25. Raven – Raven has always been a fantastic promo and would easily be top 5 if he got more WWE promo time. As is, he basically owned Sunday Night Heat for a time and got a lot of good stuff in the hardcore division. It’s a shame his best work never got the stage of the WWE.
24. Harley Race – Another guy who’s best work was clearly elsewhere, King Harley was still excellent on the mic and I remember despising him as a kid based on his pompous promos even when I had no idea who he was, which is, in-case you’re very new to wrestling- one of the 10-best to ever live.
23. Razor Ramon – Fake Scarface Razor is fantastically fun, but his best stuff clearly came as a major mouth-piece of the NWO in WCW. Still, the Bad Guy earns his spot, helping the mid-card really matter and clearly being capable of more.
22. John Cena – I know I’ll take heat for him being so low, but he’s either fantastic or utterly forgettable. Cena is a signature mic-man of his generation through sheer exposure, but really needs to develop more consistency with the stick.
21. Triple H – Remember the days when Raw would begin with what seemed to be a half-hour of Triple H talking every week? If we kick that off his resume, he’d be better, as he’s quite good at his intense role, funny with D-X, and was a solid foil for Rock and Austin on the mic… unfortunately, he was out there with Rock and Austin, who blew him out of the water.
20. Kurt Angle – Kurt did an absolute ton of comedy, but was still absolutely hilarious and, when allowed, could bring the intensity. That’s the one part of his TNA work superior to his WWE- intense promos.
19. William Regal – The criminally underrated Regal complained about not being on the WWE list, and well he should. Few got over the smarmy heel so well. The only question was whether to put him here or on the non-wrestler list for his awesome GM role.
18. Dusty Rhodes – He might be #1 if we include his NWA and Florida promo work, only a short sting in WWE prevent StarDust from being much, much higher.
17. Shawn Michaels – Contrasted to Dusty, here’s a man who made it by sheer volume of time and promos. Over twenty years, Shawn was largely forgettable, but he had very good comedic timing, as seen by his innovative early D-X stuff and could absolutely handle drama, as seen by all the awesome work with Chris Jericho.
16. Larry Zbszko – Although before my time, the Living Legend did the mentor-student deal to perfection with Bruno Sammartino and with that hot angle talked himself into some of the best gates Bruno ever drew, which is to say some of the best gates in the world at the time.
15. Edge – The colossal prick managed a major feud that helped establish Cena as the company’s top man and then carried Smackdown for several years. If he can get his face-promos over, he’ll shoot up 5 or so spots.
14. CM Punk – The heat he gets is comparable to that of Edge, except Punk feuds with the likes of referees and R-Truth. He’s the best talker in the company today and was at least solid as a face on the mic.
13. Superstar Billy Graham – The prototype cocky superstar heel, he was an absolute prick, drawing people in to see his larger than life attitude by his awesome promos, giving him the title as a heel when in the Northeast the title was exclusively the property of faces.
12. Rick Rude – Rude never gets credit for his promos anymore, but he was a heat machine. In much the same way Punk tortures fans with his Straight Edge lifestyle, Rude did with his manly prowess. Guess which the crowd took more personally? Rude was left to not only freak the crowd out, but make sense of feuds with the more esoteric promos – sure everyone remembers the mic wars with Jake Roberts, but who do you think held together those messy, insane Warrior confrontations?
11. Randy Savage – Yes, every wrestling fan has mimicked his promos from time to time, Savage is one of the best ever on the mic, with awesome intensity and a style all his own. Here’s his memorable acting in turning on Hogan in an unforgettable moment.
10. JBL – A weak worker and lifelong mid-carder, JBL never should have ascended the heights he did when he became a singles wrestler… but then who knew he could play the rich, evil Texan quite this well. He held the title for a year, drawing awesome heat thanks to his amazing promos… and, although it doesn’t factor into the list, tossed in an absolute classic match with Eddie Guerrero.
9. Ric Flair – Naitch not only had his amazing early run as the Real World’s Champion and the “She was mine first!” promos with Elizabeth, but also his time as the mouthpiece for Evolution, the most successful heel stable of the 2000s so far, and his memorable retirement feud with HBK.
8. Ted Dibiase – The perfect unlikable, rich prick. He was supremely cocky and effective, while being just over the top enough to be memorable. The laugh truly put him over the top.
7. Hulk Hogan – The king of the insane, overblown promo, he would just talk forever about his feud, making it seem like the most important thing ever. That was the true secret ingredient to the success of Wrestlemania.
6. Jake Roberts – Whether creepy as a heel, or intense as a face, Jake was elite on the mic and drew fans. He was the #2 face in the WWF for years, losing to heels, getting them over as dangerous on the mic and in the ring, before they’d go on to Hogan, and he truly made many opponents, while as a heel, he was just unreal, torturing the babyfaces like Randy Savage and Undertaker, making them seem unbelievably powerful for overcoming his evil machinations.
5. Steve Austin – When you remember his success, don’t just remember the Stunners and stunts, remember the year he didn’t really wrestle on television and how much his promos carried and kept him over, making Raw must-watch. Remember his calling out of Bret Hart with such hatred and intensity. He was more than catchphrases, he was fantastic.
4. Mick Foley – Foley was fantastic as the tortured Mankind, then hilarious in the more lovable role as the Rock’s sidekick. He got Triple H over as a top guy not only with epic matches, but also with his amazing return of Cactus Jack promos. Foley was, when he was on, a truly epic talker, capable as a face or a heel and in comedy or serious roles.
3. Roddy Piper – Piper was just as versatile as Foley on the mic and deciding which ranked higher was a true challenge. It came down to Piper having the Pit as a platform with all that entailed from the Andrew Dice Clay Piper’s Pit to the Andre the Giant heel turn to the Snuka and Hogan feuds… Piper just brought the hate.
2. Chris Jericho – Like with Cena being so low, Jericho ranking so high will be controversial. From his debut to his feuds with Benoit (who carried the mic work in those again?) to his Triple H, Austin and Rock feuds, to establishing Cena to his awesome return and work with Orton to his classic heel turn and the all time great work with HBK and as part of JeriShow, his mic work is a huge part of why, when he left, Jericho was nearly undisputed as the best wrestler in the world.
1. The Rock – The Rock was the ultimate natural on the mic. He was amazing, able to adapt, get face or heel reactions and be hilarious even as fans were rooting for him to lose blood. Here we have not a classic Rock face promo- those were good enough to keep him on par with Austin- but the Hollywood Rock, where he showed he was arguably the best wrestler of this generation.
Tags: chris jericho, Hulk Hogan, jbl, john cena, Mick Foley, morning backlash, Roddy Piper, shawn michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, William Regal