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Tossing Salt – Worldwide News: January 10, 2011

January 11, 2011   ·   0 Comments

January 10, 2011
Doug Maynard

 
So what’s the topic for today? How about something that is near and dear to my heart, once a strong part of any and every wrestling territory, but now merely just an afterthought for most major wrestling organizations. I’m talking about wrestling managers.
 
What is a manager? A manager (in professional wrestling terms), is a person who acts as a spokesperson for wrestlers or groups of wrestlers. He represents the wrestler when circumstances prevent the wrestler from being available themselves, and also (for the heel wrestlers anyhow), lends the occasional helping hand and distractions to help his client win matches and get over with the crowd. In short, it’s having someone there to add strength to a wrestler’s drawing power by helping to hide any weak points (lack of promo skills, lack of charisma) and thus make them more marketable, thus attracting fans and putting butts in the seats.
 
It also gives certain performers a chance to extend their careers by staying on after their wrestling days are over and using their acquired skills of talk and wrestling ability to pass the torch, so to speak and to take younger, newer talents under their wings and share their experiences and knowledge.
 
Yeah, I like me some wrestling managers.
 
So for today, let’s talk about the greatest wrestling managers of all time, at least in my opinion. How many? How about ten of them. Yeppers, my friends. This is all strictly opinion based, but I’ve been watching wrestling for over thirty-five years now. I’ve seen what I’ve seen and I know what I know and I think that, in this case, my opinions are good ones. So let’s do it.
 

Honorable Mention…
 

Before I get started on my “Top Ten”, I want to give three men honorable mention for their attempts to be managers, after the end of their active in-ring careers. These guys were great in their roles as a manager, but it was such a small part of their overall careers, that they don’t quite make the cut for “Top Ten”. Maybe if they had been managers for longer periods during their careers, they might be among the elite, but in this case, time was not on their side.
 

Bill Alfonzo…
 

Alfonzo, or Fonzie as he’s more commonly known, had a great run as a manager in ECW, acting as the corner-man for both Sabu and RVD on numerous occasions. It’s hard to picture either man in the ring without having Alfonzo jumping around and blowing that damn whistle.
 
But Alfonzo’s career, before being tapped as the spokesman for Sabu by mad scientist Paul Heyman, was primarily that of a referee, having worked for both the NWA and WWE during his long, in-ring career. As a referee, he was arguably one of the very best. As a manager, the potential was there and touched upon, but he never had the opportunity to really get out of the gate. But what little we saw was definitely worth taking notice of.
 

Arn Anderson…
 

He managed the Horsemen during the last run of the infamous super-group. He was in the corner for David Flair a few times. The man is one of the best talkers in the history of professional wrestling, as well as one of the best in-ring performers, and if he’d been given the proper chance, he could have been easily among the top mangers too.
 
But bad story-lines and constantly being buried by the management of WCW during his managerial stint took what could have been a really big deal and shot it straight to hell. Rather than deal with the politics and crap of being an on-air talent and manager, Arn chose to move to behind the scenes with WCW, and then later with WWE. And thus, the skills and talent of one of the best promo-guys ever are wasted and forgotten.
 
Even now, Arn could be used as an adviser or manager and help get younger talent over. He is that good. I know that. Most of the old school fans know that. But unfortunately, we’ll probably never get the chance to see it happen.
 

Harley Race…
 

The former 8-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion was definitely one of the greatest wrestlers ever. No one questions that. But as a manager, his record is a mixed bag at best. Harley was given the chance to manage Lex Luger and led Lex to his first WCW World Championship. He managed the man called Vader and that could definitely be considered a success too. But then you factor in The Colossal Kongs and Yoshi Kwan. And you just have to wonder what happened. Harley is a true legend. Of that, there is no doubt.
 
But injuries from a car accident cut short his managerial career and we never really got to see just exactly what Harley could have been in that role. Harley has gone on to train wrestlers since his career ended and his success rate has been quite impressive, so he’s still able to pass on his knowledge and experience to other wrestlers. But it would have been nice to see him have a few more years at ringside and on our televisions.
 
He’s definitely one of the all-time great wrestlers and if circumstances had been different, would have been one of the all-time great managers too. At least I think so.
 
