Since its inception way back in 1985, WrestleMania has always been intangibly linked to pop culture. A quick glance at the celebrities attending the inaugural ‘Showcase of the Immortals’, indicates just how close WWE was — and always has been — to the mainstream. Muhammad Ali, Danny DeVito, Andy Warhol, Cyndi Lauper, Liberace and of course Mr T were just some of the names present that famous night in Madison Square Garden. Part of the run-up to the first WrestleMania was, after all, the building of a fruitful relationship with MTV. From that moment it seemed destined that music would play some part in the future of WrestleMania. Our King of the Ring, Andy Spoors, continues our WrestleMania preview week, with a look back at some of the bands and artists that appear on Mania’s mixtape…

If you asked fans to name some of WrestleMania’s themes, most will go straight for the obvious choice of My Way by Limp Bizkit, maybe a Flo Rida track or two will get a mention. But ask younger fans who supplied the first theme and they might be surprised to learn that honour belongs to Phil Collins and Phil Bailey’s Easy Lover.

Sure, it was an instrumental version, but until Limp Bizkit famously supplied WrestleMania X-Seven with My Way, wrestling fans had only had instrumental themes to accompany some of the biggest moments in wrestling themes (discounting some occasional words and hype noises by Ike Dirty in 2000).

As the turn of the millennium hit, WWE established solid links with a number of metal and heavy rock bands both for WrestleMania and a host of other PPV events. Memphis rockers Saliva provided the themes for both X-8 and 23 with Drowning Pool, AC/DC and Rev Theory also chipping in heavier efforts.

There have been a few occasions in the musical history of WrestleMania that were seemingly picked for their title, more than the current popularity of an artist. Look no further than Manias 21 and 22 as Bigtime and Big Time by The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and Peter Gabriel respectively were selected. Intriguingly, both fit the grandeur and pomp that only ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’ can command.

As the musical zeitgeist began to shift away from grungy guitar riffs and in to R’n’B, Hip-Hop and Dance music in the mid 2000s, so too did WWE themes: Kevin Rudolf, P Diddy, Flo Rida, Tinie Tempah and Pitbull all finding themselves featured at WrestleMania.

It is around this era that musical performances featured heavily at Mania, with their popularity splitting the WWE Universe. On one hand, look no further than the SuperBowl for an example of how to build music into a sporting event.

But for some wrestling fans a 15 minute set (by the time everything is set up and removed) takes the place of a match that could feature some of the men or women that work year round for a chance to perform at the biggest show in their industry.

Since 2020, WWE has settled on one pop culture phenomenon to provide the latest batch of tracks for ‘The Show of Shows’. Enter Grammy award winning Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, AKA The Weeknd.

Far removed from the ‘traditional’ wrestling fan’s penchant for rock and metal, The Weeknd is a chart topping, SuperBowl halftime performer and short of Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber, as mainstream as you could find.

Supplying the tracks for the behind closed doors edition of Mania 36, last year’s 37 and this year’s stupendous Mania 38, The Weeknd delivers something previously missing from years gone by. Coolness. Although the insanely catchy Blinding Lights, melodic Save Your Tears, and funk-infused Sacrifice don’t immediately scream Sports Entertainment, they do offer some glitz and glamour to proceedings.

Most importantly their use opens new doors to demographics and potential fans that the likes of Limp Bizkit and Saliva never could. Of course, taste in music is subjective. What one person loves, inevitably others will hate. But with 78.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify it’s hard to argue the relationship doesn’t make business sense on both sides.

Case in point: Blinding Lights has approaching 3 billion listens alone for the Canadian artist. For a non-wrestling fan flicking through channels to hear such a popular artist on an advert for WrestleMania laid over a montage of fireworks, pyro and jaw-dropping moves it could just prove enough to entice them to check it out.

You can check out the most stupendous two night WrestleMania this weekend on the WWE Network. Stay tuned to Rushonrock for more WrestleMania content as well as all the fall out from the biggest event on the wrestling calendar.