As we reported on Friday, WWE has released legendary composer Jim Johnston after 32 years of employment. Johnston was responsible for some of the most iconic pieces of music in wrestling history.
In honor of his career, I present to you the best songs created and produced by Jim Johnston. It should be noted that these are not listed in any particular order, and also, these are entirely my opinion. So if you want to hop in the comments to call me an idiot for not listing “Biscuits and Gravy,” then by all means, have at it
Also — and I think it’s a testament to the pure musicality of one Jim Johnston — all of the following themes sounds good when played on kazoo. Long live the stream, long live the ‘zoo.
“I Won’t Do What You Tell Me” (Stone Cold Steve Austin)
I’ll start with one of the most obvious. I think the shattered glass is the most iconic sound in wrestling, outside of a ring bell. It’s a testament both to Stone Cold’s amazing work and this amazing theme that even in 2017, glass shattering will still get the biggest pop of the night. They tried to update Stone Cold’s theme a couple of times during his run (I remember a particularly bad version by H-Blockx, which is the most late ’90s name I’ve heard) but nothing could match the perfection of the original Jim Johnston version.
“It’s Conquered” (The Rock)
The Rock also had an incredibly iconic theme, starting with a voice sample asking if we smelled what the Rock was cooking. After this, it seemed like every other theme had a vocal track up top, whether it was Booker T asking if we could dig it, Stevie Richards showing us — we’ll see, or Jeff Jarrett trying to get “Slap Nuts” over as a thing that people say.
This is my favorite version of The Rock’s theme, though, and it coincides with my favorite version of The Rock. Hollywood Rock is one of the greatest characters of all time, and his theme and Titantron really drive the point home. Sitting through an almost minute-long slow build to finally get a whispered “is cooking” is ridiculous, but it fits in perfectly with the self-important Rock character of the time.
“Break The Walls Down” (Chris Jericho)
I still remember watching the Raw where Jericho debuted, and losing my mind when his name popped up on the screen. This is a song that, other than a few variations on the opening countdown, hasn’t really changed in 18 years. You know you have a good piece of music when it works regardless of gimmick and face/heel alignment.
“What About Me?” (Raven)
I’ll spare you the “Raven was wasted in WWE” talking points and just say that at least he had an awesome entrance song. It would be hard to top his WCW entrance theme, which I think is the best piece of music WCW had, but it is very impressive that Jim Johnston was able to incorporate raven caws without it coming off as hokey.
“Only One Can Judge” (Cody Rhodes)
Cody Rhodes’ change from the Patrick Bateman-esque “Dashing” Cody Rhodes to the comic book villain “Undashing” Cody Rhodes was phenomenal. The best themes help explain/flesh out the character, and taking the upbeat “Smoke and Mirrors” and distorting it into this theme worked as a representation of his mental state. It was just awesome.
Mind if I cut in? I remember when the first Fandangoo promo aired (the extra “O” is for “Oh shit that’s a typo”) and I was immediately hooked. ChaChaLala made it all the way to number 11 on the U.K. iTunes chart back in 2013, and started the trend of crowds “Fandango-ing,” which was cool for a week until Jerry Lawler quickly killed it. I also loved Fandango’s short-lived Flamenco version of his entrance song, but it didn’t have nearly the staying power.
“Fighter” (Dan Severn)
Methodical and intense, this theme fit Dan “The Beast” Severn to a T. Similar to the current Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar, once this song started playing, you knew someone was about to get destroyed. It lacks an iconic opening riff/sound, but I think it works regardless, because a big opening would be too flashy for a man like Dan Severn.
“Rabid” (Chris Benoit)
I considered not putting this on here because, you know … everything. This theme was perfect, though, and perfectly summed up the character of Chris Benoit. As a kid who grew up pretty much only watching wrestling and MUCH Music, I was super excited when Our Lady Peace did a version of this for Benoit.
“Blood” (Gangrel/The Brood)
This is close to being the GOAT theme for me. I mean, this theme coupled with the entrance, made me care about Gangrel. That’s impressive. I’ve always liked that that opening vocals are either some creepy backwards messaging or the singer biting into a burrito immediately after taking it out of the microwave and not giving it any time to cool off.
“Just Close Your Eyes” (Christian)
Specifically the Waterproof Blonde version. I felt weird including a song written by someone else and then remixed by Jim Johnston, but if you listen to the original version by Waterproof Blonde, it is really night and day. So I’ll allow it.
Christian is my favorite wrestler ever. I’m still mad that they didn’t give Captain Charisma the title over Cena in 2005. Christian has had the best music out of any wrestler in his career. Besides the Brood track above, he also had the cool song “Blood Brother” in his early solo work, Edge’s “You Think You Know Me” during their tag run, the AMAZING opera-inspired “At Last” after he turned against Edge. This track, however, is better than all of those.
That’s my list. Let me know what I may have missed or why I’m wrong for liking the songs I like in the comments. Thank you Jim Johnston, and good luck on your future endeavors. I’m sure you’re going to do just great as long as you always do things the Con Way.