You’ll pay to watch your favorite wrestlers fake-fight, but will you shell out your hard-earned cash to hear them really sing? The Wrestling Album, a 1985 release by the World Wrestling Federation, sought to answer that question. As part of our ongoing commitment to exhaustively covering ill-conceived novelty records by athletes, let’s take a track-by-track look at this classic.
Most albums try to open with a strong track to grab the listener’s interest. This is not most albums, just as most song covers don’t need incredulous punctuation. This dud opens with a whole slew of wrestlers warbling the rock staple with slightly modified lyrics. The wrestlers start grunting, bleating, and choking out individual lines before giving way to another grappler. Years later, it’s hard to identify a lot of individual wrestlers’ voices, though some come through loud and clear—particularly Freddie Blassie’s and the Iron Sheik’s. (It’s probably a good thing the Sheik was handy with a camel clutch, because his earning potential as a singer would have been limited.)
The aural pain isn’t quick, either; the song drags on for over four minutes and gets worse as it progresses with lyrics like “I wanna pound on your wimpy little body/How could you? You’re so dang shoddy.” Amazingly, this isn’t the worst track on the record.
Can anyone stop this madness? Only Rowdy Roddy Piper, who throws an on-tape hissy fit that introduces one of the album’s running conceits: between-track commentary by the WWF announcer team of Vince McMahon, “Mean Gene” Okerlund, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Ventura remains in his snotty heel character throughout the record and turns in a truly egregious bit of vocal overacting that’s worth the price of the album.
The late Junkyard Dog was a man of many talents. He could wear a chain and dog collar and make it look good. He could bodyslam much larger opponents. And he could apparently record a decent song. “Grab Them Cakes,” which sees JYD get backing from disco queen Vicki Sue Robinson, is a surprisingly serviceable mid-‘80’s dance track. More impressively, JYD decided to take on a socially important issue in his song: butt-grabbing. (He’s strongly in favor of it, it seems.) The Dog is ostensibly providing dancing instructions in the song, but all you have to do is “dig the groove” and “go for your partner’s you-know-what.” Plus, there’s a lot of gratuitous barking, which really helps it stand out from the other dance tracks of its day.
“Grab Them Cakes” was released as a single, and it was successful enough to earn Junkyard Dog a spot on American Bandstand, an opportunity no other wrestler ever received.
Thanks to this song, no one who spent their formative years watching classic WWF television will ever forget how important it is to “fight for what’s right. Fight for your life.” Derringer’s repetitive guitar rock track later earned a place in wrestling fans’ memories when it became Hulk Hogan’s entrance music. Even now, it’s sort of hard to hear it without cupping a hand to your ear.
Interestingly, though, the song wasn’t originally intended for Hogan. As Vince McMahon’s between-track commentary reveals, “Real American” was supposed to be the theme music for U.S. Express, a champion tag team of Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda. The Hulkster didn’t get start using the song until after the tag team broke up in 1986. Still, though, to the modern ear, this sounds like a deliciously nostalgic big boot to the face.
It’s worth listening for the backing vocals of one Mona Flambe. “Flambe” was the pseudonym Cyndi Lauper used to record on this track, a ruse that might have worked marginally better if she didn’t have such a distinctive voice and clear ties to the WWF.
Hart, the “Mouth of the South” and pesky manager to wrestlers like the Honky Tonk Man, could really sing, and not just in a “He’s not so bad on a WWF record” sense, either. Before Hart ever got into wrestling, he was a vocalist in the Gentrys, a rock band that charted a #4 Billboard hit with its million-selling “Keep on Dancing” in 1965.
Armed with this vocal pedigree and his brand of high-strung humor that endeared him to so many wrestling fans, Hart lays down a diss track on, you guessed it, Rick Springfield. Hart’s beef with Springfield isn’t totally clear, but it seems to stem from Springfield’s stated fondness for girlfriend-stealing.
