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The mid-‘90s ushered in a revolutionary change in professional wrestling.
In a dramatic departure from the the gimmicky, cartoon-oriented personas that engulfed the business for decades, pro wrestling suddenly took a ‘real’ turn that would propel themselves into pop culture stardom.
For the WWE (the WWF at the time) you had the rise of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Rock and D-Generation X.
And over on Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling, pro wrestling changed when Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Eric Bischoff unveiled the New World Order (nWo).
Suddenly, middle-schoolers, teenagers, college students and more were tuning into wrestling week in and week out. Everyone wanted to see what would happen next. The mayhem brought eyeballs and a new audience that previously never cared about professional wrestling.
The nWo, in particular , brought sheer chaos. The anti-authoritarian, no holding back, we do as we please, you’re either with us or against us attitude went from television screens to real life. I distinctively remember mocking my teachers or being on the playground and throwing toothpicks like I was Scott Hall (formerly Razor Ramon) and being a little punk.
Meanwhile, the WWE took that same ‘attitude,’ and launched their own Attitude Era. Stone Cold Steve Austin became a household name as he continued to stun Vince McMahon seemingly every Monday night. Degeneration-X, led by Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The New Age Outlaws, Chyna and X-Pac brought the phrase “Suck It” to everyday vocabulary. I distinctively remember many of my friends getting detention after screaming that out loud during class.
IT SEEMED LIKE EVERYONE WAS WATCHING WRESTLING AND THE nWo
Suddenly, wrestling went beyond just a niche, obscure entertainment entity, and one that would solidify its place in pop culture history. The movement was led across a variety of ways – including merchandise and music.
Previously, if one wanted any sort of wrestling merchandise, they would have to order it from a magazine, or MAYBE find it at an obscure store.
But come the mid-‘90s, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing an nWo, DX or Austin 3:16 shirt.
ERIC BISCHOFF REVEALS THE HISTORY OF nWo MUSIC
And one thing that also helped with wrestling’s rise in popularity? Their theme music.
All of a sudden music became a major component of wrestlers. Sure, in the past you would have some great theme songs such as those affiliated with the Ultimate Warrior or Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart. But the rawness of the nWo and DX’s music made it IMMEDIATELY hit. Suddenly, people knew exactly what song it was and that things were about to hit the fan.
I had the opportunity to speak with Eric Bischoff, one of the innovators and brains behind the nWo about a variety of wrestling topics – including theme music. And some of the things he told me were wild to hear.
HULK HOGAN USED JIMI HENDRIX’S VOODOO CHILD SONG
Bischoff said that the nWo and The Outsiders theme music – which as I wrote before was, and still is, immediately recognizable, was actually something that came from the WCW catalog.
After scouring through the tracks to try and get a badass, no (blanks) given attitude, Bischoff was able to settle on the New World Order’s theme that would play multiple times at wrestling events for years to come.
However, his revelations about how Hulk Hogan acquired his music is unbelievable to think of.
Hogan was able to use Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” as his theme music.
This was extremely rare – wrestlers would sometimes use music that sounded similar to popular songs (Diamond Dallas Page had a near rip-off of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirits). But to get the ACTUAL song from one of the greatest guitarists of all-time was unheard of.
The best part is how much Bischoff paid to get the rights to use the song.
Bischoff explained that he, being a big Hendrix fan himself, reached out to the Hendrix estate. He felt that there was something about Hogan’s new nWo attitude that would resonate with that song.
The Hendrix estate agreed to give Bischoff, Hogan, and the WCW the rights to use the song – for only $100,000.
As someone who has worked in the music industry and is involved in media – believe me when I tell you how unprecedented the cost of that was.
THE HENDRIX ESTATE GAVE THE SONG RIGHTS FOR $100,000
Anyone in advertising or media or working in any sort of digital job these days will tell you just how expensive licensing and music rights are. We are seeing it with the literal hundreds of millions of dollars that are being paid to own publishing rights from the likes of Springsteen to Justin Bieber to Bob Dylan.
But to have Hulk Hogan, of all people, use a Hendrix song for a hundred-grand is absurd. Bischoff explained that it wasn’t just a 10-second clip either. WCW received 2 minutes of the Hendrix hit. And it was a song that would be played in montages and heard by millions of fans around the world.
The combination of a new, edgy, attitude-era in the world of pro wrestling, combined with the rise in merchandise sales, and popular sayings like: “Too Sweet,” and “That’s the bottom line,” along with music, undoubtedly transformed wrestling into the mainstream. That, in turn, led to ratings gold – with many episodes of WCW’s Monday Night Nitro garnering 3.5 ratings and above.
Don’t believe me?
Just play “Voodoo Child” for anyone under the age of 40. They will know it as Hulk Hogan’s theme song, and not Jimi Hendrix.
You can follow Mike Gunz on Twitter at: TheGunzShow