The bell-to-bell action is only part of what makes professional wrestling special. You need compelling characters and those characters have to be able to bring it on the mic. If a wrestler doesn’t have charisma, can’t carry himself during a promo and won’t talk smack about his opponent, the audience can lose interest quickly. These superstars never had that problem, as they were able to taunt their opponents, the audience or authority figures so cleverly to the point that no matter whether they were face or heel, the audience gravitated towards them.
10) Ted DiBiase, The Million Dollar Man
A man who’s rich and can buy and sell anyone he wants? Of course, he’s going to talk trash. Not only did he talk trash, but he humiliated anyone at any given moment. He took advantage of people’s willingness to do anything for a buck and he threw it back in their face.
Who could forget DiBiase offering a kid $500 if he could dribble a basketball 15 times, only for him to kick the ball away on dribble no. 14? How about him shoving $100 bills in the mouths of his opponents after every victory?
There’s no doubt DiBiase played his character to perfection, grasping exactly what a really rich jerk would be like.
9) Macho Man Randy Savage
Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage best defined the ’80s. While Hulk Hogan may have been the most charismatic talker of his time, it was unquestionably the Macho Man who was the better trash-talker of the two.
The Macho Man’s lines were unforgettable, whether he was saying, “You will eat my rear rockets and like it!” or antagonizing Hogan fans as “Pukesters” he commanded your attention when he would cut a promo and was so entertaining, you couldn’t help but be in awe of him. It must’ve been hard for fans to boo him when he was a heel.
His lines, and of course that voice, has wrestling fans still imitating the Macho Man to this day.
8) Edge and Christian
The WWE experienced a splendid rejuvenation of the tag team division in the Attitude Era thanks to the trio of tag teams, the Hardy Boyz, the Dudley Boyz and E&C – Edge and Christian.
Of the three teams, Edge and Christian were the best at talking trash, both to their rivals and the fans. Their five-second poses were priceless, doing everything they could to get a particular city to boo them out of the building. It’s easy to see how Edge and Christian were both able to go on and have successful singles careers.
They were nerdy, cheesy, yet they were incredibly entertaining, and great at improv. The tag team really felt like an extension of the duo’s goofy personalities.
7) Bobby Heenan
If one manager had to make this list, it’s Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Any heel who couldn’t quite carry a promo was put with Heenan and he would take it from there. He was the best manager of all time for a reason. He could generate incredible heat for his clients and was so witty and quick on the mic. Whether he was cutting a promo, engaging in a verbal duel with someone or interacting with the humanoids in the audience, Heenan could spew some incredible trash-talk.
His skills also translated well into colour commentary, where he probably had his best moments and it all revolved around belittling the babyfaces during matches or arguing with Gorilla Monsoon. Heenan had a gift. He is the best manager and arguably the best colour commentator in WWE history.
6) Rowdy Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper went on such obnoxious rants that he often had you questioning whether he had gone too far. That means that as a heel, he did his job to perfection.
It didn’t matter who he was facing, Piper could always find some defect, something off about his opponent and he would be relentless in attacking that quality. Whether it was attacking Jimmy Snuka with a coconut, talking about Mr. T‘s chains or saying that Bret Hart was in diapers until he was eight, once he got on a roll, it was hard to stop him.
Piper was the perfect foil for such a shining hero like Hulk Hogan in the ’80s. He was rough around the edges, unapologetic and you couldn’t wait for someone to shut him up, (well, sort of).
5) Ric Flair
Not only could Ric Flair bring it between the ropes, but even more impressive, was his skills on the mic. What made him so great, is that he could generate incredible heat on the mic, and earn sympathy for his babyface opponents.
Flair had such an amazing persona and was a really in a league of his own as far as trash-talking when it came to the NWA. He only got to display his skills for a brief time in WWE during the early ’90s and from 2001-2008, but Flair just made too much of an impact in this element to leave off the list.
4) CM Punk
There are countless videos out there of CM Punk dropping his so-called “Pipe Bombs”, as he crossed lines week after week, blurring the lines of reality on WWE programming. Particularly from the summer of 2011, Punk had everybody talking about wrestling again. In truth, Punk always had this skill, whether he was in Ring of Honor, just starting out in WWE’s ECW brand or running the Straight Edge Society.
Punk’s promos were constantly some of WWE’s best throughout his tenure, but it was really in the 2011 storyline where he took his work to a whole new level, a level the WWE has failed to match since it occurred.
Whether Punk was addressing John Cena, Triple H, John Laurinaitis, Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Paul Heyman, the WWE fans, or even The Rock, he proved that he could command any segment in which he was involved. The dominant factor with Punk was the element of reality he brought in his promos. While these things were said for storyline purposes, you always felt there was some truth to what he was saying. Whenever a wrestling program is able to create that doubt in a viewer’s head, it’s magical. Punk did that on a consistent basis.
3) Chris Jericho
Whether he was the Lionheart, Y2J, or “the best in the world at what I do”, Chris Jericho always found a way to entertain on the mic. Whether he was loved or despised, he always found a way to put down his opponent, or act like he was above the fans.
Some of his most memorable trash talk came early on in his WWE tenure, when he was constantly feuding with Stephanie McMahon, always finding new ways to insult the Billion Dollar Princess. He also feuded with The Rock and was able to hold his own against The Great One.
He would leave WWE in 2005 and by 2008 he had adopted a new persona, one who spoke very slowly, calculated and subdued. He redefined himself while never losing what made him great; his knack for humiliating his opponents. Some of the biggest testaments of Jericho’s wit and charisma are; the fact that he has written three books, has his own Podcast and he’s the lead singer in his own band.
2) Stone Cold Steve Austin
Stone Cold Steve Ausin was the main reason the WWE was able to win the Monday Night War against WCW. One of the reasons he was so successful was his ability to outshine anyone who stood in his way. He engaged in some of the best feuds in WWE history, including with Bret Hart, The Rock and of course, Vince McMahon.
It all began with him getting fired by WCW, venting his frustrations on ECW programming, then finally his breakout moment at King of the Ring 1996. His subsequent feud with Bret Hart got him even more popular with the fans and it just never stopped climbing.
1) The Rock
If you’re a WWE writer and you find yourself needing to fill more time in a WWE program, just tell The Rock to start talking trash. Whenever the Great One started to talk trash, pure gold came out of his mouth.
Perhaps his innate ability first came on display when he played football for the Miami Hurricanes, a team that defined trash talking in football.
When Dwayne Johnson became The Rock, his natural charisma was dialed up to unprecedented levels. The Rock has such an overbearing ability to steal the thunder in anything he does. The Rock just commanded everyone’s attention in WWE and it was due to the fact that he was delivering the best verbal beat downs ever seen in pro wrestling and maybe any form of sports or entertainment.
He had his countless catchphrases, “If you smell what The Rock is cooking,” “Just Bring It,” “Know your role, shut your mouth,” “Jabroni beating, pie eating, trail blazing, eyebrow raising, People’s Champ, The Rock!” and “The Rock’s gonna take his boot, shine it up real nice, turn that sumbitch sideways, and stick it straight up your candy ass!”
On top of his trash talking, no one could interact and command a crowd the way The Rock could. It got to the point that The Rock could literally ask the fans to chant for anything and they’d comply for the People’s Champion. The Rock always had the crowd in the palm of his hand. The Rock is untouchable in this area. When you think of trash-talking, you think of The Rock.