I stumbled upon a tremendous house show promo on YouTube by Ray “The Crippler” Stevens — in which Stevens didn’t say a word.
I never fully appreciated Stevens when I was a kid watching the WWF in the early 1980s. Sure, I had heard of Stevens, but the version that showed up in the WWF in 1982-83 was old, out-of-shape, and honestly didn’t seem very engaged (although his attack on Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was a classic). It wasn’t until years later that I learned of his tremendous runs in San Francisco in the 1960s and the AWA in the 1970s, and how well he was regarded for bumping for his opponents.
So back to 1983 and the whole point of this blog post. In a house show promo for Madison Square Garden, Vince McMahon brings Stevens in to talk about a match with Salvatore Bellomo. “Mr. Stevens, Bellomo I’m sure you would grant is every bit your equal,” McMahon says to Stevens, an opinion at which Stevens just scoffs.
Vince further peppers Stevens about whether Bellomo is perhaps quicker or more technically proficient in the ring, which causes Stevens to just smile and shake his head. The interview ends and Stevens walks away. There are not a lot of pro wrestlers who have enough charisma and a command of body language to get away with a speechless promo, but Stevens did it well. I remember Eddie Guerrero doing a similar style promo in the ring alone on WWE SmackDown, during which he just sneered at the crowd.
Guerrero had the advantage of knowing he had the crowd in his hand while performing the promo. Stevens had McMahon, a camera operator, and an empty arena as an audience, but he pulled it off.