MJF shocked the wrestling world on the June 1st edition of AEW Dynamite, with a scathing promo which laid waste to AEW owner Tony Khan, the highly paid ex-WWE wrestlers on the roster, the fans online and in attendance and even one poor chap who made the mistake of trying to count MJF down to commercial.
In either one of the all-time best promos, or one of the most public airings of a workplace grievance since Moses said to Pharaoh ‘Hey, you know this pyramid scheme? Not a fan’, MJF’s tirade was a captivating moment that people will talk about for years to come.
Which does beg the question, why don’t people do this more often?
Well, in short, because very few people can. That magic MJF formula, of having something important to say, that is relatable or shocking, that has the staying power to remain lodged in our collective psyche for years to come, is the pot of gold at the end of the wrestling rainbow.
So, just as thousands of kids will have witnessed MJF’s “Fire Me” (and presumably caused Dads to discreetly google ‘What’s a mark?’ during Thursday breakfasts everywhere last week), let’s look at some other famous names in the promo game.
Dusty Rhodes, Stone Cole Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Paul Heyman, CM Punk and Rowdy Roddy Piper all are considered some of the best, so let’s look at some of there more famous mic musings and, hey, why not give them a score?
How else will we make new friends on the Internet, after all?
CM Punk –The Pipebomb
What The What Now? Straight in there with a modern classic. CM Punk grabs a mic from ring-side, sits cross-legged on the ramp and proceeds to air his many grievances in the direction of a comically battered, in-ring John Cena.
In a promo, that hit a lot of the same beats as MJF did on Dynamite, Punk bemoans being undervalued by Vince McMahon, overlooked in favour of sycophants and tired of the fans who ravenously ate up whatever WWE pushed on them.
A blistering, no holds barred event that still feels fresh and exciting, well over a decade later. 5
Swallowed A Dictionary? It did exactly what it set out to, certainly didn’t hang around, nor were there many memorable lines other than the fourth wall breaking call outs to Ring Of Honour and Colt Cabana, which to be fair, would still be shocking in WWE in 2022.
It wasn’t littered with overly flashy verbiage and frankly would have been an entirely different animal had it been. A good decision to leave the ‘Let me tell you something, Brother!’ at home. 2
Stick It To The Man? Well, there’s never been and likely never will be, anyone bigger in wrestling than Vincent Kennedy McMahon. As far as targets went, Punk went straight for the bullseye.
Even mentioning a post-McMahon’s death, where WWE would be run by his ‘idiot’ family. Ouch! Punk walked so MJF could run. 5
Universal Appeal? Yes and no. We’ve all had terrible bosses and suck-up co-workers who were angling for a second home somewhere in the boss’ colon, and yes, they do make you want to pack up your stapler and call it a day.
But the pipebomb is also very much about one man having a tantrum because he wants a Wrestlemania main event. Understandable? Yes. Relatable? Not quite. Or do we have Phil from Chicago on the line? 3
Never To Be Seen Again? You wish! This so was fresh, different and exciting, the catalyst for the second Summer of Punk and has been the benchmark for modern, fourth wall demolishing promos ever since. MJF, you’re up. 5
Giving it a total Phwoar! Your Hardcore Score of . . . 18
Dusty Rhodes –Hard Times
What The What Now? Dusty Rhodes was the son of a plumber, the common man and the ‘People’s Champ’long before a certain baby Dwayne could raise a rattle, let alone an eyebrow. An MJF, he certainly wasn’t.
Speaking ahead of his world title clash with Ric Flair, Rhodes would deliver a passionate promo that called upon the common men and women of America to unite, acknowledging real world ‘hard times’ that normal people experience, alien to, and often caused by, the megastar elites, such as Flair. 3
Swallowed A Dictionary? Dusty had a vast vocabulary and, coupled with a unique delivery, you only need to hear him wax lyrical on the ‘fo hawssmen’ to get the picture, made him a fantastic promo.
This isn’t the most extravagant nor the most forceful Dusty, though, so it won’t score full marks here, after all, there’s no getting funky like a monkey. 3
Stick It To The Man? Ric Flair is The Man. Becky Lynch may have a valid claim on the moniker, but, according to Flair’s rules, to be The Man you’ve got to beat The Man, which, as yet, has only happened on Twitter, so it doesn’t count.
Flair represented everything that Rhodes wasn’t. The money, the easy life, the vice of it all. It all reeked of Easy Street when Rhodes lived Hard Times.
That Rhodes made this bigger for the fans, by drawing them in and presenting them with their own hard times, gave this a much broader feel than just one wrestling match. Everyone had a struggle so why not join hands and struggle together.
