What the hell happened to the art (yes the ART) of conducting a wrestling promo? At the risk of sounding like a grizzled olâ<80><99> prospector, I remember when wrestlers actually got over in the ring AND on the mic. For those of you old enough to remember the days of the territory (both of you), set the way back machine for 1979 through 1989 (a/k/a The Golden Era of Wrestling Promos).
Think of Michael Hayes accidentally acknowledging he flattened all four of Austin Idolâ<80><99>s tires. Think of Jerry Lawlerâ<80><99>s straight-faced challenge to Andy Kaufman after his guffawing ridicule of those that â<80><9c>farm the farms down in Mayum-fiss, Tenn-Uh-Say.â<80> Think of Kevin Sullivan kick-starting a feud with Wahoo McDaniel by observing that â<80><9c>the only good Indian is a dead Indianâ<80> (thereby sending Gordon Solie into palpatations no amount of vodka could counteract). Think of Terry Funkâ<80><99>s drooling hatred for â<80><9c>horse toothed, banana-nosedâ<80> Ric Flair. Think of Randy Savageâ<80><99>s â<80><9c>thinkinâ<80><99> thinkinâ<80><99> thinkinâ<80><99>…â<80> Not a ridiculously gassed up freak in the bunch. (Savage was still lean in those days.)
Michael Hayes, Jerry Lawler, Kevin Sullivan, Terry Funk, Randy Savage. All good workers but certainly not high-flying, risk-taking, acrobats with jacked-up bodies that look like velvet rope line at Jenna Jamesonâ<80><99>s Halloween party. Nope. Those men knew (and know) that what you say and how you say it are as important as how you work in the ring.
Who are acknowledged as the top promo guys these days? In WrestleZone.comâ<80><99>s year end award balloting, Christian Cage, John Cena, Edge. Randy Orton and Konnan made the cut to the final five. Honestly, I cannot argue that those five are among (if not all) of the top five currently in the sport. But compare that list to the all-time greats. Off the top, Iâ<80><99>ll take Konnan out of my diatribe. He cuts great promos and knows how to get himself, his opponent, and his angle over. None of this is directed at him. He wins, in my opinion.
But Christian? Cena? Orton? Edge? No way – no how -do these men compare to good promo men. What do they have in common? Abs and similar work style. Not that all four arenâ<80><99>t good in the ring – they are. Very good actually. But promos? Give me a break. These guys could not sell a space heater to an eskimo. To a man, their promos all sound suspiciously like those given voice by junior high school boys behind the field house on Thursday afternoons. I would not be surprised to hear a promo break down to the â<80><9c>Says who?!â<80> â<80><9c>Says Me!â<80> â<80><9c>Yeah well, soâ<80><99>s your momma!â<80> level next week on â<80><9c>Raw.â<80>
Seriously, break out the Tivo of Raw from a few weeks ago and tell me honestly if you could hear the words spoken by Edge or Orton coming out of the mouth of Arn Anderson or Dusty Rhodes.
The blame for this, alas, partially lies with WCW. We opened the PowerPlant to train wrestlers and, humbly, did a damn good job. The men and women that came through that program could wrestle and left in arguably the best shape of any group of wrestlers ever. But no one taught them to talk. They got abs, pecs, tans, haircuts, and cardio conditioning but could not put two words together. This was in response to the WWF having great success pushing wrestlers who were gassed up and could talk too. Unfortunately, WCW (and, to be fair, ever other promotion) developed the idea that to be a good wrestler you had to look like one (not work like one or talk like one – just look). Then WCW started winning the Monday Night Wars so the WWF slowly began aping WCW in that area. At least we pushed the luchadores and the cruiser weights. This evolutionary period in wrestling brought increased business but killed the good wrestling promo.
Call me old fashioned (better yet, make me an Old Fashioned and make it a double), but what law is there that says guys who work alike and look alike canâ<80><99>t at least develop a semblance of a personality to set them apart and (gasp!) help them get over?
At the beck and call of the WWE are Arn Anderson, Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Jerry Lawler and Michael Hayes. On the staff of TNA are Terry Taylor, Konnan, Raven and Vince Russo. Why doesnâ<80><99>t someone take the initiative to spend as much time teaching mic skills as they do working skills? Oh thatâ<80><99>s right. All of the promos scripted now so the wrestlers do not have to think for themselves. Give a man a promo to cut and he draws for a week. Teach a man how to cut a promo and he draws for a lifetime.
…and thatâ<80><99>s the bottom line. Whether you like it or you donâ<80><99>t like it, learn to love it, because itâ<80><99>s the best thing going today. The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. You donâ<80><99>t like me? Bite me. Have a nice day.
(Who were the best promo guys ever? Who are the best now? How do they compare? Join me in the forums by CLICKING HERE and lets hash it out!)