Induction: The Worst of “America The Beautiful” at Wrestlemania – From Sea to Shining C-R-A-P

46 Submitted by on Thu, 05 March 2015, 20:00

WWE 1985-present

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Ever since Wrestlemania I, it has been a tradition to start off the show with a patriotic tune. Now, if you take a moment to think about it, it does seem like an odd way to start an event revolving around men in goofy tights with stupid haircuts flopping around pretending to be hurt. You don’t see that in the NFL.

(unless Tom Brady’s playing)

Perhaps it was the WWF trying to give the wrestling show an air of sports-like prestige. While nowadays Vince would never admit to promoting a “sport” rather than “entertainment,” you don’t see the Grammy Awards, Guardians of the Galaxy, Mad Men, or Candy Crush Saga open with the national anthem, so draw your own conclusions.

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It’s a wonder the tradition ever took off, considering the rocky start it got off to in 1985. Wrestlemania I featured a slew of celebrities – two slews, by some counts – including musicians like pianist Liberace and singer Cyndi Lauper, but Vince left it to Mean Gene Okerlund to perform the Star-Spangled Banner. Gene looked about ready to burst out laughing during his rendition of the national anthem; maybe he was thinking of showing his “rocket’s red glare” to Wendi Richter. Or Leilani Kai. Or Fabulous Moolah, for that matter. Anyone who’s seen Legends’ House knows that Mean Gene isn’t picky. wmusa03 
wmusa04  Gene wasn’t even trying here; he had the lyrics written down on a piece of paper and didn’t even bother to hide it from the cameras. At least the Rock and CM Punk wrote their crib notes on their wrists.
I guess we can cut Gene some slack for needing help with the words, as back in 1985, the Star-Spangled Banner was a mere 171 years old and not yet engrained in our national memory.  wmusa05
wmusa06 I half-expected to find the real singer tied up backstage, the victim of Okerlund’s Naked Gun-style ruse to prevent the assassination of the queen (which, in this case, would be Liberace).
After Mean Gene’s underwhelming performance, the WWF recruited some bona fide music legends to open up the next few Wrestlemanias with “America the Beautiful.” wmusa07
wmusa09  Ray Charles was followed by Aretha Franklin…
…then Gladys Knight…
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(whose logo-riddled outfit looked like a very sparkly race car)

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(Apparently, Vince heard that Robin was pretty good at karaoke. True story.)

…then… Rockin’ Robin? How did that happen?
Well, she was named after a Michael Jackson song, so maybe Vince got confused about the WWF Women’s Champion’s vocal talents.
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(Robin’s performance was, in the Iron Sheik’s words, “worse than Michael Jordan… uh uh Michael… Jackson!”)

wmusa12 Not only did Robin miss her cue the first time the music started (the music having played everywhere but in the arena), but when she finally got down to business, she proved that not every robin was a songbird. Maybe she should have changed her name to the Warbler.
Remember that Seinfeld episode where the Miss America contestant has to sing at the last minute and completely bombs? I swear Larry David saw Rockin’ Robin’s performance and built an episode around it years later. Hey, they both even took place in Atlantic City! wmusa13 
wmusa14 Robin’s performance was so painful that Jesse Ventura, who compared Mean Gene’s run-through of the national anthem to Robert Goulet, told Jake Roberts’s half-sister not to quit her day job.
The Federation went back to recruiting big names in the next few years, namely the reputedly Okerlundesque Robert Goulet (who sang “O Canada”), wmusa15
wmusa16 …Willie Nelson (who sang “America the Beautiful”)…
…and Reba McEntire (who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” but was not, as Bobby Heenan suggested, Tito Santana’s sister). wmusa17
wmusa18  The steroid scandal and a downturn in business, however, meant that Wrestlemania IX was almost entirely devoid of celebrities. Fortunately, the one celebrity was Grammy winner Natalie Cole. Unfortunately, she didn’t sing — she just happened to be in the audience, which was actually much more impressive in retrospect; a famous person actually showed up to watch Giant Gonzalez vs. The Undertaker without being paid to.
Wrestlemania X broke the celebrity drought with Little Richard, whom Vince McMahon dubbed, “the original wildman of rock and roll.”
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(Not to be confused with “Wildman” Marc Mero, the original Little Richard of professional wrestling)

