"Ravishing" Rick Rude, WWE star of the '80s renowned as one of the greatest working heels of all-time, used to open the majority of his promos with the authoritarian line of "cut the music!"
The familiar opening line used to draw immense heat regardless of the location, and set the tone for some of the most textbook, yet effective, heel promos that pro wrestling had ever seen.
The music in which Rude used to so adamantly obstruct prior to one of his scathing, signature promos was a distinct and sleazy medley of jazzy saxophones infused with an emphatic use of the drums.
Fans would become incensed upon hearing the self-indulgent music that oozed showmanship. In fact, the only time fans would get more riled up was when Rude's music would shut off and he prepared to address them.
The juxtaposing reactions to Rude, and '80s heels of his caliber, speak to a growing trend in WWE amongst some of the more successful heels of the present day.
It can be argued, almost unequivocally, that the hottest heel in pro wrestling right now is R-Truth. Truth went from a dancing, rapping, mid-carder who personified the variety show entertainment mold of today's pro wrestling (or at least what it's aspiring to be), to a demonic and delusional street thug who suddenly finds himself in the World Championship discussion.
Time was, R-Truth would get crowds excited up with his catchy "What's Up!" single that doubled as his theme music.
Truth had a niche, and it earned him a safe spot in the mid card for years. The formula was somewhat messed with in 2010, when Truth came out with a new single to perform on a weekly basis. The single, entitled "Get Buck," flopped despite WWE's best efforts to get it over, prompting Truth to return to using "What's Up!"
But after turning heel at the expense of John Morrison weeks ago on a RAW show from the O2 arena, Truth has not used or performed theme music of any kind. The eerie, yet obnoxious absence of music in place of Truth's raspy voice cutting a cold promo has helped garner some of the most effective heel reactions at WWE live events.
Truth's sudden lack of theme music, while novel, isn't all that new. The largely underutilized art form was reinvigorated by Vickie Guerrero, who has long since been regarded as the best non-wrestling heel in the business.
Guerrero's two-word verbal introduction of "Excuse Me" is enough to illicit more boos than a Philadelphia sports arena. Theme music be damned.
Guerrero has since been supplanted as the top non-wrestling heel by WWE announcer Michael Cole, whose obnoxious antics have culminated in one of the top feuds on the RAW brand against WWE Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler.
Wouldn't you know it, Cole doesn't use theme music either.
Taking his cues from the aforementioned Guerrero, Cole self-announces his presence with a simple, smarmy request: "Can I have your attention please?"
Theme music will never be an endangered species in pro wrestling. The use of theme music goes hand in hand with the "entertainment" aspect of the business, an aspect that WWE is stuffing down its consumers' throats now more than ever.
However, it is safe to say that the lack of theme music for specific heel characters is a novel idea that will allow them to stand out so long as the concept is not overdone.