Monday, July 13, 2009

The Real Rock-N-Wrestling Connection

Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan are widely credited for mainstreaming professional wrestling by taking the "sport" national and away from regional promotions generally associated with the National Wrestling Alliance.

A major factor in bringing the form of entertainment to the masses was by associating its promotions and events with popular celebrities of the era. This was never as evident as the early-80's WWF "Rock N' Wrestling" connection that was prompted by the appearance of manager (and Mario Mario portray-er) Captain Lou Albano in the iconic rocker Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun video.

Lauper went on to feud with her cynematic step-father by partnering up in the Fed as Wendi Richter's manager (with Albano siding up with octogenarian heel extroidinaire the Fabulous Moolah). Promotional wiz McMahon ran with it, and soon he was rolling out 80's-era celebs at the first Wrestlmania in 1985, featuring WWF personalities in 3 other Lauper videos and animating his already cartoonish athletes into "Hulk Hogan's Rock N' Wrestling" series.

Truth be told, the WWF was as un-Rock N' Roll as it was the antithesis of professional wrestling itself.

Legendary grapplers, many of whom VKM would later scoop up into his own promotion, were getting into blood fests and fist fights that would make any self-respecting real rocker blush, all the while taking their cues from not only 70's super groups, but also Southern rock legends and hair metal glam rockers.

It's easy to point to this influence with the obvious types, including the Midnight Rockers and the Rock N' Roll Express.

Another obvious influence was due to the fact that unlike the WWF, they were smaller, regional promotions and not widely televised. Wrestlers in the NWA and other territories were able to use well-known licensed songs as their entrance themes. Most remember the intimidating Road Warriors coming to the ring with Black Sabbath's Iron Man blaring.

A more recent example is the now-WWF owned, once Philly-based Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) whose superstars throughout the mid-to-late 90's came out to just about every well-known metal song ever written. Eventually, ECW signed a national deal and had to opt for original tunes. (A great list of ECW themes can be found here.)

While Vince and Hulk and the WWF take credit for the Rock-N-Wrestling connection, there were a great number of non-WWF wrestlers who took their images, names and gimmicks directly from real rock and roll royalty - and did it much more convincingly.

Below are our favorites.

Bad Company, I can't deny. Bad, Bad company, Till the day I die

Tag Team: Bad Company (AWA): Pat Tanaka & Paul Diamond (Manager Diamond Dallas Page)
Inspiration: Bad Company

Are you worried what your friends see?
Will it ruin your reputation lovin me 'cause Im a dirty white boy?

Wrestler: Dirty White Boy (USWA, Smokey Mountain)
Inspiration: Dirty White Boy (Foreigner)

Are you tough enough to still remember me?

Tag Team: The Fabulous Freebirds: Michael PS Hayes, Terry Bam Bam Gordy, Buddy Roberts, Jimmy Garvin (AWA, NWA, UWF, WCCW)
Inspiration: Freebird (Lynyrd Skynyrd); The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Young wrestler, the subject of schoolgirl fantasy

Wrestler: Sting (UWF, NWA, WCW)
Inspiration: Sting

I've got to run to keep from hiding.

Wrestler: Midnight Rider (NWA): After Dusty Rhodes was suspended by the NWA, the masked Midnight Rider burst on the scene to feud with Ric Flair, fooling no one.
Inspiration: Midnight Rider (Allman Brothers Band)

Boogie Woogie Man from Tennessee, yeah baby.

Wrestler: Jimmy "Boogie Woogie Man" Valiant (NWA)
Inspiration: The Boogie Woogie Man (Albert Ammons); Boogie Woogie Country Man (Jerry Lee Lewis)

Finally, we'd not be doing our readers any justice if we didn't mention some of these later-year non-WWF Rock N' Rock ripoffs.

The Boy Band Legacy

Tag Team: 3 Count (WCW)
Inpiration: NKOTB, 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys

He'd be no worse a lead singer for the band than Gary Cherone

Wrestler: "Heavy Metal" Van Hammer (WCW)
Inspiration: Van Halen

Race & Culture Wars

Stables: No Limit Soldiers: Master P, BA, Chase Tatum, Konnan, Rey Mysterio, Jr., Swoll, 4x4; The West Texas Rednecks: Curt Henning, Bobby Duncum, Jr., Barry Windham, Kendall Windham, Curly Bill (WCW)
Inspiration: Master P

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Andrew said...

Why hasn't anyone questioned Master P about the deaths of Mr. Perfect and Bobby Duncum Jr.

Hugging Harold Reynolds said...

Helluva Question.

Sooze said...

Pretty much just made my day bringing up Foreigner's Dirty White Boy... haven't laughed that hard all day long.

Hugging Harold Reynolds said...

totally underrated song. so damn catchy.

Doug said...

fantastic post - great memories with those tag teams (especially the Road Warriors and Freebirds)

Larry's Blog said...

What about the Von Erichs coming out to stranglehold?

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