What is a promo? In wrestling it is quite possibly the most important thing. Why? When wrestlers talk about a promo, or more specifically, “cutting a promo” what they are really doing is a plethora of different things. They are selling their next match. They are putting over their opponent, while touting their own abilities, they are explaining to the fans, the viewers at home and anyone else that tunes in exactly why you should tune into their specific match. Most importantly, they are furthering their respective storyline.
But what makes a good promo? What highlights a classic promo? A great promo? A promo that stands out from all the rest? What makes a superstar a good “promo guy?” Today dear readers, we are going to delve into exactly that.
In a way, the MCW Magazine is like a promo, but it is constructed a little differently. Myself and my co-host, the one and only Phil Gordon, use the Magazine as a platform to put over members of the MCW Roster, we use it to put over upcoming shows, matches and special announcements. A promo is used to “hype something up.” Or to “hype someone up.” When you watch a wrestling program, whether it be in Ontario Indy, or in the big leagues, one might notice that the superstars will go out of their way to build up their story. To elevate not only themselves, but their opponents. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that when I was growing up, and prior to actually getting into the business, the construction of promos was something that I paid very little attention to. I on the other hand was just enthralled with the entire program. I sat in awe staring at the screen dreaming about what it would be like to pick up a microphone and do what so many of the great stars, my idols, were doing on my TV screen.
I could sit and name so many great promo guys. Guys that no matter what it was that they decided to talk about, you just knew that you were going to enjoy whatever it was that came out of their mouths. From “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, to Jake “The Snake” Roberts, to “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, to Hulk Hogan, to Edge to Randy Orton to Alexa Bliss. These are men and women that have mastered the art, of “the promo.” (See Gordon, I named people that are currently active, which you might notice means that I’m talking a little about people from far beyond 1992.)
The people listed above are men and women that have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know not only how to handle a microphone, but how to command a crowd, how to hold the fans in the palms of their hands so to speak.
These are the people that even if you had something else going on, or you were busy, or you had work that needed to be done, but you had the TV on low in the background. When you looked up and saw one of these people, you knew you had to turn up the volume. You knew that it was going to be good. Ladies and gentlemen, I know for a fact that if I asked you, you could tell me your favorite Dusty Rhodes promo. (If you’re old enough) and I know that if I asked you, you could most likely choose your favorite Edge promo. Or Triple H promo or Stone Cold promo. The list goes on and on.
But let’s change the landscape a little. Today, I want to talk about one of the absolutely greatest promo men in all of professional wrestling. I want to talk about a man, who I’ve said over and over and over is a first class human being. A man that I have had the privilege and the honor to work with and a man that I am proud to call my friend. That man, is The Redneck Renegade Cody Deaner.
Now, not only is Cody one of the absolute greatest wrestlers in the world, but he is the epitome of what an amazing promo guy should be. When you give Cody Deaner a microphone, you can pretty much guarantee that you are going to get a platinum performance. You can give Cody any topic, any opponent and at the end of that promo, you will know a list of important things.
1. You will know about Cody Deaner. But not only will you know about Cody Deaner, you will know about where he has been, you will hear his accomplishments, and you will hear his reason for being in whatever building he happens to be in.
2. You will know about his match. Or his segment. You will hear about his opponent. While you are listening about his opponent, I’m quite certain that in addition to explaining to everyone just exactly why his opponent is going to give him a run for his money, he will almost assuredly tell you about some of his opponents accomplishments. Slowly, he will build and build and build and build until the very end, and that ladies and gentlemen is the climax of the promo. Right from the first word, right from setting the stage, he will explain who, he will explain what, and he will explain how he got to where and then, by the end of that promo, you and everyone else in that building will understand the why. After that? You just need to sit on the edge of your seat and watch the story unfold.
Trust me, you will be sitting on the edge of your seat. If a wrestler is cutting a promo, it is that wrestler’s job to enhance a story. It is that wrestler’s job to further a feud, to make it more personal. To give it more heat. To the point where it is so hot, the fans are salivating at the mouth in anticipation of the match that is about to go down. This my friends, is wrestling and THIS, is the magic of the promo.
Let me ask you. As a fan of wrestling regardless of what era it is that you first got introduced to, do you think that matches would be as exciting as they are without the promos leading up to them? Do you think a match pitting Kevin Owens vs say John Cena for the Universal Championship would be as epic as it could have been had their not been promos to go along with the action? Do you think you would have had the same reaction to the finish without the build up from all involved?
Wrestling fans of all ages got into the sport that we all love for several different reasons. Some for the physicality and athleticism, some for the larger than life stars, some for the music and the bright lights, and some, oh yes, some, got in because of the promos.
