10 Greatest Promos In Modern Wrestling History

WWE's Sami Zayn proves that a promo isn't about words...

Cody Rhodes AEW

The scripted promo is a complete disgrace.

A wrestler's voice is an instrument. They grew up cutting promos in their mirrors. They worked to tell their own stories using that instrument only for some clown writer sh*t-scared of Vince McMahon to tell them, no, what you have to say is the most lame joke you've ever heard in your life.

AEW has brought back the professional wrestling promo and in the process has become the best company for interviews since Jim Crockett Promotions.

The high-end of WWE is not on that level, but can still yield greatness. The best promos however just evoke fury over the entire process. The answer is staring them in the face. Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have full autonomy, and they are the best mic workers in the company. The pattern is not hard to spot. And if WWE in its arrogance can't "trust" the rest, so what? A terrible promo is more entertaining than a mediocre one. You know this. You know this. You don't know this!

New Japan was the destination of the great promo for a while, and an honourable mention must be made of Lance Archer's threat to eat vegan Zack Sabre, Jr. alive because he needs his vegetables. After the meal, he was going to take a "nice and smooth" sh*t in the middle of the ring. The visual image of Sabre as pate was hilarious.

But what promos were the very best...?

10. Ricky Starks Threatens To Become The Man

Cody Rhodes AEW

A great promo is when you start to think it's a good idea to pull a title switch.

The promo Ricky Starks cut on the Winter Is Coming '22 go-home Dynamite was so strong that some believed it might a good idea to take the title off MJF in his first defence - and the next year of AEW programming had been built around him.

A great promo is meant to inspire recency bias. You're meant to buy what is being sold, even if that thing isn't a great business idea or if that thing all but destroys months' worth of planning. You're not meant to think about a promotion's bottom line; you're meant to think about what you want out of the entire thing as a fan. Starks made you want to see him win the big one.

Starks, with incredible sass, fire and conviction happily accepted that he worked his way up in the NWA. It was as much a badge of honour to him as sleeping in his car. Casting himself as the hard-working hero grinding through hard times, like a true babyface, he operated in several modes - but wasn't unfocused.

He wasn't too earnest nor cheesy; with his "You smell like paint thinner and ass" line, he brought the entertainment value. With his rising cadence, he brought the crowd to their feet without alienating them with too much insider verbiage. He added just enough to make it feel real. The balance was superb, but the tone was key. He made you want to see him do it, and just as importantly, he made you believe that he believed he could do it.

MJF was tremendous here too, it should be noted; he deliberately used weaker, more desperate material, knowing that his role was to stand back and feel the burn of Ricky's babyface fire.


Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and surefire Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!