It was announced yesterday that the global sports entertainment/professional wrestling juggernaut, WWE has scheduled a July PPV event in Dallas, that will feature the companies top stars on the RAW brand including Roman Reigns, Alexa Bliss, Seth Rollins and even their Universal champion and former UFC champion Brock Lesnar. This is all fine and with a 365 day a year schedule for as long as any of us can remember, a July PPV is a given, however the name of the event has really got people talking. Named after the Jerry Lee Lewis classic from 1957, the event is to be named ‘Great Balls Of Fire’.
What the f@*k!!
Not only is the name of the event extremely odd, and it’s completely unimaginable that the name is going to roll off the tongue of commentators, promoters and the wrestlers themselves when hyping the matches, but WHY, in a company that is so heavily focused on remaining socially relevant, sometimes to cringe worthy levels of shoe horning, would they name an event with such a terrible name, in order to reference a song that’s 60 years old? It makes no sense and will make for a horrible month of building towards, but be that is it may, it isn’t the first time wrestling has been heavily influenced by music and right here on Mojo20.com, we’re going to look at a few examples from the past:
Staying with Jerry Lee Lewis (if only he knew the influence he’d have on wrestling) we’ve got to mention one of the greatest names in pro wrestling history, and the man that most cite as the greatest performer of all time, Ric Flair. One of his most known attributes are his vocal call of “Woooo” which crowds still do today every time a wrestler throws a knife edge chop, but this gimmick was inspired once again by rock n roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis as he used to add it to a lot of his stage shows and the noise appears in many of his tracks. Flair stole it and took it this off the cuff action and took it to unreal heights.
John Cena is one of the only names that post nineties has managed to become a household name through performing as a professional wrestler and although over his fifteen year career with the WWE, he’s adjusted his attitude and style, his earlier, ad breakthrough gimmick that caught the fans attention and praise was when he portrayed himself as white rapper. His look was of a hip hop artist and his catchphrases were often taken from famous tracks such as “The champ is here” from the 2001 Jadakiss song, and “You can’t see me” taken from the track of the same name by Tupac. Other statements like ‘Thug Life” and “You want some, come get some” also come from the genre and were used alongside his attire to create an original and endearing character. Cena even went on to release his own Hip-hop album in 2005, filled with original material, entitled ‘You Can’t See Me’.
The Nature Boy
You may or may not know that the first ever recognised WWE champion was a wrestler called Buddy Rogers. You may also know that Rogers’ nickname was the ‘Nature Boy’ which would eventually, just like in the previous example, would go on to be stolen by Ric Flair who became the ‘Nature Boy’ we all know and even Buddy Landell used the moniker. However did you know that the term was taken from a track written and performed by the legendary pianist and jazz vocalist, Nat King Cole. The spellbinding track has no reference to wrestling whatsoever which only makes it more amazing that so many men would decide to use this nickname to elevate their careers, and boy did it.
The Musician Gimmick
There’ve been countless times over the years where the wrestling gimmick has moved away from garbage men, Tax collectors, clowns and man size thanksgiving turkeys (thank god) but one staple that seems to have continually returned is the wrestling musician. As a fan of both, I’ve actually never liked it and I’m always left asking “well which one are you?”. Examples like Heath Slater, Elias Sampson, Jeff Jarrett, Johnny B.Badd, 3 Count and most notably The Honky Tonk Man have always been synonymous with coming to the ring with a guitar and even sometimes performing, and this gimmick has stuck with them for years and years as they continually use there instrument as a weapon. I don’t like it, but it’s given a lot of different people a long and profitable career…
The American Badass
We’ve spoke here before about wrestling entrance music and it’s certainly an impactful addition to the presentation of the show, but I wouldn’t say influential, however one example of influence over the proceedings was when The Undertaker returned to the ring back in 2000 after a few months off and in doing so, debuted a new gimmick all together. For a brief few years he shelved the trench coat and hat and did away with the funeral march and eerie deadman persona to instead portray a more life like, believable gimmick. He rode a motorbike to the ring and wore denim vests, and became much more vocal and a little less… zombie. Of course in doing this, his entrance theme had to be altered and he chose to make his way to the ring to the sound of Kid Rock’s ‘American Bad Ass’ which would become instrumental in the presentation and actually served as a new nickname for The Undertaker as fans and the commentators referred to him as The American Badass. It may have only lasted a short time in his 26 and a half year career with WWE, but without that song, it may have been a lot shorter.
No we’re not talking about Finn Balor here but more WCW’s terrible attempt at becoming socially relevant in the early 2000’s. With the company on a huge decline and heading towards it’s inevitable end, the powers that be did everything to raise viewing figures and ratings but with terrible results. They debuted a wrestler called The Demon and it was the exact embodiment of Gene Simmons on stage persona. With the hair and make up all the same The Demon got off to a rocky start and when on one episode of WCW Nitro they had Kiss perform, it was rated as one of the poorest segments in the history of WCW, leaving The Demon gimmick to fall flat and eventually fade away. Ouch.
So there you have it, a fine few examples where such an influential power house like pro wrestling was actually influenced by another global phenomenon, and that’s music. We look forward to July for WWE Great Balls Of fire, as well as PPV events to follow like WWE Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, WWE Heard It Through The Grapevine and of course WWE Pretty Woman.
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)