So now ladies and gents, it’s time once again to venture into The Line of Fire!
This month, we’re gonna take a look at a few of the greatest talkers in the history of the business. Instead of me waxing philosophic about the virtues of this month’s subjects, I’m going to let them do most of the talking.
The biggest thing that I see when I watch any of these promos and one of the primary differences between their modern counterparts is emotional content. They may not be the most eloquent speeches ever given, but what sets them apart is the speakers ability to impart their emotion to their words, and so to their audience. There’s a big difference between reciting someone else’s thoughts and speaking from your heart.
Too often anymore, when a promo is cut by talent from any organization, the words seem forced and very bland. The art of the promo is lost a lot of times on the newer generation because they are basically told to memorize some other writer’s thoughts and pass them off as their own. There have been some good talkers recently. As much as it pains me, I think that John Cena is one of the better promo men in the WWE right now. That doesn’t say much for the state of affairs in WWE at the moment, but here’s my thoughts. John has a gift that helps him a lot, and that’s the ability to think on his feet. If you look at the better talkers in the business, that’s one of the key ingredients to being able to provide emotionally charged and effective interviews. My main complaint with Cena is his delivery is very much the same across the board, no matter the situation.
One other gift that set apart the better talkers of days gone by is adaptability. To be able to read not only the situation but the audience and how they are responding to you, to be able to get your point across without becoming bogged down when something may not go quite as planned. A lot of the issue is lack of experience. There just aren’t enough well seasoned performers to put on the stick and talk to people anymore.
What we’re going to do now is take a look at a few of the better talkers from the business and break down what set them apart from their peers of the time and also what makes them stand out as some of the best in history. We look first at Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
One of the coolest characters ever created, Jake was almost scary with how imposing he could be, just using his voice. Watch his eyes throughout and you get the feeling that he’s trying to look into the soul of each and every person in the audience, all while getting his “hatred” of DiBiase across via his words, his inflection and his emotion.
Now we’re going to move to a wrestler that’s near and dear to my heart, Mick Foley. In my opinion, one of the better pro wrestlers of the last 25 years based on his ability to prey on emotion. His passion for the business helped him create a bond with fans, either working heel or face, which is integral for success in pro wrestling. While he was known for a violent brawling style, Mick was able to express himself extremely well both physically and verbally. Just check out the interview from ECW back in 1994.
Foley walks a fine line, coming close to breaking character during this interview. While he never denied he was married or kids, generally that sort of content was kept out of interviews to maintain suspension of reality. What this also accomplished however was proving the theory correct that the best angles and gimmicks are extensions of the performers themselves. This was very personal to Mick and he let it be known, albeit in an exaggerated way, how it made him feel to see a sign calling for the caning of his son. For some more examples of Mick’s mic work, look up any of the anti-hardcore hardcore promos that he did while in ECW. There are several great examples of how a good promo can be delivered.
And now, to the Dream! The American Dream that is (although if you didn’t know that and you’re reading this, it’s fairly surprising). Dusty Rhodes was a tremendous talker. Endlessly charismatic and able to connect with the everyday workers. People who could never relate to Ric Flair. Dusty took being the son of a plumber, and parlayed that into a career that spanned decades. Look up the “hard times” interview that he gave for another example of his passion and ability to connect with an audience. Maybe not the most eloquent of speakers, Dusty proved that you didn’t always have to be polished and perfect. He showed how much you could do with will and determination and a desire to entertain that very few have had before or since.
WHOOOOOOOOOO! Of course you know that I couldn’t leave the Nature Boy off the list of the greatest talkers ever. As most people are aware of Naitch’s work, I’m going to let him do his talking. You’ll probably be surprised with the interview I’m going with. It’s actually from later on in his career with WCW. I think the fact that he’s got people worked up before he even starts the angle is great, and the fact that he even comments on that is so cool. It’s one of the finer examples I’ve seen of a performer acknowledging his ability to play with people’s emotions, making mention of that in the middle of the interview, and then still proceeding to tear the house down. And the crowd willingly plays right along.
With that, I’ll bid you adieu for now. Next month, be prepared! We’re going to take a look at some workers who were extreme long before ECW was around. Prepare yourselves for the bloodbath! See you next month.