Billy Corgan, wrestling and the rock connection
Comedian and wrestling promoter Jim Smallman on the enduring relationship between the riff and the ring
This week, many people on my Twitter feed have been talking about Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan taking up a job in wrestling. He’s working in a role with TNA Wrestling in their creative department, being one of the people backstage who decide on storylines and character development for the wrestlers.
I apologise if the last sentence is like discovering Santa doesn't exist, because wrestling is, shall we say, pre-determined. It is not ‘fake’ – don’t ever say that to a wrestler – as it still requires athletic endeavour and hurts a lot, but the results are as rigged as a dictator's election. That means that you need creative minds to work backstage and create an interesting product, and it helps if you know what wrestling fans are into.
It also helps that wrestling fans are, in the main, often into metal. If Billy can entertain millions of music fans for the past couple of decades, then he’ll have a leg up in knowing what the wrestling demographic wants. I speak with some experience – although not in music. I was briefly in a punk band at university and we sucked. We once got booed off for doing a 200mph cover version of Abba’s Dancing Queen. I'm one of the owners of PROGRESS Wrestling in London. We deliberately have our shows at the Electric Ballroom in Camden as I’ve watched a ton of bands there in the past, and if you look out into our crowd, you can see about 700 people who could as easily be at a Metallica gig as at one of our shows; it's all black t-shirts and tattoos.
If you look at the rise of wrestling through the years, since the launch of MTV it has coincided with certain peak periods in the rock world. As glam metal was a big deal in in the mid '80s, it fit in with the spandex and big hair period in the WWE. In the late '90s, the more adult-orientated feel of wrestling was perfectly accompanied by nu-metal, explaining why The Undertaker abandoned his long time gimmick of being a walking advert for embalming fluid, for one of riding a Harley and entering the ring to the sounds of Kid Rock.
Metal will always be important to wrestling, from the often amazing theme tunes (HHH favours Motörhead to this day) to the hype video packages that companies put together. Watching guys go through tables in slo-mo just wouldn’t work to a Taylor Swift song. Although these days, the WWE has stopped soundtracking one in every three videos to My Sacrifice by Creed.
Now if only Billy Corgan could encourage a wrestler to enter the ring to something by Lawnmower Deth. Hey, I can dream…