Catch a few minutes of World Wrestling Entertainment programming, and you'll quickly realize just how crucial its production—the lighting, the video packages, the pyrotechnics, the tailor-made entrance songs—is to hyping the action. Music is easily the most vital element of all. WWE's best themes are more than just earworms; they're songs with instantly recognizable opening motifs—a sinister gong, the shattering of glass, a screeching guitar lick—that help establish the wrestlers' motivations and give crowds Pavlovian cues to boo or cheer.
The majority of the professional wrestling's music can be traced to WWE's Composer/Producer/Director of Music Jim Johnston, who has worked under Vince McMahon's helm since the mid-1980s, back when the organization was the World Wrestling Federation. Before Johnston and McMahon joined up, wrestlers in the WWF and elsewhere rarely entered and exited the ring to anything but crowd noise. Now, theme music is a must for a recurring personality in any wrestling company.
The earliest music assignment Johnston remembers doing for the WWF is a range of themes he made for WWF WrestleMania 2 in 1986. Since then, he's created or overseen some 10,000 recordings, incorporating dozens of genres and instruments to suit all manner of characters, and even become a hit-maker on the charts with WWF/WWE's long-running The Music theme compilation series. His tunes have also been occasionally adopted in other pro sports, with franchises including the Yankees, the Cubs, the Indians, the Spurs, and Newcastle United playing his work during games. During Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, Johnny Damon hit the field to "I Walk Alone," a song laid down by hard rockers Saliva for ex-WWE talent Batista.