Unlike other sports, a wrestler's success is judged not by his won/loss record, but by his ability to draw crowds and entertain people.
As I've talked about in some of my other articles, purists who prefer technicians to sports entertainers make up just a small percentage of the people who watch wrestling.
Mic workers are the one's who get people to watch the show. Those who have perfected their craft will get a promotion ratings. This is why the Cena's and the Batista's of the world cannot carry the WWE to the success it had during the Attitude Era.
When evaluating who is the best on the mic, there are a few key questions that must be asked:
—Did their promo's enhance their storyline?
—Will their work be remembered 20 years from now?
—Did their presence increase ratings?
—Were their segments conducted in a way that enhanced both their own and their opponent's credibility?
—How did they interact with the crowd?
—Did the fans miss the wrestler when they weren't around?
—Did their work impact the business?
The following are the best of the best. No one will turn off the TV when these men speak.
They are the top 10 mic workers in the history of the industry.
The "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes is top 5, maybe top 3 in terms of raw charisma. He captivated audiences with his slurred but somehow perfectly enunciated delivery. He may not have had the most ripped body, but oozed passion every time he spoke to the fans.
Many fans in their late 30's or older might want Dusty placed higher, and they certainly have an argument. But as great at he was, Dusty really didn't revolutionize the business. Nor does he have any promo's that wrestling fans are universally aware of.
Whether he's pandering to all his Jericholics or berating the hypocritical parasites who don't appreciate him, Chris Jericho never disappoints on the mic.
The amazing thing about Jericho is that he has verbally sparred with every big name in both the Attitude and Cena/Batista era. It is not just because of his inspiring talent that his feuds are usually the most interesting on a show.
His promo's tearing Stephanie McMahon apart are both hilarious and memorable. He deserves a great deal of credit for helping her get over as a big heel.
Jericho's mic work is perfect in almost all regards. There is one big problem that prevents him from being rated higher: He was never able to get himself over as a face champion. When playing face, Jericho was always a number three or four guy—maybe even lower.
The Undertaker might never have attained legendary status if not for the fat man. Percy Pringle (aka Paul Bearer) was one of the creepiest, weirdest figures in WWE history. His squeaky, high-pitched voice was the mouthpiece of the dead man for nearly a decade.
And who could ever forget him turning on his protege and loudly calling him "a murderer!"
It wasn't just his mic skills that made Bearer brilliant. He had quite possibly, the best facial expressions in the history of professional wrestling. Never before was there a character that was both so unnerving and so funny. Without his mic skills, the character Kane may never have gotten off the ground.
Bearer might have been in the top 5, but his influence waned starting in 1998 and was mostly a side character during the Attitude Era.
Edge might be too high on this list for some people's liking. However, Edge has actually been one of the most influential performers in the last decade.
His Ultimate Opportunist gimmick is responsible for the popularity of Money in the Bank concept. His charisma is off the charts, and he is probably the #1 heel of the post-attitude era.
Decked out in gold, Edge is a 9 time world champion and holds the record for most reigns as tag team champion. He carried his feuds with Matt Hardy, Kane and just about every other superstar he ever battled. Edge has played a big role in transforming John Cena into the face of the WWE.
His Live Sex celebration, parody of Ric Flair's road rage and marriage to Vickie Guerrero, will be remembered for years to come. Though Chris Jericho might be a better pure wrestler, Edge is actually far more influential and has played a larger role in the main event over the years.
If he has a good run as a face, he will cement his place in the top 10 forever.
Whether he is Mankind, Dude Love or Cactus Jack, Mick Foley entertains the crowd like no other while still respecting the intelligence of wrestling fans.
Mick Foley is not your typical wrestler, whether he is playing the heel or babyface. He combines deadly serious promo's with slapstick self-deprecating humor.
Really, Foley's 3 characters are just 3 different sides of the same person. Mankind is a tormented lonely soul that is desperate for affection. Dude Love is Foley's idealized, popular sense of self. Cactus Jack is the product of both Mankind's torment and the Dude's failures.
Foley has played a foil to a host of major names in the business, including Vince McMahon, The Rock, Steve Austin, Vader, Kane and Randy Orton.
Mick has too many memorable segments to name, but "Cane Dewey" and "This is Your Life" must be mentioned. Foley is responsible for breaking down the stereotype of the uneducated , 'roided, muscle head wrestler.
The boss must be part of a list like this. The Mr. McMahon character, Vince's evil alter-ego, was created out of the Montreal Screwjob and helped usher in the Attitude Era.
There have been many top heels throughout the years, but none have been as consistent and as hated as McMahon. Without McMahon, Stone Cold Steve Austin would have never achieved the legendary heights that he did. The McMahon-Austin feud turned the Monday Night Wars around in favor of the WWF.
McMahon's egomaniacal antics and promo's range from downright evil to hilarious. What other billionaire would call himself "the genetic jackhammer" on live TV? What other CEO would carelessly insult an arena full of 15,000 people that made him filthy rich?
None. That's because there is no one like Mr. McMahon.