The track starts out strong with Hart voicing both sides of a conversation between himself and his girlfriend’s mother before turning into a competent piece of guitar rock that bears more than a passing resemblance to Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” Although the chorus is more stilted than catchy, Hart acquits himself pretty well here, and it’s definitely one of the better tracks on the record.
A few paragraphs ago I promised that “Land of a Thousand Dances?!!?” wasn’t the worst track on this album. It’s truly terrible, but it takes this bomb less than a minute to usurp the throne of awfulness.
The song begins with a lengthy conversation between George “The Animal” Steele and Albano on the history of music before segueing into “Captain Lou,” which is apparently a modified cover of an NRBQ song. There’s really no good way to describe this track; it’s like a tone-deaf Cookie Monster got drunk, took a bunch of stimulants, then waddled into a karaoke bar to scream “Captain Lou, Captain Lou, Captain Lou!” while George Steele moaned in the background. I suppose there’s an outside possibility that this isn’t the worst piece of music ever recorded, but I’d be willing to bet one of my paired organs that it is.
We’ll put an audio clip up here, but I wouldn’t recommend listening to it. There’s an off chance it could get stuck in your head and drive you to madness.
There’s not much to say about Hulk Hogan’s pre-“Real American” theme song, a nondescript arena rock instrumental that’s heavy on keys, wailing guitars, and explosions. It sounds pretty much like any other babyface wrestler’s theme song. In this case, though, it’s notable for its length: four minutes. Really, the track gets its point across in the first two minutes, and by about the four-minute mark, even the most die-hard Hulkamaniac is probably wishing they hadn’t torn off their shirt so early in the song. As a reward for making it through the whole thing, the listener gets to hear Jesse Ventura vomiting in disgust during the commentary track. Now that’s showmanship!
This one’s sort of hard to wrap your head around, but bear with me. In the song, Piper is a Canadian guy playing a Scottish guy trying to sing like a backwoods American singer who’s had one too many jars of whiskey. Piper, the WWF’s most hated heel at the time, apparently recorded this track as a way of showing his utter contempt for the rest of humanity. Since the promotion catered to children, though, he couldn’t sing his real message of “F— Everybody,” so it was neutered to “For Everybody.” Not only does this little clean-up job really neuter the viciousness of Piper’s message, it makes the sax-heavy song downright confusing. What is for everybody? It’s not really clear. What we do know is that Piper still wants us to “kiss [his] trash.”
If this song doesn’t make you laugh, you might be legally dead. After all, who better to cover Little Richard than a small, bald, mustachioed wrestling announcer? Okerlund’s actually not a bad singer, and he enthusiastically throws himself into the song. The final product is pleasantly surprising, like finding out the creepy old guy who hangs out at the karaoke bar can actually belt one out. The underlying concept of Mean Gene covering Little Richard, though, is too hilarious to overcome, so instead of sounding like a musical triumph, it’s the record’s comedic high point.
Thought this was just a rock record? Think again. Hillbilly Jim turns in this track, and while he can’t really sing, it’s impressive to see just how many country stereotypes the producers crammed into less than three minutes. Fiddles? Check. Down-home backup singers? Got ‘em. Banjo? Yep. Copious use of the Jew’s harp? Oh, God, yes. References to moonshine? Abundant. Hillbilly Jim warns listeners of the terrible fate that will befall anyone who might have the audacity to mess with a country boy: “You’d be biting off a hunk too big to chew.” Really? That’s it? Give it points for being understated, but that doesn’t really provide much of a deterrent to messing with a country boy.
The great thing about wrestling is that no matter how absurd it gets, it can always top itself. The rest of the album might have been bizarre, but the final track kicks things into surreal territory. Volkoff, the WWF’s premier “Soviet” heel at the time, recording a dance cover of “Cara Mia” sounds odd, but his earnest voice nearly saves it from being pure camp.
At just under the two-minute mark, though, Volkoff “goes berserk,” stops singing, and starts screaming about how he’ll show you music with class: Russian music. He then starts an exuberant rendition of the Russian national anthem, much to the disgust of McMahon and Okerlund.
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