Music in Wrestling #2: Origins

Now that I’ve established an idea of what I want to talk about with music in wrestling, it’s time to go back to the beginning and look at how the tradition of having music in wrestling entrances got started.

Unfortunately, it may be impossible to know exactly who started this tradition and when it started. Given wrestlings connection to fairs and carnivals, it’s probable that music’s association with wrestling goes back several hundred years at least. But as for how the modern wrestling entrance got started, there we at least have a vague timeline in place.

While we still don’t know (and probably never will know) the name of the first wrestler to incorporate music into their entrance, we do have a few names connected with the start of the tradition. Now, usually Gorgeous George (George Wagner, 1915-1963) is credited as one of the first wrestlers to use music in his entrances, as he would famously strut to the ring to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstances” at the height of his fame in the 1940s and 50s. Equal credit should also be given to Mildred Burke (1915-1989), who also began using music in her wrestling entrances at the same time (and some have argued that she actually started doing so before Gorgeous George).

There’s no doubt that Gorgeous George’s iconic entrance to “Pomp and Circumstances” inspired a whole host of wrestlers who followed in his footsteps, from Ric Flair (who entered to “Also Sprach Zarathustra”) to the late Macho Man Randy Savage (who also entered to “Pomp and Circumstances) and more. Believe it or not, his entrance even merited a parody in a Looney Tunes cartoon, ‘Bunny Hugged’, in 1951:

As the cartoon implies, Gorgeous George’s entrances were the stuff of legend (particularly by the peak of his career). Even before George made his appearance, rose petals would be sprinkled in his path, the air would be “cleansed” with perfume and then “Pomp and Circumstances” would play as the final element as Gorgeous George would finally grace the crowd with his presence. Gorgeous George was a true showman and helped to establish what would become the modern wrestling entrance, as did Mildred Burke, who incorporated similar elements into her own entrances as I said before.

Mildred Burke

But while Gorgeous George and Mildred Burke may be the best known of the early examples, neither of them were the first. In the case of Gorgeous George, he was inspired by the work of “Lord” Patrick Lansdowne (died 1959). Lansdowne portrayed himself as a snobby British aristocrat who would strut to the ring while “God Save the King” blared out. Since Lansdowne’s gimmick inspired the work of Gorgeous George, it stands to reason that Lansdowne made use of entrance music first. Though he may not be the very first to do so, Lansdowne does remain one of the earliest known wrestlers to use entrance music. And if you think about it, what better music for a heel to use in America in the early 20th century than “God Save the King”? It instantly sets the crowd against you because you’re establishing yourself as someone “other” and, more importantly “not-American.” It’s one of the easiest ways to get a crowd to boo you.

It should be noted at this point that even with the high profile examples of Gorgeous George and Mildred Burke, using music in wrestling entrances was not common at this point. There were a few high-profile examples (probably those who could afford it) and that would be all. It would be a few more decades until music in wrestling started to become commonplace and then, oh boy, things really started to get interesting.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look into the origins of music in wrestling. Next time I’ll be leaping forward into the 1980s, when the modern wrestling entrance as we know it really began to take shape.

See also:

Music in Wrestling #1: Why Talk About It?

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