Former WWE Music composer Jim Johnston recently spoke with Thomas Hobbs of Vice and said he”s sometimes struggled to get work since leaving WWE in 2017, due to how people in Hollywood don’t take pro wrestling seriously.
“There’s still this stigma against professional wrestling only being a bunch of muscly buffoons. People assume I can only do that aggressive glass smash sound and not a lot else,” Johnston said, an apparent reference to his iconic theme for WWE Hall of Famer Steve Austin. He continued and said for him, writing music for WWE was deeper than penning theme songs for wrestling fans, “My music reflected society. Stone Cold’s theme was about giving the viewers the courage to stand up to power. Undertaker was about helping kids process death in a way that wasn’t depressing.
“With my work I always tried to beam right into the emotions of a character. I love [composer] John Williams and wanted to approach wrestling music in a similar way; it was all about making the audience feel something for the character. If you took John’s music out of Star Wars then it wouldn’t work as well and I feel like it’s the same thing with my music for the WWE. My music’s role was to give wrestling more heart for the audience to grab onto.”
Johnston talked Vice through 5 of his very best WWE theme songs – Austin, The Undertaker, The Rock, DX, and Vince McMahon. He revealed that when he wrote Vince’s “No Chance” theme song, he was actually really upset with Vince over something work-related.
“When I was writing Vince’s No ‘Chance In Hell’ entrance theme, I had been really upset with him about something at work,” he revealed. “I found myself thinking: ‘You’ve got no chance against this guy!’ He’s got the power, the money, and in terms of pro-wrestling, he was pretty much the only game in town. I had written the guitar groove much earlier, and I found myself singing ‘No Chance…No Chance’ over that groove. Rather than a song about one man, I wanted it to be about ’The Man’.
“The song is about the work system that imprisons us all. It’s got a thrust of someone who’s kind of like marching like they’re the kind of ‘big I am’. What I loved about Vince was how he liked to be surprised. He let me take risks and if I surprised him with something and it was good then he would be delighted. But if it wasn’t good then boy he would tell you about it!”
Johnston added that he will always consider Vince to be a friend.
“I will always class him as a friend,.” he said. “We were creating something entirely new as the business Vince had bought from his dad didn’t have any music for the wrestlers. Our work together radically changed things and made it so much more theatrical. I’ll always be proud of that.”