wmusa19 Mr. Penniman would sing “America the Beautiful”… kind of.
Think Rev Theory’s lip-syncing of Randy Orton’s theme song at Mania 30 was a new phenomenon? Twenty years earlier, Little Richard simply mouthed along to “America the Beautiful” when he should have been singing about the purple mountain majesties above the tutti frutti plains. wmusa21 
wmusa22 Richard might have gotten away with it, too, if he hadn’t peppered his vocal track with more lilts and “woo”s  than he could remember to mime. Plus, his post-song thank-yous revealed his mic wasn’t even on.
Wrestlemania XI featured many influential celebrities like Lawrence Taylor (whose QB sacks changed the way football was played) and Jenny McCarthy (whose anti-vaccine efforts have paved the way for the comeback of measles). It was also slated to have two musical acts: Salt ’N Pepa, who performed LT’s entrance music (edited off video releases to avoid royalties), and alternative band Fishbone, who didn’t even make it to the Hartford Civic Center. wmusa23 
HC New XL Building 3.jpg Maybe they got confused when they pulled up to a shopping mall in Hartford that day and assumed they’d been given the wrong address.
Whatever the case, the Federation had to put in a last-minute replacement to open the show and, with Mean Gene and Rockin’ Robin both long-gone from the company, that meant putting in some girl from the Special Olympics named Kathy Huey who, admittedly, was a far more talented singer than either ex-employee just mentioned. wmusa25 
wmusa26 Still, kicking off Wrestlemania with opera was an odd choice clearly made at the last minute, unlike the opening match, which, in a stroke of genius, pitted the so-called “Allied Powers” against two twins with Nazi tattoos.
It would be another three years before another patriotic song opened the WWF’s biggest event of the year, when Vince enlisted a more reliable band than Fishbone to perform what Howard Finkel called, “the alternative new wave version” of America the Beautiful and The Star-Spangled Banner. That band was the DX Band, fronted by Chris Warren, and their butchering of the classics set a new standard for negative crowd reactions. In some circles, the band’s performance is used as a figure of speech, as in the phrase, “Gee, that fart in church went over like the DX Band’s national anthem.” wmusa27 
wmusa28  The fans started booing mere seconds into the desecration of the country’s most patriotic anthems, which should be astonishing, considering this was pre-9/11 and during the Attitude Era, where fans were encouraged to be anti-establishment and literally give the middle finger to authority. Even so, the Rage Against the Machine knock-offs received unanimous disapproval. It was that bad.
So bad that the highest praise Jim Ross could muster for the debacle was, essentially, that it wasn’t illegal. wmusa29
wmusa30 So bad, in fact, that it has been left off every video DVD release of Wrestlemania XIV.
Needless to say, Boyz II Men’s rendition the following year was a bit more traditional, as was Lillian García’s “Star-Spangled Banner” the year after that. wmusa31
wmusa32.1 wmusa32.2 Fun fact: Thanks to Nikolai Volkoff, the Soviet national anthem has been sung as many times at Wrestlemania as “The Star-Spangled Banner. “
(and that’s only if you count the DX Band’s version) wmusa32.3
wmusa32.4 (which you shouldn’t)
There was no opening song for Wrestlemania 17 in 2001, but later that year, 9/11 happened, and ever since then, WWE programming has been infused with patriotism and is chock full of tributes to the armed forces, as well as heels portraying America’s most nefarious enemies: wmusa33
wmusa34 Canadians,
Bulgarians, wmusa35
wmusa36 Harvard eggheads,
Arab Americans, wmusa37
wmusa38 and the French.
It seemed like a no-brainer to have “America the Beautiful” or “The Star-Spangled Banner” open up the first post-9/11 Wrestlemania, but there was a hitch: Wrestlemania 18 was taking place in Toronto, Canada, and singing our national anthem in another nation would make about as much sense as holding our National Grammar Rodeo there. Rather than hearing the Canadian anthem, or both the Canadian and American anthems, fans in the Sky Dome were subjected to Saliva performing a Wrestlemania theme called “Superstar.” wmusa39
wmusa40.1 And it wasn’t even the 1995 WWF Superstars theme! I can picture it now:

