What separates the classier, more elegant art form known as professional wrestling from barbaric “sports” like MMA fighting or football is the focus on awesome promos. Wrestlers become distinguishable based as much on their ability to come up with catchy phrases and engage the crowd. Sometimes, they can transcend wrestling and become popular culture icons based solely on their mic work. Over the course of wrestling’s rich history, a few have stood out as being the greatest. Here’s a list of the 10 best trashtalkers the “sport” has ever seen.
10. C. M. Punk — Punk is easily the best talker in the biz right now. His straight edge gimmick of talking down to the audience for not being as morally grounded as him is always fascinating to watch. Punk even takes breaks during matches to talk about his straight edge lifestyle. He’s the most entertaining talker in wrestling now and will only move up the list in a few years.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — The man stopped in the middle of the freaking Royal Rumble to talk his ish, imploring fans to join him on the straight-edge. The promo was so awesome that the fans even started to cheer him while he was calling them fat alcoholics.
9. Macho Man Randy Savage — Macho Man is the Supreme Clientele of wrestling talkers. Nobody knows what he’s talking about but it’s awesome and pretty hilarious. Scratch the Ghostface reference. Macho Man is more like a real-life Popeye. And we love him for it.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — A cup o’ coffee in the big time! Watch for the dramatic coke-induced black out at the end.
8. Chris Jericho — Jericho made the greatest debut in WWE history by verbally sparring against The Rock. His career only went uphill after that. Jericho can switch from comedy, to serious, back to absurd. His borderline racist rants against the luchadores are things of beauty.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — This is just a legendary clip. Granted, The Rock makes it off the charts, but Jericho held his own.
7. Hulk Hogan — Clearly, Hogan was one of the biggest stars in wrestling history and his catch phrases were a big part of that. Unfortunately, he only said like the same five phrases over and over. Luckily for him that worked well for the kiddie crowd of the ’80s.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — Because you and your friends were in your wrestling draws watching this video on Saturday mornings trying to learn all of his phrases.
6. Roddy Piper — Don’t let his tour de force of acting prowess from They Live lead you to believe that Roddy saved his greatest lines for the big screen. “Piper’s Pit” was a series of classic interview segments that got Piper his stellar movie roles. He could incite a crowd like no other skirt-wearing man in the history of the world.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — It’s possibly pretty racist, but who cares? This is a legendary angle that made Piper one of the most loathed men in wrestling.
5. Terry Funk — The man’s last name is Funk for God’s sakes. He had a raspy whisper delivery that would make Jay-Z jealous. He wrestled until he was about 93 years old and stayed entertaining the whole time. Did he make sense in every promo? No. But you couldn’t stop watching.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — Terry Funk is the Ghostface of wrestling promos. Nonsense and storytelling all rolled into one.
4. Dusty Rhodes — Every good hero needs an equally awesome villain and vice versa. One reason Ric Flair was so great was his anti-bling, everyman nemesis raised by a plumber. His lisp and southern drawl became his trademark. Good thing he could talk, because he had man boobs and a weird chocolate birthmark looking thing on his body that creeped us all out.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — Your favorite rapper could take a lesson or two on how to talk about hard times like this. It’s a broke man’s anthem.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin — “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your a$$.” So what if he’s going to Hell, Austin is the biggest star in wrestling history and a big part of that is due to his ability to work the crowd into a frenzy on the microphone. He spent most of his major stardom with a jacked up neck, so he relied on his promos. At the end of his career, he started the “what” craze that was at once annoying and hilarious.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — This is probably the most famous promo in the history of wrestling. In just a few minutes, he became a household name. This promo is Austin’s Illmatic.
2. The Rock — At the peak of wrestling’s popularity, The Rock was one of the most recognizable figures in the WWF. “You smell what The Rock is cookin’?” and “Know your role and shut your mouth” showed a magnetism that’s earned the man a spot as Hollywood’s elite stars of bad movies. His best role was as the male Tooth Fairy. But that’s neither here nor there.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — This is by far my favorite promo in all of wrestling. In just a few minutes, The Rock got the crowd to cheer him, hate him and cheer him again.
1. Ric Flair — This was a no-brainer. The man is the best talker in wrestling history and could probably win a few electoral votes on his flyness alone if he were on a campaign trail. He’s coined “stylin’ and profilin’,” made “whoo” famous and even named his schlong “Space Mountain.” The list of accomplishments is uncanny. Just watch the video again and relive the magic.
Why This Clip Is Awesome — Because it’s Ric Flair, stupid.
Bonus — The greatest moment in wrestling promo history.