And now, let’s move on to the main event of the evening…
 

Tossing Salt Top Ten Professional Wrestling Managers of All Time…
 
Paul Ellering…
 

Arguably one of the smartest men ever to step foot in the wrestling ring, “Precious” Paul Ellering was a good wrestler who worked in the AWA and northwest territories. He was a body-builder and had some good matches. But during a stay in Georgia, the management decided that Ellering would make a good manager and placed him with a young tag team of Matt Borne and a rookie Arn Anderson. Ellering was then placed with a group of wrestlers that consisted of The Spoiler, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, King Kong Bundy and two guys named Animal and Hawk, known as The Road Warriors.
 
The other wrestlers were soon gone, but the partnership of Ellering and The Road Warriors soon led to World Tag Team Championship runs in both the NWA and AWA. Then the team headed up north to the WWF and soon laid claim to their tag team titles as well.
 
Ellering only actually managed a handful of wrestlers during his career, but the ones he managed were very successful, often far more successful than one would have expected. The Road Warriors were the power and body of the team, but Ellering was definitely the brains. And that’s why he’s clocking in at number 10.
 

Captain Lou Albano…
 

Captain Lou was not a great wrestler during his in-ring days. But he was charismatic and talkative and unique. And the man knew about tag team wrestling. So he reinvented himself from being a member of the Sicilians tag team in the old WWWF to being the loud, bragging, over-zealous manager of champions, Captain Lou. Sixteen times, he led such diverse teams as The Blackjacks, The Samoans, The Moondogs, The British Bulldogs, Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito, The Executioners, etc. to success as the recognized World Tag Team Champions. And he was the man who guided Ivan Koloff to the highlight of his career, when he defeated Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Championship.
 
But Captain Lou wasn’t finished. He also got involved in helping to promote a rock band and became a well-known spokesman for the “World’s Ugliest Bartender’s Contest”, an event sponsored to help fight MS. He became friends with rock-star Cyndi Lauper and helped bring Cyndi and manager Dave Wolff to the WWF, and was responsible for the entire Rock & Wrestling Connection rage that dominated the eighties.
 
There are many words that can be used to describe Captain Louis Albano, but the words that I think fit best are “Manager of Champions”. ‘Nuff said!
 

Woman…
 

Nancy Benoit, far better known as simply “Woman”. While most females that accompanied the men to the ring were simply there to be eye candy or be a valet, Woman quickly proved from the start that she had no reservations at all about getting involved in the matches. She started off as the valet of her then-husband, Kevin Sullivan, in Florida, using the name “Fallen Angel” and acting as part of his cult. From there, she came to Atlanta and WCW, where she used the name “Robin Greene” and quickly became the manager for Rick and Scott Steiner. That didn’t last long as she did a complete character change on TV, started wearing evening gowns and proclaimed herself to be “Woman”. Shortly after she assumed this role, she led the team of DOOM to the WCW World Tag Team Titles. It was also about this time that she became part of the entourage of NWA World Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
 
Eventually, she left WCW and headed to ECW, where she repackaged herself once more by becoming the manager of the beer drinking, cigarette smoking brawler known as The Sandman. After a very successful run in ECW, she returned to WCW and quickly became once again a part of the Horseman, along with Debra McMichael and Miss Elizabeth. It wasn’t unusual to see her directing the other women at ringside and taking control of matters. It also wasn’t unusual to see her climb into the ring to confront wrestlers sometimes twice her size. Her role with the Horsemen led to her eventual marriage to Chris Benoit and retirement from the sport. There was talk of a possible comeback at one point, but spinal fusion surgery ruined those hopes. So she stayed retired and carried on as a wife and mother, until her tragic demise.
 
Her time as an active participant in this business was short, especially when compared to some of the others mentioned on this list, but she helped to redefine the role of women as managers. And she was always making an impact with every move. When the late John Lennon composed the song “Woman” right before he died, I have no doubt that Nancy Benoit, aka “Woman” was the type of person he had in mind. She was truly ahead of her time and a truly great wrestling manager.
 

Paul E. Dangerously…
 

How can you not have Paul Heyman as part of this group? When people think of Paul Heyman now, they think of ECW and his mad scientist ideas that took that small promotion and made it into legend. But before there was an ECW, there was a manager called Paul E. Dangerously and a little group called The Dangerous Alliance. Paul had some managerial success in Memphis for a while and even more success in the AWA with the Original Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose).
 
But when Paul came to WCW with his Original Midnight Express to feud with Jim Cornette and his Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane), Heyman really seemed to take that step up to the big leagues. And then, when he formed the “Dangerous Alliance” in WCW, a group consisting of Rick Rude, Madusa, Stunning Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko, he moved from the big leagues to the top of the mountain. His legacy was rising and not even the stupid angles with Missy Hyatt and Jason Hervey could derail him. Unfortunately, office politics and a falling out with Eric Bischoff could and Heyman soon departed WCW and went to a small company called Eastern Championship Wrestling. And the rest is history.
 
