If there’s one thing that can make or break a wrestling show, it’s how the talking is handled. Over the years, a lot of great matches have been set up and then destroyed by horrible promo work. So much of the wrestling business is built on what happens before the bell rings because that’s how you get people to care about the matches. It really is more important than what happens during the actual matches and that’s why it’s so important here. Today, we’re looking at the Best Promos of the Year. Again, these are in no particular order.
1. “I’m the guy.” – Roman Reigns, “Monday Night Raw”, April 4
We’re starting off with an interesting one here as I really don’t think it’s all that great of a speech but it certainly the big line that set up everything for Reigns going forward. It’s a perfect way to sum up Reigns and is the closest thing that we’re going to get to a heel turn, at least for the time being.
Unfortunately, it feels like the definition of a line that was handed to Reigns, who isn’t the best talker in the world. This comes off like the most set up line I’ve ever heard and it doesn’t really make me want to hear more from Reigns at this point. I know WWE wants him to be the biggest name in the company but you need something better than a quick line that doesn’t really change anything but him.
That being said, it still sums Reigns up perfectly, or at least what they were going for with him: you might not want to cheer for him but he’s not supposed to be a straight up good guy. While the delivery might not have been perfect, this line stuck with Reigns for a long time and that’s what they were going for here.
2. “YOU’RE LAST!” – Goldberg, “Monday Night Raw”, October 17
Now this is a little more like it. This is a very simple, to the point and effective line from someone who didn’t talk all that much over the course of his career. Goldberg has one of the most effective catchphrases in wrestling history with a simple statement of “YOU’RE NEXT!” Now that he was back in wrestling with one more match to go, the line of “YOU’RE LAST” was as perfect as it was going to get.
Above all else, this set up the idea that the match was going to be something special. After all the people that Goldberg had run over in his career, Brock Lesnar was going to be the final opponent for a legend. It’s simple, it’s to the point and it gets the message across with something that is going to stick in the fans’ heads as we came closer to “Survivor Series 2016”.
The promo hyped up a single match and the fact that Goldberg almost was almost immediately scheduled for a second match after defeating Lesnar didn’t matter. What was important was setting up the match against Lesnar and two simple words were more than enough to make the fans care about what we were getting. It was certainly a better way than hyping it as “fantasy warfare”, which I’m still not entirely clear on.
3. “Bring me Nakamura or bring me my championship!” – Samoa Joe, “NXT”, October 12
It’s about time we got to something based on violence. As you might have heard, Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe had some issues in NXT over the latter half of the year and it all started when Nakamura defeated Samoa Joe for the title at “Takeover: Brooklyn”. Soon after this, Samoa Joe injured Nakamura and put him on the shelf for the next several weeks.
That meant that the NXT Champion was out of action for a while, meaning Samoa Joe felt that he deserved to be champion again. This led to him making such a demand to NXT General Manager William Regal because for Samoa Joe, it was that simple: he either should be made champion again or get another title shot against Nakamura immediately.
The fact that there was a choice tells you a lot about Samoa Joe. Instead of just wanting to be handed his title, he had no issue with defeating Nakamura in a fight because he knew he could take down the champion on equal footing. It was a great way to set up the rematch and show that Samoa Joe was more than just a regular bully who was going to back down in the face of a challenge. The fact that he delivered it with such rage made the statement come off that much stronger.
4. “Why don’t you quit and go to the Bingo halls with your indy friends?” – The Miz, “Talking Smack”, August 23
Sometimes in wrestling, it’s difficult to tell when someone goes off script and is shooting from the hip. It’s really rare in today’s WWE but this promo made me wonder why the script ended and where reality began. On the debut episode of “Talking Smack”, Intercontinental Champion the Miz exploded on Daniel Bryan, taking severe offense at Bryan’s comments calling Miz a coward.
