The Story Behind Jim Johnston's First SmackDown Theme

Former WWE composer Jim Johnston was responsible for composing and recording thousands of musical pieces that would serve as the entrance themes for WWE superstars up until his departure from the company in 2017. From the glass-shattering intensity of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the spine-tingling intimidation of The Undertaker, to more recent themes such as Fandango's unusually catchy beat, Johnston's vast body of work is practically synonymous with many characters in professional wrestling.


Johnston himself admitted in a 2013 "Village Voice" interview that his music stylings had to evolve along with how music was seen and portrayed in professional wrestling. Over the years, it went from the wrestlers with themes simply getting bigger pops, to receiving a theme "after a certain level of success, like a benchmark to stardom," and to finding new, different musical avenues for different wrestlers since "we can't just have a cavalcade of classic rock music, we have to mix it up so that it's all over the map so there's a delineation between characters and storylines."

One aspect of his work that Johnston often looked forward to was getting the chance to collaborate with some of the biggest names in music, like Motörhead. "A lot of times it works incredibly well ... like the three different songs I wrote for Motörhead, you get back exactly what you're expecting because it's Motorhead. They do the Motorhead thing, and knowing that, I'm writing a Motörhead song to begin with ... it's actually fun getting to put a demo vocal on and trying my best to sound like Lemmy, which does not come naturally to me by the way."


Johnston's attempts to replicate Lemmy's iconic voice wouldn't be the only time his issues with vocal work came into play.

Jim Johnston Lays The 'SmackDown' On His Work

The legendary composer admitted that perhaps the greatest difficulty he had when it came to writing and recording his music was literally throwing his voice into his work, as is reflected in the fact that only two musical pieces out of the hundreds and hundreds Johnston has put together contain his actual voice.


"It is me singing Dude Love's theme," he said, "and, while it stretches the definition of the word, I did 'sing' one of the early 'SmackDown' themes. I was hearing some early metal stuff and was always shocked how bad the vocals were, and that the lyrics were absolutely unintelligible. The theme I had written was in this style, and I couldn't find a singer, so I did it myself. There are no lyrics, I just sang gibberish. I had fans contact me for a lyric sheet which, of course, I could not provide."