Heyman is a legend in this business as a creative genius He knows how to run and book a show and create compelling wrestling as well as anyone. But it was his roles, first as a photographer and then as a manager that got him in the door to begin with. I can’t comment on his photography, but as a manager, he took the ball and ran with it far more than anyone ever expected. And he definitely was one of the best.
 

Sherri Martel…
 

What can you say about Sherri? Tough as nails, knew the business inside and out, could talk, could wrestle, and there is nothing she wouldn’t do to get her wrestlers over. She started off with a dual role of AWA Women’s Champion and the manager for the Tag Team Champs, “Playboy” Buddy Rose and “Pretty Boy” Doug Somers. She would defend her own title and then accompany Rose and Somers to the ring, with no hesitation to get physically involved in the match. She was definitely a force to be reckoned with for AWA superstars.
 
And then she moved to the WWF, where she played a strong part of helping Shawn Michaels make that breakthrough from tag team wrestler to singles star. She spent time as the manager for Randy Savage. And then it was to WCW, where she quickly became a part of Ric Flair’s feud against Hulk Hogan and never once did she hesitate help torment the Hulkster. From there, it was an alliance with Harlem Heat, one that would prove fruitful as Booker T and Stevie Ray would become multiple-time tag team champs.
 
Call her sensational. Call her scary. Call her anything you will, but one thing that everyone would have to agree upon is that she was a talented in-ring performer and even better outside the ring. There are few better. Sherri Martel… RIP!
 

Jimmy Hart…
 

How can you make any kind of list of top managers and not have “The Mouth of the South” as part of that list. Simple. You can’t!. Jimmy Hart has never been one of my personal favorites, but you can’t argue with success and the man definitely has had that. From his start in Memphis, where the former pop singer feuded against Jerry “The King” Lawler, to his time in the WWF, to his days at WCW, few have had a career that can even come close to Mr. Hart’s.
 
He was a regional phenomena until he managed to catch the attention of the WWF during the eighties. He became the manager of such stars as Greg Valentine, The Honky Tonk Man, The Natural Disasters, Money Inc., The Nasty Boys and of course, The Hart Foundation. From there, it was to WCW where Jimmy managed such stars as The Dungeon of Doom, Kevin Sullivan, The Barbarian, Meng, The Giant, Lex Luger, etc. Oh yeah, he also managed two guys, at different times of course, named Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan.
 
Jimmy has always managed, regardless of where he’s at, to keep himself as part of the mix. That’s talent, my friends. And even now, Jimmy plays a major role backstage with TNA, helping the talent as needed and helping with music and promotional events. Much of his success can be attributed to the fact that he’s best buds with the legendary Hulk Hogan. But it was his talent and skills as one of wrestling’s best talkers that got him in the door to start with. And that talent, that notoriety as one of wrestling’s best managers ever, is why he’s on this list.
 

Gary Hart…
 

Well dressed and well spoken, Gary Hart was a man who knew simply what buttons to push and how to get talent over. He’s probably best known for his stints in Texas and the Mid-Atlantic where he managed such stars as The Great Kabuki, The Magic Dragon, Gino Hernandez, Chris Adams and The One Man Gang, among others in feuds against The Von Erichs and “The Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant. He also served several times as the manager for Abdullah the Butcher in several different areas. Hart also worked for a while in WCW, where he managed “The Latin Heartthrob” Al Perez, The J-Tex Corporation (Terry Funk, Dick Slater, Buzz Sawyer, The Great Muta), and “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko. Not too shabby at all.
 
And he was the driving force behind much of the glory days of World Class Championship Wrestling, until personal issues with Fritz Von Erich forced him to look for a change of venue. It’s a shame that Gary never had the chance to work for the WWF. The man was an absolute professional, both inside and outside the ring, and was one of the best talkers ever. If a wrestler was placed with Hart as his manager, they were destined for greatness. Gary Hart was a true legend among men. And truly one of the best ever.
 

J.J. Dillon…
 

The career of James J. Dillon has been one of great success, both in the ring and behind the scenes. He was a fairly successful wrestler, but his career really exploded when he became a manager and feuded with Dusty Rhodes down in Florida. From there, he moved to the Mid-Atlantic region and became the manager of Tully Blancard. His association with Tully grew and developed and evolved until eventually, J.J. was the manager for the most elite collection of wrestling talent ever, the Four Horsemen.
 
