When it comes to talkin’ trash, you would be hard-pressed to find a form of entertainment that relies on it as heavily as pro wrestling. As performers are often tasked with talking people into the building, personalities and characters reign supreme. Obviously the in-ring work is integral, but throughout the history of the industry, those who seem to have the greatest success are the ones who can go one-on-one on the microphone with just about anyone.
Perhaps the same could be said for MMA. Above all else, a fighter’s success is mostly tied to their ability to come out on top when locked in combat, but those who have a way with words will contribute to ticket sales and pay-per-view buys with paying customers wanting to see someone “shut that person up”. Look no further than Conor McGregor, a man who built a career with both his mouth and his fists.
Rafi Kohan’s new book, TRASH TALK, doesn’t just examine the verbal jousting that occurs within the squared circle and the octagon, but also the baseball diamond, basketball court, football field, and rink. That isn’t all, however, as he also meets up with insult comics, hip-hop artists, and gamers examining how trash talk fuels their industries.
With respect to the aforementioned integration into the pro-wrestling business, Kohan goes all the way back to Gorgeous George, arguably wrestling’s first true heel performer – at least in how they’re presented today. George’s presentation was a huge inspiration for Muhammed Ali, who patterned his stage presence after George’s ability to rile up crowds and opponents alike. This would prove to be hugely influential on combat sports and sports in general.
Interviews with experienced workers like Gerald Brisco, Missy Sampson, and Greg Oliver help to spotlight the importance of drawing heat on the mic (“If you can’t cut a promo, you’re not going to last”). One particular moment with Sampson where she urged the importance of practice by speaking into a mirror before and after matches, cutting promos in the shower, or when she was alone on long drives – absolutely something that many modern performers could take to heart.
Kohan travels to all corners of the sporting world to uncover why some athletes feel like they need to integrate foul-mouthed banter into their game to not only break the concentration of their opponents, but to also provide themselves with ammunition to be better in the heat of the moment. Kohan highlights Warren Sapp, Gary Payton, and Larry Bird among others as athletes who depended on trash talk to simultaneously elevate their game while getting in the heads of others. In fact, it’s a way to protect themselves from lackadaisical performance, and they need to truly earn their words and live up to the lofty expectations that they set for themselves in the eyes of fans.
Whether you’re interested in the purely sports side of trash talk or you’re looking for something deeper like roast battles and intense military training that forces recruits to block out all distractions, Rafi Kohan’s TRASH TALK will leave you enlightened to the advantages and dangers of flustering the opposition.
Trash Talk: The Only Book About Destroying Your Rivals That Isn’t Total Garbage by Rafi Kohan is available now