What followed was a tirade of emotions that Miz has never approached in his entire career. Miz went on and on about how Bryan was the real coward for leaving the fans waiting on his return that was never going to happen. If Bryan loved wrestling that much, why did he not just quit WWE and go wrestle somewhere else? Bryan walked off the set with no response, leaving Miz to look like the conquering hero for one of the only times in his career.
If this winds up leading to a Miz vs. Bryan match and then a potential Miz World Title reign, this is the promo of a lifetime and the moment where Miz reached the level that he’s been building towards for so long. The in ring work might not be at the heights of some others, but this was one of the most emotion filled promos I’ve ever heard and made me want to see these two fight, which is exactly the point (in theory at least).
5. “You’re immortal to them. To me? Dead.” – Charlotte, “Monday Night Raw”, May 23
Speaking of emotion, this one was all about personal emotions between real life family. Charlotte debuted in WWE back in July 2013 and immediately took the women’s division by storm. She would win the Divas Title in October and then become the inaugural Women’s Champion by winning a triple threat match at “Wrestlemania XXXII”. For a long stretch of this time, her father Ric Flair was by her side.
That all changed on May 23 though when Charlotte started talking about how her father was never there for her because he was too busy being the Nature Boy. Growing up, Charlotte wanted to be her father but she had realized that she didn’t need him anymore. Charlotte was the star that her father had once been and she could do it on her own. With her father in tears, Charlotte basically fired him on the spot. Flair’s slow walk up the ramp sold the entire thing to perfection.
This is one of the rare instances where a lot of people can relate to what either of them are going through. Flair himself is the father who only wants what’s best for his daughter and didn’t realize when he had been around too long. Charlotte was the young upstart who thought she could do everything on her own. This was a great way to make Charlotte look like an evil woman who could stand on her own, which she had been ready to do for so long now.
6. “Why are you still here?” – AJ Styles, “Smackdown Live”, August 2
Over the years, John Cena has lost his fair share of matches. A lot of people have defeated him more than once but for some reason he almost never seems to lose the final match of a feud. Cena is the kind of guy who will lose a match and shrug it off without seeming to lose anything as a result.
However, AJ Styles didn’t seem to be too happy with this. Following his victory over Cena at “Money in the Bank 2016”, Styles wanted to know why Cena hadn’t left for Hollywood already. Why was Cena still here after losing to Styles, especially when he wasn’t seeming to be all that upset by a major loss. This led to a rematch being made for “Summerslam 2016”, where Styles would actually win again.
The story here is very simple: Styles was the new star of “Smackdown Live” and saw no reason for Cena, as in the man who lost the match, to still be around at such a high level. The fact that Styles backed it up by winning the rematch made this speech even better as he was proven right, which isn’t something you often see from a heel.
7. “Brother Nero, I knew you’d come!” – Matt Hardy, Impact Wrestling, May 31
Just….dang man. If there is one line that sums up all of Matt’s insanity in one moment, this might be it. It’s the gleam in his eye and you can feel that he just buys everything that he’s saying. The line is the part that people remember but it’s also Jeff wondering what in the world he’s gotten himself into and everything that follows.
Matt might not be everyone’s taste but he’s one heck of a performer and can make you believe that he’s either insane or the greatest wrestling actor in years (aside from people who pretend Stephanie is interesting that is). Just go back and look at his face and see if it doesn’t feel a little creepy.
On top of the one moment, it actually became a catchphrase that the fans seemed to have a very good time chanting. In other words, not only was it a good line but it had staying power going forward. I know it doesn’t prove much in TNA but at least there was one great moment and something that might take them somewhere. Or maybe it just takes Matt back to WWE.
Some of these are better than others but only one actually had the hair on my arms standing up. As unpopular as he might be, the Miz has been on one of the strongest rolls of his life this year. The promo against Bryan might be the best thing Miz has ever done. Almost everything he said was completely accurate and Bryan had NOTHING to say back to him. If this had led to a match (which it still could), it’s one of the best of all time. As it is, it’s the best of 2016.
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