The Managers (Part 1)
January 18, 2009
Well, the folks over at WWE.com decided to put together a list of who they consider to be the top 25 managers of all time in professional wrestling. The list was... interesting to say the least. So what I've decided to do is just go down the list of names that WWE considers to be the "best" and just offer up my comments on each name. Doesn't that sound like fun?
Yeah, I'm calling shenanigans on the WWE for their list. Look at some of these names? What are those people smoking? Let's see what they came up with.
25. Frenchy Martin
Frenchy, if I remember correctly, was the long time associate and advisor for Andre The Giant. And I believe he managed a few wrestlers up in the Calgary region. But is that enough to place him in the top 25? Do any of the current wrestling fans even have a clue as to who this man is? I doubt it. I've been a hardcore fan for over thirty-five years and I barely know who this guy is. Do you think any of the kids that the WWE is currently marketing to have any idea? No, me neither.
24. Gary Hart
This is the guy who managed The Great Kabuki, Terry Funk, Al Perez and Larry Zbyszko, among others. And he's only ranked # 24? The late Gary Hart was easily one of the best and most influential managers in the history of Texas wrestling. He was also the booker for World Class for a while and occasionally stepped into the ring as a wrestler. He was smart, articulate, and knew every trick, good and bad, in the book. In my opinion, he belongs on this list, but in the top ten. Or as Funaki used to always say, "Indeed!"
Nothing against Jason, who was the advisor for the "Impact Players" and a force to be reckoned with in the old ECW, but does he really belong on this list? I liked Jason and his character and thought he was very entertaining in his role. Heck, he's even one of my friends now on MySpace. But I don't know if I would really consider him a manager in the traditional sense of the word. Maybe an "associate" or even a male valet would be more appropiate. I like the guy, but he's another name that doesn't belong on this list at all.
22. Terri Runnels
Well, she managed Goldust. And Shawn Stasiak, who was "Meat". But what else did she do? Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten the entire "Alexandra York" and the "York Foundation" run down in WCW. And there was the whole "Terri Runnels Inventational" with the Hardys versus Edge & Christian, so that has to count for something as well. I don't know if Terri would have made my own personal list for the top 25, but she has a history and credentials to back her name up, so I won't object too much.
21. Michael "P.S." Hayes
Another name that I have great respect for, but I don't really know how much of an impact he had as a manager. I think of Hayes and I think of the "Fabulous Freebirds". Yes, I know that Hayes acted as the manager for Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton down in WCW during their WCW World Tag Team Title run and that Hayes was also the first manager for Jeff & Matt Hardy in the WWF, but it's not as the man outside the ring that Hayes really cemented his legacy and made his biggest impact. His status on this list, especially when so many other prominent names are ignored, is questionable at best.
20. "Precious" Paul Ellering
From his early days in Georgia where he managed the original "Legion of Doom", consisting of The Road Warriors, King Kong Bundy, The Spoiler & Jake "The Snake" Roberts, to his long tenure as the manager (both on tv and in real life) of The Road Warriors through the NWA and AWA, to his tenure in the WWE. Ellering has proven himself time and time again to be a managerial force to be reckoned with. Just his history with Hawk and Animal make his spot on this list guarenteed. And it's a spot well deserved.
19. Sir Oliver Humperdink
Humperdink was a strong managerial force that dominated both the Florida territory and then the Mid-Atlantic for quite a while. The "House of Humperdink" changed names frequently as he feuded against such names as Jimmy Valiant, Dusty Rhodes, Blackjack Mulligan, Jack Brisco, and so many others. But Sir Oliver was the foundation and leader of this group and when one of his charges was scheduled to wrestle, you knew it was going to be a fun night and that the "Red Rooster" as Humperdink was often called, would probably end up getting his butt kicked and getting busted open for the fans.
His run in the WWF was a joke, with Bam Bam Bigelow and Paul Orndorff as his charges, but that was mainly because they tried to play Sir Oliver as a "baby face manager" and his talent was antagonizing the fans and not kissing up to them. So that run was a bust, but the skills and talent of Humperdink as a manager can not be doubted by anyone. He belongs on this list to be sure, but I think my ranking would be far higher than # 19.
18. Johnny Valiant
The WWE loves the Valiants. I get it. But aside from the "Dream Team" of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine, who did Valiant ever manage? What did he ever accomplish as a manager? As part of the tag team, "The Valiant Brothers", along with "brothers" Jimmy and Jerry, his legacy is pretty much cemented and strong. As a manager, not quite so much. Does he belong in the top 25? Not in my opinion.
17. Bill Alfonso
The manager of Sabu and Rob Van Dam. This long time NWA / WWF referee knows how to really incite a crowd, blow a whistle and get his wrestler over. That's what it takes to be a great manager. "Fonzie" would be questionable as one of the all time greats, but I like and appreciate how he performed in his role with RVD and Sabu and I won't be the one questioning on whether he belongs on this list or not. He does. So there you go.
