Ric Flair’s Golden Spoon
Many have tried, but few can match the promos Ric Flair was wheeling out routinely during his heyday. Whether heel or babyface, the self-styled ‘Nature Boy’ knew exactly how to get people listening. Unstoppably brilliant when given the platform to talk, Flair proved each time why he was the biggest star in the territory.
This infamous example comes from 1987, and what makes it so effective is the little elements of truth slipped in. Ric Flair’s promos were so good because he really believed in what he was saying, and that comes across to the fans – it’s mighty difficult to not pay attention when somebody is speaking with such conviction.
Somehow, even though he’s rubbing it in people’s faces that he has tremendous wealth, Flair comes across as passionate and almost likeable, again because his words carry amazing confidence. Just try and watch this one without getting goosebumps.
Jake The Snake Roberts – Muck Of Avarice
In a time where screaming one’s promo was commonplace, Jake “The Snake” Robertswas different. He perfected the sinister, the quiet, the dark. Watching Jake give a promo was akin to watching a master painter at work, as words and phrases were committed to tape with a quiet confidence. It was poetry, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in professional wrestling before.
Funnily enough, despite Jake being a natural heel and his character being most at home in darker climates, arguably his finest promo came during his tenure as a babyface. Going into WrestleMania VI, Jake was embroiled in a feud with ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase, and the two would have a match at the event with the Million Dollar Championship on the line.
DiBiase had made a habit of making fans do humiliating things for money, showcasing and flaunting his wealth for all to say. Jake represented the everyman in this feud, the ordinary guy trying to make a buck to get by. Somehow, Jake Roberts became Dusty Rhodes. He just happened to be an everyman who could spin words in a more poetic fashion than anyone in his industry before him.
Hulk Hogan Turns Heel
It was possibly the most shocking moment to ever take place in professional wrestling. The Immortal Hulk Hogan, idol of millions of fans, who had spent years telling kids to “drink their milk and eat their vitamins”, turned his back on them and joined with the invading forces of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, forming the New World Order of wrestling and officially kicking off the biggest boom period in wrestling history. From this came The Monday Night Wars, when pro wrestling was as mainstream as it has ever been, with WCW and WWF fighting tooth and nail for ratings supremacy. And it also allowed Hulk Hogan to completely re-invent himself, from a squeaky clean babyface to a narcissistic Hollywood heel, making himself one of the biggest stars in wrestling for a second time. In this post-match promo, Hogan spews so much anger towards the fans that it leaves the WCW commentary team nearly at a loss for words, with Tony Schiavone’s final statement underlining the new era of wrestling we had just entered into, as he said “Hulk Hogan…you can go to hell. Straight to hell.”
Steve Austin Shoots on WCW in ECW
While many are familiar with Austin’s King of the Ring speech, a regularly overlooked, and arguably better, promo came from his short time in ECW. Terminated from WCW and unable to work while rehabbing an injury, Austin was contacted by his old friend and head of ECW, Paul Heyman. Heyman offered to put Austin on the payroll just to do promos while he healed. Heyman, noted for his ability to develop talent, knew how to get the best out of a bitter Austin.
Heyman’s side of the story is that he simply gave Austin a mic, and let him get things off his chest. The end result was gold – Austin pulled no punches with some of the folks he’d come across in WCW, whom he felt had held him back from being a true superstar. This promo is a brilliant example of using reality to further develop a character, and create your own style.
Macho Man” Randy Savage Grand Standin’ and Hot Doggin’
Macho Man” Randy Savage undeniably had a charisma when he spoke that has never been and will never be duplicated. However, it was when he was feuding with Hulk Hogan in the late 80s that he did some of his best work. It was inspired words, but also was delivered in a way that only the Macho Man could ever manage.
After the Mega Powers had gone their separate ways, Savage was none too happy with his former partner. Despite his flamboyant gimmick, the Macho Man was always a working-class type of guy during this era, just with more flare. So it made sense for him to be angry with Hogan for turning his back and allowing Miss Elizabeth to be in harm’s way. Then there’s the line about “grand standin’ and hot doggin’” that is iconic and perfectly breaks down Hogan’s character from on opponent’s perspective.
