My favorite part of the pro wrestling business has always been a great promo. Growing up as a fan in the 1980s you were inundated with them. That is why today I celebrate the pro wrestling promo and look back at the best mic men of all time.
WWE.com put out a list of great promos last year. It got me to thinking about my memories of watching pro wrestling as a fan and tape trader in the 1980s. So without even taking one look at the WWE list I thought it would be fun to sit back and put a list together of my own…WWE politic-free!
It is hard for fans today to understand how important the art of the promo used to be. There were no such things as scripts or script writers. These great talkers came out, grabbed the microphone, and delivered a cacophony of threats, jokes, and promises, and talked thousands of people into paying their hard earned money to either watch them get revenge or watch them get the beating they deserve. It was what made or broke you as a top draw in pro wrestling. That was the difference between these guys and what fans may consider a great promo today.
This list is in no particular order or rank. The list comes after watching endless hours of pro wrestling as a kid through local TV and tape trading. Thanks to You Tube fans can now appreciate these great promo men, decades after their words helped plenty of butts into the local arenas. So without any further a due let’s take a look back at the greatest mic men in pro wrestling history.
Jerry Lawler – Before the King became a corny WWE character he ruled the Memphis territory with his two fists. During that time, the King was able to draw 10,000 fans per weekend (at the height of the territory) to see him get revenge on whomever the unlucky villain was that laid out Lawler the week before. The one thing I always loved about Lawler’s promos in Memphis is that he came across as genuine and not just some loud pro wrestler yelling about what he was going to do to his opponents.The money this man’s mouth drew makes him one of the greatest of all time in my opinion.
Roddy Piper – There are two different Roddy Pipers. The one before Piper turned babyface in 1986 and the legendary Piper who delivered some of the greatest promos in pro wrestling history on a weekly basis from 1975-1986. Piper’s promos in San Francisco, Portland, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Mid-Atlantic, and his heel WWF stint were genius. I could sit back and watch hours of Piper promos on You Tube and find myself wanting more when they are over. I also dare anyone to watch a few hours of Piper as a color commentator in Georgia Championship Wrestling and not come away thinking Piper was the greatest heel/color commentator in pro wrestling history…but that is for a different top ten.
Ric Flair – Wooo! The Nature Boy! It is impossible to put this kind of list together without including the great Ric Flair. I think what stands out about Flair over anyone on this list is longevity when it comes to promos. Most of these guys had a point in their career where they peaked and their promos were never as good as their early days. For Flair, he continues to deliver some of the best promos in the business. I grew up watching Flair cut promos on TBS every week and thought he was a legend. Even as a babyface Flair could knock them out of the park, yet his heel promos are where he was in his wheel house.
Magnificent Muraco – If I was ranking this list Muraco would be way at the top. For me, Don Muraco was the greatest promo man of all-time. I grew up watching Muraco cut promos every week on WWF television on everyone from Pedro Morales, to Chief Jay Strongbow, to Bob Backlund, to Jimmy Snuka and they were all the most entertaining promos I ever heard. His promos always had somewhat of a “shooty” aspect to them and he always gave fans a great reason to pay $15 to watch him get his butt kicked. The Rock has credited Muraco for influencing his promos. It is a shame more pro wrestlers didn’t learn promos from this legend.
Dusty Rhodes – Like the majority of wrestlers on this list, there are two different versions of Dusty Rhodes. There is the Dusty Rhodes who was booked as the top star of a territory (by himself most of the time) and the Dusty who was a bit player in his later years. I can’t think of many babyfaces that were able to envoke as much passion and intensity from pro wrestling fans as Dusty Rhodes. There was just something about Dusty Rhodes that made you relate to him and made you want to see him get his revenge. I know that “Hard Times” is a classic but as a kid I was watching promos like that almost every week from the American Dream.
Captain Lou Albano – For me, Muraco and Captain Lou are neck and neck as far as the greatest promo men in the history of the business. I would almost give the nod to Albano for the fact that he was able to draw so much money as a heel manager for Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund’s challengers. Like Muraco, there is a real funny comedic side to Albano’s promos that even as a kid I appreciated. Go back and watch them now on You Tube and while the great Captain probably couldn’t say half of what he said in this current politically correct environment, you can certainly see the humorous side that Lou had to his promos. That was probably because he delivered more than half of his promos intoxicated.
Superstar Billy Graham – Thanks to You Tube I have really grown to appreciate the great Superstar. If you look at the big picture and take note of all of the great promo men that Billy Graham influenced, there is no way you can walk away from this list without recognizing his ability to talk fans into the seats. He influenced the greats like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Dusty Rhodes by bringing his Muhammad Ali-ish brand of rhyme and arrogance to the microphone. The WWE DVD on the Superstar was a great reminder of how talented this man was for his time period.
The Rock – I went back and forth on this one. I grew up watching pro wrestling in the 1980s and I saw a lot of great promo men. But there is something that still gets me every time The Rock is on television with a microphone. Beleieve me, he went through a period in my opinion in which his promos got stale. However, his rebirth as “Hollywood” Rock during his last full time run produced some of the greatest promos in WWE history. Let’s face it. He didn’t become one of the biggest WWE stars of all time on his wrestling. His mouth did the talking and his promos turned him into a megastar.
Honorable Mention: Paul Heyman, Hulk Hogan, Bobby Heenan, Tully Blanchard, Harley Race, Nick Bockwinkel, Randy Savage, Sgt. Slaughter, Bill Watts, Jake Roberts, J.J. Dillon, Jimmy Garvin, Michael Hayes, CM Punk, Raven, and Curt Hennig