Pro Wrestling's Most Underrated Talkers of All-Time
Photo from WWE.com (Courtesy of Pro Wrestling Illustrated)
Pro wrestling boasts a number of microphone masters who don't get talked about nearly enough.
These storytellers and orators spent their careers and the years following obscured by the shadows of wrestling's iconic talkers. Fans know and respect the likes of Roddy Piper and CM Punk. Fans know all about wallowing in the muck of avarice, about hard times and smelling what The Rock is cooking.
Maybe it was being in a famous group alongside Ric Flair, or having little exposure to a national audience that made a wrestler underrated by many fans. Maybe it was the passing of time, of an era fading from the spotlight. Whatever the reason, the following men (and one woman) didn't make the list of Top 25 talkers on WWE.com. They didn't earn any awards for their mic work in spite of its emotive power.
These are the underappreciated and underrated verbal wizards from WWE, Memphis, AWA, Ring of Honor, WCW and elsewhere.
Playboy Buddy Rose
Buddy Rose promo
He may not have had the playboy look, especially later in his career, but Buddy Rose oozed a Don Juan-like aura when he spoke.
His delivery was smooth. His cockiness was natural and captivating.
Rose worked for AWA, Pacific Northwest Wrestling and eventually WWE. WWE turned him into a joke because of his weight issue in the late stages of his career, but fans of his earlier work know how passionate and powerful he could be with a microphone in hand. It was in Portland with PNW where he did his best work, where he was just as convincing as a heel as he was a remorseful face.
Tully Blanchard promo for Great American Bash
Being a member of the Four Horsemen landed Tully Blanchard a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, but it also had him wrestle in the darkness of two large shadows. Having to compete with Arn Anderson for fans' attention is difficult enough, but to also have to stand alongside Ric Flair is a recipe for being underappreciated.
Blanchard was easy to hate. He played the obnoxious, cocky villain masterfully.
He flowed on the microphone, rattling off one-liners and drawing fans in with his effortless charisma. When he said things in his promos like, "The only thing I do in life is get dressed quick," fans may not have known what he meant, but they sure were listening attentively.
Bruiser Brody promo
Think of Bruiser Brody and images of bloodshed, of barbarism in the ring, of his battles with Abdullah the Butcher will likely come to mind. Brody, though, doesn't get nearly enough credit for his greatness on the microphone.
His captivating aggression was unsettling.
It wasn't that he said poignant things or had a toolbox full of promos that made him such a good talker—it was that he frightened people. His scratchy voice, his intimidating size and wild eyes and hair made it hard not to get nervous hearing him threaten his foes.
All the various promotions that he worked for during the '70s and '80s were lucky to have such an enthralling monster.
Truth Martini "Hoopla" promo
The self-proclaimed super duper, King Kong, mega mega, managerial sensation has been unsettling and captivating Ring of Honor fans for the last few years.
Truth Martini's eccentric look is what most might notice first, but it's his sinister approach to storytelling that hooks fans for good. Imagine if the Pied Piper melded with Dracula and Howard Stern. He exhibits a powerful energy when speaking, utilizing the same sort of dark charisma that a cult leader employs.
His style is beyond edgy, using sexism and irreverence to make him an irksome villain.
Note: As with much of Martini's work, the video above is not safe for work.
Bret Hart WWE Raw promo
As one of WWE's best mat wrestlers ever, Bret Hart didn't need to do much in terms of mic work to succeed. Early in his career, as one half of The Hart Foundation, Bret leaned on his partner, Jim Neidhart, to do most of the talking.
As WWE champ, he was the generic hero and generally unimpressive in interviews. It was his heel run in 1997, though, that showcased The Hitman's verbal skills. He went from underwhelming to captivating by seemingly drawing on real-life frustrations.
Whether he was barking at Vince McMahon or Steve Austin, Bret was electric. He was impactful and powerful in his mic work during this period. This momentum carried over to his work with WCW somewhat, but it was mostly a momentary burst of greatness.
Note: The video is unedited. Bret says a few naughty things so be aware for work or kid-related situations.
Bulldog Brower promo
From the late '60s to the late '80s, Dick "Bulldog" Brower's intense glare and toughness made him one of the more convincing heels in whichever country and whatever promotion he worked on.
In the ring, he bit his opponents. On the mic, he made it feel that he might reach through the screen and attack the fans.
His gritty voice and the right blend of aggression and precision led to excellent promos during his career. Bulldog came off as natural, genuine and certainly someone you didn’t want to mess with.
Dutch Mantel challenges Jerry Lawler to a match.
As Zeb Colter, Jack Swagger's aggressively patriotic manager, he is now getting some of the national recognition he has deserved for decades.
Memphis wrestling fans who saw him feud with Jerry Lawler and become the USWA heavyweight champ know how engrossing he can be a microphone in hand, and WWE fans are learning that now as well.
When he was Dutch Mantel, he was an intriguing mix of smooth-talker and raw, rough country boy who the fans could relate to. His work often sounded more natural than many wrestling promos. He had a bit of a John Wayne-type toughness and the verbal skills of a used car salesman.
James Mitchell "Sinister Minister" ECW promo
Blame the shock value of ECW's most extreme moments on the great wrestling that company produced or the frenetic energy of its fanbase, but somehow the mic master James Mitchell doesn't get enough recognition for his memorable performances.
Much like Kevin Sullivan, the sadistic and sinister character Mitchell played felt disturbingly real. A touch Jack Nicholson, a touch cartoon villain, Mitchell's dark minister character was continually intriguing. He went over the top with his performances, seemingly having a blast in his role.
His work with TNA was sharper and more aggressive, even if it was a bit less fun.
Adrian Adonis WWE promo
Like Buddy Rose, Adrian Adonis' physique worsened significantly as his career progressed. Though his in-ring performances suffered with the added weight, Adonis still rocked the mic.
His effeminate "Adorable" character was in a way the bridge between Gorgeous George to Goldust. He was a showman who played with the audience's comfort level.
Adonis' weirdness was filtered through refinement, creating a strange juxtaposition that was hard to forget. His innovation isn't recognized as much as it deserves to be. His absorbing performances are talked about enough when listing wrestling's best.
Sherri Martel WWE promo
As either a shrieking psychotic or as a smooth-talking, condescending bully, Sherri Martel was the best female mic worker ever.
Mostly working for AWA and WWE, Martel put her scratchy voice to work telling captivating stories and tossing out singeing one-liners. She insulted Fabulous Moolah. She played the lunatic to near-perfection.
She could be a tiger-like aggressor or pull it back and play a softer, gentler captivator.
For as good as Martel was on the mic, and as the manager of Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage or Harlem Heat, she doesn't get nearly enough praise.
Curtis Iaukea promo in Australia
Curtis Iaukea's later work as the master of WCW's Dungeon of Doom is nowhere near as entertaining and impressive as the performances he had in the '60s and '70s as a disturbing villain.
Iaukea blended a demented energy with a controlled aggression in moving promos. He sounded like a villain from a movie, some dark priest who one might encounter on a secret island. Having a mangled forehead added to his dark mystique, but he needed only his voice and an audience to concoct his disquieting magic.