Genius stuff from Rhodes, an absolute master of finding just the right balance of theatre and reality. 4
Universal Appeal? By the bucket load, and then some. It’s all about the people, even encouraging those watching at home to reach out and touch his hands. Is this a tag-match, cos I’m ready, Dream. Put me in! 5
Never To Be Seen Again? It’s a different promo from a different era, so it’s reasonable to acknowledge that it’s dated somewhat but the everyday struggles of the common man are still relevant and will be, for as long as we live through hard times.
This is what MJF’s future opponents should focus on. And who knows? One of those may very well turn out be called Rhodes, too. 3
Giving it a total Phwoar! Your Hardcore Score of . . . 18
Stone Cold Steve Austin –Austin 3.16
What The What Now? Stone Cold Steve Austin wins King Of The Ring and proceeds to run down a defeated Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts before serving notice to the entire WWF roster.
There are arguments to say that this kick started the Attitude Era and whether that’s true or not, it certainly catapulted Austin into the main event picture. 3
Swallowed A Dictionary? Perhaps a Bible. As iconic as any promo in wrestling, it went on to create a whole industry of merchandise emblazoned with ‘Austin 3.16’.
Has to get full marks. No one wants a can of whoop ass opened up on them, for one thing. Sounds incredibly messy. 5
Stick It To The Man? Roberts was old school, cunning in the ring and cryptic on the mic. Austin was the new blood, with seemingly zero patience for Roberts’ style, effectively killing off the Snake’s mystique in one blow, to then focus on bigger fish, the likes of Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith.
Here was someone who didn’t care if you were a good guy or a bad guy, only that you were in his way on his quest for the World Championship. You can just hear the glass break, can’t you? 3
Universal Appeal? It all had to start somewhere. The fans loved it, the character, the man, the theme, the look. Arguably WWE’s biggest ever star ever had arrived. 5
Never To Be Seen Again? Erm… Stone Cold Steve Austin just headlined night one of Wrestlemania 38. 5
Giving it a Phwoar! Your Hardcore Score of . . . 21
Ric Flair – Plane flyin’, Limousine Ridin’
What The What Now? Addressing the next challenger to his World Championship, Ric Flair gloriously wallet shames Buddy Landel. This is Flair’s signature promo, hitting all the right notes.
It’s short and, truthfully, you could substitute Landel for a Windham or a Rhodes and the song would still be the same, but it sure is a fine tune.
Poetic, memorable and annoyingly clever, it all added more to the presentation of the Nature Boy. You saw the Rolex, the limousines and the jets, and you wanted nothing more than to see this man knocked on his backside. 4
Swallowed A Dictionary? Few have taken the English language and bent it to their will like Flair can. The Stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun was arguably the best ever, his skills on the mic, equal to his sublime in-ring talent. 5
Stick It To The Man? This is where Flair loses some points. It’s a one size fits all promo, not that that’s a bad thing, it certainly got under his opponent’s skin, but it’s not really sticking it to anyone. Maybe the poor. But they don’t have TVs, so wouldn’t know anyway. 1
Universal Appeal? You have to go high here, not because we’re all jet flying, limousine ridin’, kiss stealin’, wheeler dealin’, sons of guns, at all, I’m definitely more your bus pass, easyjet, uber eats then take what you get, chap, but Flair is universal.
He is still the same Nature Boy in 2022, so he gets a decent score by simply living that life, well into his 70s and looks like he will continue to do so for many years to come. 3
Never To Be Seen Again? It’s still quoted and referenced. By Jay Lethal mostly, but that still counts.
MJF is as close to a modern day Ric Flair as you are likely to see. The whole, ‘I’m better than you, and you know it’ shtick, is just one woo away from a pair of uncontrollable alligator boots.
He already has the robes. Somebody needs to pay for the jet. 4
Giving it a Phwoar! Your Hardcore Score of . . . 17
Roddy Piper –Listen To Me Sheepherders!
What The What Now? Long before he ran out of bubble-gum and even longer before he would get rowdy, Roddy Piper settled on just being utterly insane.
Teaming with a young Rick Martell here, to face the Sheepherders, an early but surprisingly brutal, iteration of The Bushwhackers, Piper felt they needed something special to promote their upcoming match.
What followed needs to be seen to be believed and then hypnosis to forget, as Piper smashes a full unopened bottle into his own forehead before addressing the Sheepherders.
Despite struggling to stay comprehensible and even as the interviewer pulls chunks of glass from Piper’s head and blood pours down his face, you cannot take your eyes away from a young Hot Rod. 5
Swallowed A Dictionary? No. He knocked himself silly and mumbled about ponies. 1
Stick It To The Man? It’s not a long promo and the Sheepherders were, well, the Bushwhackers, but that wasn’t the point here. Piper was sticking it to an audience that had gotten a bit too ‘smart’ for his liking and wanted to give them something undeniably real that they had no choice but to accept as the genuine article.
