The Little Things: Why Entrances Are so Important in WWE, AEW and Pro Wrestling
They say first impressions are important, and this is especially true for pro wrestlers. When they make a first impression, it's usually with their entrance.
The way a Superstar comes to the ring is a huge part of their character and can add or detract from the experience of watching them perform. Some wrestlers evolve their entrance over time, while others keep the same routine for most of their career if they find something that works.
Some fans may not think about entrances much because they have nothing to do with wrestling ability, and rightfully so, but pro wrestling is all about spectacle. If you can grab somebody's attention with something as simple as how you walk to the ring, casual fans are more likely to pay attention.
Let's take a deep dive into the anatomy of wrestling entrances and look at how music, movement, special effects and crowd participation can take a Superstar from mildly interesting to unforgettable.
It would be almost impossible to figure out who first made a special routine for how they walked to the ring, but the man known for innovating and perfecting the grand entrance was Gorgeous George Wagner.
The legendary wrestler first began to realize that having a unique gimmick could have drawing power when he had an in-ring wedding ceremony in the late-1930s and continued to perform the segment across the country after it proved popular with fans.
Gorgeous George soon developed his famous "pretty boy" gimmick. He would come to the ring in a robe flanked by beautiful women who would spray him with perfume so he wouldn't have to smell the commoners in the crowd. He primped himself in a mirror and took great pride in how good his hair looked.
This made him into one of the first major heels in the industry. People would come from far and wide hoping to see George take a beating at the hands of whoever he was facing that week. It changed the business in ways nobody could have predicted.
Pro wrestling used to be boring, long matches that were little more than two guys trading holds on the mat until one of them found a way to win. By the end of the 1940s, the business was beginning to become more entertainment-focused, and Gorgeous George was a big reason why that happened.
The Perfect Song
Music is one of our greatest art forms. It can make us feel a wide spectrum of emotions and when combined with something else, it can enhance another form of art in amazing ways.
Filmmakers have used original scores and existing music to make an audience feel a certain way since the dawn of the industry, and so have pro wrestlers.
If you were to make a top-10 list of Superstars using any criteria, just about every single person you could come up with is going to have an iconic theme song associated with them.
Some people use classic compositions, some have new songs recorded just for them and others take current popular songs and tailor their entrance around them. The most famous example of the first option would be Ric Flair.
"Also Sprach Zarathustra" by composer Richard Strauss was famously used in Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, but wrestling fans will always associate the song with The Nature Boy because he has used it as his signature tune for decades. His daughter, Charlotte, has also used a remix for her entrance since her days in NXT.
Flair took a famous song that already had a place in pop culture and made it his own, but he is not the only one to accomplish such a feat. Randy Savage also did the same thing by using "Pomp and Circumstance" for his walks to the ring, forever giving fans a reason to smile at graduation ceremonies.
Other examples of orchestral entrance music include Mr. Perfect using "Exodus Theme" by Ernest Gold, and The British Bulldog with "Rule, Brittania" by Thomas Arne. These songs were already well-known, so these Superstars were able to take something beloved and associate it with their characters to create the perfect entrance for themselves.
When looking at original theme songs, Jim Johnston is the icon. He has written music for some of the biggest stars in the wrestling industry as well as the theme songs for many of WWE's early pay-per-views such as WrestleMania. More recently, CFO$ handled a lot of the composing responsibilities for WWE stars.
WWE has also worked with specific artists to create music. Wale is the man behind Big E's current entrance music and has been praised for writing a song that fits the powerhouse well. Other prominent examples of a famous artist or group making music for a Superstar is Motorhead recording songs for Triple H and Snoop Dogg making music for Sasha Banks.
If you think about people who have had songs composed specifically for them, the list is massive. The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Kurt Angle are just a handful of the legends who used the same song for most of their WWE careers.
When it comes to The Deadman, he has not only had several versions of his original theme but he has also used existing songs by Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit during his American Badass phase.
That brings us to Superstars using songs by established musicians. Whether it's Hulk Hogan using "Real American" by Rick Derringer or CM Punk using "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour, Superstars who use popular music tend to stand out in a different way.
When Kane or The Undertaker's music hits, you are going to be either scared or in awe of their power. When John Cena's song begins to play, you are going to get fired up and either cheer or boo at the top of your lungs. Every wrestler wants to be remembered, and having an iconic theme song helps accomplish that goal.
Special Effects, Practical Effects and Lighting
Picking the right song is key to making a good entrance, but for the Superstars who want to go the extra mile, incorporating special effects is the next step.
This can include a number of different effects, but the most commonly used in professional wrestling would have to be pyrotechnics. If it shoots sparks into the air, somebody will find a way to use it as part of their entrance.
Some pyro is explosive and gets your heart racing, but that is not the only way it is used. Randy Orton used to come out with a curtain of sparks falling silently behind him. It added a level of gravitas to his entrance that helped him stand out early in his career.
These days, pyro is not used as much as it once was, but that makes it more impactful when we do get to see it. If somebody has fireworks at every show, how do they make their entrance bigger when a show like WrestleMania rolls around? Simply adding more pyro isn't always enough.
By using this effect sparingly, WWE and All Elite Wrestling have made it feel like a big deal again. Whenever somebody uses it now, social media takes notice. Even as recently as 15 years ago, it was used so much that it almost became an impediment to anyone with sensitive hearing who wanted to attend a live event.
