The 90's were the wild west
Professional wrestling always has a flare for mirroring the status quo. Current trends in fashion, music, and even politics are often drawn upon for gimmicks and story angles. On the music end, however, many entrance themes in the past would cross the fine line between sampling and straight biting.
Of course none of these tracks were ever cleared. And with promotions like ECW being a bit more under the radar, their legal protocol was the wild west. But the biggest offender in this retrospective as you will see is Ted Turner's WCW. How Turner Broadcasting with its premier stage did not raise any flags with the major record labels leaves me with some questions.
Paul Heyman, the creative mastermind behind the underground Extreme Championship Wrestling, would simply use licensed tracks from both the world of rap and rock without paying any mind or money. The direction of the music curation, however, was impeccably fitting. The Sandman making his beer drenched entrance to Metallica's "Enter Sandman", Rob Van Dam coming from backstage freshly smacked to the tune of Pantera's "Walk", and the energy of Dr. Dre's "Natural Born Killaz" driving New Jack's rampage.
Cease and desists letters would catch up to Paul Heyman with his hardcore, rip and run ethos. But they were either ignored or stalled through the court system. When an emerging Three Six Mafia discovered their music on an ECW syndicated show, rather than take legal action against the promotion they struck up a deal to use Three Six Mafia tracks on their shows for mutual exposure. The relationship between the Memphis rap group and the Philly based wrestling promotion even led to a collaboration on a music video to the 1997 track "Hit Em".
Take a peep at some of wrestling's boldest unsanctioned bites.