What is your favorite pro wrestling catchphrase?
That was the question posed in a recent column, and the tremendous response served to validate the importance of catchphrases and witty one-liners that grab the fans’ attention.
The responses ran the gamut, from one-word deliveries to sayings that that have become ingrained into pop culture. But the best are always entertaining, and fans can never seem to get enough.
Pro wrestling has always been fertile ground for trash talking and piercing promos. Many of the greats are identified with famous catchphrases and promos.
My particular favorite comes from a popular Mid-Atlantic performer who headlined shows here back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But it’s one that many longtime fans and veteran grapplers fondly remember, and when repeated, invariably a smile comes over their faces.
Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones was a beloved baby-face known for his colorful, yet sometimes disjointed, television interviews.
His most vintage spiel became an amusing rallying cry: “My name is Rufus R. Jones, and the ‘R’ stands for guts!”
It’s hard to beat that for originality. Rufus was a native of Dillon and had a gift of gab.
“Rufus was extremely popular,” recalled Charlotte promoter Jim Crockett. “He had one of the most unique styles of interviews I had ever seen. The first time I heard him do an interview, he was talking about a watermelon in his pocket, and I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about. But I later found out it was just a slang term that I had never heard, and I’ll never forget, that meant having a lot of money.”
“Everyone loved Rufus,” echoed Tennessee-based promoter Jerry Jarrett. “He would say to me, ‘Jerry, when I leave here, my billfold’s gonna look like footballs in my (behind).’ I’d say, ‘Rufus, if you have footballs in your side pocket, I promise you that I’ll have basketballs in mine.’ He was a real character and I loved him.”
Perhaps the holder of the most-repeated catchphrases is “The Man” himself, Ric Flair, who is as well-known for his talk as he is for his walk.
“To be the man, you gotta beat the man. Even after all these years it still resonates,” says Tom Sowell of St. Stephen.
Only one word necessary, says Alan Coker of Charleston, and that word is the Nature Boy’s “Wooo!!!”
Trey McLeod of Mount Pleasant agrees. “On the mic, there was Naitch … then everybody else.”
“Whether it’s Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Dallas … makes no difference. I’m the best going today,” he mimics.
Lest we forget, noted several readers, “Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it has the longest line.”
Hard to beat the “limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ dealin’ son of a gun,” whose volume of work over the past several decades speaks for itself.
Brian Westcott of Meridian, Idaho, combines several of Flair’s favorite spiels:
“It’s so hard for me to sit back here in this studio, looking at a guy out here, hollering my name, when last year I spent more money on spilled liquor in bars from one side of this world to the other than you made! You’re talking to the Rolex-wearing, diamond-ring wearing, kiss-stealing, wheelin-dealin’, limousine riding, jet flying son of a gun, and I’m having a hard time holding these alligators down!”
“Too tall, too tan, too rich and too much man to ever back down to a punk like you ...” — One Nature Boy to Another, Bruce Mitchell of Greensboro, N.C., recalls the exchange between “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Nature Boy” Buddy Landel.
A comprehensive listing would be far too lengthy for this discussion, but there are some certainly worth mentioning.
While Bret Hart was known more for his wrestling ability than his promo skills, his most famous words of wisdom were related to his ability in the ring. “I am the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”
The Undertaker always posed an impending threat with “Rest … in … peace.”
“Because Stone Cold says so,” is at the top of the list of Tom Rea of Georgetown. The Austin steamroller picked up speed when he uttered the phrase “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your (behind)!” after being crowned the 1996 King of the Ring.
While it’s not his favorite, Braxton Williams notes that he often quoted Scott Hall’s popular “Hey Yo” during his college years. Hall would add “Say hello to the Bad Guy” to his repertoire.
For former Charleston resident Steve Prazak, a favorite County Hall memory is George “Two Ton” Harris looking disdainfully at the jeering crowd, and defiantly shouting “Shaddap!”
John Pearson of Easley fondly remembers Classy Freddie Blassie calling opponents “pencil-neck geeks.”
While not exactly a catchphrase, the choice of Gene Haddock of Hanahan involves a bit of introspection from “Double A” Arn Anderson: “Adversity has a way of introducing a man to himself.”
An Arn Anderson line is also at the top of the list of Brian Westcott: “I don’t want to toot our own horn, but toot, toot!”
For Dayv Duncan of North Charleston, “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s signature catchphrase, “Oooh yeah,” fits the bill. “It’s great because it’s recognized by many and unique to him, it fit his personality. It even went with Slim Jim,” notes Duncan.
It might be noted that Savage’s inspiration for the phrase came from Pampero Firpo, one of the top heels during the ‘60s, from whom Savage (then a young Randy Poffo) got the idea for what would become his signature catchphrase years later.
