There’s been an awful lot of talk about how some longtime pro wrestling stars, such as the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jerry “The King” Lawler, have swooped into angles on WWE Monday Night Raw and delivered promos better than anyone else on the current roster.
Let’s face it: The on-the-job training for interviews was a lot better in yesteryear. In the 1980s, the WWF had a lot of wrestlers and managers who could talk well on the microphone. People like Roddy Piper, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Hulk Hogan, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts understood how to push matches and angles.
However, more than a few promos in that decade were stinkers, which made me ponder the worst ones I had heard during the ‘80s. One of my qualifications here is that it had to be an interview that anyone could have seen (so house show promos really can’t count). And a bad segment doesn’t mean you gave a bad promo, as plenty of gifted talkers have been saddled with lousy circumstances (think about some of those corny Saturday Night’s Main Event skits).
Instead, my choices are reserved for those who truly butchered the art of the pro wrestling promo. With that, below are my five lamest promos from the ‘80s:
5. Jack Tunney strips “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase of the WWF Title (1988). I want to be fair to Tunney. He was a WWF promoter from Toronto who became figurehead president of the WWF, a role that transitioned into something more significant during Tunney’s “time in office.” That said, if you’re going to cast someone for that part, he or she should know how to talk well. The WWF stripping DiBiase of the title (after Andre the Giant defeated Hulk Hogan for the belt and then bequeathed it to DiBiase) needed to be boosted by a strong segment, but Tunney didn’t exactly deliver. He would have fit right in with many of the WWE stars of today who can’t deliver a scripted promo without sounding wooden.
4. Uncle Elmer appears on Piper’s Pit (1985). Anyone who wants to talk about the shallow talent pool in pro wrestling these days should take a trip back to 1985 and wonder, like I did for years, how Uncle Elmer had a job in the WWF. The guy was a terrible wrestler and a bad promo, as his appearance in Piper’s Pit illustrates. Piper, who was consistently great in the Piper’s Pit segments, couldn’t save this one with Elmer. It’s like watching grade school kids argue.
3. Famous baseball announcer Bob Uecker interviews Andre the Giant at WrestleMania IV (1988). First off, for those who need an interpretation of what Andre is saying, he knocked Hogan out of contention in the WWF Title tournament that was the showcase at WrestleMania IV (Randy Savage won the tournament and became champ). But listening to Uecker’s terrible comedy and watching his even worse selling just wrecked this promo. To me, Uecker was the epitome of Vince McMahon’s dire need for mainstream acceptance in the 1980s. McMahon wanted so badly to get any kind of rub from celebrities during the early years of Mania that he picked people whom you couldn’t take seriously, which was unfortunate because this Andre interview should have been serious given how prominent the feud with Hogan was.
2. The debut of Brother Love (1988). After Piper’s Pit became a hit, the WWF threw many stars into the spotlight hoping they could repeat Piper’s success. Jesse Ventura, Adrian Adonis, and Blackjack Mulligan all had interview segments that were – ummm – forgettable. And then you had the Brother Love Show, which was certainly memorable, but in an embarrassing way. Piper had the talent to interview prelim jobber Frankie Williams and just about everyone who saw it remembers that segment to this day, but I’m not sure I can think of one classic Brother Love promo. I certainly recall this clip, the debut of the Brother Love Show, as terrible, and the guy who played the character, Bruce Prichard, never made it work. The character first appeared in 1988 and continued for three long, long years.
1. The creation of Strike Force (1987). Rick Martel and Tito Santana were beyond cheesy coming up with the name Strike Force, and I remember the whole thing vividly in a bad way. Santana stepped in to take the place of Tom Zenk (who had just quit the WWF and his team with Martel, the Cam-Am Connection). During an interview in the dressing room, Santana vowed to opponents that he had Martel’s back and that, “We’re going to be striking with force, baby!” Ugh. But it got worse. “I’ll tell you what, that doesn’t sound bad. What about the Strike Force?” Martel responded. To which Santana yelled with his fist in the air, “Strike Force!” Santino Marella might have made this material work, but Martel and Santana were too straight-laced to make it convincing. Goofy acting aside, Strike Force went on to beat the Hart Foundation for the Tag Team Championship.
As a footnote, I’m sure some people will wonder why Ultimate Warrior didn’t make this list. I actually found Warrior’s promos bizarre but entertaining. Even if you dispute my notion, I think we can all agree that his strangest WWF interviews came in the 1990s, starting just before his WrestleMania VI match with Hulk Hogan. So from that perspective, he escapes my list of shame for the 1980s.