The reason why I could hardly care about IWC darlings like Cesaro or Dolph Ziggler is because, while they may be able to put on 5-star quality matches week in week out without fail, they’re unable to cut a promo even if their life depended on it.
As I have mentioned time and time again, what makes pro-wrestling truly a special art-form isn’t the wrestling itself (although that plays a huge role, duh), it's actually the storytelling. And to be able to tell great stories, you need to have the ability to cut a promo unlike any other. True masters of the craft could make you interested in their upcoming match without even throwing a single punch, what more taking a chair shot to the head.
From The Rock to Austin, from CM Punk to Mick Foley and everything in between, most of the greatest moments of wrestling, involves very little actual wrestling. It’s funny when you think about it. At one point, Hulk Hogan was the most entertaining pro-wrestling con and he merely had 3 moves in his arsenal.
Here are 15 truly great WWE promos.
15 CM Punk Pipe Bomb
CM Punk is a controversial figure. Some call him an egotistical maniac for his unreasonable demands. Some say he’s a psycho with anger issues.
CM Punk may be a lot of things, but he’s also the best in the world and undoubtedly my favourite WWE Superstar of this generation. Unreasonable demands? Hell, the WWE upper management should have got on their knees and worshipped him if that’s what was needed to keep him.
Believe it or not, it is only in recent years that CM Punk became the legendary man he is today. And it all started on the 27th of June 2011. The day he dropped the pipe bomb that shook the world. The single greatest promo ever. It’s gonna be years, if ever, for someone to drop a promo as good as this one.
14 John Cena Goes Thuganomics Again
We often complain about Cena’s goofiness. He shows up, smiles, salutes, says some cheesy bullsh*t and leaves. BORING! But there’s no denying that when John Cena brings his A-Game, he’s freaking amazing on the microphone. Now, when most people think, “best John Cena promo” they think of Cena from the Ruthless Aggression era. True, most of his promos during that period were amazing. His best though? Nah, I beg to differ. John Cena’s best work though, was that one time when he went full Dr. of Thuganomics on The Rock.
For the first time in a long time, John Cena didn’t have a smile on his face and he didn’t spew cheesy nonsense. John Cena kept it real. In fact, he kept it so real, he burst my nostalgia bubble, slapped my face and knocked my teeth out. “You left us hanging high and dry, to play a fairy with a tooth?”
For the first time in a long time, the crowd was fully behind John Cena - and rightfully so.
13 Fruity Pebbles
Admittedly, this isn’t one of The Rock’s best promos. Be that as it may, this one is perhaps more memorable than any other. It was a cold sunny day, the sun was pouring heavily and the rain was shinning bright. As usual, I was lying down on my couch, watching Monday Night Raw while contemplating why I still watch this watered down product when I could spend my time simultaneously watching reruns of the Attitude Era and Candice Michelle porno.
But hey, it was WrestleMania season and Lady Gaga was gonna be the special guest host for WrestleMania 27, or so the announcers teased. Suddenly, “IF YOU SMMEEEELLLLLLLLLLL!” I was medically pronounced dead at that very moment. My cat tried CPR on me, it didn’t work. It would have been the end of The Awesome Dashran Yohan, had it not been for The Rock saying the word “home” before proceeding to bash on John Cena.
12 Paul Heyman On Brock Lesnar
A streak that nearly lasted a quarter of a century! The Undertaker. Nobody beats him at WrestleMania. That is until Brock Lesnar did it at WrestleMania 30. Brock Lesnar defeating The Undertaker at WrestleMania isn’t just a big moment. It is the most shocking moment in WrestleMania history. When it happened, there was no chorus of boos or loud cheers, just silence. People didn’t know what to make of it. Did it actually happen? Was it a botch? No way! Wait. What? Nah! It’s been 2 years already, but the debate hasn’t ended. Should Undertaker have lost to Brock Lesnar? A story for another day, maybe.
What happened the next night on Raw was equally HUGE. Paul Heyman got on the microphone and performed magic like he was George Carlin on the most powerful steroids ever invented. MY CLIENT BROCK LESNAR CONQUERED THE UNDERTAKER’S UNDEFEATED STREAK! EAT SLEEP BREAK THE STREAK! Genius!
11 Chris Jericho Debut
In WCW, Chris Jericho was treated like he’s the bastard child of Santino Marella and The Great Khali. Fine, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But for the amount of talent he had, he was a total nobody. Yeap, THE Chris Jericho, one of the most talented wrestlers in the world, was nothing but a pointless midcarder in WCW. It’s crazy when you think about it.