  • Weeeellllll….
    Stone Cold, Undertaker/
    Y2J, Walls-breaker!
Kurt Angle, ankle lock/
Hogan tried to murder Rock!
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wmusa40.3 Steph’s divorced from Triple H/
Federation’s owned by Naitch!
Kane substitutes for Sting/
Four teams in the ring.
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wmusa40.5 Dudleyz, Hardyz, APA/
Chuck and Billy, straight or gay?
New World Order, past its prime/
Six titles on the line!
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wmusa40.7 Are you ready? Are you ready to go?
Are you ready? Are you ready to go?

Main event’s a snoozer/

The build-up was a crock/
Everyone watching paid for Hogan-Rock!
Even more confusing than opening Wrestlemania with forgettable nu-metal was the Jack Black-esque lead singer urging Wrestlemania to get its ass up off its shoulders. Not only was Wrestlemania 18 the first pay-per-view to have both an ass and shoulders, but it was apparently more flexible than Lanny Poffo. wmusa41
wmusa42 Now, if Saliva had performed a song called, “Get Your Ass off Your Shoulders” to the tune of Ontario native Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” then we could have seen a true Wrestlemania moment.
   

Since then, there haven’t been any truly awful musical openings to Wrestlemania. That is, until Jillian Hall gets inducted into the Hall of Fame…

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…which we at Wrestlecrap sincerely hope happens soon.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
46 Responses to "Induction: The Worst of “America The Beautiful” at Wrestlemania – From Sea to Shining C-R-A-P"
  1. The Million Cent Man says:

    Good night, that DX Band version was awful.

    Even ol’ Hacksaw could have sung a better version than that! Tough guy!

    • E-Squared says:

      No wonder it felt that the video releases of Wrestlemania XIV were short, like the event barely went over two hours and ended 2.5 hours. The WWF/E intentionally left those anthems out and I don’t blame them.

      • ChunkyLover32 says:

        I don’t remember it being this bad and I was a hardcore mark then. But man, it was HORRIBLE hearing it for the first time in 17 years.

  2. Cpt SuckerPunch says:

    with art writing, its always a safe bet that itll be solid inductio…that said this was better than i had expected…the jab at americas “enemies” starting with canadians, then into havard eggheads got a good laugh from me, and the song here is awesome…although i honestly read it to the tune of billy joels “we didnt start the fire”…

  3. Sean Bateman says:

    Now I canèt get the 95 Superstars theme outta my head. Curse you, Art!!!

  4. Mister Forth says:

    Miss Rhode Island could sing better than most of them.

    • E-Squared says:

      I read that the actress who played her is actually an accomplished singer and has performed in Broadway theater. I guess she is so good that she managed to pull off singing badly rather well.

    • Drew says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but Miss Rhode Island seems to bear a striking resemblance to one Tammy Sytch. And no, it’s not just the positioning of her mouth in that photo that makes me say that.

  5. The Angry Jobber says:

    Simpsons “Grammar Rodeo” reference FTW!

  6. gobias says:

    Why not a gif of the Buttfumble?

  7. Casey says:

    Any induction that features a classic Simpsons reference and a modern day Iron Sheik quote is a winning induction in my book.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Finally, Rockin’ Robin on WrestleCrap.

  9. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    Outstanding induction, Art!

  10. Anonymous says:

    The Paul Anka joke at the end made me literally lol. Nice.

  11. Beans says:

    “Jenny McCarthy (whose anti-vaccine efforts have paved the way for the comeback of measles)”

    And also quite likely stemmed the rise of autism, since thiomersol (the vaccine preservative) has been directly linked to neurological brain damage and is now accepted as a cause by the autism counsel of America. I think that’s probably more important than a few people getting a treatable disease. Of course, they could just stop putting mercury into vaccines to begin with which would negate the argument entirely.

    That’s the only nitpick in another otherwise great induction from Art.

    • Ed says:

      And that my friends, is why there’s the saying “it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans…”

    • Are says:

      “I think that’s probably more important than a few people getting a treatable disease.”