16. James Dudley
This was Vince McMahon's limo driver. Who did he ever manage? Name one person? Who? Can't think of any? No, me neither. While I'm sure that Dudley was a nice guy and probably a Saint (he'd have to be to put up with Vince all of those years), he does not belong in the WWE Hall of Fame... and he does not belong on this list. Come on now. As Gorilla Monsoon used to say repeatedly, "give me a break!".
15. Harvey Whippleman
Aside from Giant Gonzales, who did Harvey ever manage? I know, as "Downtown Bruno" in the Memphis territory, he was a pretty popular heel manager and had some success, but I don't think his run on the national scene could really be considered much of a success. He's a fun character and a good manager, but one of the twenty-five greatest? That's questionable. But at least he's more deserving than James Dudley.
14. Teddy Long
This one is about right. Teddy went from referee to manager in WCW and guided the careers of Ron Simmons and Butch Reed, aka "Doom". He became the mentor of younger wrestlers like Joey Maggs for a time. And in the WWE, he managed Mark Henry, Rodney Mack and Chris Nowinski before becoming the GM of SmackDown! and now ECW. Teddy has had a good career and run in this business and he works hard and does his job. And while he's not flashy, he's reliable and steady as she goes. And I agree with this spot on this list.
Whether she's called "Sunny" or Tammy Sytch, this is a lady who has had an eventful and successful career. And I really doubt that it's over yet. She managed her husband, Chris Candido in ECW. She managed The Road Warriors in the WWF. She's had success in WCW, Puerto Rico, Smokey Mountain and all across the globe. And she's still a relatively young lady. Her place on this list is welcome and deserved. What more needs to be said? The WWE needs to contact this young woman and bring her back to our TV sets. I think the role of Tammy on WWE TV would be mighty interesting to see these days. Just saying.
I liked Slick, but with the exception of the "Jive Soul Bro" theme music and his role as the manager of Akeem the African Dream (One Man Gang turing black), I can't really think of too many places where he stood out in the WWF as a manager. Slick was one of those guys that just always seemed to be there and if they had a character that was as much comedy as they were wrestling and a bit cartoonish, they would put him with Slick. He was the stereotypical "happy, go lucky pimp" for Vince to get his jollys from during the mid-80's. As one of the all time greatest, I'm not sure if he truly belongs or not?
11. Sherri Martel
The lady who guided Buddy Rose and Doug Somers to the AWA World Tag Team Titles, while also having a run as the AWA Women's Champion. Then she came to the WWF and turned Shawn Michaels from the "teeny-bopper baby face" into the "Heartbreak Kid". She moved on to become the "Macho Queen" and then traveled to WCW where she assisted Ric Flair in his battles against Hulk Hogan.
She then hooked up with a rising young team known as Harlem Heat and led them to numerous WCW World Tag Team Championship reigns. And she made out repeatedly with Col. Parker as well. What hasn't this lady done? Her spot as one of the top managers, and hell, as one of the top performers in this business, regardless of gender, is definitely safe. Sherri deserved her spot in the WWE Hall of Fame and she deserves this spot on this list. Actually, looking back on her history, I'm inclined to think that maybe she should be ranked a little higher.
10. J.J. Dillon
Why is J.J. only number ten? He managed dozens of performers over the years in Florida and Texas before finally settling in Charlotte and then Atlanta, where he led the most successful and dominating "super-group" of all time, The Horsemen. He was the manager of Tully Blancard, The Andersons, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Barry Windham and Sid Vicious. J.J. not only belongs on this list, but in my opinion, would be in the "Top 5".
9. Mr. Fuji
While I'm not saying that Mr. Fuji doesn't belong on this list, because he certainly does (his role with Demolition, Yokozuna and of course, the whole "Fuji Vice" thing assures that), I have to question why he's ranked so high.
Given his history, I guess that the writers of this list didn't want to be the victim of one of his legendary ribs (Haystacks Calhoun, flight to Japan and laxatives) so they ranked him especially high. Or maybe he just threatened to toss some salt at them. He was a fun manager to watch and is a true legend of the squared circle, but does he deserve to be # 9?
8. Miss Elizabeth
This is one that I'm somewhat torn on. Liz was nice to look at and I liked her when she was the manager for Ric Flair in WCW. Anyone who hits Hogan with a shoe gets kudos in my eyes. But how good of a manager was she? Really? She didn't talk. She didn't do much of anything except for just kind of stand there.
But with Savage in the WWF and then with Luger in WCW, I guess just standing there and looking good worked for her so why complain? If it's not broke, don't fix it. She was truly the "First Lady" of the WWF for a long time and has a featured and prominent spot in wrestling history. But was she really a great manager? The jury is still out on that one.
7. The Grand Wizard
No arguments here. Ernie Roth, aka "The Grand Wizard of Wrestling" was one of the best managers of the seventies and early 80's. With his outlandish outfits and brash arrogance, Wizard was a spectacle in every sense of the word. And he was said to be one of the smartest guys. I guess you'd have to be smart to guide the career of wrestlers such as The Sheik, Superstar Billy Graham, Ivan Koloff, Greg Valentine and so many others.
