Let the record show that I'm still a wrestling fan to this day (no snarky comments before watching this). It's an old habit from childhood that has simply refused to die, even after discovering it's all predetermined. As my understanding of the business expanded, I grew more appreciative of the artistry behind what made the product so appealing and effective to me.
One of the cornerstones of moving along plot lines and interactions between wrestlers (also known as angles) is the promo. The promo is a segment on a program, usually done through a interview or monologue, which is used by a wrestler to promote themselves and/or a feud they have between another wrestler. A memorable promo is filled with charisma and substance that simultaneously captures your attention while you making heavily invested in the story. Here is an example:
In that promo, Dusty Rhodes played the role of the face (a good guy) and used his energy and a sympathetic inflection to make sure that people cheered for him. On the other end of the spectrum, you have heels (the villains) whose job it is to gain heat (getting jeered and booed) by sharing unpopular opinions or verbally attacking a face. This is what a typical heel promo sounds like:
Pretty straightforward, right? You piss people off, which makes them want to spend money to see you get your comeuppance. There are varying degrees to how to get heat, but that's the basic gist. In my mind, the heel promo is something that isn't just limited to wrestling but in the reality that we live in. There's no shortage of public figures that say things the majority of the people disagree with, but we really take notice when it's done enthusiastically and sincerely. The fun of a great heel promo in wrestling is that we know this person is portraying a character, but they do such a great job of toying with our emotions and convincing us to hate them that we can't help but react outwardly. A real life heel promo carries that same weight of sincerity and the result is that we're usually appalled yet slightly entertained. With WWE's SummerSlam this weekend, (the 2nd biggest wrestling event of the year behind Wrestlemania), I decided to look at ten of the most notable heel promos in pop culture, listed chronologically.
Mike Love vs. The Oldies Station
The angle: The Beach Boys were inducted into the 1988 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame along side The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, for whom Mike Love had choice words (skip to 3:48).
Heat index (on a scale of 1 to 10): 9. Love's tirade included shots at Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie and apparently Brian Wilson's speech, which Love couldn't help but interrupt. His self-serving rambling made for the most awkward moment in Hall Of Fame history and turned what should have been a night of celebration and class into a train wreck.
Infamous heel quote: "I know Mick Jagger won’t be here tonight, he’s gonna have to stay in England. But I’d like to see us in the Coliseum and he at Wembley Stadium because he’s always been chickenshit to get on stage with The Beach Boys.”
GG Allin vs. Decency
The angle: Anti-establishment punk rocker GG Allin appeared on The Jane Whitney Show to declare his hate for society and good taste.
Heat index: 10. Allin displayed all of the classic heel traits during this appearance (which would be his final interview) from having a defiant, electric delivery to challenging audience members to a fight, but he really earned disgust by boasting that he raped women and men onstage and that he liked to have sex with underage kids and animals.
Infamous heel quote: Way too many to count, so here are a few samples.
"I'm gonna rape the girls, I might rape the guys. I might have sex wi-, I want it all! I want it all and I'm gonna have it all! Because I am everything!"
"I don't care about anything but myself and what I write. And what I do is law."
"You go to school? You go to school? Wow. What are you gonna learn in school? You ain't gonna learn nothin' in school! 'Cause I'm the only one that can teach you! I'm the only one that can teach you!"
Suge Knight vs. The East Coast
The angle: The East Coast-West Coast rivalry kicked into high gear at the 1995 Source Awards when Suge Knight fanned the flames by mocking Sean "Puffy" Combs.
Heat index: 8. Depending on where you resided, Knight's stance on Bad Boy Records could have been inspiring. The vocal NYC crowd decried anyone who wasn't from their hometown (they even booed Outkast. OUTKAST!) and the head of Death Row Records refused to let his label's accomplishments go unrecognized. Instead of trying to appease New York, Suge took the road less traveled to much derision. The best heels are aware of the venue that they're at and use it to their advantage to gain heat and who has been a bigger one in the music industry over the past twenty years than this man?
Infamous heel quote: "Any artist out there wanna be an artist and stay a star and won't have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the video, all on the records, dancing, come to Death Row!"