But screw it, it’s because he was a pointless midcarder there, he jumped ship to his dream company, WWE. But in the WWE Jericho had to prove himself. Sure, he had the rabid support of WWE’s hardcore fans, but would he be able to bring his A game when it mattered most?
Honestly, did we even need to doubt him? After weeks of a mysterious “countdown to the millennium” clock hyped fans, Y2J made his debut, interrupting The Rock. That’s right, he went one on one with the great one on his debut. The rest, as they say, is history.
10 The Rock Discusses HIAC Opponents
The second and definitely not the last time The Rock’s name appears on this list. In 2000, The Rock dropped one of his funniest promos ever (and that’s saying something) when he verbally bashed the living daylights out of his Hell in a Cell opponents.
He started by calling Kevin Kelly an ugly hermaphrodite before moving on to hype up the HIAC match. Then The Great One moved on to laying his insults on Triple H, Kurt Angle and Rikishi and even the rattlesnake himself, Stone Cold Steve Austin. It wasn’t mere words though; The Rock even went on to make spot-on impersonations of his opponents. The crowd naturally ate everything up. This promo, a couple of months before he made his appearance on Saturday Night Live, isn’t just The Rock’s funniest promos but also, the funniest WWE promo of all time. Period.
9 Mankind And Jim Ross Interview
Till this day, this sends shivers down my spine. It’s surreal. Look guys, I’m not the kinda person that gets scared watching horror movies. I wish I did, but I don’t. But this. This scares me big time.
We all know Mick Foley is a bit of a psycho. Undertaker threw him off a cage, threw him through the cage, and then threw him on a pile of thumbtacks and he smiled. He freaking SMILED! He’s one of the most popular WWE Superstars of all time. And his interviews, as Mankind, with Jim Ross, really pushed him to the next level.
A lot of top level WWE guys are charismatic and can act to a certain extent. But here, Foley puts on an acting clinic. This may not be my favourite WWE promo of all time, but there’s no denying that Foley’s interview with Jim Ross is the most well-acted.
8 Hulk Hogan Joins NWO
Okay, fine, I’m cheating. This happened in WCW, not WWE. But since WWE bought over WCW, this still counts right? C’mon guys. Please?? Okay? Okay.
Everyone knows this story. Back in the day, Hulk Hogan used to be the cleanest babyface ever. You think John Cena is squeaky clean and cheesy as hell? Well, Hulk Hogan was worse. You think John Cena can’t wrestle? Hulk Hogan could literally do 3 moves – elbow drop, big boot, leg drop. If that doesn’t convince you then this sure will. One of Hulk Hogan’s famous catchphrases was “say your prayers and eat your vitamins.”
Long story short, cleaner than a baby’s butthole. Then it happened. On July 7th 1996, Hulk Hogan sent shockwaves throughout the world when he attacked Macho Man Randy Savage and joined the NWO! This was such a big deal that the irate fans actually started throwing trash into trash into the ring. Hulk Hogan grabbed the microphone and uttered one of the most famous lines in pro-wrestling history – “The New World Order of Wrestling, brother!”
7 CM Punk On Jeff Hardy
CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy is arguably one of the greatest rivalries of this generation. It felt very real. Probably because it was very real. CM Punk is straight edge in real life – no drugs, no alcohol. Jeff Hardy, on the other hand, was notorious for doing exactly that. Put these two clash of personalities together in a wrestling storyline and you basically have JLo’s booty (in other words, GOLD).
This high octane feud lasted a few months, without bore, and included three World Heavyweight title changes. Throughout their feud, CM Punk dropped many great promos, but nothing beats the final nail in the coffin. After losing the cage match to Punk, Hardy had to leave the WWE. The next week on Smackdown, Hardy’s music hit. Only it wasn’t Hardy who showed up, but a dancing CM Punk dressed up as Jeff Hardy.
What came out of his mouth next, was venomous magic.
6 Paul Heyman Cons Chicago
This happened back in early 2014 when CM Punk’s sudden, saddening departure was fresh in everyone’s minds. What's more, it was in CM Punk’s rowdy hometown, Chicago. When Raw was held in Chicago back in March 2014, everyone was looking forward to one thing, CM Punk’s emphatic return. I mean at the time, CM Punk’s departure felt more like a work than anything else.
So when Raw kicked off with Punk’s music, the crowd went bananas. Crazy! This was probably the rowdiest the Chicago crowd has been, since CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank.