You can put a big fat tick in that box, that’s for sure. Full marks for respecting an industry far more than your own forehead. 5
Universal Appeal? None. Hopefully. Showcasing toughness by battering yourself in a pre-match interview never really took off but gets a point for making today’s death match wrestling seem a bit twee in comparison.
Picks up an extra bonus point because, having said that, some death match wrestler will see this and no doubt recreate it because that’s just what people do. 2
Never To Be Seen Again? Bizarrely it’s not well known at all, despite Piper being by one of the greatest of all time.
There are obvious reasons why you won’t find it on the WWE Network but it has enough notoriety to rear its bloodied head every now and then.
Worth watching, even if just for Rick Martel’s ‘trying to be a team player but oh my God I think I can see your brain’ reactions, throughout the whole ordeal. 2
Giving it a total Phwoar! Your Hardcore Score of . . . 15
Paul Heyman –ECW One Night Stand
What The What Now? Paul Heyman gives a celebrated performance as he gleefully roasts a balcony full of WWE Superstars in front of a full house of baying ECW loyalists.
The appearance of the WWE roster does stretch the plausibility meter on this one somewhat but Heyman is so good here, it demands inclusion. 3
Swallowed A Dictionary? It’s Paul Heyman. With a live mic. In front of the ECW faithful. With Bischoff, JBL and Edge amongst his victims. It’s fair to say he delivered some zingers.
His “You’re only World Champion, because HHH didn’t want to work Tuesdays”, must still cause JBL nightmares. You can actually see his soul leave his body. Terrifying. 3
Stick It To The Man? Is the WWE bigger than Vince McMahon? Either way, this was more an attack on the product as opposed to the man.
Less personal than Punk but still along the lines of attacking this huge entity that had swallowed up so much, his beloved ECW included. And they were all just lined up likes lamb to the slaughter. 4
Universal Appeal? This wasn’t a valiant last stand by a little mom and pop store in the face of an oncoming juggernaut empire of megamarkets, nor was it the old chap from Up! ECW was in the fold by now.
It was important for ECW fans though and Heyman certainly got some things off his chest, but to most, it was just a one off PPV. 2
Never To Be Seen Again? It’s still around but the PPV is better known these days, for JBL’s brawling antics with the Blue Meanie than the ECW chief’s promo.
Well worth a watch to see Heyman eviscerate clearly uncomfortable wrestlers from a good thirty yards away. 3
Giving it a Phwoar! Your Hardcore Score of . . . 15
So how does MJF’s “Fire Me” stack up against all these giants? Well, if we use this clearly fool-proof system that nobody on the Internet will have any problems with, let’s see, shall we?
MJF –“Fire Me!”
What The What Now? Walking to the stage amidst a torrent of boos, a livid MJF, in under ten minutes, ripped apart AEW, its fanbase, perceived ‘untrained’ indie stars and ex-WWE Superstars on fat contracts that made up the roster but most of all, AEW owner himself, Tony Khan.
In one of the most visceral, focussed and above all else, convincing promos of all time, a disgusted and furious MJF highlighted everything that he believed was skewed in AEW and with Khan, branding his boss a ‘mark’, who had no place being in wrestling other than behind the guardrail with the other fans, culminating in MJF demanding that Khan fire him, until his mic was finally cut.
Powerful doesn’t even come close here. 5
Swallowed A Dictionary? The world will fixate on the climactic “Fire me, you f*cking mark!” line but the entire promo is littered with gold. MJF’s remarks on Khan and his place in wrestling, plus his brutal assessment of the roster alone are enough to give this a high score. 4
Stick It To The Man? Tony Khan is a big name in wrestling. One of the biggest. But, whisper it quietly… he isn’t Vince McMahon.
That it was CM Punk who came out to placate MJF, during commercial, does push this right up there though. If you don’t die the hero, eh, Punk? 4
Universal Appeal? A boss who undervalues your work but routinely piles more on you, with unrealistic expectations and pressure, yet no rewards? Your hard work ignored whilst attention and praise are given to others? It was like MJF had a lever labelled ‘Disgruntled Employee Finally Snaps’, and gave it the big tug with both hands. 5
Never To Be Seen Again? In a cowardly, get out of jail-esque, fence sitting, weaselly move, we will have to wait and see here just what this promo will mean down the line.
Will it eclipse CM Punk’s Pipebomb? Will it be surpassed? Will it be surpassed by MJF in somewhere other than AEW?
What is for sure is that all eyes are on MJF but more importantly, all ears, as the world wants to see what he will say next. ?
Giving it a total Phwoar! Your Hardcore Score of . . . TBD