What would have happened to Dusty Rhodes if he hadn’t have experienced hard times? Would diamonds be forever if it weren’t for Ric Flair? Hell, would you know it if it wasn’t for Zak Ryder and Woo woo woo? Chances are all three of those men would be stars, but would they be as memorable? One might say that would be a matter of opinion, but to me, some of the phrases and memories that are etched in my memories are accompanied by the catch phrases of oh so many of my heroes, after they finished their promos.
Charisma is an extremely important part of professional wrestling. No matter what level you are at, your mentors will tell you how important it is to know how to command a room. Not only via in ring talent, but by commanding “the stick” when it is given to you.
Having the chance to talk to the fans can do so many things. Not only does it let a fan know what you sound like, but it also shows them how you carry yourself, it allows one to further develop their characters, and if they are lucky, it will let them “get over.”
There are so many little things that a promo can help to progress, and that short paragraph above, includes just the tip of the iceberg.
Truly, once you have the promo down, the sky is the limit. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you can captivate the fans and then have them hang on your every word, then when you add in the action, the fans not only be pumped over what is happening in the ring, but they will be even more excited because they know WHY it’s happening. If you paint a feud as one of the most personal , and you provide reasons and then your actions continue to tell that story, then what you have done is simply emphasize the importance and the seriousness of the match itself.
Now, I’d like to turn your attention to two men, one from what Phil Gordon would call my favourite era, and then one from The Attitude Era. Those two men are Mick Foley, and Jake Roberts. One thing that you’ll notice if you go back in the archives and listen to a promo from either of these men, is just how contrasting their styles are. When The Snake had the microphone, he just had a way of bringing you in. He had a way of capturing your interest, and then once he did that, you just didn’t want to look away. He didn’t have to yell, he just used his words, and the people listened. They listened, because they wanted to hear it. Jake knows the psychology behind professional wrestling, and he uses that to his full advantage. He is truly a master.
Now, we will take a look at Mick Foley. One thing about Mick, is that he was a little crazy. He set his reputation on the fact that no matter what it was, he would do almost anything in a match to ensure the fans had a memorable experience. Whether it was landing on thumbtacks, or taking chair shots, or being suplexed over a guard rail, or set on fire, or even losing an ear. The main focus for Mick Foley was to do everything he could to showcase his passion and make himself and moreso, his opponent look like a million dollars.
Much like his many other colleagues, he certainly did that in the ring, but he could also do it with a microphone. What is the difference between Mick and Jake you ask? While Jake didn’t have to yell, Foley on the other hand used his ability to be loud and forceful to put an exclamation point on whatever point it was that he was trying to make.
Mick has also been quoted as saying that when he was in ECW, he stated that he would refrain from swearing in his promos because that way, if he DID in fact use something profane, it would emphasize just how personal things had gotten. Please feel free to go back and listen to some Foley promos, and more specifically ones that he made more personal. THEN, tell me that it wasn’t effective.
I feel, that it would be wrong of me, in a column about promos, to not mention Rowdy Roddy Piper in more depth. Piper could turn any microphone to gold just by holding onto it. Whether he was destroying his opponent as a dastardly heel, or if he was playfully jawing about his next match as a fun loving, yet slightly unorthodox face, it didn’t matter. If it was telling Rick Rude that he might eat a garage, or explaining to Bret Hart that he wouldn’t be going easy on him, again it didn’t matter. Part of the joy of listening to a promo being cut by Roddy, is that you never ever knew what he was going to say. That, folks is something that must have been a nightmare for some network executives I’m sure.
Hulk Hogan? His promos were what solidified him as the greatest wrestling star of the 80s. I mean tell me, how many people, wrestling fan or not, don’t know whacha gonna do, when the largest arms in the world, run wild on you when they hear it???
In closing, there are two things that I am going to ask of you before we are done here today. The first is to go back and listen to some of the great promos of the past and present. Really open your mind and you’ll realize just how much a promo enhances a match, and sometimes an entire program and event as a whole.
The second thing I’m going to ask is that you have a little fun. (That’s right Gordon, I can be fun!) But yes, have a little fun. Find a camera, or pop onto Facebook live and cut your own promo. Go back and re-read some of the things that the pros focus on and make sure to implement them in your promo. Any topic, any opponent. It could be someone from MCW, it could be someone else from the Indy scene, or it could be your all time favorite. Step up folks, because I want to hear your promos! Then what I’m going to do, is give them all to Phil Gordon to judge, and the winner, will be declared as having the best promo, and will be featured on a future episode of the MCW Magazine!
Which promo stuck with you throughout your time as a wrestling fan? Feel free to let me know! Like, subscribe and be sure to check out more from MCWOntario.com!!!