WWE: The Rock and the Top 10 Talkers in the Company Today
As any fan of pro wrestling knows, our favourite pastime is made up of roughly 30 percent actual wrestling and 70 percent interviews, promos and skits.
The one thing that every truly great superstar there has ever been has in common is natural charisma and talent on the microphone.
In the WWE today, one of the biggest problems many young stars find is their ability to draw heat, or get "over," which are both predominantly achieved by being engaging and skilled when cutting a promo.
This list will examine the top 10 talkers in the WWE today, and it will encompass all superstars who are currently active on both the main and FCW rosters.
Let the controversy begin.
No, I am not a Cena-hater, nor am I a fan.
While it may be a controversial choice to omit the Champ, I cannot look past my experience with Mr. Fruity Pebbles as a man who seemed for years to work in the company only to appease and pander to younger fans.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being a role model, nor is there anything wrong with finding an edgier side that has universal appeal and subsequently does not insult the intelligence of the product's core viewing demographic.
I have been far more impressed with Cena's shoot promo style for the past couple of weeks on Raw, and hopefully a return of the Doctor of Thuganomics will help the former WWE Champion find his way into the top 10 of this list in the near future.
As a demented heel, Randy Orton was pretty darn cool.
I really enjoyed him as a sadist type of character who enjoyed killing legends and punting people in the head for fun.
As a face, though, I find the Viper just a bit boring. One of his promos has literally put me to sleep before, and it is for that reason that he does not make the top 10 of this list.
At his best, the Game is one of the most compelling heel figures in the history of the company. At his worst, he is the single-biggest burier of talent in the WWE, bar none.
The reason for the Cerebral Assassin's exclusion from this list is very simple: The way he cuts promos is extremely formulaic.
Monotone, stale and with the odd, intense/angry face here and there, you have a typical Paul Levesque promo (oh, and not to forget, burying a younger superstar or two, just for good measure).
If you've seen any of his movies, you know the man can't act. He has no range, and that is why, even though he may be engaging, he is ultimately an extremely predictable and one-dimensional character on the mic.
Growing up with the Attitude Era, I came to love Vinny Mac.
He was the ultimate, corrupt, power-mad authority figure, and he just seemed to screw over anybody—an attribute I'm sure many feel is based on real life.
The main reason for the boss' exclusion in this list is because he has been absent now for quite some time.
Now entering senility, when he does eventually return (and he will), don't expect to see the same man who once gave Stone Cold a run for his money during the mid-to-late '90s.
I have to say, I am not, and have never been, a fan of Ron Killings.
As a face, shouting "What's Up?" he was annoying, but admittedly, he did seem to get slightly better as the conspiracy-theorist heel (with the "Water Bottle of Doom").
His subsequent face turn and Lil' Jimmy gimmick, however, has just been far too ridiculous and over the top for my liking.
Luckily for Truth, the gimmick does carry some positives (HHH seems to be a big fan...), but the 40-something superstar really needs to tone it down if he is ever to be considered a main-event contender, especially now being in the twilight of his career.
10. Dolph Ziggler
Since (technically) winning the World Heavyweight Championship in January 2011, Dolph Ziggler has really stepped up his game on the mic.
During his feud with Edge, he seemed to play only a bit part to the Rated "R" Superstar, who was essentially feuding with his ex, Vickie Guerrero, a woman who also just so happened to be Dolph Ziggler's resident valet/cougar.
One year later, and the #heel has truly stepped out of the shadow of Vickie, though (insert lame Jerry Lawler fat joke here...).
Towards the end of 2011, the former Spirit Squad member rose to the main-event scene, bettering WWE Champion CM Punk over three consecutive weeks, only to eventually be overcome at the Royal Rumble PPV by the Second City Saint.
Throughout his feud with Punk, Ziggler really got across his "Show-Off" gimmick, and it is really quite a shame that the rivalry was cut short by the over-inclusion of John Laurinaitis.
At present, Ziggler carries his stable (albeit only really containing Jack Swagger) on the promo front, and hopefully this alliance will be the start of a string of credible tag teams emerging alongside "American Perfection" (or ZigSwag, as I much prefer).
9. Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley)
While many may not be too familiar with Jon Moxley, the former Heartland Wrestling Foundation (HWF) talent debuted with WWE's developmental territory—Florida Championship Wrestling—in July last year.
Now known as Dean Ambrose, the young star made immediate waves with his peculiar and strangely charismatic gimmick.
Drawing comparisons to Raven, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Heath Ledger's Joker in terms of delivery, Ambrose has very quickly established himself as one of the top talents in WWE's developmental ranks.
If you're not aware of Moxley's work, YouTube him and you'll get a general feel for his performance style—it's strangely engaging.
In late December, Ambrose began touring with the main roster, appearing predominantly at house shows, but this has led many to believe that it is only a matter of time before the 26-year-old is a Raw/Smackdown regular.
8. The Miz
I won't lie. Mike the Miz is one of my favourite superstars currently on the WWE roster.
Admittedly, he has lost a lot of steam over the past 12 months, but nevertheless, the former WWE Champion is still one of the most charismatic talkers in the company today.
It's a real shame that the Real World star has been so underused in recent months, but hopefully strong showings in both the Royal Rumble match and the Raw Elimination Chamber may be a sign of things to come for the Awesome One.
With his obvious willingness for extracurricular company promotion (many external TV appearances), mainstream popularity and turn of phrase ("Really?"), the Miz is assured a return to the top of the company sooner rather than later—provided he can stop dropping fellow performers on their heads.
I for one would love to see more of such vignettes as the "Hate Me Now"-themed WrestleMania XXVII promo, which aired just before his WWE Title defence against John Cena—really making me buy into the whole Miz package.
