9 WWE Stars Who Would Have Been Bigger Stars with Better Mic Work
The best WWE Superstars have a combination of a great look, an interesting gimmick, an undeniable "it" factor, solid in-ring skills and the ability to entertain on a microphone.
There have been exceptions who didn't have all those tools, but it's rare someone is successful in WWE without every one of those—particularly the voice work.
One of the company's biggest stars ever, Hulk Hogan, is proof that selling tickets with promos can often mean more than anything someone can do inside the ring.
But when a Superstar is great between the ropes but struggles on the mic, WWE doesn't seem to have as much forgiveness. It appears there's a ceiling of upper-midcarder that is reserved for talented wrestlers who don't have the gift of gab.
As part of Promo Day here at Bleacher Report, let's look back on some WWE Superstars who would have been much more successful if they were just able to upgrade the one thing holding them back—their mic work.
Cesaro's name came up years ago on the Stone Cold Podcast when Steve Austin asked Vince McMahon for his thoughts on The Swiss Superman.
Austin put Cesaro over as being a "strong dude" with "great in-ring work" and asked what the one missing piece was for why he wasn't connecting and going further.
McMahon's answer was that he lacked charisma and verbal skills despite being an "extraordinary physical talent."
When Austin suggested it could have been WWE Creative's fault with a bad booking decision to take a guy who was getting over with the fans based on his in-ring work and make him a heel to halt his momentum, McMahon wrote it off as "I'm not certain" and that he didn't have all the answers.
That interview spoke volumes on not just Cesaro but also many others on this list.
For whatever reason, McMahon didn't think The Swiss Superman was a compelling enough talker, so that was the only thing holding him back from being a main event star. Even the suggestion he would have gotten over naturally if WWE hadn't screwed him over with a bad direction was dismissed.
Cesaro seems incredibly well-liked and everyone appears to agree he's a phenomenal athlete. He looks like a million bucks, is well-spoken in everyday life and doesn't bring any drama to the workplace.
But without promo finesse, he's been doomed for nearly 10 years to stay on the cusp of the main event scene and never quite break into it.
For years, every Shelton Benjamin match included the commentary team putting him over as arguably the greatest natural athlete on the roster.
It was always obvious how talented he was as a wrestler. He had an impressive amateur record before he was signed and managed to transition to the sports-entertainment version of wrestling very well.
But no matter how great Benjamin's matches were, he never made it past a midcard champion and that can be attributed to his mic work, which was always his weak point.
At no point in his career did he ever come off as a natural talker. He didn't exude confidence like The Rock or speak what felt like his own words, like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Even now, Benjamin is only just getting back into the limelight because his manager, MVP, does the talking for him while he just gets ready to fight.
Like everyone on this list, Benjamin has the look and the athleticism but he has never been a grandiose enough character for WWE to be interested enough in pushing toward the main event scene.
Bobby Lashley is on a similar wavelength to Benjamin, so much so that he's the other member of MVP's Hurt Business stable.
The All Mighty has the benefit of an even bigger physical frame, which WWE is normally incredibly fond of. One look at his muscular body should peg him as a future world champion, and it would have happened if he could just cut a decent promo.
He's been close at times. WWE even gave him a bit of a test run with the ECW Championship, but that doesn't count as a world title and was never viewed as being on par with Raw or SmackDown.
In a different era, Lashley would have been given a manager right out of the gate and likely been a world champion. But since he was firmly in a time when WWE had no managers and wanted everyone to be the next John Cena on their own, he wasn't able to reach that level.
When The All Mighty speaks, he seems less intimidating than if he just lets his stature do the talking for him. That's not enough for WWE, as significant time is dedicated to promo segments and hyping up matches rather than just wrestling.
Now that he's with MVP, he looks better than he has in 10 years. If this would have happened prior to Drew McIntyre's ascension, he might have even been the guy WWE picked to dethrone Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania.
It took far too long for WWE to realize giving Lashley a mouthpiece was all he needed. Now that that's been figured out, here's hoping he'll finally reach that level in the future.
When Ken Shamrock came into WWE in 1997, he had arguably more clout than anyone on the roster when it came to being a tough fighter.
He even started off in a prominent spot as the special enforcer for Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, taking down The Hitman and keeping the match in check.
Rather quickly, Shamrock became popular with a very simple act: He would eventually snap during his matches, go into a hyper-aggressive mode and become unstoppable.
It worked as both a babyface thing to root for and a means for him to be a heel if he took things too far, which gave him the credibility to beat nearly everyone on the roster.
He just happened to debut in an era where the top talent were the ostentatious Shawn Michaels, the awe-inspiring Undertaker, a mega star on the rise with The Rock and everyone's favorite hellraiser, Stone Cold.
