Views From The Turnbuckle: Jim Johnston And The Music Of The WWE
For those of you who may not know, Jim Johnston is the lead musician for the WWE, who is in charge of producing all the sound content for the WWE, from the Raw intro theme to songs on the WWE video games. Johnston's biggest contribution however, falls in the production of the WWE Superstar's intro music. Although some of the bigger names (Triple H, Mark Henry) have legitimate musical groups perform their intros, for the most part, everyone on the roster has a theme song courtesy of Johnston.
Johnston doesn't necessarily compose all the intro music himself, but when he doesn't he finds unsigned bands to perform the songs that he wrote. Johnston has been tremendous in finding the right theme for the right talent, and in a lot of aspects, the theme can really help fill out the talent's character. In an interview with MixOnline.com Johnston described the process of creating an intro theme for a wrestler.
"A standard scenario is we get a call from our executive producer: 'We've got a new guy coming,' or 'He's breaking out of a tag team and he needs music.' It's like scoring for a movie: Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Is he light and svelte and quick-moving, which dictates a fast tempo, or is he a big plodding kind of a guy, in which case you need a big, heavy, the-wrath-of-God-is-coming-upon-us sound?"
Sometimes Johnston misses. Kaitlyn's theme makes me so sad that I don't really want to listen music anymore when I hear it. However, 9 times out of 10, he connects with catchy themes that can become instant successes. The most recent hit would be the theme for newcomer Curtis Axel. Johnston took the old Mr. Perfect theme and re-mixed it with some present-day dubstep and boom; he had a new catchy intro to go along with a talent the WWE has high hopes for.
A few nights ago I was watching a Kurt Angle match from 2001, and while being so distraught that there were no "You Suck" chants that I added them in myself, (seriously, it is like listening to Zeppelin with no guitar) I noticed just how perfect that intro was for Angle. What song got the idea of "American Olympic Hero" over better than that quick intro? One of the first things I think about when I think about Angle is that song, and a lot of talents are like that.
A lot of times, the simplest of rhythms work the best. Stone Cold Steve Austin's was perfect, just the glass breaking and a basic beat from a distorted guitar. What more do you need to know who Austin is? A blue-collar badass who never took any s*** from anyone, that was Austin in a nutshell. Some guys need other beats, such as the flashy Shawn Michaels. HBK got a much more elaborate, showy theme song that really helped put him on the map as a single's competitor.
Over the years, who has gotten more songs stuck in your head than Jim Johnston? With wide scope of music that he covers, from the heavy metal of the Ultimate Warrior to the smooth rap of someone like MVP, Johnston has succeeded in almost every musical genre. One of my favorite intros was the doo-wop of the short-lived tag team Deuce and Domino. How many musical acts can say they produced an album with heavy metal, rap and doo-wop all on it?
One thing that is interesting is that Johnston is almost never credited on-air with anything he does. To a lot of fans, he is a total mystery, and they are led to believe that the songs for talent are just created out of the blue. Johnston has admitted to having severe stage fright, so it is unlikely he will ever appear on WWE TV, but I really would like to see him be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Johnston has been cranking out hits longer than most musical acts today, and he has been in the WWE since 1985, making him one of the company's longest tenured employees.
If you still doubt Johnston's contributions, think about the music of another wrestling company like TNA. How many discernible theme songs can you think of from TNA. Maybe Sting, Angle's and Samoa Joes. Everybody else's tends to blend in to one big mush. I'm not trying to knock TNA, but it just goes to show how truly important and talented Johnston is for the WWE.
Lastly, what are some of your favorite WWE intro songs? Sound off below.
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