A professional wrestler's ability to cut a promo is just as important as their performance in the ring.
A wrestler can have the athletic gifts and presence of a bonafide star. However, their inability to connect with an audience via their microphone work can hinder them from having a successful career.
Some of professional wrestling's most memorable moments weren't matches but passionate proclamations that took a performer's career or a promotion to the next level. Whether these moments were scripted or ad-libbed, they were paradigm shifts in the industry that led to innovation in various aspects.
Let's revisit the promos that had a significant effect on pro wrestling.
ECW Is Born
Vince McMahon's hostile takeover in the '80s was the beginning of the end for wrestling's governing body of North American wrestling promotions called The National Wrestling Alliance. The existing promotions that managed to exist after the WWF's global domination still recognized the NWA title as a prestigious one, including a local Philadelphia promotion called Eastern Championship Wrestling.
Eastern Championship Wrestling held a tournament in August of 1994 to crown a new NWA champion. After Shane Douglas defeated 2 Cold Scorpio in the finals, he cut a promo denouncing the NWA and stating he didn't want to be the champion of a promotion that died. Douglas unveiled the Extreme Championship Wrestling Heavyweight title and called it the only real title left in professional wrestling.
Douglas's disrespect towards the NWA title was the hardcore attitude that would become synonymous with ECW and its fearless leader, Paul Heyman.
A.J. Lee the Anti-Diva
On an August 2016 episode of Monday Night Raw, then—WWE women's champion AJ Lee cut a promo on her fellow superstars and cast members of the WWE reality series Total Divas. Lee unleashed a verbal tirade mocking the reality show and accused the women in her division of having jobs only because of their looks and not because of their talent.
Lee's promo highlighted some of the real behind-the-scenes issues with WWE's women's division and put the wheels in motion for what would be known as the WWE's Women's Revolution.
Mark Henry "Says Goodbye"
There wasn't a dry eye in the arena when Mark Henry gave his farewell speech to the WWE Universe during a June 2003 episode of Monday Night Raw. In a salmon-colored blazer, The World's Strongest Man thanked the fans, the business, and then-WWE Champion John Cena for helping him live his dream as a WWE superstar.
After Henry's emotional farewell, Cena raised his hand in celebration of a Hall of Fame career. Suddenly, Henry delivered his trademark World's Strongest Slam and revealed that his retirement plans were an elaborate hoax to bait Cena into a championship match. His attack on Cena was something no one saw coming, and that's thanks to Henry's phenomenal acting job.
Dusty Rhodes Hard Times Blues
Dusty Rhodes and The Nature Boy Ric Flair's rivalry during the 1980s is one of the most legendary in professional wrestling. Their opposite personalities and values were the basis for their bitter feud, and it reached a critical level when Flair kayfabe broke Dusty's leg, putting him out of action.
On an episode of Mid Atlantic Wrestling, Dusty cut an impassioned promo stating how Ric Flair put Dusty and his family through hard times by trying to end his career. Rhodes's baptist preacher delivery resonated with the hardworking blue-collared Americans he represented. Flair may have been the World Heavyweight Champion at the time, but Dusty's fiery promo proved that he was the people's champion.
Die, Rocky, Die
When the second generation superstar Rocky Maivia debuted in the WWF in 1996, many expected him to be their number one good guy. But as professional wrestling fans started to crave an edgier product, his cheerful disposition and optimism caused them to turn on him.After returning from a real-life injury in August 1997, Maivia aligned himself with the Nation of Domination and became a heel. In his first promo after joining the Nation, Maivia chastised WWF fans for their lack of appreciation for him and his talents. This promo is a first look at the character who would eventually become wrestling's biggest Hollywood star, Dwayne "The Rock'' Johnson.
The New DX
In 1998, the D-Generation-X future was in question after a back injury forced Shawn Michaels into early retirement. After his epic encounter with Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 14, Michaels said goodbye to wrestling and the WWF. Now without his best friend and DX leader, Triple H had to prove he had what it took to be a main eventer.
The Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania 14 was the beginning of Triple H's ascension to superstardom. Triple H's promo established the new start for DX, which included new members X-Pac and tag team The New Age Outlaws. Triple H's announcement of his DX Army marked the beginning of the faction's dominance during The Attitude Era.
The Miz Demands Respect
The Miz's climb to the top of the WWE mountain came with its share of disrespect. For the first few years of his career, he was ostracized and not given any chance of succeeding, given his background as a reality TV star. But hard work and perseverance helped him to become one of the most accomplished superstars in WWE history.
The 8-time Intercontinental Champion reminded everyone how valuable he was as a performer during an episode of Talking Smack. SmackDown General Manager and host Daniel Bryan criticized the lack of risks Miz takes as a performer. Miz angrily retorted by insisting Bryan was the real coward for not leaving WWE and wrestling elsewhere when the company wouldn't medically clear him to wrestle.
The New World Order in Professional Wrestling
WCW's acquisition of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall (Known as Diesel and Razor Ramon in WWE) was the first shot in what would become the Monday Night Wars. Their arrival in the Ted Turner-owned promotion in 1996 blurred the lines between reality and fiction. Although Hall and Nash's defection was buzzworthy, their alliance with the lifelong babyface Hulk Hogan changed professional wrestling forever.
At Bash at the Beach 1996, Hogan turned on his friend Macho Man Randy Savage and revealed himself as Hall and Nash's comrade. Hogan berated the fans in attendance while pounds of garbage flooded the rings. Dubbing himself, Hall, and Nash as The New World Order-AKA-NWO, Hogan reenergized his career and helped WCW beat WWE in the ratings for 84 consecutive weeks.
CM Punk Drops a Pipe Bomb
WWE has a propensity for favoring stars who fit their idea of a WWE superstar. Unfortunately, CM Punk was never their idea of a WWE Superstar. His WWE career saw him fighting for every inch of success, despite his popularity with the fans, quality matches, and his ability to deliver a promo.
After years of being overlooked and underappreciated, Punk got to voice his real-life grievances on air during an episode of Monday Night Raw in June 2011. The Chicago Native candidly spoke about WWE's atrocious creativity, Vince McMahon and his family's incompetency, and how he was the best wrestler in the world. His brutal honesty was the catalyst for change that die-hard wrestling fans were demanding.
After being saddled with the uninspired gimmick and character called The Ringmaster, Steve Austin suggested portraying a callous serial killer type named Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin eventually went from an emotionless grappler to a loudmouth redneck looking for a fight. Fans and WWE officials started to see the brilliance that people in WCW and ECW saw behind the scenes.
Austin's moment to show his star power came after winning the King of the Ring tournament in 1996. After defeating Jake the Snake Roberts in the finals, Austin's post-victory speech referred to Jake's faith in God and how it didn't help secure a victory. "Talk about your Psalms. Talk about John 3:16," Austin stated. "Austin 3:16 says, 'I just whooped your a**!'" Austin's unscripted blasphemy gave birth to one of the most iconic catchphrases and biggest superstars in all of wrestling.
Did we miss a memorable promo?
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