A few weeks ago, rapper Machine Gun Kelly joined the ranks of the many bands and artists who have been associated with WWE when he performed live on Monday Night RAW.
It brought to my mind how, for decades, WWE has featured prominent music acts in their programming in some way. Sometimes it was a wrestler’s entrance music (“The Game” by Motorhead for Triple H or “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour for CM Punk), a TV show theme song (RAW and SmackDown have had themes by Green Day, Nickelback, Papa Roach and Drowning Pool), a theme song for a Pay-Per-View, or, as was the case with Mr. Kelly, performing live for the crowd. The aforementioned Motorhead plus Ozzy Osbourne, Diddy, P.O.D., Wiz Khalifa, Kid Rock and many more have entertained WWE audiences with live performances.
I’ve been thinking about music in WWE because 2015 marks the fifteenth anniversary for a crucial moment in WWE history. Although WWE had nothing to do with the event itself, its occurrence set off a domino effect that would impact the company for the next three years. I’m speaking, of course, about the release of Limp Bizkit’s 2000 album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water.
After declaring they did it all for the nookie, Fred Durst and company returned to the studio to make what would surely be their magnum opus. Released on October 17, 2000, Chocolate Starfish became the band’s biggest album. It also forged a strong bridge between Limp Bizkit and WWE; a bridge made out of garbage, but a strong bridge nonetheless. Limp Bizkit would eventually be cemented as one of the most featured bands in WWE history. By my count, there are nine distinct moments between 2000 and 2003 where WWE used Limp Bizkit in their programming. Here are those nine moments:
December 10, 2000 – The Undertaker got a new entrance theme in the form of “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle),” the third single from Chocolate Starfish. Not only did it fit The Undertaker’s biker gimmick, but as The Undertaker’s entrance theme, it granted the band a massive amount of exposure on a weekly basis. Think of all the shows—house, TV, and PPV—between December 2000 and May 2002 that The Undertaker appeared on. Limp Bizkit was heard at least once on every one of those shows.
April 1, 2001 – WrestleMania X-Seven needed a theme song. Considered by many to be the greatest WrestleMania of all time, X-Seven obviously needed an epic ode to capture the majesty, the history, and the spectacularity of the event. Who stepped up to the plate? Limp Bizkit. The single “My Way” was chosen to be the theme.
April 1, 2001 – “My Way” wasn’t just the theme for WrestleMania X-Seven, though. Before The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin fought for the WWE Championship in the main event, a promo package played to hype up their legendary feud and the build up to the match. The song used? “My Way,” naturally. And just as WrestleMania X-Seven is regarded to be the best WrestleMania in history, the Rock/Austin “My Way” promo is regarded by many as the best promo package of all time. That means that one Limp Bizkit song became tied to two historic moments in WWE history on the same night.
November 18, 2001 – Jerry Lynn. Rhyno. Fred Durst. Who are three unlockable characters in WWE SmackDown!: Just Bring It, Alex? Yes, Fred Durst was a playable character in a WWE videogame, red hat and all. He was also the hardest character to unlock. You had to beat 20 guys in Slobber Knocker mode as The Undertaker before the time limit expired just to revel in Durst’s digital presence. I read somewhere that Durst gave WWE permission to use “Rollin’” in the game in exchange for making him a character. Is that true? I don’t know. But what I do know is that it is really fun to beat the crap out of a video game version of Fred Durst.
February 11, 2002 – SmackDown!: Just Bring It was only for the Playstation 2, but that didn’t mean the Xbox and PC fans were left in the dust. Like its PS2 counterpart, WWE RAW had Fred Durst as an unlockable character. He was still fun to beat up too, only this time you did it with a different controller.
March 30, 2003 – Giving Limp Bizkit the title track to the greatest WrestleMania ever apparently wasn’t enough for WWE. Just two years later the band’s song “Crack Addict” was chosen to be the theme for WrestleMania XIX. That’s two WrestleManias in three years. The only band to beat that record is AC/DC who had back to back WrestleMania themes (25 and 26). Tied with Bizkit are nu metal brothers-in-arms Drowning Pool (18 and 20), while Saliva comes in at a close third with two themes in five years (18 and 23).
March 30, 2003 – The WrestleMania XIX crowd got to see an incredible thing that night at Safeco Field. Was it Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho for the first time ever? No. Was it The Rock vs. Steve Austin for the last time ever? No. The throngs of fans in Seattle were treated with seeing Limp Bizkit perform live. They played “Rollin’” to accompany The Undertaker’s entrance for his handicap match against The Big Show and A-Train. Keep in mind that there was no need for Limp Bizkit to perform “Rollin’” for The Undertaker because at this point Undertaker had already changed his entrance music to “You’re Gonna Pay.” (That’s the one where badasses are always kicking assholes’ ass, in case you forgot.) The piece de resistance was Tony Chimmel introducing Limp Bizkit as “WWE’s favorite band in the whole world.”
March 30, 2003 – Oh, and did I mention that Limp Bizkit performed at WrestleMania XIX twice? TWICE! They came out after Michaels vs. Jericho and performed “Crack Addict.” Well, they did create the song. And they were already there for Undertaker’s entrance. And they obviously had to make up for not performing at WrestleMania X-Seven. That was a debt that needed to be paid. WWE’s favorite band in the whole world would not see that slight go unevened.
November 16, 2003 – The final installment of the WWE-Limp Bizkit saga was “Build a Bridge,” which was used as the theme song for Survivor Series 2003. Just as Kane buried The Undertaker alive on that night, so too did WWE bury its alliance with Limp Bizkit.
So why was Limp Bizkit used so much? Part of it, I imagine, simply has to do with the popularity of the rap rock/nu metal genres around this time period. The late 90s/early 2000s were very kind to Limp Bizkit’s coffers. Although maligned by the majority of critics, Chocolate Starfish sold 20 million copies worldwide and went to number one in both the US and the UK. The same kind of success rang true for bands like Korn, Drowning Pool, Disturbed, Deftones and Linkin Park. Whether you are a fan of those bands or not, you can’t deny their popularity at the time. It was smart for WWE to capitalize on that genre during its boom years.
It also has to do with WWE’s style at the time. 2000-2003 was the end of the Attitude Era and the beginning of Ruthless Aggression, so there was still plenty of edge to WWE’s product. The music choices—particularly the filth and fury of Limp Bizkit—reflected that edge.
And as much as we, the cultured masses, might like to deride Limp Bizkit’s musical stylings (much of which is deserved), they will always have that connection with WWE. When we remember The Undertaker, we remember “Rollin.” When we remember Rock vs. Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven, we remember “My Way.” And when we remember WWE SmackDown!: Just Bring It, we remember… aw hell, maybe it’s best if we just forget about that one.