In the late 1990s, the Word Wrestling Federation (WWF) reached the height of its global popularity thanks to its “Attitude” re-branding. From 1997 to 2001, the company targeted an audience of teenagers and 18- to 34-year-old men with programming emphasizing adult themes and rebellious anti-heroes. The company’s most popular character at the time was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a beer-drinking Texas “redneck” who refused to conform and feuded on screen with a villainous corporate CEO. His iconic entrance music, “Hell Frozen Over,” was closely modeled on Rage Against the Machine’s 1996 hit song “Bulls on Parade” and played a crucial role in establishing the character’s credentials as a blue collar rebel whose actions channeled the desires of the WWF’s core audience of young white men.
Highlighting both the specific idiomatic conventions of professional wrestling entrance themes and the numerous similarities between “Bulls on Parade” and Austin’s entrance music, this article argues that Austin’s music leveraged sonic tropes of masculine anti-corporate rebellion that were legible as such in the late 1990s due largely to the soundscapes of rage popularized by RATM and the numerous rap-rock “nü metal” bands they inspired. It shows how Austin’s music and its RATM connection exemplify not only the capacity for popular entertainment to commodify rebellion, but also the agency of audiences in forging meaningful personal and interpersonal relationships with and through mass-mediated entertainment as sonic signifiers become disentangled from specific political movements and made available to a broad range of economic and political projects.