Cheap Tracks: The Wrestling Album
20 April 2017 Music
By: Evan Harms
Title: The Wrestling Album
Artist: World Wrestling Federation
Place of Purchase: Cruel Noise Records, 3138 Dobson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Worth the purchace: Yes
“When over 10,000 pounds of beef comes roaring atcha, it can mean only one thing,” roars the promo. I wake up in a cold sweat, shaking.
“10,000 pounds … of beef?”
The Wrestling Album. The Wrestling Album. What celestial orbs aligned in order for me to be in Pittsburgh on a particularly grey day, in a particular great, weird record store, to come across this beautiful little tape in the dollar bin?
I’ll leave the question of fate to the philosophers, but I do know that it was a hidden blessing for me to find the promotional copy of this album on chrome tape. At first listen during the drive back to Cleveland, I was relatively unimpressed and unmoved by this collection of covers and walkout music from the heyday of the World Wrestling Federation.
“There’s sure a lot of bad, off-tempo covers on this,” I thought to myself. Though I’ve never been into wrestling or aware of any of its lore, I recognized some names on the box (okay, only two: Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper). I cast it into the abyss that is my cassette collection in my car, alongside untold volumes of Springsteen and a couple weirdo colored tapes.
Weeks later, I remembered that I started this column – the perfect opportunity to revisit and research this strange little tape. As it turns out, this is a huge cult classic for wrestling fans – the perfect blend of kitsch, machismo and 80s rock. Outside of wrestlers, it also features a track from Derringer (!) and help from Cyndi Lauper and Meat Loaf.
A number of music videos and promos came along with the release of the album, so I’ll sprinkle those throughout. In many ways, those top the record itself, though I suppose that was WWF’s bit.
The first track, “Land of 1,000 Dances,” comes after some great ad-libbing by Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. They continue to interject between each track, along with famed announcer Mean Gene Okerlund. But I’ll shut up and enjoy this video:
The next track, “Grab Them Cakes” is also a joy, for obvious reasons. Then comes a one-two punch of pop culture, Derringer doing “Real American” and Jimmy Hart’s lampooning of Rick Springfield. There’s so many layers of excellence here, so I stay slack-jawed as side one wraps up with Capt. Lou exploring ambient, primal and synthpop on “Capt. Lou’s History of Music.”
Side two starts off with “Hulk Hogan’s Theme” (NOT “Real American” – Hogan adopted Derringer’s track for his theme after the release of this album) which is an unfortunately a low point on the album, it’s a kinda linear, non-dynamic instrumental. Just meh, but they had to had something for him.
Ultimately the track that obliterates the rest is Rowdy Roddy Piper’s “For Everybody” – an absolutely POPPING solidarity anthem that blows my mind with a dazzling horn section a la Madness or some sort of pre-ska. Not sure what it is, but I’d make it my campaign song.
Mean Gene’s rendition of “Tutti Frutti” is fine, nothing exceptional. Seems like album filler, this whole thing is more EP length anyway. No further comment.
Hillbilly Jim’s “Don’t Go Messin’ With A Country Boy” is a refreshing, light-hearted break from the overproduced sounds of this record and it damn near got me to dance a jig in my dorm. Crucial listening, and now the best country song I’ve heard outside the Johnny Cash catalog.
And finally, Nikolai Volkov’s culturally insensitive rendition of he oldie smash “Cara Mia” is blended with the Russian national anthem. It’s fun and goofy, but it’s a pretty weak ending to the ordeal.
Unfortunately, I’m not the guy to put any of these songs in context with the professional wrestling at the time. Sure, the big wigs like Hogan, Ventura and Piper all make their marks, but outside of that, I admittedly don’t know much.
The thing I do know much about is music. And the music on here is mostly bad. Horrendous, really. If I was in the producer’s seat, I would’ve maybe released just an EP of the best cuts on here. Then again, I wasn’t in the seat and this thing was going to sell to any wrestling fan regardless of quality.
I think that’s the main lesson to draw from this – don’t let some ignorant critic complain about your album that was fun as hell to make and is fun as hell for your fans. This isn’t just true for niche wrestling projects, but for punk, noise and everything else where people say “I don’t get it.”