Compared to them, Shamrock had no personality. He was just a muscular and athletic fighter who could beat up 90 percent of the roster so he looked strong when he lost to the top dogs.
These days, he would be welcomed into WWE and given more leeway to find his niche without having to cut promos. Even now, though, it's arguable he'd be stuck challenging for the world title and not winning it, akin to how Braun Strowman was only able to break through as a last-minute replacement for Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 36.
John Morrison is an interesting case. He obviously has an impressive and extremely marketable look and can get the job done in the ring.
But his downfall isn't a lack of charisma; it's a lack of the right type of charisma.
Morrison can cut a promo in his own way. It just happens that his method of doing so is a bit awkward and somewhat dorky compared to what WWE prefers.
His best work comes when he's paired with The Miz doing things such as "The Dirt Sheet," cracking jokes, winking at the camera and being almost a caricature of someone like The Rock.
When you listen to a Morrison promo, you have to look at the layers to fully appreciate it. On the surface, he's boastful, arrogant and confident, but it's always as if it's rehearsed—like the character is only ever confident if he has time to practice.
When he's caught off-guard, he's a weasel who breaks down and looks considerably cool-headed.
Some heels with no courage are great, but they don't often get to the world title. Even then, they tend to succeed when they're blatantly over the top with how much of a coward they are.
WWE would appear to prefer have someone like Bayley shout as loudly as possible to beat it into your brain that she's a heel rather than have the subtleties of Morrison's promos.
Size is a big thing in WWE, whether the company admits it or not. On Corey Graves' After the Bell podcast, Road Dogg said that if Adam Cole were the size of Karrion Kross, he'd have been universal champion already (h/t Jason Ounpraseuth of WrestlingInc).
Cole can talk and is a great wrestler, so he's a rare example of someone who lacks the size for the biggest push of them all but makes up for it with his verbal skills.
Other times, WWE will often hire someone who has the size though not necessarily the other facets of the job, like Ezekiel Jackson.
At first, Big Zeke was just another gargantuan wall. There wasn't much to him other than his stature. Eventually, he did get better in the ring and turned that into an ECW and intercontinental title reign, but he was never able to get past that level.
That is almost entirely because of his lack of mic skills, as he rarely ever cut any promos. It's hard to think of any time he spoke at all, to be honest.
Other titans like Big Show, Mark Henry and even a modern example like Keith Lee made it further because they showed they have personality beyond just their size.
That wasn't the case with Jackson, who never had a chance to connect with the WWE Universe due to never having any character whatsoever.
Back in the Hulk Hogan era, you didn't have to be a great wrestler to be a top star. All you had to be was captivating enough as a character and the fans would eat it up.
Lex Luger had the look to be an enormous success. Paired as The Narcissist with Bobby Heenan, it looked like a winning package. But most top guys like Ric Flair and "Macho Man" Randy Savage never needed a manager to speak for them, so that couldn't last long.
On his own, Luger did start to become quite popular as Hogan's potential replacement in 1993 and 1994. But he was no Hulkster when given a microphone and that destroyed his momentum.
If fans were more into the in-ring work, they had Bret Hart to cheer. The Hitman was easily the better wrestler and had already paid his dues to earn the fans' respect.
Luger was more like The Ultimate Warrior but with a less bombastic personality. When push came to shove, though, WWE chose to stick with Hart and not give the title to Luger at WrestleMania 10.
Everything went downhill from there, and Luger would eventually leave for WCW—a place with more reverence for old-school wrestling where he would be more appreciated despite his lack of verbal skills.
Jack Swagger came into WWE as a big, athletic, good-looking young talent who seemed like the next Brock Lesnar.
Had WWE given him a manager, like The Beast Incarnate had with Paul Heyman, that might have put his career on an upward trajectory.
Instead, he started his run on ECW pointing to his smile. After he started to cut promos, it was clear he was no seasoned actor. What made things even worse was when babyfaces started making fun of his lisp.
That combination gave him a near-impossible mountain to climb and he was never able to become a proper main event talent, despite winning the world title in 2010.
If you took everything about Swagger and only changed his mic skills, he'd have been one of the biggest things ever.
Now in AEW, Jake Hager is the strong, silent type, which goes to prove all that held him back was his mic work.
Lance Storm is a textbook example of someone who was all sports and no entertainment in the verbal sense.
Of course, his wrestling was his entertainment value, but that only gets you so far in WWE.
Unless you're like Daniel Bryan and can become so popular that the company is forced to push you, you're not going far if you're a smaller wrestler without a larger-than-life persona.
Storm's lack of mic skills even became part of his character with WWE calling him Mr. Personality and drawing attention to how he wasn't a gifted talker.
He's recognized as an amazing technician worthy of teaching the next generation in the ring, but he never came close to breaking out of the midcard because he was only ever just a wrestler.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.