In professional wrestling, the promo is everything. As WWE transitioned into having a weekly Monday night television program in the 1980s with WCW following suit in the 1990s, wrestlers would come out to the ring or partake in interviews where they got to speak their minds and threaten their opponents. The days of athletes relying solely on in-ring skill was over. Sometimes, no matter how talented someone was, if they couldn’t speak well or entertain a crowd, their careers would be limited. While Brock Lesnar, Sting, and Roman Reigns make it work, they’re rarities.
Then there are the stars that maybe wouldn’t be so big if they couldn’t back up what they do in the ring with what they say. Take the recently deceased Dusty Rhodes for an example. If the man wasn’t a messiah on the mic, most wrestling promoters wouldn’t take a second look at him, amazing talent be damned. The most memorable wrestlers of all time are both in-ring veterans and can command an audience with a few words, often known as catchphrases. Superstars like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and more coined lines that you may still repeat today.
A good catchphrase doesn’t have to be long or too specific to make an impact. In fact, the shorter they are, the easier it is for the crowd to repeat them. Some of these great sayings may even infiltrate into the pop culture vernacular, making them truly timeless.
20. “Get the tables!”
In the 1990s, ECW was the goriest, bloodiest, most violent wrestling that television would allow. It wasn’t ever on a major TV network, and you had to stay up pretty late on Friday nights to see it, but it was so worth it. The Dudley Boyz, consisting of Bubba Ray and D-Von (although there were other members later on), were known for antagonizing the crowd at Philadelphia ECW shows, not caring if they started a fight with the paying audience.
When they migrated to WWE after ECW’s fall, they toned down their act only somewhat. With their toughened wrestling background, they became known for putting Superstars and Divas alike through tables. Whenever Bubba Ray would shout “Get the tables!” to D-Von, you knew that someone was about to break through a whole lot of wood.
19. “Everybody’s got a price”
Ted DiBiase was the Million Dollar Man. His gimmick called for him to be a rich star who often wore glitzy and sparkly suits with dollar signs all over. He even got his very own title, the Million Dollar Championship, which was just as glamorous and shiny as his outfits. This would be far from the last time that WWE tapped into the rich man gimmick, but it may have been the most gainful.
This was in large part due to DiBiase’s catchphrase, “everybody has a price.” He proved this often, paying his way through full hotels, the hottest restaurants, occupied swimming pools, and boarding flights to get his way in. He’d often ask WWE Superstars and even fans to degrade themselves to his benefit. Many would since they were promised large sums of cash. No wonder DiBiase’s famous saying stuck so well.
18. “You’re fired!”
The Vince McMahon character has existed for nearly 20 years, and although he hasn’t been on WWE TV consistently during that span, his character has been forced to change with the times. During the Attitude Era and beyond, he would be one of the biggest names to try to push the envelope as far as it would go, such as starting a fight with God (and poking fun at Shawn Michaels‘ personal religious beliefs in the process) and nearly pretending that he was dead (which was nixed after Chris Benoit’s murder-suicide case had come to light).
Before Donald Trump started using the line “you’re fired!” regularly, McMahon was the first salt-and-pepper-haired, over-tanned man of power to utter that phrase to his employees. Superstars and Divas were “fired” on a dime, since few people that were canned ever truly stayed gone. While it’s tough to copyright such a favored phrase, perhaps Trump was inspired by Vince and thought of him while filming The Apprentice.
17. “For the benefit of those with flash photography!”
Often regarded as one of the best tag teams of all time, Edge and Christian enjoyed much success and all the gold that came with it. Originally starting as members of The Brood with the vampiric Gangrel, the two later splintered off, went through a few faux fights (the dirt sheets alleged that they were supposed to break up, but they never did), and then got entangled in some of the most memorable matches in wrestling history as they battled The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz in bouts starring tables, ladders, and chairs.
Through all of this, the two lifelong best friends decided to have fun with their characters. They would dress in ridiculous costumes and carry crazy props to mock a city’s culture or sports team. Then, Edge would announce “for the benefit of those with flash photography!” to signal that he and Christian would pause for five seconds for fans to take pictures of their silly getups. Although a dated reference now, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this gimmick was amazing.
16. “I’m the whole f’n show!”