Youtube has literally hundreds of memorable McMahon promo's. Though none is more famous than the very real "Bret Screwed Bret" interview. That and the "Kiss my Ass" segments will still be remembered 100 years from now. Of all the heels who have never acted as full-time wrestlers, McMahon is the best ever, bar none.
Stone Cold Steve Austin revolutionized the business. What?
He was the first real anti-hero. What? In an industry. What? That had grown tired of. What? Cheesy. What? Boring. What? Babyfaces. What?
Austin would drive the crowd into a frenzy during every one of his promo's. Of course, during these promo's, he would have a beer in one hand, and a beer in the other hand. It was not behavior befitting of a good guy, but he seemed so natural doing it. Along with DX, he was the first person to really get over using profanity on TV.
He was not the most charismatic wrestler in the world, but he was the person everyone wanted to be. In addition to doing whatever he wanted, Austin would say whatever he wanted.
And he would say it to the face of his boss.
Stone Cold had already cracked the top 10, maybe even the top 5, when he introduced another phenomena to the WWF. One simple word: "What?" Austin had trouble hearing his real life friend, Christian, on the phone. He constantly said "what?" "what?" "what?" during their conversations. He turned this into a gimmick and used the word repeatedly to dismiss the promo's of other wrestlers.
It became an industry-wide crazy.
For years, heels could not get a word in edgewise, as fans constantly chanted the word. It even caught on at other minor promotions, angering many old-school fans and wrestlers. To this day, this chants can still be heard in some arena's.
Oh, and let's not forget about his famous duet with The Rock in November 2001.
Austin revolutionized the industry and entertained fans around the world. His individual promo's and his impact on the business will be remembered for years to come.
The Heartbreak Kid and the co-founder of Degeneration X. Shawn Michaels simply oozed charm and charisma. His cocky and flamboyant attitude was not just an act. Early in his career, Michaels mouthed off just as much backstage as he did in the ring.
He could piss off a crowd or garner their undying love and affection. Everyone remembers his promos, whether they were serious "I lost my smile," or funny: 'Cracks in DX'" He was so natural and so cool everytime he picked up a microphone.
But there was always a sense of defiance mixed in with his fun-loving, boyish demeanor. It was because of his charisma that he was the first small guy (relatively speaking) to become a megastar. He paved the way for guys like Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio to become champions.
Though Shawn Michaels wasn't around for most of the attitude era, he arguably started it with DX. There's always been something unique about Michaels, something hard to quantify. Everyone who has watched him wrestle or heard him speak can tell that he had more heart, more love for the business, than anyone else alive.
The Heartbreak Kid's impact on the sport will last forever. If you combined wrestling ability with mic skills, Shawn Michaels is the greatest ever.
Woooooo! The nature boy!
For over 30 years, Ric Flair has styled and profiled all over the world. Ric Flair, and not Hulk Hogan, is the Babe Ruth of wrestling. Flair is just so good, so classy and is a step ahead of all of his peers.
Besides, no one can match Flair's longevity. Even if he tarnished his legacy by going to TNA, nothing can detract from the way he entertained people for decade after decade. He is the epitome of a guy who loves life and lives on the fast lane.
How can you not love every one of Flair's promo's? Even when he gets red faced and incomprehensible.
"Woooooo!" has become part of the common vernacular. Though Flair never really made headway into movies or acting, he is still well known by the mainstream media. No matter how bad his personnal life gets, he is the person everyone dreams of being when they're older. He is an icon and a treasure of the business.
He has too many famous promo's to list. He has done business in almost every federation and every territory. No one would be surprised if he's still in the spotlight when he's 80 years old.
I'm sure there are a few people who will insist Flair should be #1. There is a case can be made for it, and I do feel bad in a way for not putting him there. In some ways, Flair is #1.
But we all know that there's a guy who is simply on another plane. A plane that transcends wrestling itself.
The Rock is the greatest mic worker of all time.
100 years from now, he will not be surpassed. He was just so good that it doesn't matter that he only wrestled full-time for 7 years.
The Rock didn't just work the crowd, he controlled and mesmerized them. He could get any arena to chant his name at will. Every single person stood on their feet whenever the Great One spoke. He was like a cult leader, only with more power.
From 1999 to 2001, you either watched TV to see The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin. 2000 was the most successful year in the history of the WWE. That was the year Austin was injured and when The Rock carried the company on his shoulders.
Probably 80 percent of his promo's were greater than the best promo of just about every other wrestler who ever lived. Just about everything he ever said is on youtube with thousands of hits.
It is too bad Dwayne Johnson left the business to do movies. He would have likely gone down as the greatest wrestler ever had he stayed.
But by any objective measure, he is the best ever on the mic.
The "Million Dollar Man" Ted Debiase—One of the best heels of the 1980's. Dusty definitely deserved the nod though. Ted would have been #11 on the list.
Kurt Angle—Always entertaining and hilarious. It's just that his mic work really didn't have an impact. No particular promo
Santino Marella and The Miz—Both could be on this list some day. Santino could be in the top 5 if he were in main events.