Only, it wasn’t Punk, but Paul Heyman who showed up. Cheers turned to boos faster than you can say “F you Heyman!” Thinking about it, it was genius on WWE’s part to do that. WWE was worried the Chicago crowd would hijack Raw with CM Punk chants throughout the night. But being the microphone genius that he is, it was Paul Heyman who hijacked the Chicago crowd.
5 Bret Screwed Bret
The Montreal Screwjob! The incident where Vince McMahon manipulated Bret Hart, changing an agreed upon outcome of the match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Over the years, we’ve all been exposed to so much of information that we can sorta piece together the whole picture for ourselves. Vince McMahon didn’t actually screw Bret; it was indeed Bret who screwed Bret.
However, at that time, Vince’s action was deemed as extremely villainous. So villainous that it birthed the biggest heel in pro-wrestling history, Mr McMahon.
Following that incident, Vince McMahon had an interview with Jim Ross. This wasn’t one of those extremely energetic, crowd popping promos. It was a simple interview segment, but one that is controversial until this day. This interview segment was such a big deal at that point because it broke kayfabe in every way imaginable. Unlike these days, breaking kayfabe is something that rarely ever happened at that point in time.
4 Paul Heyman On SmackDown People
Most of us know the iconic “If John Cena wins, we riot” sign from ECW One Night Stand. ECW One Night Stand still stands till this day, as one of the most memorable pay per views in recent memory, especially because of John Cena vs RVD.
However, something else happened that night which was just as strong as the match between John Cena and RVD - and that is Paul Heyman cutting one of his edgiest, most memorable promos. Paul Heyman, the founder of ECW, took the opportunity to deliver a promo that rode the fine line between real and scripted, taking a giant dump on many Raw and Smackdown superstars in the process. One of the craziest (and funniest) moments came when Heyman told the men in the crowd to hide their wives when introducing Edge. He then went on to spew insults at Eric Bischoff! It was surreal! The crowd ate every word. Heyman is truly the master.
3 Austin 3:16
They say, in the entertainment and arts industry, hard work alone doesn’t pay off. You also have to be at the right place, at the right time. Sometimes, you also have to be at the right place, at the right time and say the right things. Don’t believe me? Ask Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Stone Cold may not be one of my top 5 WWE Superstars of all time, but to most people, Stone Cold goes beyond top of the top of the top. It may come as a surprise, but a lot of it had to do with luck. Stone Cold wasn’t supposed to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament - Triple H was. Unfortunately (or fortunately), Triple H took part in the infamous Curtain Call incident at Madison Square Garden and, as a punishment, WWE had his King of the Ring victory taken away from him. Instead, Austin was given the victory - and with that a little bit of time on the microphone. As a mockery to his opponent, Jake the Snake Roberts (who is a born again Christian), Austin spewed something about the bible and invented the most iconic pro-wrestling catchphrase in history – “Austin 3:16 says he just whooped your candy a*s!”
2 The Rock Slams Toronto
The Rock’s return to Raw was a surprising affair, considering that he was part of the Smackdown roster at that time. But come back he did. "Finally The Rock has come back to Toron...Toron...to run his mouth on all your candy asses." Honestly, The Rock is literally the only WWE Superstar to be able to say random bullshit and make it sound cool and funny. C’mon you dare say you wouldn’t wear a “Toron...Toron...to run his mouth on all your candy asses” T-shirt if it existed? The Rock’s promos are so awesome, that when he insults you, you cheer him on and agree!
The Rock: Hey Dash, you’re a dumba*s bi*ch!
Me: YEAHH!! ROCKY, ROCKY, ROCKY!!
And what about this line?? "There's only one true superstar of the decade, true superstar of the millennium - you know who that is? The Rock will tell you who that is. Toronto, that is the jabroni beating, pie eating, trailblazing, eyebrow raising, stronger than a bear, faster than a buck, the biggest thing to hit Canada because the Maple Leafs suck!" Oh Rocky!
1 Mick Foley And CM Punk
“Put one great promo guy on the microphone, he entertains. Put two great promo guys on the microphone in the same ring and the very fabric of reality is shaken.” – Me
Mick Foley motivating CM Punk to face John Cena at Hell in a Cell turned out to be the best promo of 2012 and one of the best in Foley’s career. Punk was doing all he can to avoid facing John Cena in Hell in a Cell as he wanted to prolong his title reign. He had dreams of surpassing Bruno Sammartino’s title reign of 2803 days. Insert Mick Foley!
Screaming, “Do you wanna be a statistic, or do you wanna be a legend,” Mick Foley talked about moments that define who we are as individuals. Foley was so good, by the end of it, I was ready to face John Cena inside the cell and I’m not even a wrestler.