The WWE is not only a wrestling company, but a "sports entertainment" product, meaning the performers need to be not only amazing in-ring wrestlers, but they need unique characters and the ability to connect with the crowd. That is done best through the ability to stand in the middle of the ring and deliver an entertaining and engaging promo which either get the fans on your side or get them to loathe you. Performers like The Rock, John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels all made a name for themselves for being all round entertainers, with The Rock standing out above the rest, as the most charismatic and brilliant talker in the history of the game, and it made him a megastar that was able to transcend and become a bigger star in Hollywood.
Wrestling today has definitely changed, and today, the performers are smaller and more focused on wrestling ability. Still, the ability to entertain and keep the audience's attention with a promo is still just as important. With NXT, the performers have a better chance to develop such an ability, but the company is intent on scripting all these promos, which definitely limits the chances of a performer showing their own character and getting over on their own. Some have been able to step up and separate themselves, while others have fallen by the wayside, and this list will look at both sides of that coin.
15 Best: AJ Styles
AJ Styles came into prominence with TNA, and he became a fan favorite because of his insane abilities inside the ring, which became that good in fact, TNA became known as the House That AJ Styles Built. Still, he lacked something in the character department. He left the company after 12 years and headed to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he joined the already popular Bullet Club, and that’s where his career truly took off. The freedom he was offered on the microphone did wonders for him, as he was able to develop an attitude and character that he lacked in TNA, and worrying about his overly Southern accent was a thing of the past. He struggled early in WWE with promos, but once he found his footing and was able to start “beating up John Cena,” he became one of the best in the company when it comes to promos.
14 Worst: Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke came into NXT a while back, and it was obvious from the moment she debuted that the company was very high on her, but she was nothing more than a developmental project who had a few years before she could be a top tier performer, as she was quite green in the ring and on the microphone. NXT then paired her up with the experienced "Evil" Emma, and it looked like she was improving both facets of her game. Out of nowhere, the WWE called her up to the main roster, and with Emma gone, she had to go out and make herself a star on her own. That has massively exposed her weaknesses in both areas, and with Charlotte taking care of the promos for the duo since that point, she hasn’t had a chance to improve or develop, making her still one of the worst on the main roster with her promo ability.
13 Best: Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman is arguably the greatest manager in the wrestling industry, a business that he has had a long and storied history in, but today we see him appear only as the Advocate for the Beast, Brock Lesnar, and all those years of experience have definitely helped him become who he is today. Every time that Lesnar shows up, the atmosphere is electric, and he goes to work with brilliant sermons selling the dominance of his Beast. His delivery in his calm yet intense manner is unmatched in the industry today, showing why many more managers should be present in the WWE. Whenever Brock appears, the crowd is electric enough, but with the control and brilliant selling that Heyman provides, Lesnar seems like an even bigger star, and that is playing his role to perfection.
12 Worst: Cesaro
This one is a famous and very interesting case, as Vince McMahon told "Stone Cold" Steve Austin on his podcast that Cesaro didn’t have “it," and that’s what was holding him back from ascending into the upper echelon and main event of Monday Night RAW. While the fans are completely behind him, he does remain in the midcard or tag team division and it’s no doubt down to his lack of ability to entertain or engage the crowd on the microphone. I disagree with McMahon when he claimed Cesaro’s lack of "it factor," as the Swiss Superman has a great look and phenomenal in-ring ability, but it’s easy to see why McMahon has criticized his promo ability, as it is among the worst within the entire WWE.
11 Best: John Cena
The older, hardcore fans of wrestling are always first to criticize John Cena and his standing in the company over the past decade, but one thing is for certain, he knows how to give an impassioned speech and how to control the crowd like no other top star in the company today. He can embrace the comedy aspect of a promo, or go full-on, unbridled aggression and rage, and either way, he knows how to bring out the emotion and passion in the WWE Universe, both in those who hate him, and those who adore him. Cena may be gone more than he is present these days, but that doesn’t change the fact that when he steps inside the ring, no one can tell engaging stories like Cena, both on the microphone and with his in-ring performances.
10 Worst: Naomi
When the women of WWE were split up a year ago, it looked like SmackDown got the short end of the stick, as Charlotte, Sasha and Bayley all made their way to RAW, but the depth of the SmackDown division became its strength, with Naomi, Natalya, Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch and Mickie James all stepping up to make it a bright spot on Tuesday nights. Alexa, Becky and Nikki all have very well rounded games, stepping up to carry the division early, but it is Naomi who is reigning at the top right now, using her incredible athleticism and unique entrance to win over the fans. Unfortunately, her promo abilities aren’t great, as she comes across as very awkward and uncomfortable, but the company is behind her so she has plenty of time to improve.
9 Best: Kevin Owens
While many people on the independent scene made their name through pure wrestling ability alone, Kevin Steen did it by adding a vicious and violent attitude to his character, which manifested in some of the most personal feuds in wrestling history due to his unmatched ability on the microphone. Obviously coming into the WWE and transforming into KO, Owens has had to tone down the violence of his promos, but the intensity and entertainment value remains the same, and his program with Chris Jericho has shown he has a diverse, comedic side that’s matched by few in the company also. In his two years with the WWE, Owens has won the NXT, Intercontinental, United States and Universal Championships, and that’s a testament to his all-around game, not only in the ring but on the microphone as well. As he develops, he will become an all-around great in the WWE.
