Joined: 01 Aug 2006
|Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:18 pm Post subject: My Top-5 Wrestling Managers of All-time
|I came across Kayfabe Commentaries' video on the Top-5 Managers of all time. The premise is that KC polls their viewers and they come up with a top-5. Then KC poses the top-5 list to wrestling personalities (i.e. Kevin Nash, Tammy Sytch, New Jack, Bill Apter, etc) and they give their take.
The poll results were:
#5. James Mitchell (Sinister Minister)
#4. Gary Hart
#3. Paul Heyman/Dangerously
#2. Jim Cornette
#1. Bobby Heenan
Most everybody liked the list, but eschewed Mitchell being there on the top-5 (although most liked him as a manager and a person). The main cry was for Cpt. Lou Albano.
I think the list represents the thinking of wrestling fans over the past 30 years as they didn't pick any managers that quit working prior to 1985. I also thought the Mitchell choice was interesting because it symbolizes how younger fans tend to think.
Mitchell was good on the mic from the standpoint he was interesting to listen to and he never stumbled over words, badly misspoke or was terribly off on the mic. But, the manager is just like every other performer in wrestling...their goal is to sell tickets. Mitchell didn't sell tickets. It's the same issue I have with Bray Wyatt...yes, he speaks well and can have some nice quotes and has a nice catchphrase...but all of that does not entice the fans.
These days house shows are really non-existent and it's really about ratings, but Bray Wyatt doesn't get a big wrestling fan thinking about RAW at 8pm when it's 1pm on a Monday. My list of managers put me into that type of mindset.
Percy Pringle - I don't think he was particularly 'money', but he was a solid manager and successfully made a massive transition to Paul Bearer. And then he had to make Paul Bearer into a face when the Undertaker and Paul Bearer characters were naturally scary heels.
Jimmy Hart - I really liked his Memphis stuff and found some value in his early WWF stuff. I recently watched the Piper vs. Adonis match from WM3 and for that landscape, it was a good match. Although Piper and Adonis had no interest bumping that night as they took a combined *one* bump the entire match (Piper taking a front face bump on a Hart leg pull). Meanwhile, Hart bumped more than both of them combined and really helped the match flow. But, his Memphis stuff is the stuff to watch as he had most everything you could want from a heel manager whereas his WWF work was mostly him just being loud and not evil.
The Grand Wizard - Problem with him is that I haven't seen a ton of his work. His mic work was always very good, although again...not sure if it was 'money.' I know he managed The Shiek, but I think the Shiek could get over by himself. From what I've read and heard about Ernie Roth, his best trait was behind the scenes.
Paul Heyman/Dangerously - Paul was raised by Roth/Blassie/Albano. I can see the Albano influence and the phone was a Blassie influence. I don't really see much influence as a manager from Roth, but it sounds like Roth helped Heyman understand how to get over.
The problem I have with Heyman could be shown with his work in Memphis in the Austin Idol vs. Jerry Lawler feud. Idol wanted a hair match with Lawler and was putting up $50k if he lost and Paul's acting was superb. But when Paul cuts a promo he's too loud and starts to get more of a 'click the channel' heat. Just a very inconsistent manager.
However, Paul did get Cornette to be a face which was extremely hard to do, would take some tough bumps and I think his work today as Lesnar's advocate is brilliant.
Sensational Sherri - I think it's almost impossible for a valet to be 'money', but Sherri came about as close as one could. She could work, bump, talk and she was an excellent actor by wrestling standards. That's such a key part of being a manager because inevitably your wrestler(s) will split up with you and that usually requires a vignette or two to set up the break up.
5. JJ Dillon
JJ was an efficiency of motion type of manager like Gary Hart. They could be doing nothing at ringside and just one look to the crowd could incite the crowd. JJ was also fantastic at playing the victim role like Bobby Heenan was. Heenan had more ways of subtly changing his role like an artist with a color palette.
