The sound of glass shattering is enough to send every wrestling fan into delirium. Some noises just mean something different to the WWE Universe. 
To celebrate Stone Cold Steve Austin’s widely anticipated return to WrestleMania, WWE enlisted the expertise of Musicologist at Berklee College of Music, Joe Bennett, to break down the Texas Rattle’s snake entrance music, as well as four of the most popular entrance themes in WWE today. 

Expert Analysis

Joe Bennett and his team at Berklee analysed the themes of four other current Superstars including Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks

To get to the root of this, they went back in time and looked at classic themes dating all the way back to the 1950s. While there was a time where performers chose popular songs of the day, since the 1990s, Superstars have increasingly wanted their own unique sound and fed into the creative process themselves. 

The likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin have worked with the brand to ensure their music is right for them. The Texas Rattlesnake is a big fan of Rage Against the Machine and worked with composer Jim Johnston to create something in the same ilk. 

Sasha Banks Sky’s The Limit also follows this approach, with Snoop Dogg’s rap flow referencing his own Drop It Like It’s Hot from 2004, highlighting the ever-growing cultural similarity between all of the genres we hear in the WWE today.  

What Makes A Great Walk-On Song?

It was found that the top themes share all of the same key characteristics including uniqueness, simplicity, crowd participation, and power! It could be argued that the latter two are the most important with examples like Becky Lynch’s Celtic Invasion and Sasha Bank’s Sky’s The Limit notorious for getting fans excited and off their seats…  

Stone Cold Steve Austin – I Won’t Do What You Tell Me

When it comes to one of the WWE’s most popular Superstars, it is not hard to trace some of this popularity right back to the music. Austin’s song opens with the ‘breaking’ and fans might be surprised to know that this is actually a mashup of sounds including a glass, car crash and explosion. Composer Jim Johnston decided back in 1996 that the glass sample wasn’t powerful enough on its own – so he added the extra elements for added effect.

The slow tempo and low-register riffs are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Rage Against The Machine. Interestingly, when Austin walks on to this music, he usually strides faster than the track’s tempo would normally predict. Perhaps a subconscious nod to the title I Won’t Do What You Tell Me.

Brock Lesnar – Next Big Thing

With The Beast Incarnate having spent most of his career as a heel, the track has been used to highlight the dark side of Brock’s character. Like Stone Cold Steve Austin’s iconic theme, this piece was also composed by Jim Johnston, and was initially intended for use as the walk-out music for XFL team, Chicago Enforcers until Brock got his hands on it. 

Like many of the best-known WWE tracks, Next Big Thing is based on a 1-bar repeating power chord riff with variations. As the track builds, the palm mute of the guitars are lifted, letting the chords ring out fully – it works as a sort of sonic metaphor for ‘taking the gloves off’. Whenever Lesnar appears live, the crowd’s energy levels seem to peak in this section – a great example of the importance of walk-on music for building excitement in the arena.  

Roman Reigns – Head of the Table

With Roman Reigns being a perennial winner, it is fitting that his theme embraces musical ideas associated with nobility and grandeur. Head of the Table is littered with gothic choirs, classical piano flourishes and combines them with the physical power and restrained aggression that is prominent in so many Superstar’s songs.

That choir-in-unison sound is also strongly associated with Carl Orff’s famous O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, a work that has become a reference for all things epic and awe-inspiring due to its pervasive presence in pop cultural media for the last 50-or-so years, including movie placements in Excalibur and The Hunt For Red October. Given Roman’s imposing persona and poise in the squared circle, it’s a fitting allusion: ‘Head of the Table’ indeed.

Becky Lynch – Celtic Invasion

Becky Lynch’s Celtic Invasion proves to be an outlier with its furious, breakneck speed. Unlike other walk-on themes, Celtic Invasion takes inspiration from classic hardcore and pop-punk sounds with its distorted guitars and infamous ‘whoa-whoa’ chorus line. This is cleverly manipulated into a folksy melody, paying homage to ‘Big Time Beck’s Irish lineage. 

The tracks’ spirited punk sentiment, coupled with stylistic allusions to the Emerald Isle, makes the infectious energy of Celtic Invasion a perfect complement to Becky Lynch’s no-nonsense persona and is a guarantee to get fans off their seat. 

Sasha Banks – Sky’s the Limit

One of the WWE’s biggest Superstars, it is fitting that Sasha Banks’ theme is larger than life, booming with catchy trap-inspired synths and marks a significant change in genre compared to some of the others analysed. The Boss keeps it firmly within the family with her cousin, Snoop Dogg on hand to provide additional verses, injecting hip-hop legitimacy into the track. 

Interestingly, Snoop weaves in a famous line from his own hit Drop It Like it’s Hot but puts a new spin on it, paying homage to The Boss, Sasha Banks with (‘She’s a legit boss, but y’all knew that/The big boss Dogg, yea I had to do that.’). That combination of trap horns and skittish 808 drums—heralded as the cutting-edge sound of modern production in 2012 with the release of TNGHT’s first EP—makes the remix of Sky’s the Limit an essential chapter in the longstanding history of WWE themes that have tapped elements of both rock and hip hop to achieve maximum energy in the arena.

Photos used with kind permission of WWE.