8 Worst: Bayley
Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of the Hugger, Bayley, and her struggles with promos may have helped her underdog character connect with the crowd when she was with NXT. But today on Monday Night RAW, as she is the flagbearer and Champion of the red brand's women's division, it begins to stand out as a major weakness. Her delivery just lacks in the majority of her promos, and when Charlotte or Sasha Banks aren’t there to carry her through it, she often loses the direction needed to control the crowd. It’s obvious the WWE is getting behind her, and with good reason, and with the likes of Alexa Bliss and Mickie James now on RAW, she will have plenty of opportunities and help to improve. I believe she will, but for now, she still struggles mightily on promos.
7 Best: Alexa Bliss
When Alexa Bliss arrived on RAW as part of the WWE’s Superstar Shake-up, fans were ecstatic, as she has made herself into one of the best heels in this past year on SmackDown Live, and she also showed how superior she is on the microphone in comparison to RAW’s two big babyfaces, Bayley and Sasha Banks. With her arrogant character played to perfection, Bliss is able to control the crowd masterfully, which is quite rare in the WWE today. It will be great to see how she is booked under the brighter lights of Monday Night RAW, but if she is given the freedom to be who she has become over the past year, the WWE might just have a transcendent female star on their hands.
6 Worst: Roman Reigns
We all know this one was coming at some point, and although there is much worse in the wrestling industry, Reigns has the brightest spotlight, and thus his inclusion at such a high spot on this list. The reason for his struggles have a lot to do with his booking, as the fans just don’t see him as a good guy that they can get behind, and thus his corny, joking promos just don’t work, and it makes him look incredibly bad. If the company can get behind him as a top bad guy (which probably won’t happen anytime soon) and he can deliver short, sharp promos that suit his badass character, he may find himself on the other side of this list, but for now, he stands out as one of the world in the business today.
5 Best: Bray Wyatt
I’ve left Enzo and Cass off this list because the two are nothing but a catchphrase and nonsense at this point, but Bray Wyatt is the complete opposite. Although he may ramble with incoherence sometimes, he is always telling a story that is true to his character, and it is usually the booking that lets him down. Wyatt is easily the most unique character we have in wrestling today, and you can mark that down to a unique, electric charisma that comes across in his cult leader-like mannerisms and promos. His abilities will be tested more than ever now that he is back within the crowded main event scene on Monday Night RAW, and whether he is booked well or not, one thing won’t change, and that’s the fact that he is incredible on the microphone and can hold the crowds attention like no one else.
4 Worst: Stephanie McMahon
The authority figure is the most overused cliché in wrestling history, and in a time that the focus should be on the incredible athleticism and unique, developing characters we have, the WWE continues to focus on the McMahons as a key part of programming, rather than shining that spotlight on the talented wrestlers. One of the worst in the business today is Stephanie McMahon, who has ruled over RAW for the better part of the last three years, and it's been noted many times, but her annoying, long-winded promos have actively taken away from the show. The character is now offscreen for a while following the table spot at WrestleMania 33, and that will be good for the product, as her character is not only annoying. Worse, it often brings down the male performers with no repercussions, making her horrible on the microphone, and horrible for the credibility of anyone she comes into contact with.
3 Best: The New Day
The New Day came together in 2014, and their first impression as a preaching babyface group failed mightily, as the fans came to hate them. But they adapted perfectly, and have become one of the biggest things the WWE have showcased in the past decade. The trio consisting of Kofi Kingston, Big E and Xavier Woods can get the crowd fired up like no one else in the world, with a unique, organic comedy styling that works so well in the confines of the wrestling business. They are probably the most unique group in the world of wrestling today, and every time you think they’re getting stale, they find a way to freshen up their act and get the crowd on their side once again. Moreover, their talent on the microphone has led into record merchandise sales, matched by no one else in the company.
2 Worst: Titus O’Neil
Titus O’Neill is probably featured less than anyone on this list, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is probably the worst performer on the mic, now and within the past decade, as the entirety of the WWE Universe groans as soon as he shows up on the screen. When partnered with Darren Young as the Prime Time Players, they were able to mask these weaknesses with their natural chemistry as a tag team, but as he has attempted to stand out on his own and create the Titus Brand, we’ve all come to see that he lacks the charisma necessary to be a singles star. His program with Darren Young and Bob Backlund showed this at its worst, and the company may look to let go of him when they release a group of employees in the coming months.
1 Best: The Miz
For the past decade, The Miz has been one of the best heels on the entire WWE roster, but it was only until the brand split of 2016 that fans truly recognized Miz’s ability, both in the ring and on the microphone. It was his starring performances alongside General Manager Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack that finally showed just how good he was, and his skills took him to becoming one of the most talked about stars in the entire WWE. Even though he jumped over to RAW in the Superstar Shake-up, he has already shown that it will continue on Monday nights. There may be others with more diverse characters who show a bit of that diversity, and while The Miz may be a one sided character, he is the best in the game on the microphone, and that’s a fact!
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