“The funk of 40,000 years/And grizzly ghouls from every tomb/Are closing in to seal your doom....” raps legendary actor Vincent Price, who first uttered those scarifying words 25 years ago, at the end of the title track on Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
“I would play the entire song up until that point. Then I would turn it off, because that guy scared me,” admitted Maria.
That’s not the only influence the song – or the album – had on Raw’s beautiful Diva, or several other WWE Superstars. From Michael “P.S.” Hayes’ in-ring moonwalk, to WWE Tag Team Champion The Miz’s fedora, to Maria oftentimes sporting a single glove, Jackson’s Thriller has held a place in sports-entertainment lore for the past quarter-century – a milestone which the greatest selling album in music history celebrates this week with the release of Thriller 25.
“The fans didn’t quite know what to do. They despised me as it was, but they were impressed that I could do that – kind of like, ‘Hum, I hate him, but I like what he did,’” recalled Hayes while describing the first time he moonwalked in front of an arena audience. “Then of course, over the years – depending upon geographically where we were wrestling at the time, whether we were loved or hated – pretty much over the course of time, fans wanted to see it anyway.”
Moonwalks and Fabulous Freebirds notwithstanding, Thriller’s mass appeal extended to those who weren’t even born upon the album’s release – among them, SmackDown’s newest Diva, Eve. “It's definitely one of those albums that I look back at and say that it made me want to dance and perform and have fun,” she said.
“It’s all about being original,” explained Tommy Dreamer, who at ECW knows what being an “original” is all about. “We do a lot of driving in the car, and when we hear a song from Thriller, we’ll just stop and listen to it. A lot of those songs are timeless. They have proven to continue to be really good.”
In addition to more than 100 million copies sold, seven Top Ten singles, seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards, Thriller revolutionized the way music videos were made through storytelling. Furthermore, the album enabled Jackson to tear down racial barriers; his music videos were among the very first starring a black artist to air in heavy rotation on MTV. And those aren't the only reasons why Thriller is credited with transforming Jackson from a perceived bubble-gum pop singer to a musical genius.
“I remember my neighbor choreographing a dance routine for the kids in the neighborhood to ‘Beat It,’” recounted SmackDown Diva Torrie Wilson. “We did it for our parents, and I’ll always remember that fondly. I think it was the first dance routine I ever learned.”
“I think Michael Jackson tops Madonna and just about every entertainer I’ve ever seen,” two-time WWE Women’s Champion Melina asserted. “He always thinks outside the box. I don’t know if he intentionally does that or just has a unique mind, but he just did…whatever. He’s so damn creative. When it came to costume and clothing [on ‘Thriller’], he wasn’t afraid, didn’t care what people thought. He just did it.”
Arguably, it was that creative brilliance throughout all of Thriller which helped fashion an image for the “King of Pop” and sent women into euphoria. With one twist of the knee and a 360-degree spin, Jackson could make even the most beautiful woman cry hysterically and faint.
“Back in the day, he probably could get a lot of women,” Miz observed. “A lot of people idolized him – kind of like how the women and everyone idolize The Miz. But I just don’t picture him as a chick magnet anymore. If you look at me 25 years from now, I’m still going to be a chick magnet. I can’t help it. It’s just great genes and great genetics that I’ve been given what most people don’t get to have. I’m the real deal sex appeal.”
Even Miz would have to admit that Thriller 25 offers quite the collection of sex appeal in its own right, featuring the biggest acts in popular music today. The anniversary album includes Black Eyed Peas band mates will. i. am and Fergie, who contribute vocally to “The Girl is Mine” and “Beat It,” respectively. Akon lends his voice on “Wannabe Startin’ Something,” while super-producer Kanye West remixed what is considered by many to be the greatest song of all time, “Billie Jean.” Yet while reviews for the album have been positive, some Superstars believe that the historical compilation could have been perfected.
“Big mistake on his end for not putting me on the album,” insisted Jillian, Raw’s resident songstress (more “stress” than “song”). “Obviously, I proved with my Christmas album, A Jingle With Jillian, that I sell records. If Thriller 25 fails, we’ll all know why.”
It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since Vincent Price uttered those haunting lines in “Thriller.” Although Michael Jackson’s achievements have since been marred by controversy, his musical masterpiece will live on and continue to influence WWE Superstars like The Miz.
“You never know. I might break out into doing the whole ’Thriller’ theme right after winning another championship. Hey, you just never know.”