As Americans celebrate Independence Day, it’s time to look back at a historic promo that helped launch the American Revolution, one of the greatest storylines in professional wrestling. Although there were many fantastic promos during this time, Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” promo wasn’t just a great promo, it created an iconic catchphrase.
The year was 1775 and the babyface faction known as the 13 Colonies had experienced numerous run-ins with the monster heel faction known as Great Britain. These included the much-remembered Stamp Act, segment, the Boston Tea Party angle, and the horrific Boston Massacre. Storylines often took months or even years to build up, but once they started, they were the stuff of both history and legend, including the iconic American Revolution storyline.
It’s crucial to remember that wrestling promos were much different back in the 18th century. Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph wasn’t even born yet and radio and TV were over a century away. Thus, wrestlers had two options for cutting promos- speaking to an audience (a method which remains effective to this day) and writing it down for distribution to the masses. In this instance, the promo would become legendary, even though it was not written down.
In March 1775, Patrick Henry when he cut his legendary “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” promo at the historic event. the Second Virginia Convention (a precursor to Starrcade) which was held at St. John’s Church. Here’s an excerpt reprinted below, courtesy of History.com
“Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace, Peace,’ but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? … Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
As inspiring as Henry’s words were, they weren’t written down (like any good talker, he didn’t need a script) and the only version that’s known is a written account published in a Henry biography from 1817. Is it possible that Henry’s promo was akin to famous phantom title switches such as the legendary 1980 title unification tournament in Rio de Janeiro that supposedly linked the North and South American Championships into the Intercontinental Championship?
No, Henry did give his famous promo and although we may never know the specifics of his words, it’s undeniable that he uttered his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” catchphrase. The catchphrase is right up there with “Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?” “To be the man you’ve got to beat the man” and “And that’s the bottom line, cuz ‘Stone Cold’ said so!”
Legend has it that a younger Dave Meltzer transcribed the promo for his Ye Olde Wrestling Observer pamphlets, but if he did, no known copy exists. Whatever the details, Henry’s words helped launch a powerful program that transformed the 13 Colonies into the white-hot group later known as the United States of America.