02nd Sep2019

Opinionated: Who Are The Ten Best Talkers in Wrestling History?

by Chris Cummings

Now, I’ve been opinionated here lately, but I haven’t compiled any sort of list, and we all like a list, don’t we? So, I figured I’d create a list that is purely my opinion but, from knowing how many people in and out of wrestling feel, it will be a series of opinions shared by many too. We can all shoot the breeze and throw around who we think are the best at something, and it’s all just opinion. We all have different views on what makes the best, what we feel are the best. So, this is my opinion of the ten best talkers in the history of pro-wrestling. Please let me know if you agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts on who makes your list and who tops it.

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10. Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho is still cutting damn good promos today, and a lot of the reason for that is Jericho’s ability to change-up his character through the years. Lionheart. Y2J. Monotone Evil Jericho. The List. Modern Jericho. He has been able to change and roll with the times. His work with Kevin Owens in WWE in recent time, where his “you just made the list” gimmick became a hugely popular deal, was excellent. His Y2J stuff, including his unforgettable debut in 1999 against The Rock, was awesome. His WCW work, such as his famous listing of moves he knew (ARMBAR) was hilarious. Jericho is just an all-time great, both in the ring and as a talker, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down either. When you have the presence and ability that Chris Jericho has, time is a moot point.

9. Dusty Rhodes

There are some wrestlers whose promos resonate forever, their words are etched on the minds of everyone who heard them. Dusty Rhodes was capable of being the voice of the people in the crowd. A peoples champion before The Rock took that moniker. Dusty’s interviews throughout the 70s and 80s didn’t just pull people in, they dragged them into the building and gave them what they wanted. One of the best to connect with the fans, Dusty’s skills were one of a kind, and that’s why we still hear his words quoted by many a wrestler and wrestling fan to this very day.

8. Jake “The Snake” Roberts

One of the things that always stood out to me about Jake Roberts’ as a promo was his ability to make you stop talking and focus on the screen. He was a formidable voice yet he didn’t shout or scream like many of the promos of his era did. He spoke softly and quietly, staring into the camera with his cold and venomous gaze. He wasn’t just a guy playing a character on television, Jake Roberts became “The Snake”. Whether he was working as an evil sadistic heel against the likes of Randy Savage or The Undertaker, or as an ultra-popular babyface against guys like “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, Jake gave unique and powerful promos and talked with passion. It’s been said that Jake’s mind for the business is deep and incredibly knowledgable, and his psychology, in and out of the ring, was representative of that. He knew how to hook you.

7. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

It’s spoken of often how ahead of his time Roddy Piper was as a character in wrestling. His heel persona in the 1980s was so unbelievably over that it would eventually see him become a long-time babyface. The first WrestleMania was built around Hulk Hogan and the mouth of Roddy Piper. He was that good. He could talk you into the arena because you wanted to see him get his arse kicked. His infamous “Pipers Pit” segments on television were as memorable as they were controversial. Pipers mic-skills lead to him even being a movie and television actor, with feature roles in cult classics like They Live and Hell Comes to Frogtown. One of the greatest of all time, much of the reason for Piper’s legendary career was his incredible and explosive use of the stick.

6. Mick Foley

Whether he was competing as Mankind, Dude Love, Cactus Jack or under his real name as Mick Foley, the hardcore legend was capable of pure magic on the microphone. His vicious and maddened interviews as Cactus Jack, in both WWF and ECW, were legendary and showed off his crazy and serious side. His tortured soul promos as Mankind in WWF were incredible in the early days of that character, and just as good when the character adapted into a more lovable and popular one, seeing Mankind depicted more as an everyman with a difference. The Dude Love character brought a different energy altogether. Foley has done it all in wrestling, and whether he was a bad guy, a hugely popular babyface, a commissioner or a wrestler, he could talk better than anyone. Passionate and incredibly likeable, his mic-work in the 90s with the likes of The Rock remain some of the most entertaining of all time.

