The Little Things: Why Catchphrases Are Important in WWE, AEW and Pro Wrestling

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2021

Credit: WWE.com

If you go up to any wrestling fan and say "And that's the bottom line...," they will almost certainly reply with "Because Stone Cold said so." 

Catchphrases are a common way for any performer to make themselves memorable. We have seen them utilized by actors, musicians, athletes and, of course, pro wrestlers. 

Steve Urkel's "Did I do that?" might be one of the most recognizable signature lines in all of media, and the reason it was so memorable was because Jaleel White's delivery was so good. 

Having a catchphrase, whether it be a few words or an entire sentence, creates more than just a memorable line. It makes that person or character more marketable and adds value.

Professional wrestlers have used catchphrases for decades. Almost every legend has at least one thing they would say on a regular basis. In the case of somebody like The Rock, a person can have several quotable lines.

Let's take a look at how pro wrestlers have used catchphrases through history, why they are an important part of certain characters and how they are used. 


For the Children

While pro wrestling is definitely enjoyed by many adults, the business has been heavily targeted toward a younger audience since the 1980s. 

Kids connected to the bright outfits, larger-than-life personalities, wild action and outlandish storylines. For many children, Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker were just as important as Bugs Bunny and Bart Simpson.

One common theme among almost all characters designed to appeal to children is the use of repetitive language. Not only does it help younger viewers remember things easier, but it almost imprints these phrases on our brains.

You could go 50 years without ever seeing anything related to pro wrestling and you will still remember Randy Savage used to say "Ooh yeah." 

Catchphrases give kids something to say when they are pretending to be their favorite wrestlers and they give WWE, All Elite Wrestling and other promotions something they can slap on a shirt for a huge markup. 


Monetizing Words

Speaking of merchandise, pro wrestlers are encouraged to develop their own signature phrase because it will make them more marketable.

Sales of shirts, hats, toys, video games and anything else that can be monetized are almost as important as TV ratings and ticket sales. One of the reasons WWE has been so successful is that it sells almost anything you could want for every big star.

Hulk Hogan's personality and physique were part of his draw, but it was phrases such as "Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?" that added an extra level of value to his character.

Savage's favorite line became synonymous with the Slim Jim brand in the 1990s and helped make both him and the snack food iconic. Even if you didn't like the processed meat sticks, you probably enjoyed the commercials and repeated the lines with Macho Man. 

Some catchphrases become multi-generational because they still work. Bret Hart used to say "I'm the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be." These days, Natalya will use that line to describe herself. 

When it comes to The Rock, WWE has profited off of his words more than anyone else. An entire show is named after a word he popularized with the phrase "Lay the SmackDown on your candy ass." It's shocking he hasn't released a cook book called "Can You Smell What The Rock is Cooking?"


Another Superhero Parallel

The similarities between pro wrestlers and superheroes are numerous. Signature attacks, spandex attire, logos and uneasy alliances are just a few of the things they share in addition to using catchphrases.

Superman's line about truth, justice and the American way is burned into our memories after almost 100 years of media from The Man of Steel. When Christian Bale played The Dark Knight, he somehow made "I'm Batman" into one of the most iconic lines from the franchise. 

While the message may be different, John Cena's mantra of hustle, loyalty and respect is reminiscent of Clark Kent's line, especially since people started calling him "SuperCena" after a few years.

This ties back to appealing to a younger audience. While modern superheroes are often written to appeal to an adult audience, especially in graphic novels, they were created and marketed to children first. Without kids buying up comics by the thousands in the 1940s, we may never have gotten the plethora of superhero-related media we have today. 


How Catchphrases are Used

Catchphrases tend to fall into one of three categories when it comes to pro wrestling. They can either work as insults, rallying cries or interview soundbites.

The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin were two of the best workers to ever hold a mic. They didn't just insult their opponents, they made sure the crowd could get in on the fun by using the same lines.

Rocky often talked about putting his boot up somebody's backside and Austin would threaten to open up a can of whoop-ass on his opponents. These lines, and many more, have become as iconic as the men who said them.

A rallying cry is something we see more often in individual promos. These are phrases used to fire up the crowd and get people to either love or hate the wrestler in question. 

Whenever DX would come to the ring, Triple H or Road Dogg would lead the charge by telling everyone in attendance to "Suck it." The crowd would always loudly repeat the line with them even when the group was more villainous.

Interview soundbites used to be the most common way for Superstars to spout their favorite sentences because we used to see guys such as "Mean" Gene Okerlund interview several people throughout a show.

Hogan even incorporated Okerlund into one of his catchphrases. That is how easy it is for these people to make something memorable. If you need more proof, look at how Daniel Bryan made it popular to simply chant the word "Yes" over and over. It got so big that people were doing it at non-WWE events. 

Ric Flair did it with his "Woo" flourish. The Miz did it with "Awesome" and "Really." Vince McMahon even turned "You're fired" into his signature line long before The Apprentice was created. 

Humans may have evolved from primates, but it's possible we also include some parrot DNA in there somewhere because we love repeating things back to the person who said it. 

Catchphrases have a long history in pro wrestling and are used in a variety of ways to help make a Superstar stand out. Without them, The Rock, Chris Jericho and many more might not be the icons they are today. 

What is your favorite pro wrestling catchphrase? Check out the other entries in this series focused on finishing moves and entrances