Speaking of Roth, Blackjack Mulligan does a funtastic "Ernie Roth" impression that has to be seen to be believed. I saw it on his shoot interview and was crying for laughing so much. Yeah, Roth deserves this spot. Absolutely.
6. Arnold Skaaland
This is one that I'm conflicted on. Skaaland only managed two wrestlers Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund. But with Skaaland as their manager, Bruno held the WWWF title for over 11 years while Backlund was the champ for over 6 years. Does he deserve credit for that? Where Bruno is concerned, I doubt it, but with Backlund, I think that Arnold has to be given some credit.
But what bugs me about having Arnold here is that he was a long time prominent figure in WWF management for quite a while and I think the reason he was made "manager" for Bruno and Backlund was to give the WWF management an "inside guy" with those two more than any other reason. He didn't talk for the champs. He didn't handle their affairs and was rarely even at ringside for their matches. And he's the man who cost Backlund the WWF title to the Iron Sheik by throwing in the towel on Backlund.
He's just a bit too much on the sneaky and shady side for me and this is just my opinion, I think his role as the manager of Bruno and Backlund was more of a hindrance to those guys than a help. So while his spot in the history books is safe, I don't think he'd make it on my own personal list of great managers.
5. Jimmy Hart
Who hasn't the "Mouth Of The South" managed? From Hulk Hogan to the Dungeon of Doom to Lex Luger to Ric Flair to Adrian Adonis to The Natural Disasters to The Hart Foundation to the Nasty Boys and just about every other prominent name that's ever worn a pair of wrestling tights. Jimmy Hart was a singer and DJ in Memphis who made a connection with Jerry Lawler back in the late seventies and the rest, as they say, was history. Hart is one of the best managers of all time and certainly deserves his spot in this list.
4. Paul Bearer
Be it as Paul Bearer in the WWF/E or as Percy Pringle in Florida and Texas, this is one man who is truly one of the great wrestling managers. Although Percy has been a bit too "cartoonish" at times for my tastes, he's led the careers of such stars as Blackjack Mulligan, Rick Rude, Al Perez, Kane, Big Show, Mankind, and of course, The Undertaker, and that assures his spot among the best of the best.
While my own personal tastes might not have ranked him quite as high as this list did, I do admire and respect what he's accomplished. And I will be among the first to admit that when it comes to being a great wrestling manager, Percy Pringle, aka "Paul Bearer" is definitely among the best.
3. Captain Lou Albano
I'm surprised to see the good Captain ranked so highly in a WWE list of managers. Not because he doesn't deserve it, but because of the way he parted ways with the WWF and the rumored bad blood between him and Vince McMahon. And we all know that if Vince doesn't like you, you don't make his "lists". **coughheymancornettecough**
But I guess 18 sets of tag team champs over the years is too much for even Vince to ignore. And when it came to managing tag teams, no one did it better than the Captian. And of course, we also have Lou to thank for that whole "rock & wrestling" thing that he and good friend Cyndi Lauper started back in the early 80's. There is only one Captain Lou Albano and he's definitely a legend among legends and one of a kind.
2. Freddie Blassie
I won't knock this man in any way, shape, or form. "The Hollywood Fashion Plate" Freddie Blassie was one of the best performers of all time in the sixties and seventies and went on to become one of the best managers of all time. Want proof? Two words. Hulk Hogan. And his trademark nickname for everyone, the infamous "pencil necked geek" has become his legacy as well. He was truly a legend, an icon and one of a kind. And one of the best managers ever? That goes without saying.
1. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
Most of the newer fans only know Bobby as the wise-cracking ass-clown from WCW and WWF who annoyed Tony Schiavone and would constantly antagonize "Mean Gene" and Gorilla Monsoon. But Heenan was a great manager. Ask Nick Bockwinkle. Ask Harley Race. Ask Ric Flair. Ask Arn Anderson. Ask Haku. I'm sure that Ray Stevens and Andre the Giant would agree as well. For that matter, just ask Hulk Hogan.
No one was better at getting the fans riled up and no one was better at putting butts in the seats. With a quick one-liner, a strong confidence and the best wrestlers in the world to back him up, Bobby Heenan was and is truly one of the best of all time. I have some issues with this list, but the choice of "The Brain" as the top manager of all time.. that is something I think few people could truly disagree with.
So that's my take on the WWE's list of "The Top 25 Managers". Some of their picks are pretty good while others just leave me shaking my head and going "What the... ?". I mean, "James Dudley"?
Anyhow, I'll be back tomorrow with another edition of Six Minutes where I'll take a look at some of the men and women that SHOULD have been on this list. It'll be Part 2 of a look at managers, with "The Rest Of The Story". Wow, I just had a "Paul Harvey Moment" there. It felt weird.
So look for that tomorrow. Comments and questions can be sent to Doug28352@yahoo.com. Come visit me at MySpace at www.myspace.com/salt_palace. Add me as a friend while you're there. You know you want to.
And on that, my "Six Minutes" are up. I'm Doug and I'm down and I'm gone. See ya!