Blading with Bill: The top managers
Turn on professional wrestling today (if you can stomach it) and you will find managers to be few and far between.
But go back a few years and managers were often as integral to the storyline as the wrestlers themselves.
Who could ever forget Miss Elizabeth at the side of the Macho Man, or Paul Bearer lifting his urn to signal the impending doom of the Undertaker? Toss in the likes of Bobby (The Brain) Heenan, JJ Dillon, Jimmy (The Mouth of the South) Hart, Gary Hart or Eddie Creatchman, and it’s easy to see how important the proper manager could be to the business.
Some managers — Dillon and Precious Paul Ellering of the Road Warriors come to mind — took their gimmick a step further and actually did manage and arrange things away for the ring for the wrestlers.
It’s a shame wrestling has gotten away from managers, but some promoters view them as an additional expense that can be cut when times are tough.
World Wrestling Entertainment head honcho Vince McMahon purportedly was never a fan of managers for that very reason.
Nailing down only four for a Mount Rushmore of managers from a long list of worthy candidates is a tough job to be sure, and keep in mind, I have always been partial to the National Wrestling Alliance versus the WWE and it’s more cartoon-like characters.
So, without further ado, here are my top four managers of all time.
Bobby (The Brain) Heenan
Ray Heenan had it all: he was quick on the mic, had a cutting sense of humour and could deliver a five-star promo when need be. He was also an excellent announcer, a perfect heel foil for Gorilla Monsoon in the WWF/E.
Heenan managed many top stars such as Nick Bockwinkle (not that he needed help with promos), Andre the Giant and even Ric Flair.
Who could forget Heenan’s impassioned performance at the 1992 Royal Rumble as he announced a legendary match that saw Flair go over 60 minutes to become the WWF champion. He would later say it was the only time he truly felt he was witnessing a legitimate match, as former NWA champion Flair took on and defeated all comers to become the WWF champion.
Heenan died in 2017 but his legacy lives on. The best of the best.
James Morrison was so suave and so good he was no mere manager. Dillon was the executive director of the Four Horsemen. He appeared in a suit and tie, looking like a million bucks while delivering cogent, thoughtful and often infuriating promos. He was the icing on the cake for the Horsemen, who needed no help when it came to interviews.
Dillon also worked behind the scenes with the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and had a good feel for the business side of wrestling. Dillon later moved to the WWE and worked closely with McMahon before heading back to World Championship Wrestling to conclude his career. Dillon also worked as a security guard at a prison for a time.
Dillon, 77, is now retired and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with the Four Horsemen.
Cornette could talk the talk as good as anyone who ever picked up a mic.
The Kentucky-born Cornette was billed as a “mama’s boy,” a spoiled brat who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Cornette is best known as the manager for the Midnight Express, a top-notch tag team who were good they won multiple championships. Cornette provided the heat with his often outrageous promos while the Express did their thing in the ring. Cornette also carried around a tennis racquet he often used (behind the referee’s back of course)!
Cornette later worked for the WWF and even owned and operated Smokey Mountain Wrestling from 1991-1995.
Cornette is also an avid collector of memorabilia with a wrestling collection second to none.
His podcast, The Jim Cornette Experience, is a must-listen.
The Grand Wizard
Going back quite a while for the Grand Wizard, who was born Ernie Roth.
Roth worked with the original Sheik in Michigan and also as Abdullah Farouk. He could often be seen on Maple Leaf Wrestling on CHCH out of Hamilton.
Roth wore outrageous costumes — he donned loud sport coats, sunglasses and a fez as Farouk and a turban as the Grand Wizard.
He was brash, could scream nonsense with the best of them and genuinely made you hate him.
Roth died of a heart attack in 1983. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995 by his friend Sgt. Slaughter.
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