If pyro isn't an option, a lot of people will use smoke to create a certain atmosphere. Becky Lynch used several jets of smoke on the stage during her steampunk days, and The Undertaker is almost always walking to the ring surrounded by a dense fog.
When he used to use The Demon gimmick, Finn Balor combined smoke with red lights to take over the entire arena for his entrance. Sting's recent use of snow in AEW has added to his mystique.
Digital effects also fall into this category. When D-Generation X came to the ring, several things were done to give fans at home a different experience. Distortion, scrambled images, overlays and other alterations gave DX's entrance a more chaotic feel to match the group's overall image of being rebels.
Combining music and special effects can make an average Superstar special. If you can grab the crowd's attention before you even touch your opponent, you have a better chance of getting over.
Choreography and Gestures
Have you noticed how some of the biggest Superstars in the industry do almost the exact same thing every time they come to the ring? It's because their entrance is carefully choreographed to match their character.
Hand movements and poses, facial expressions, how you walk through the curtain and how you enter the ring all combine to form a wrestler's signature entrance.
Batista is a perfect example of somebody whose entrance was as reliable as a Swiss watch. When he came to the stage, he would slap the ground before posing like he was firing a mounted machine gun as pyro exploded behind him. As he stood up, he would swing his arm in a downward motion as the final timed explosion went off.
Once he entered the ring, he would swipe his foot on the mat like a bull getting ready to charge before grabbing the top rope and shaking it like The Ultimate Warrior. It was all meticulously planned and worked perfectly.
Sometimes less is more and in the case of Stone Cold, he went with a basic entrance to match his blue-collar image. He came out, walked briskly to the ring and threw both his arms in the air with his middle fingers extended for the world to see while shaking his head around. It was simple and effective.
Brock Lesnar is another example of somebody with a specific routine. He bounces around on the stage like a prizefighter trying to keep his heart rate up and jumps from the floor to the apron to show off his athleticism.
Jon Moxley comes through the crowd to portray him as an outsider compared to the rest of the roster. Kenny Omega is accompanied by two girls dancing with brooms, Jungle Boy enters on Luchasaurus' shoulders, and Darby Allin rides his skateboard down the ramp.
All of these things are done for specific reasons to enhance wrestlers' entrances.
Anyone can have a decent entrance but if you have one that is a cut above the rest, the crowd is going to find ways to participate. The smartest wrestlers and promoters use this to their advantage.
Even as a babyface, Kurt Angle was greeted with "You suck" chants every time he walked to the ring. The chant went perfectly with his music and gave fans a fun way to be part of the show.
In the case of a group like Lucha House Party, simply pumping their arms up and down while chanting "lucha lucha lucha" is enough to get most of the crowd on its feet.
WCW's Alex Wright used to pick a woman from the crowd to dance with him before matches. It was always a plant, but fans weren't always aware of that. Kids just thought he grabbed the prettiest girl he could find.
Daniel Bryan gets the whole crowd to chant "Yes" during his entrance, The New Day throws pancakes into the stands, Fandango used to have entire arenas dancing and singing his theme song, and fans will sing "Judas" during Chris Jericho's entrance.
Whether their goal is jeers or cheers, wrestlers need to use the crowd because fans watching at home are more likely to love or hate somebody if the live audience reacts a certain way.
If thousands of people are losing their minds before somebody even gets to the ring, a casual fan is more likely to see what makes them so special.
Combining Everything to Create a Spectacle
When looking at the modern era, few combine every aspect of the pro wrestling entrance better than "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt. Let's look at his SummerSlam 2019 entrance as an example.
When he comes out in full Fiend attire for a match, it is an experience in itself. The lights drop in the arena, his music begins to play and we zoom in on a lantern that is supposed to look like his own severed head from his Wyatt Family days.
As he begins his slow walk to the ring, the aisle fills with smoke. When he steps foot through the ropes, The Fiend does a few movements before staring directly into the camera while wearing what might be the creepiest mask in the history of the business. Thanks for the nightmares, Tom Savini.
Every single detail is planned out meticulously to create an aura, which is enhanced further by thousands of fans holding up their phones in the crowd like lighters at a rock concert.
If he just came to the ring with the arena fully lit, no smoke and no special lantern or mask, The Fiend would not be nearly as intimidating. His entrance elevates his entire character.
Every Wrestler Needs a Unique Entrance
These days, televised wrestling is a bigger production than ever. If you are potentially going to be seen by millions of fans, creating a memorable entrance is one of many things needed to stand out.
For an industry that is often wrongly labeled as low-brow and simple, professional wrestling is a lot more psychological than most people realize, especially in recent decades. It's not just about two people fighting; it's about character, storytelling and physicality. It combines comedy, drama and action with feats of superhuman strength and acrobatic ability.
Every single part of a good pro wrestler's character is carefully crafted to make you feel a certain way about them. Whether they are meant to look patriotic, scary, heroic, cowardly, flashy or clumsy, their entrance will be designed to match their gimmick.
WWE and AEW each have their own look and feel, so wrestlers use those conditions when considering how they will enter an arena. Luckily for guys like Jon Moxley, walking through the stands will almost always be an option.
Some entrances have become so grand that people are just as excited for them as they are for the match. That is doubly true for events like WrestleMania where we have seen some of the most memorable walks to the ring of all time.
The next time you watch a pro wrestling event, pay attention to each Superstar's entrance. You will begin to notice little details you may not have picked up on before.