Over in ECW, promos were rawer, realer, and laced with much more profanity. The wrestling in Paul Heyman‘s promotion was no holds barred, anything goes each and every night. A handful of stars from the 2300 Arena in Philly would become major stars in WWE, such as Rob Van Dam. It was impossible not to notice his aerial maneuvers and how gracefully and effortlessly he could move across the ring. His five-star frog splash was highly renowned.
Unsurprisingly, RVD was full of confidence, often pointing at himself and proclaiming that he was “the whole f’n show”(except, you know, without censoring himself). When he became a part of the WWE roster, he changed the phrase to “the whole damnd show,” but once he was let go and joined up with TNA, the original line was restored. Regardless of which way you say it, fans the world over would always point their thumbs at their heads and chant along with the fun-loving RVD.
15. “Bang bang!”
Those two words, “bang bang,” and the finger gun gestures from the man known as Cactus Jack never spelled much else besides doom and barbed wire-wrapped 2x4s for the wrestlers that wrongly crossed him. Long before Mick Foley charmed WWE in the late 1990s and early 2000s as Mankind or played the role of a ladies’ man as Dude Love, he was toiling in Japan as Cactus Jack, fighting in a ring filled with explosives and lined with barbed wire ropes.
Much like RVD, wrestling in WWE was never quite as violent, but the promotion’s hardcore division was a bright staple of Attitude Era television. Foley shirked the rules a bit too, participating in some of the most jaw-dropping, bone-smashing matches in WWE history and always getting right back up. It’s no wonder that most Superstars that knew they had to face the deranged and sadistic Cactus Jack would often look for a way out of the match. Jack would stop at nothing, and he’d always stand over his crumpled opponent with those finger guns.
14. “Can you dig it, sucka?”
Not only were those five words the first that you heard before Booker T‘s theme song kicked in during his time in WWE, but “can you dig it, sucka?” is one of the best sayings ever thought of in wrestling. Booker racked up significant gold in WCW, and so he got another phrase that stuck with him for the duration of his wrestling career: that he’s the “five time… five time… five time WCW Champion.” After all, accolades like that never fail to matter.
After entertaining the masses for all of the 1990s and a good chunk of the 2000s, Booker decided to hang up the wrestling boots. However, WWE kept him around as a SmackDown commentator before promoting him to a prime spot at the Raw booth. With the headset on, Booker has spouted such gems as “shucky ducky quack quack,” “what da hell?!,” and “you gotta love it.”
13. “Welcome to Raw is Jericho!”
In the late 1990s, when it was becoming readily apparent that WCW’s awesome but underutilized cruiserweights weren’t getting the love that they deserved, a handful of them, such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko migrated over to WWE long before the brand thought of buying WCW. The Internet was just starting to become a vehicle for spoilers by the time that Jericho showed up in 1999.
One of the most charismatic stars in the whole game, Jericho’s first words were a phrase that would follow him for nearly 20 years afterwards: “Welcome to Raw is Jericho!” On that first night, the Fozzy singer and actor proved that he could go toe-to-toe on the mic with The Rock. Still employed with the company, whenever Y2J returns to WWE for a few months, he’ll almost always use this line at some point.
12. “You can’t see me.”
What Stone Cold was to WWE in the 1990s, John Cena is to the business today. Love him or hate him, he’s the face of the company and has helped WWE gain plenty of positive attention. He also knows when to step back and let newer stars rise to the top, as he’s doing now with his reign as WWE United States Champion. Cena has brought respectability back to that strap, proving that he’s not all bad. Still, you can’t help but remember the early days of him waving his hand across his face and proclaiming that “you can’t see me.”
He’s clung more to his other sayings, like the lifestyle philosophy of “hustle, loyalty, and respect.” Both harken back to Cena’s roots as a thug rapper, but, coming from a beloved star like Cena, aren’t quite as abrasive. “Never give up” has also been printed on more t-shirts than we can count. As long as Cena comes up with something marketable to say, you can surely find it on some piece of merchandise.
11. “Oooh, what a rush!”
When The Road Warriors were going to make their entrance in the 1990s, you would always hear the unmistakable growl of “oooh, what a rush!” before the theme kicked in. Regarded as one of the best of the best in terms of tag teams, Hawk and Animal tore through such promotions as American Wrestling Championship and Georgia Championship Wrestling in the 1980s, and they even spent considerable time in Japan. They had a stint in WWE and migrated to New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and WCW before rebooting as LOD 2000 when they yet again rejoined WWE.
