Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The importance of the promo

Last night, I took advantage of the fact that we had no viewing lab to go to and tuned in to watch a full episode of Raw. I was excited to do so, because I (surprisingly) missed my Monday night wrestling viewing habit, and so I just wanted to make some observations on the show.

I was buying the show, and I got a kick out of the "fan" that won the Intercontinental title. I thought it had a good build to the Bobby Lashley interference, and the fans seemed to be buying it as well. But then, Lashley was passed the microphone, and he gave the most underwhelming promo I've heard about all year long. It killed the intensity of the match, of the segment, of just about everything. It was so lackluster in its delivery that it made me laugh instead of making me believe in his character.

This made me remember an argument I once had with a fellow fan, and so I decided to bring the topic here. I know that in this day and age, promo skills are almost a necessity... or are they? Let's take Umaga for example. All this guy does is growl and pant and destroy people in the ring. Between Vince and Armando Alejandro Estrada (I love how he says his name), they pretty much do all of the talking for him. He hasn't said a word and everyone buys his character, at least, most people do. Between them helping him by showcasing his voice through him and his in-ring intensity, Umaga doesn't need much else.

Enter Bobby Lashley. This guy has the look of a champion and he has the moves of a champion, but I would rather Moolah and Mae Young try to wrestle now than hear this man on the microphone. And yet, if promo skills are so important, why is this guy the focus of the show apart from the champion himself, John Cena? Granted, not everyone can be a Ric Flair or a Rock on the microphone, but guys like Chris Benoit and Rob Van Dam were often criticized for their rather underwhelming promos (they got better). Shelton Benjamin in particular is a phenominal athlete, but he never got off the ground for a singles push because he couldn't "connect" with the fans. But I'm supposed to believe in Lashley and want him to win... right. It's the same problem on the blue show with Batista, although he's gotten better, he still sometimes leaves something to be desired on the microphone.

But does it matter? In my opinion, it doesn't, because to me, it's what goes on in the ring that's the most important thing. You can say what you have to say in the ring, Chris Benoit being the premiere example. But nowadays, it seems like more and more emphasis is placed on the dramatic storylines instead of the actual in-ring content, and if that's the way it's going to be, then they should put some effort into guys like Lashley and his microphone skills. After all, he's a big name now, and he's involved in a high-level feud with the McMahons. It reminded me of what JR said when he came to visit - some guys are shot to the top and they're just not ready for it. If Bobby Lashley doesn't fit that criteria right now, then I don't know who does...


Laury Silvers said...

I'm just watching it dvr'd right now (I finally finished grading the last of the papers for my own classes).

On promos: Vince shoulda used some Italian to make his point and realized that Milan is in *Northern* Italy. Ya can't insult 'em with the garlic thing. He finally got them with Santino the Italian jobber dude. That was cool. Got chills watching it.

To me, promos are 1/2 the game. Look at Hogan! He could get away without wrestling with that mouth on him. The managers are there for the wrestlers who cannot cut a promo. No way to go without.

LS said...

Ha! Turns out Santino was no jobber! lol! Sweet. But you know, Vince set that up with his promo. Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Sigh, I was also looking forward to some live RAW last night, but it was my hallmate's 21st birthday, and I had to make sure the barcrawl was a smashing success. It was.
Anyway, I agree with you on Lashley. He's an amazing specimen, with high caliber moves and..... no personality. He's like really good ice cream with nothing on top to make him jump out at you to make you say 'wow! that looks like really good ice cream! I want some!'. Lashley either needs to buy himself a personality or a manager, and quick, because despite this push, he may lose steam quickly. The only wrestler I can readily think of that has been successful without a strong personality or promo skills is Chris Benoit, and he definitely improved. He was also able to build a character mostly on his own real-life reputation as a relentless technical wrestler, and his lack of mic time may have enhanced that aura of intensity. Not Lashley. He does not have a reputation to lean back on, only a great build and strong ring skills, with a baby-sweet face that probably isn't doing him any favors. Promo skills may not be essential to wrestling, but they are essential to wrestling success and stardom.

Sam Ford said...

Carolina, we have looked at wrestlers throughout history who are particularly known for their in-ring abilities and/or their promos, but we haven't talked nearly enough about the idea that "bigger is better." I think it was in the documentary we watched our very first week that Gorilla Monsoon said that people would rather watch big guys fly than small guys.

WWE in particular has always been fascinated with the big muscle folks, tied into the company's interest in bodybuildilng, perhaps? But it's interesting that people seem to hate Vince but not necessarily to equate that to liking Bobby. His lack of personality would make him a great heel if put with someone who could make up for it. Compare Lashley to Brock Lesnar, for those who watched that push, where a similar monster with little experience but plenty of potential and a freaky build was given a mouthpiece, and few questioned whether he deserved to be at the top when he made it there.

Ismael said...

I think that promos are very important to wrestling. Watching a wrestler give a good promo makes you want to see what he can do in the ring to back it up. When I was younger, the promos in wrestling were sometimes the most memorable thing.

My favorite example is the Ultimate Warrior. He has been criticized over and over for his out of control and non-sensical promos. I think I'm the only one who actually enjoys watching him talk. He is always intense and comes up with the most ridiculous sayings. I never lost interest in the things he had to say and I thought his snarls were the perfect way to end them. He made me want to watch him in the ring even more. The fact that his promos are so talked about says that he was successful in his his performance.

Sam Ford said...

You make a point that we talked about earlier in the semester, in regard to Dusty Rhodes and Hulk to an extent. The nonsensical nature of The Ultimate Warrior promos are what draws people in. Even as everyone made fun of it, don't forget that everyone knew his promos and could recite them. That doesn't mean that he was terrible at promos, but some wrestlers believe that there should at least be some logic to the rambling... which is where the criticisms come in. Have you ever heard Kevin Sullivan cut a promo? It's always, "I was called up to the heavens by the great warriors of old, and they asked me to walk through the seventh door of the seventh building of the Eye of Czan. Inside were two tablets, gold with ancient texts written in blood, and they said, 'Kevin Sullivan, you will be the warrior who will represent us in the battle grounds on earth.' And when I enter the cage with you, Dusty Rhodes, those legendary warriors will be looking down on me, and fortune's scales will be weighed in my balance!"