7. Wade Barrett
As a fellow Brit, I am somewhat biased towards Wade Barrett (also, he re-Tweeted me on Twitter, so extra brownie points for that, too).
I even like his new theme, despite the unnecessary suit jacket entrance.
Anyway, the former Nexus/Corre leader fell from grace following the premature and shambolic dissolution of both factions after great original promise.
More recently, however, the "Barrett Barrage" has really began to take shape, and it's meant a big individual push for the Englishman.
His Intercontinental title run was, admittedly, disappointing, but I can honestly see this guy as a hugely successful heel World Champion in the near future.
Unfortunately, during the No. 1 contender battle royal on February 20th's Raw, the former bare knuckle fighter suffered a nasty dislocated elbow, meaning he could well be out for anywhere from four to six months.
I really hope Barrett's push can continue when he eventually returns, as I can picture nothing worse than for one of the company's best mic workers to be lost in the shuffle (again).
6. Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes is inarguably the most improved superstar in WWE today.
The former Legacy member seemed destined to live in the shadow of former stablemates Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase a few years ago, but since attaining the Intercontinental title in mid-2011, Rhodes has stepped up hugely to become one of the best and most despised heels in the company.
The former Dashing One has already feuded with the likes of Orton and Booker T and will now head into a programme with Big Show at WrestleMania.
Whatever the outcome of the Show-Rhodes match in four weeks time, it is undeniable that bigger and better things are to come from the son of the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. That, along with his 200-plus-day IC title reign (combined with bringing back the white belt, which was undeniably awesome), are a great indication of the potential the young superstar has.
5. Daniel Bryan
Bryan Danielson has always held a special place in the collective hearts of the IWC, but many could still not believe it when D-Bry was able to win the Smackdown MITB match last year to essentially guarantee himself a World Title reign in the near future.
Nine months later, though, and Daniel Bryan is a completely different character from the bland face he was before his victory at the Money In The Bank event.
Bryan's slow and meticulous "turn" has occurred in such a way that he is now the biggest heel in the company.
Who knew that being vegan and over-celebrating wildly every time you're on television could draw such a crowd response...?
On the mic, the American Dragon is now able to draw immense heat, predominantly through his deluded perception of self, wherein he often describes himself as a "role model" despite this proclamation starkly contrasting his numerous weasel-like World Title defences over recent months.
Bryan is the epitome of the classic cowardly heel, and it is just a shame that (so far) he has not been booked more strongly against credible opponents (Sorry, Kofi).
Christian has been one of the WWE's most (excluding his stint with TNA) reliable and diverse workers in recent years.
Famed predominantly for his partnership with brother/best friend Edge, the Count of Monte Fisto has always had a way with words, when depicted as either a face or heel.
For my money, though, Captain Charisma has always done his best work as a heel, particularly when gaining cheap heat by goading crowds and live audiences.
His part in the Un-Americans faction in the early '90s is a classic example of the extremes Christian has gone to in order to evoke crowd reaction throughout his career.
More recently, it has been the former World Heavyweight Champion's forte to clamour for "just one more match," playing on the image of being a whiny coward in order to force himself into the World Title picture (a crown which he held twice in 2011 but for a total combined reign of little over a month).
3. CM Punk
It may be surprising that the current WWE Champion resides at only the No. 3 spot on this list, but it is for good reason (Nos. 1 and 2 are better).
The self-proclaimed "Best in The World" became the company's hottest property in 2011 after a series of epic "shoot" promos, which effectively kicked off what many are now referring to as the "Reality Era/The End of PG."
Even before this, Punk's work as the leader of his Straight Edge Society and New Nexus stables was exemplary as an evil and twisted, yet vastly intelligent heel figure.
In my opinion, though, WWE Creative got a little carried away with the Summer of Punk phenomenon.
Towards the end of last year, the "change" we had all been promised still left very much to be desired, and many wondered if the Cult of Personality may actually be able to deliver on his initial musings regarding the failings of the company.
Thankfully, with the return of Chris Jericho, we have already had a flavour of what the two can bring out in each other, and hopefully this feud will allow Punk to regain some of the momentum which allowed him to become the face of the company last summer.
*On a side note, Punk's current real-life feud with Chris Brown has proven what a naturally charismatic speaker Phil Brooks is, owning the R&B star in a number of interviews—a genuinely different class.
2. Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho's return in January had a lot of people very excited to see "The Best in the World at What He Does" back in the WWE.
As great as Jericho is in the ring, the mass majority were in fact most excited about the return of one of the best talkers in the history of the wrestling industry.
Y2J knowingly teased his silence for the first few weeks of 2012.
After being revealed as the enigmatic superstar behind the "It Begins" vignettes, the Lionheart employed the tactic in order to play on the awareness of the fact that fans hang on his every word (or lack thereof, in this case).
Having now revealed his intentions to dethrone the WWE Champion, I am a huge fan of Jericho referring to CM Punk as "boy" during their current feud.
I did, however, decide against attaching a Punk-Jericho promo video to this slide, as I still think the best is yet to come from the pair in the build to their epic WrestleMania showdown.
1. The Rock
Now, I realise that Rocky is essentially a (less-than) part-time performer nowadays, but he is inarguably one of, if not the, best talkers the WWE has ever seen.
"Wristgate" aside, the Rock's promos are flawless, and up until very recently, it seemed like the Great One would blow away John Cena on the mic months before their hotly anticipated WrestleMania 28 clash.
Any aspiring WWE talent, or professional wrestler for that matter, would do well to watch the Rock in his prime, just to see how great promos should be done.
As a face or a heel, Dwayne has always been compelling and gripping, continually living up to the tag of the "Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment."
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