a Flair "Woooo!"

There will be few in the cinema who knows what is happening, but for wrestling fans in attendance that night, the reaction to the music is a homage to a wrestling great. 

Even after he has retired, that tune, will forever remind us of Space and of Flair.