No matter where they performed, they were as known for their colorful face paint, crazy haircuts, and pointy shoulder pads as they were for their energy and passion. Of course, having a good catchphrase totally helped their cause, too. Unfortunately, Hawk died in 2003, but Animal carried on the LOD name as recently as 2012. What a rush, indeed.
10. “Oh, you didn’t know?”
“Your ass better call somebody!” Thus would begin the banter between The Road Dogg and Billy Gunn almost every single week on Raw and SmackDown for the duration of the Attitude Era. The two would always proclaim themselves the current or former “tag team champions of the world,” with Billy Gunn rounding it out by screaming: “if you’re not down with that, we’ve got two words for ya.” Those two words, by the way, will be on the list later on.
Fans back then could and often would recite every single word that Dogg and Gunn uttered from the second their simple rock theme started until the two Superstars were in the ring ready to fight. The New Age Outlaws had such an interesting entrance, much more about what they’d say than about the music or pyrotechnics. Although “oh, you didn’t know?” sounds like a common question in everyday conversation, wrestling fans hear it much more differently.
The stylin’, profilin’, limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun. That’s just one of the many phrases that Ric Flair himself came up with to describe his larger-than-life character The Nature Boy. While he also had a penchant for entertaining WWE and WCW audiences by stating that “to be the man, you have to beat the man,” there’s only one word—more like a sound, really—that Flair is known for more than any of his other lines: “Wooooo!”
Before his momentous theme song “Dawn” would kick in, his entrance would begin with his signature call. There was no time that wouldn’t be fit for Flair to shout it, whether that was in the middle of a match, at the end of a promo to drive his point home, or backstage during segments. Even now, his daughter Charlotte has borrowed the “woooo!” from dear ol’ dad.
8. “Have a nice day!”
In the professional wrestling industry, it doesn’t really make much sense for anyone to wish someone else to have a nice day or any other kind of positive fortune. However, when it’s meant ironically, and when it’s spoken by the too-many-screws-loose Mick Foley as Mankind, suddenly it sends chills down your spine to hear those four words. In fact, they always meant that you would have anything but a nice day, typically one that ended with pain, some bleeding, and sometimes being rolled out of the arena on a stretcher.
Even when Mankind’s character softened from the man dwelling in the boiler room wearing tight brown spandex (yeah, about that) to the babyface with the sock, tie, and perpetual fighting spirit, he didn’t drop the “have a nice day” line. In fact, it fit better than ever, enough so that Foley decided to title his 1999 autobiography after it. Considering this was the first book by a pro wrestler to make to the top of the New York Times’ bestsellers list, this is one catchphrase that lives on in multiple ways.
7. “The best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be.”
Out of all the catchphrases that fans love, remember, and can recite at the drop of a hat, this one by Bret Hart is probably the longest. Calling himself “the best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be” may have been a mouthful, but it just went to show how much that Hart valued his career and abilities. About as technical as they come, “The Hitman” and his brother Owen Hart were two huge shining stars in WWE that could have both burned a lot brighter.
Still, Hart’s feud with Shawn Michaels, both when the cameras were on and had stopped rolling, is the stuff of legends. Between 1992 and 1997, they met time and again, even battling for more than 60 minutes once in an Iron Man match. Hart is unfortunately better known for The Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997 and his lackluster time in WCW than much else, but for a while, when he was in WWE, few were truly better.
6. “Rest in peace.”
Sometimes, the best taglines don’t have to be overly related to the wrestling world. They can be something that you would hear in everyday life, such as The Undertaker‘s downright eerie “rest in peace.” It all makes sense; Taker had grown up in a funeral home and torched it to the ground, supposedly killing his brother Kane in the process. Kane’s dad was named Paul Bearer (very clever). The Undertaker’s other moniker is “the Deadman.” What other kind of catchphrase would work with that type of gimmick?
At the time of Taker’s debut, a lot of wrestlers’ characters were heavily based on common occupations so that fans would relate. For the most part, this idea from Vince McMahon worked out terribly. The Undertaker could have been just another cliché, but the way that he insisted that his opponents would “rest… in… peace,” holding out the last word and ensuring there were heart-stopping pauses in between, really made you think that he believed it, which in turn made fans believe it too.
5. “Oooh yeah!”