Paul Heyman Tells Off Vince McMahon
The WCW/ECW Invasion of 2004 was terrible for many reasons. It was ill-planned, terribly booked, and saw a huge money-making opportunity that could have profited WWE for months and months flushed down the toilet in less than six. In a last-ditch effort to get something out of the whole debacle, a climactic “Winner Take All” match was set up for Survivor Series 2004, where the winning side would survive, and the losing side would disappear forever. There was little doubt who would ultimately win, but in order to sell just how big of a deal the match was, WWE turned to Paul Heyman, the original owner of ECW, and let him run absolutely wild on WWE owner Vince McMahon in a classic promo that should have been the centerpiece of the Invasion angle, rather than the last gasp before it ended.
CM Punk’s Pipe Bomb
It was just supposed to be a throwaway title defense for John Cena. CM Punk’s contract was ending, and he was on the fence about coming back to WWE. He felt like he’d put in his hard work and hadn’t been given the opportunities that he deserved. So, WWE put him up against Cena, the unstoppable hero of millions, reasoning that if all else failed, they could have Punk put Cena over in a match before he left. And in order to give the match something resembling meaning, because the two hadn’t actually been feuding up until that point, WWE sent CM Punk out with a live microphone and told him to get some things off his chest. The result was the infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo which set off the Summer of Punk, turning CM Punk into a household name nearly overnight and making him one of the biggest stars in the business. Unfortunately, the entire angle was mishandled almost immediately, as Punk was shuffled out of his prospective feud with Triple H due to the return of (for no adequately explained reason, since he wasn’t even cleared to wrestle) Kevin Nash, but this promo still stands as one of the greatest ever.
The Birth of “Austin 3:16″
There are times in professional wrestling where a single moment can make or break a performer. When Steve Austin was slated to win the King of the Ring tournament, he was considered to be a good performer in the ring by management, but not too much was thought of his vocal abilities. But during his victory speech, Austin not only coined two of his most prolific catchphrases, he instantly changed the course of his career, quickly rising to be one of the greatest of all time.
Dusty Rhodes’ “Hard Times”
The Rock made the term “People’s Champion” famous but it could be said that the first “People’s Champion” in wrestling was none other than Dusty Rhodes. Dusty represented the “common” people that watched. The ones that couldn’t afford the Rolex watches and the fur coats that were represented in the life of people like Ric Flair.
Of all the promos that Dusty cut, none resonated with people more than “Hard Times” did. Not having enough money to get by? Jobs being difficult to find? Spending years working hard, only to be laid off and “replaced”? These are issues that the average man or woman can understand. They hear Dusty’s words but perhaps most importantly, they feel Dusty’s words. That was his specialty.
You can be as eloquent as can be, but none of that will matter if the people listening aren’t connecting with your words. The best of the best can make sure all of their words can connect. Dusty does just that and he became one of the biggest legends in wrestling history because of it.
Cactus Jack – Cane Dewey
Mick Foley had built himself a cult fan base during his days as Cactus Jack both in WCW and in Japan, but his time in ECW saw him deliver an entirely different side that many fans didn’t know he had. He was able to cut promos that were not only lengthy but were completely from his mind, playing on real emotions and real events that were going on in his life. He would weave humor, anger, sadness and frustration into his work, making him one of the more diverse promo men in wrestling.
It was “Cane Dewey” that really put him on the map. The story was simple… during a match, Foley looked out into the crowd at the ECW Arena and saw a fan holding a sign that said “Cane Dewey”. In the promo, he revealed that the Dewey being mentioned was his three-year-old son. The “smart” fans had learned Foley’s son’s name and made a sign about him. Foley would launch into an angry tirade about how seeing that sign broke his heart and how it made him realize that the ECW fans were bloodthirsty animals who didn’t care about the wrestlers at all.
Mick was able to weave storyline into the promo, telling ECW favorite Tommy Dreamer that the fans were going to turn on him at some point and that it wasn’t worth the hell that Tommy was putting his body through. As a master of emotions, Mick delivered his masterpiece here, tapping into real feelings and allowing the fans to feel his pain.