Any well-rounded wrestling character must possess a number of special qualities that get him, or her, over with their audience.
One of the most important elements is a firm grasp of mic skills that grabs the attention of fans.
Behind every great wrestler is a great catchphrase.
The original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers, boasted his share of memorable sayings, and Mike Soma of Seattle, Wash., goes with the memorable “To a nicer guy it couldn’t have happened.”
“Win if you can … lose if you must … but always cheat” was the top choice of Jim Blaire II. “It was classic Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura at his best on the mic. I actually used this line in high school when I got busted cheating on a test.”
Chris Smith of Myrtle Beach submitted a few of his favorites. “Jericho and The List for comedy, Taz’s ‘Beat me, if you can. Survive, if I let you,’ and Jake Roberts’ ‘The DDT is like me. Cruel but fair’ for being ominous. And everything that ever came out of Ernie Ladd’s mouth, particularly when directed towards Dirty, Dirty, Dirty Rhodes.”
David Mabry of Altavista, Va., prefers another famous Ladd line: “Mr. TV announcer … I’d rather fight a man than make love to a woman.”
The top one-liners for Jesse O’Quinn of Hanahan come from a pair of WWE Hall of Famers: “Have a nice day” by Mick Foley and “Can you dig it, sucka” by Booker T.
Jon May of Cincinnati noted several favorites. Among them: Rick Rude’s “What I would like right now is for all you (fat, out-of-shape sweat hogs, keep the noise down) … sit down while I take my robe off and show all the ladies what a real man looks like” and the entrance of The New Age Outlaws: “Oh you didn’t know …”
“Not a catchphrase,” says Rick Bauer, “but Roddy Piper’s ‘Just when you think you know all the answers, I change the questions!’”
And then there’s the Rowdy One’s “I came here to kick (butt) and chew bubblegum … and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
Road Warrior Animal’s “What a rush!” was the favorite of Wayne Christian of North Charleston.
The Roadies are also the choice of Bruce Dykes of Charleston: “We snack on danger and dine on death, and dead men make no money.”
Modeling his promos off of Muhammad Ali’s famous style, Superstar Billy Graham would boast “I'm the reflection of perfection, the number one selection … I’m the man of the hour, the man with the power, too sweet to be sour.”
Stephen O’Neill hearkened back to the ‘60s with his selection.
“Handsome Johnny Barend had a routine with Magnificent Maurice that started with Barend usually holding a mirror and saying, ‘Mirror, mirror in my hand, who is the handsomest of all,” to start off his promos. Maurice would mouth the words. Of course the crowd got louder and louder booing.”
Some of the The Rock’s many catchphrases were at the top of the list for Terry Jackson of Goose Creek. “A lot of his sayings weren’t original phrases, but he took them and made them his own. I don’t really recall him saying something that I had never heard before. When you say something with charisma and conviction, it doesn’t matter as much what you actually say. I also admired how it was obvious he was inspired by Ric Flair but he didn’t do it in a copycat, disrespectful way.”
“Do you smell what the Rock is cooking” changed The Rock forever”, writes Tony Stillinger. “It was the use of that catchphrase that made him The Rock and let his personality shine. It ultimately led the way to stardom in Hollywood. From a financial standpoint, there has never been a more valuable catchphrase in wrestling.”
The Rock, who threatened to take his opponents “to the corner of Know Your Role Boulevard and Jabroni Drive and check you directly into the Smackdown Hotel,” certainly did have an array, including the always popular “If ya smell … what The Rock is cooking,” designed to get fans out of their seats.
Marco Piva of Fairlie, North Ayrshire, Scotland, finds that some of the simpler catchphrases have a stronger and longer-lasting impact, noting “Stone Cold” Steve Austin “What?” and Rob Van Dam, with thumbs pointing to his head, making his name the catchphrase as crowds chant “Rob! Van! Dam!”
Who can forget Hulk Hogan cupping his ear and asking “Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?”
And Bill Goldberg made a lasting impression with four words: “Who’s next? You’re next!”
More recent examples include John Cena’s “You can’t see me” and Daniel Bryan’s “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
WWE star Elias grabs the crowd with “Who wants to walk with Elias?”
And, of course, WWE owner Vince McMahon (and perhaps fellow billionaire and WWE Hall of Famer Donald Trump) growling his famous catchphrase: “You’re fired!”
OSCW show canceled
The Old School Championship Wrestling show scheduled for Sept. 8 at the Hanahan Rec Center has been canceled due to Hurricane Dorian.
All advanced tickets purchased will be good for OSCW’s event on Dec 8.
For more information, call 843-743-4800.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham. His newly released book — “Final Bell” — is now available at https://evepostbooks.com and on Amazon.com.