Wrestling is an interesting specimen because it really isn’t about wrestling itself. Of course there is always going to be wrestling involved, but there is a place that has pure amateur style wrestling and it only happens every four years. That would be the Olympics, and how many people watch that kind of wrestling (Maybe it would be better with more broken freaking necks.)?
As strange as it may sound, the most important part of a professional wrestling show is the talking, because it gives you a reason to care about everything that is going on. Without promos and angles and storylines, there is nothing to wrestling but a bunch of people grappling and punching each other. That may sound fine in theory, but you are only going to get so far with the same kind of thing over and over. Throw in the flavor of a good character being involved and saying something to make you care and people will keep coming back.
I think it’s safe to say that WWE’s promo game is not exactly strong right now. There is a case that it is the worst it has ever been and that is partially because of how little control the wrestlers have. The WWE’s insistence on scripted promos and controlling every word that is said is borderline famous these days, with all kinds of ex wrestlers talking about how little freedom most of them have on the microphone.
That leads to a few serious problems, not the least of which is NO ONE TALKS LIKE THIS. So many WWE promos sound like they were written by someone who cracked open a thesaurus without making sure that what they said sounded like it came from a human. This has led to some of the all time most ridiculous sounding promos and it has caused one problem after another for both the wrestlers and the fans. That is what made something from earlier this week all the more refreshing.
Last week, news broke that WWE Champion Drew McIntyre had been diagnosed with the Coronavirus and would not be able to be at Monday Night Raw for two weeks. McIntyre has still been sending in taped promos though, including one this week about his upcoming match with Goldberg at the Royal Rumble. That promo is what we’re going to talk about today, because it had something that has been lacking from WWE for a long time.
The promo really isn’t anything noteworthy. McIntyre says he has been at home watching the show and has seen Miz and John Morrison. Since the two of them are clowns, he is thinking about the circus, which has a little something for everyone. This transitions into McIntyre referring to himself and Goldberg as lions, with a promise that he will take Goldberg out in two minutes if Goldberg isn’t ready for him. McIntyre closed it up by saying that he would be back next week to see Goldberg in person. The whole thing took about two minutes, if even that much.
This was, at least much more than usual, the classic definition of a promo. McIntyre had a point to make and talked about it with the hopes of making fans tune in to next week’s show to see what happens before the Royal Rumble. It wasn’t some messy, garbled way of saying things and got its point across in a pretty short amount of time. What makes it so amazing is you don’t hear these things much these days and it stood out for one particular reason: it sounded real.
Everything McIntyre said felt like it was coming from him. It came off like he was told “go talk about Goldberg for two minutes” and then McIntyre just took it from there. I’m sure he had a few bullet points he was told to hit, but McIntyre talking about the circus and then transitioning from that into what he was saying directly to Goldberg worked out just fine because it sounded like McIntyre.
McIntyre does not have a fully detailed character, but he has enough things about him that allow someone to know how much he sounds like himself. It would be strange for McIntyre to speak like John Cena or for Randy Orton to speak like Roman Reigns. There is a certain natural flow you get in a promo that fits because it sounds like it is coming from you. A wrestler is supposed to know themselves better than anyone else, including the writing staff, because they are supposed to be that person. Who is going to know someone better than they know themselves?
And that is where we reach the other portion of the promo problem: these wrestlers would not say this (again, because NO ONE TALKS LIKE THIS). WWE has this weird fascination with one size fits all booking and tries to put people in situations where they are not the right fit. In modern times, the best example of this blowing up horribly is in former Universal Champion Braun Strowman.
Last April at WrestleMania 36, Strowman FINALLY won the World Title to get the monkey off of his back (I believe its name was Norman.). This made Strowman the top name on SmackDown, meaning it was time for him to start talking a lot more. That makes sense in theory, except for one small problem: Strowman is one of the most unnatural speakers in WWE today and was a complete disaster most times he was saying more than just a few words.
So why was he talking? Well because he’s the champion and the champion is supposed to go out and give ten minute promos about whatever is going on that week. So says WWE logic at least, but the problem is this almost never works in practicality. When you think about it, this makes even less sense with Strowman because of what you have looking you straight in the face.
Strowman may not be a good talker, but he is an athletic freak with other worldly strength who can do power stuff that no one else in WWE today can do. That alone is more than enough to make up for the talking figure, but WWE took Strowman there anyway. Instead of playing to strengths, it was all about having Strowman read/recite lines that he would never say in a manner that never seemed natural (or human for that matter). It was a complete miss and Strowman’s title reign is not very fondly remembered, at least in part because of how bad those promos sounded.
McIntyre on the other hand is a skilled talker who seems completely comfortable on the microphone. He isn’t doing anything that sets a new standard or even close to it, but he sounds natural and seems to be someone WWE trusts to speak on his own. I know McIntyre has done enough to warrant such a spot, but at what point is it just a guessing game of whom has freedom on the microphone and who doesn’t?
As the cliche goes, it may say wrestling on the marquee but the talking element means a heck of a lot more. You can have some outstanding promos from anyone at any time, but it isn’t likely to happen when they have someone else’s words in their mouth. If someone can’t speak for themselves very well then take the privilege away, but wrestlers should be able to cut a decent promo. No one knows them better, but WWE won’t let them say that.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
Keep up with the LATEST WRESTLING RUMORS! Click here to sign up for the exclusive Wrestling Rumors daily newsletter, delivered right to your inbox.