The pageantry, the glitter, the sunglasses: the 1980s were a bombastic, colorful time in WWE, in part heralded by Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Even back when theme songs were still a relatively new addition to entrances and WWE weekly television was a fresh creation, Savage paved the way for becoming one of the most remembered and beloved wrestlers that would ever lace up a pair of boots. His simple but effective line of “oooh yeah!” was definitely a big part of that.
Had anyone but Savage been stuck with that catchphrase, it likely wouldn’t have worked as well, if at all. It was The Macho Man’s ability to almost growl the words that made it such a hit. With his regal theme of “Pomp and Circumstance” and Miss Elizabeth by his side, Savage would have career-defining battles with Hulk Hogan before eventually teaming with him in The Mega Powers. Damien Sandow may have tried to play Savage in a reinterpretation of the group with Curtis Axel, but he just wasn’t as convincing.
4. “S*ck it.”
They’re the two most iconic words that you’ll hear in the sport. This catchphrase is so inappropriate that it only makes sense that it reigned in the raunchy, sexy Attitude Era. In today’s pro wrestling climate, WWE television does whatever it can to make sure that its own talent doesn’t say the line, although the fans always happily will.
“S*ck it”, of course, came from D-Generation X’s earliest iteration with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna. It was featured in the group’s theme song, and, as they later brought on members like X-Pac, Billy Gunn, and Road Dogg, it became even more regularly and heavily used. There wasn’t a single promo that didn’t have “s*ck it” in there somewhere. not one DX t-shirt where it wasn’t printed. Fans love it today almost as much as in the 1990s, in part because the saying is once again somewhat taboo.
3. “Say your prayers and eat your vitamins.”
Arguably the most well-known professional wrestler of all time, Hulk Hogan had toys and dolls in his likeness, a pasta restaurant, his own cartoon show, a branded blender, and a huge reign at the top of WWE. He permeated through pop culture the way that only The Rock later would, becoming an actor through the 1980s and 1990s. He was the face of all faces, a positive role model for children and adults alike, in part because he encouraged healthy behaviors, like to “say your prayers and eat your vitamins.” According to Hogan, this made you a real American.
Now, okay, these days a catchphrase like that seems downright laughable, but it’s not much more different than John Cena inspiring the legions of Cenation fans to “never give up.” As Hogan addressed his Hulkamaniacs, you could bet that they’d listen and take his advice to heart. Besides, it’s not like Hogan had any problems intimidating his opponents even after showing his softer side.
2. “And that’s the bottom line, ’cause Stone Cold said so!”
The night that Stone Cold Steve Austin won the 1996 King of the Ring against Jake “The Snake” Roberts, he took his opponent’s religious affiliation and propensity for psalms to come up with “Austin 3:16,” the promo that skyrocketed him into a world of success. Even before that though, The Rattlesnake would end all of his promos with “and that’s the bottom line, ’cause Stone Cold said so,” underlining his often simple but violent tendencies.
Later in his career, in the 2000s, Austin would inadvertently create a huge catchphrase that the WWE Universe still uses today. He would pretend that he was hard of hearing, often asking his rival “what?” over and over again so they were either forced to repeat themselves or get frustrated. These days, fans commandeer the line and use it whenever someone is on the mic that’s boring them, shouting out “what?” after every other sentence. As if Stone Cold didn’t already make a huge and permanent mark on the industry, you can tune into almost any episode of Raw and hear his influence.
1. “If you smell… what The Rock… is cookin’!”
Eventually, once he honed his craft and attuned his confidence, almost any words that The Rock said would become catchphrases. He called himself “The Great One”, “the most electrifying man in sports entertainment”, and he wasn’t wrong. There was definitely a shockwave that you could feel in a building when his entrance music hit and the fans went berserk. “Candy asses” made its way into pop culture, and “laying the smackdown” not only led to the title of the Thursday night show SmackDown but also a series of late 1990s and early 2000s annual video games.
However, “if you smell what The Rock is cookin'” is probably the most famous of these lines, and with good reason. Rock would always stress his Ls, making it more like “smell-la-la-la-la-la-la.” Anyone who tried to mock him often ended up looking foolish. Today, you don’t even have to be a wrestling fan to be aware of that catchphrase. While The Rock has been the most thriving wrestler to ever leave the sport and make a name for himself in Hollywood, this is one saying that will probably follow him around for the rest of his life, if only because it’s just as much fun to say now as it was in the ’90s.