It’s 2001, and an era is ending. The World Wrestling Federation stands alone as the major wrestling promotion in the United States, purchasing and dancing on the corpse of WCW Monday Nitro while traveling the road to WrestleMania X7, which will be main evented by The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the two biggest stars in wrestling at a moment in history where wrestling has never been hotter. This moment has a soundtrack, and that soundtrack is the song “My Way” by Limp Bizkit, from their 2000 album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water.
More Pro Wrestling:
- Five of the Decade’s Best Wrestler Entrance Themes
- An Oral History of Dave “The Animal” Batista’s Dick
- The Best Way to Watch WWE is Through Fan-Made Music Videos
The above hype video, laying out how Austin and the Rock got to the main event of WrestleMania, is perhaps the best thing WWE has ever produced. It’s serendipitous, in a way, that the song they chose to represent that WrestleMania was one in which Fred Durst has had it with the establishment and plans to be himself, to do things his way. In 2001, the story of the World Wrestling Federation was that it was The Establishment, and those two men stood just outside of it, the entire direction of the company hinging on the outcome of the match.
Watch it again. Notice how the first chord of the song hits at the moment Austin wins the 2001 Royal Rumble. How Durst’s singing the word “Special” coincides with a sweeping shot of The Rock thrusting his newly won WWF Championship into the air. The video is edited to the beat of John Otto’s drums, uses footage of Austin and The Rock that hews eerily close to the lyrics, as if Vince McMahon was booking with a copy of Chocolate Starfish on blast.
The middle section of the video, where “My Way” isn’t playing, is all stuff that’s lost to time. Who remembers Vince McMahon forcing Austin’s wife, Debra, to manage The Rock? Who remembers all the Kurt Angle stuff? This is a match about two people, two ideologies of professional wrestling—Rock the polished, Hollywood future, Austin the rough-and-tumble, working class now. Then Austin hits a Stone Cold Stunner and “My Way” kicks back in, and this is where the cultural memory of Austin/Rock comes into clarity, both men standing off from one another, a guitar, and Fred Durst’s voice. Then the chorus hits and the two start brawling.
God, it’s beautiful, and given that we’re entering WrestleMania season after today’s Royal Rumble, I’ve been thinking a lot about Austin/Rock, the main event of my childhood, the end of the Attitude Era, and how integral that song is to the whole thing. Looking at the significant participants in it, there’s an incredible confluence of hall of fame and future hall of fame talent in it. There’s Austin and Rock, obviously. Jim Ross and Paul Heyman are in incredible form, the former already in WWE’s version of the Hall of Fame, the later likely a shoo-in when he’s finished advocating. There’s Vince McMahon, who pretty much is the Hall of Fame, and Earl Hebner, who’d be in it were it not for he and his brother getting caught selling bootleg t-shirts on the side.
But where’s Limp Bizkit?
The WWE Hall of Fame is a sham, a smokescreen behind which WWE can casually write and rewrite the history of professional wrestling based on who currently has a good relationship with the company. As part of that mission, it includes a celebrity wing, where celebrities who were important to the development of the company (and Drew Carey) are celebrated for their contributions to the perception of WWE as an important pop culture institution. Among those celebrity inductees are luminaries like Mr. T, Donald Trump, and Kid Rock, and more loosely connected names like Snoop Dogg and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not among them? Cyndi Lauper, whose involvement in the WWF was the “rock” of the “rock ‘n wrestling connection,” and Limp Bizkit, at one time proclaimed “the WWE’s favorite band in the whole world.”
Lauper’s exclusion being obviously heinous, I’d like to write in support of Limp Bizkit, whose music was like a well fitting glove on that era of wrestling’s meaty, subtly free hand. When Undertaker was busy riding motorcycles to the ring and needed a song a little less spooky than funeral organs and bells, Limp Bizkit was on hand with “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle),” which Durst allowed the company to use on the condition that he be an unlockable character in a WWF video game. His entrance in WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It is one of the better things to happen in a non-Nintendo 64 WWF game, too, a weird, half on-camera, half off-camera reworking of the “Rollin'” video featuring a GIGANTIC car that is way out of scale with the rest of the game’s representation of physical space.
This may surprise you to hear, but at the time of this collaboration, Limp Bizkit was actually a real thing in the pop culture zeitgeist. Wrestling has never been particularly great at recency—Limp Bizkit providing the soundtrack for WrestleMania XIX stands as proof of that—but “Rollin'” was the Undertaker’s theme around the time that song dropped as Chocolate Starfish‘s third single, and “My Way” released as a single in January, just three months before the event it’s forever associated with. Chocolate Starfish itself was a massive success, selling over one million copies in its first week of release. Limp Bizkit was cool, the WWF was cool, and the two of them together made sense.
The miracle of “My Way” is that in 2001, the World Wrestling Federation wasn’t in the habit of licensing songs. They’d dabbled a little, using AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” to promote SummerSlam 1998’s main event between Austin and the Undertaker, but for the most part the majority of that era’s hype videos are scored by documentary-style battle themes, its events heralded by Jim Johnston compositions that were asked to carry the load far longer than they should have. The use of “My Way” heralded a shift in the way WWE presented itself to its audience and the world at large, and few of its hype videos since have hit the same plateau as this one. Limp Bizkit has a legacy in this business, and that legacy deserves recognition.
Why hasn’t it happened? Maybe with Kid Rock in the WWE Hall of Fame the company figures they’re at their quota for Attitude Era musicians in the Celebrity Wing. Maybe they’re still mad that Durst flipped off the camera when it came to rest on him briefly at SummerSlam 2012. Maybe they’re waiting for WrestleMania to hit Jacksonville, so the boys can make good in front of their hometown. Whatever the reasoning, it needs to happen, if not in Tampa this year, then next year for the 20th anniversary. Yes, Paul Heyman gave Limp Bizkit big ups for the song during WrestleMania X7’s live broadcast, but the best moments in wrestling deserve the biggest ups possible, so put them in the Hall of Fame already, you absolute cowards.