Hello loyal readers and welcome to my personal stroll down memory lane. As always, this is not scientific in any way, there are no correct answers here. This is just my own personal opinion from my own experiences as a nearly thirty year wrestling fan. This week I have chosen to reflect on the best of a dying breed, the wrestling manager.
When I first started watching wrestling back in the 80’s it seemed like just about every wrestler of significance had a manager. In fact, I used to think that if you didn’t have one that meant that you couldn’t be all that hot a property. The art of being a great manager is truly something special when done properly. A manager is more than just a mouthpiece, more than just someone to escort their charge to the ring. A truly great manager can transcend their role and become a vital part of the wrestler’s overall persona. When it comes to great managers I look for three main qualities.
First he must be a great communicator. That seems like a no brainer but I have seen many a manager who was not much better on the microphone than the wrestler they were representing. Second, they must be essential to the wrestler’s success in the ring. Just walking down to the ring and holding open the ropes does not a manager make. That is called a valet my friends, with all due respect to Miss Elizabeth and Woman may they RIP. And third, the wrestlers they represent must have success. You can’t really be a great manager if your guy loses all the time now can you. Based on the above criteria, the best manager I ever saw was the “Louisville Slugger” himself Mr. James E. Cornette.
[adinserter block=”1″]To be sure, there were some very well known managers that I felt were just a little bit lacking compared to Cornette. Captain Lou Albano certainly has the championship pedigree of a successful manager. But by the time I saw him he was more of a cartoon character, fighting with Cyndi Lauper and wearing rubber bands stapled to his face.
I never thought that Jimmy Hart had any real skill beyond yelling into a megaphone. I loved Bobby Heenan, but he didn’t have enough success as a manager for my tastes. And I always liked him better as an announcer anyway. James J Dillon comes close. I was a huge Four Horseman fan back in the day. But I always felt that they could have succeeded just as much without him. And the fact that they continued their run with Hiro Matsuda leading them kind of bears that out.
When it comes to getting on the microphone, few have done it better than Jim Cornette. And few have been as good at drawing the ire of the local fans. Cornette was a master at insulting the audience to the point that he would need a police escort some nights to leave the arena. I may not always understand his down on the farm metaphors, but I always find them interesting and entertaining.
The team I associate with Cornette the most is the Midnight Express duo of Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane. Under Cornette’s guidance, and more often than not thanks to his loaded tennis racket, “Beautiful Bobby” and “Sweet Stan” won four tag team titles in the NWA. Cornette was always right there with his men, usually getting physically involved in the match as well. One prime example was Starrcade ’86. This was the scaffold match against the Road Warriors. Cornette fell from the 20 foot high scaffold and blew out both his knees in the process. Now that is a manger going the extra mile for his craft.
[adinserter block=”2″]But the Midnight Express were not the only wrestlers to benefit from Cornette’s managerial expertise. In the WWF in the 90’s he was Yokozuna’s “American spokesperson” during the big man’s reign as World Champion, which lasted almost a whole year. He formed “Camp Cornette” later on and led Owen Hart and Yokozuna to the tag titles as well as leading Owen and the British Bulldog to the titles.
So there you have it. My completely unscientific determination of the best manager of the last thirty years is Jim Cornette. Do you have a different choice for the top spot? Do you wish that managers were more prevalent today or is wrestling better off without them? Leave a comment, I would love to know what you think. And keep on the lookout for the next edition of “The Best I Ever Saw”.
Vince DeHoratus lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He has been a life long wrestling fan and he has passed that love onto his son. Though not quite yet “middle aged and crazy”, he is fast approaching it.
Order the book Worker: Last of a Dying Breed featuring a forward by Jim Cornette by clicking here.
Order the Night of the Legends DVD featuring Jim Cornette by clicking here.