      Except for those unfortunate children who get infected by the uncurable and deadly subversion of measles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subacute_sclerosing_panencephalitis), of course, which a vaccine could possibly have prevented.

      But that’s a digression 🙂

      Great induction, as always!

    • CP says:

      Vaccines don’t cause autism, you retard.

    • Art0Donnell says:

      Most vaccines do not contain thiomersol, and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine never contained thiomersol.

    • Radison Main says:

      Say hello to WWE’s newest wrestler, Tin Foil Hat Man!

    • Jerichoholic Ninja says:

      The rise in cases of autism has largely been misrepresented because more than anything there has been a rise in DIAGNOSED cases of autism. 30 years ago autism was largely misunderstood and a lot of people with it were regarded as just mentally ill or weird. They also expanded the definition of autism to include more people under its banner.

      Sorry, had to get that off my chest. It annoys me when people hijack things and try to sound smart with misrepresentations. Great induction Art.

  12. Jimbolian says:

    Huh…I knew WWE used a Special Olympian for “America the Beautiful”, but I mistook Rockin’ Robin as the one who did it before reading through this induction.

  13. RD Reynolds says:

    Took me 19 years to get that stupid WWF Superstars theme out of my skull…thanks a lot, Art!

    Seriously, great induction! As always!!

  14. Christopher Haydu says:

    Still can’t understand why people hate Chris Warren Band’s anthem at ‘Mania XIV. i love that new wave rendition of it. Totally under-appreciated.

    • That Prick says:

      I always assumed the DX band version of America the Beautiful was bad on purpose. DX were heels at the time and no better way to get heel heat than to have your official band sing AtB badly.

  15. CP says:

    Screw all the botchings of America the Beautiful…why did you have to remind me of the 1995 Superstars theme? Damn you 0Donnell! Goddamn you to hell! 😉

  16. AdamX says:

    Good stuff.

    Lets start a Yes Movement style twitter campaign to get RAW’s theme done in the style of Superstars country phase.

  17. Dom says:

    Weird – the DX Band’s song was on my old VHS release. What a laugh. Everyone should’ve been stood up, hands on hearts, for “AMEEEERICAAA!!!! AMEEEERICAAA!”. Beautiful. Touching stuff.

  18. Sperm says:

    Mean Gene sounds like he’s trying to lead a kindergarten class in a sing-along.

  19. Dan Sheldon says:

    Rockin’ Robin was a Bobby Day song from 1958. Michael Jackson’s was a remake 🙂

  20. Conquistador #3 says:

    Diesel Cool…Undertaker..Shawn Michaels…Heartbreaker… Get it out of my head!

  21. Thomas Moffatt says:

    Talking of irritating noises, when is Tony Dawson getting an induction?

  22. Ryan Smith says:

    Anytime I hear our national anthem; all I can think about is THE NAKED GUN.

  23. MistaMaddog says:

    “While nowadays Vince would never admit to promoting a “sport” rather than “entertainment,” you don’t see the Grammy Awards, Guardians of the Galaxy, Mad Men, or Candy Crush Saga open with the national anthem…”

    Ever seen a Micheal Bey film?

    And if you thought Rockin’ Robin was bad, how about this classic?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1-jWl0O34U

  24. hobu0 says:

    That DX band was so god awful. They probably made a good chunk of change from wwe though. Makes me sad. They were a bunch of hacks.

  25. Francisco Rodriguez says:

    Where is the DX Band now? Anyone know?

    Also, Art’s new SuperStars theme for WM X8 had me ROFL. Good one!

    • Nick says:

      They apparently broke up after the WWE gig ended. Chris Warren started some band called Bro-Kin that did some music for TNA in 2007, according to Wikipedia.

      I heard a rumor back when the DX song was used that Warren was HHH’s cousin, but I never saw it confirmed.

  26. Thomas says:

    That GIF becomes a lot funnier if you imagine he’s dancing along to MMMBop.

  27. James Clancy says:

    I remember reading somewhere that Mene Gene was a last minute replacement because the person who was meant to sing it didn’t turn up for whatever reason.

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