JJ usually played the victim role as a 'shame on you' to the attacker and the fans that cheered him for attacking JJ. I also liked how he cut some of his promos that had a lot of truth in them, pointing to the hypocrisy of the fans, but ending the promo by saying something dastardly to keep the crowd coming back. His interview on when Luger turned on the Horsemen was a great example.
And his mic work was often brilliant. There were a few occasions when the Horsemen had Ric, Arn, Ole and Tully...all excellent mic workers...and just let JJ cut the promo and then they would leave. That's a tall task with those guys on the mic.
Combine that with JJ being an actual wrestler, he could take bumps and have the occasional 'if JJ's wrestler loses, the faces get 5 minutes with JJ.' Although the booking was usually to keep JJ somewhat strong compared to how Heenan was booked as the cowardly weasel that going to get his ass kicked.
4. Captain Lou Albano
I was never an admirer of Albano's work. I couldn't get over the silliness of the rubber bands on his face and a lot of his mic work was too incoherent for my tastes. His facial expressions were excellent. I tend to not think of him as 'money', but he really came before my time as a fan and they say that he was certainly 'money' when feuding with Bruno.
Another guy that could work and bump and would take some big bumps. However, his lunacy of blatantly blading himself in the middle of the ring is a turnoff. I only rank him in the top-5 because of his feuding with Bruno.
3. Gary Hart - What I always loved about Gary Hart was as a manager he was not a pussy, but he was still a coward. It's a unique way to do a character and it comes off more like a villain you would see in a TV drama like The Shield or The Wire instead of your typical pro wrestling heel.
And he could find new ways to continue to feud with the Von Erichs and keep it interesting. And he got not 1, not 2, but 3 different Japanese/Korean wrestlers over who did not do promos. And he got himself and his wrestlers over everywhere he went.
He was certainly 'money' because of how much he helped draw in Texas, but because his character was so different that he went about being money in a different way. It wasn't a case of one person thinking they could kick his ass because he was a big guy and had a very evil persona. Instead, it was about numerous people wanting to kick his ass and all of them wanting to do it at once. And the matches set up where kinda like John McClain in Die Hard...you know McClain will come out victorious in the end, but you just don't know how he's going to do it.
t-1st Bobby Heenan
t-1st Jim Cornette
Both are amazing individuals because Heenan could have been another Don Rickles if he had chosen to go into comedy instead of pro wrestling. And I can't recall Cornette ever stammering, misspeaking, stumbling or stuttering over a word while he cuts the long promos at a fast rate and mostly doing it off the top of his head and answering questions from announcers.
Heenan was a great work and world class bumper. He was money on the mic, but his real draw was the 'if the heel loses, the face gets 5 minutes alone with Heenan.'
Heenan was also an artist at either just escaping enough so the crowd didn't feel they got all of Heenan or escaping where they could do a comeback and the crowd would accept it.
There's a bump he took with Ken Patera where Patera wrapped a belt around Heenan's neck and slung Heenan and pulled him back in by his neck. It was one of the toughest bumps I've ever watched. I still don't know if Patera meant to do that.
Cornette was probably the most 'money' on the mic as a manager. He had this great ability to talk up the babyfaces just enough to make them appealing and then shoot them down and talk about how he's going to cheapshot them in the match.
So, it's a hard line to draw between the manager that likely drew more due to his ability to work in the ring or the manager that drew a shit-ton of money, but did it with his mouth and therefore couldn't draw as much as the manager who could work.
The other thing is that if I were to knock Heenan's work he started to be less effective in the WWF, particularly towards his latter manager days. He often made things a little too funny and fans stopped being scared of him and/or hating him.
The knock against Cornette is that he was fantastic as a tag manager with the Midnight Express and the Heavenly Bodies, but really never had that impressive run with a singles wrestler. Meanwhile Heenan managed the likes of Bockwinkel, Flair, Andre and Harley Race.