5. “Macho Man” Randy Savage

The “Macho Man” is, without a doubt, the most unique promo in wrestling. His voice was the most unique voice in wrestling. His look was unique, his in-ring stood out (especially at the time) and his characters, be them heel or face, stood out. “Macho King” or “Macho Man”. Wrestler or commentator. Randy Savage was capable of absolute wizardry on the microphone. He often said peculiar things in his own dynamic and weird way, and it worked. He was intense, creative and absolutely wild, and in being so incredibly diverse and different to anyone else at the time (or since) he became someone you couldn’t look away from, someone you couldn’t stop listening to. His promo work in feuds with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and The Ultimate Warrior, among others, helped to not only sell those matches, but the events that they appeared on. For me… Randy Savage is the reason I watched wrestling and kept watching, only to become a lifelong fan. Ooh yeah.

4. Paul Heyman

Paul Heyman was a good talker back in the 80s when he worked for WCW as Paul E. Dangerously. He was good in the 90s when he appeared on his ECW shows. Paul Heyman, however, went from good to great after arriving in WWE and, often as the spokesman for other people such as Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, became one of the best ever. His impassioned speeches about his clients, his bombastic and energetic promos about upcoming matches or the wrestlers opposing his clients, they were, and are, some of the most exciting, riveting and entertaining ever. In an age where promos are often scripted and many folks sound very similar to one another, Heyman stands out. He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.

3. Ric Flair

“The Nature Boy” (WOOOO…) is one of those iconic faces that most people recognise. His career was long and he did pretty much all a guy could do. A terrific in-ring talent, it was perhaps Flair’s exceptional mic-skills that he was known for. The face of The Four Horseman, Flairs persona was an honest echo of the man himself and so his promos were passionate and real, full of all the humour and brashness of the man behind the robe. Later, during his WCW and WWE runs, Flair cut some incredible promos and worked with the best of the best, often putting them in their place, sometimes even having a “woo” off. When you can literally make a single sound and everyone replies in kind and listens, you know you’re good. Ric Flair, however, wasn’t good, he was great. One of the best.

2. The Rock

I’m not sure you’ll have heard of this guy. If you haven’t, google him. He’s pretty cool. Anyway… The Rock didn’t start out as the charismatic icon he became but once he joined The Nation of Domination in the late 90s he suddenly started showing this ultra-showmanistic side. Referring to himself in the third-person (“The Rock says…”) he became one of the biggest superstars in pro-wrestling history. He was able to soar as a heel and face, but his best work was as an antagonist, and whether he was playing live “Rock shows” and demeaning the local crowds, or cutting promos about how he would never forget the fans chants of “Rocky Sucks” and “Die Rocky Die” he was incredible. As a babyface he birthed a whole ton of famous phrases, including “Smackdown” and sold more t-shirts than Primark. He’s gone on to become one of the biggest actors of the modern age and he’s popular as hell. It all began here, and going back to see him perform his magic is still bloody fun.

1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

I remember seeing this guy called “The Ringmaster” debut in WWF back in 1995. A year later he became “Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, and cut a promo at King of the Ring that remains one of the greatest and most career-changing promos of all time. Austin was the hottest property in wrestling in the 90s and was the biggest component of wrestling boom period. The Attitude Era is a pasteboard of talent but right in the middle, front and centre, is Steve Austin in his black waistcoat and his middle finger in the air. His promo work is legendary, especially those that occurred during his feud with Mr. McMahon. Catchphrases galore, a thousand t-shirt slogans, and crowd after crowd of people eating it all up, Austin took pro-wrestling to another level, and much of that is down to his ability on the microphone. At a time when guys like Mick Foley, The Rock, Triple H, Vince McMahon and others were tearing it up on the stick, Austin still stood atop the pack and made himself into arguably the biggest star in the history of wrestling. What? I said the biggest star in the history of wrestling.

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