J.J. continued as manager of the Horsemen for quite a while before accepting a job in the WWF and becoming the Head of Talent Relations for Vince McMahon. Eventually, he gave up that job and moved back to Atlanta and WCW, where he played the role of an on-air authority figure. Dozens of wrestlers can say that they had James J. Dillon as their manager. The first time I ever saw Dillon live, he was in the corner of “Nature Boy” Buddy Landell, who was taking on the then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair. But what makes his so great was his role as the manager of the very best… the leader of The Horsemen.
 

Bobby “The Brain” Heenan…
 

What can I say about Bobby Heenan that hasn’t already been said? A fantastic and very quick wit. A great bump taker. A fantastic promo guy. And one of the best wrestling managers that ever lived. And a damn good commentator too.
 
Bobby really began to attract attention in the AWA, where he was the thorn in the side of AWA owner and wrestler Verne Gagne. Heenan was the manager and spokesperson for such stars as Nick Bockwinkle and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens. After almost a decade in the AWA, and a brief stint in Georgia, where he waged battle against such stars as Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rich and Mr. Wrestling II, Heenan moved on to the WWF and the era of “The Brain” had began.
 
Working both as a color commentator and a manager for such stars as Curt Hennig, Andre The Giant, The Brain Busters, Haku, Ravishing Rick Rude, and so many others, Heenan led the way as wrestler after wrestler attempted to destroy the powers that were Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania. During this time, Heenan also established strong friendships and bonds with Gorilla Monsoon and Gene Okerlund that would transcend time and continue to last even now. He also, during his time in the WWF, led a young upstart wrestler by the name of Ric Flair to two WWF Championships.
 
Eventually injuries took their toll and Heenan moved full-time to the commentary booth, eventually leaving WWF to head down south to WCW, where he continued his career as one of the voices for WCW Monday Nitro. Heenan would come out of retirement for one match, when he acted as “Coach” for a tag team event between Ric Flair & Arn Anderson versus Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Kevin Greene.
 
Bobby has had a large number of health problems over the past few years, including bouts with cancer, as well as quite a while in a coma after undergoing jaw-replacement surgery. But the wit remains and the mind is as strong as ever. He is truly “The Brain” and one of the very best of all time.
 

James E. Cornette…
 

Why is Jim Cornette number one? He’s proof that as a great manager, if you find something (or someone) that works, don’t attempt to fix it. Cornette has managed several wrestlers over the years, such as Buddy Landell, The Dynamic Dudes, The Rock & Roll Express, Bubba Rogers, etc. But the majority of his success has come as a result of one team, The Midnight Express.
 
All through the territories in the eighties,Jim Cornette and his team, the Midnight Express, made an impact with every match and every opponent. The territory may have changed from time to time, from Memphis to World Class to the Mid-South to Georgia to the Mid-Atlantic. It didn’t matter. It was a package deal with Cornette, along with Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey. And it worked.
 
During a run in WCW, Condrey decided to leave and an adjustment was made with Stan Lane. Cornette led the team as their manager and spokesperson and they continued to thrive. And when the Midnight’s eventually ran their course, Cornette moved to Smokey Mountain where he found a new team in The Heavenly Bodies, which picked up right where the Midnight’s left off and continued to thrive and succeed.
 
Just the success of those two teams would be enough to count Jim Cornette among the best, but then factor in his time in the WWF where he led Owen Hart and Yokozuna to the WWF Tag Team Titles, as well as helping Yoko become the WWF Champion in a partnership deal with Mr. Fugi.
 
Everywhere he’s gone, Jim Cornette means three things. Success, excitement and controversy. There is only one (thank goodness) and he’s truly, in my mind, the very best of the best. James E. Cornette is the greatest wrestling manager of all time.
 
And there you go. My opinions on who are the greatest wrestling managers of all time. Did I forget some of the greats? Most definitely, but I had to stick with the men and women I know of and have seen in action at some point. That’s why Freddie Blassie or The Grand Wizard (for example) weren’t included. I’ve seen them on YouTube and know about them from the old Apter mags, but I can count on one hand the number of matches I’ve actually seen where they were involved. I’m not saying that they’re not great, but my familiarity with them isn’t strong enough to rate them. I just wanted to clear that up.
 
And if anyone is wondering where Miss Elizabeth is, in my mind, she was a valet and not a manager. I’m not saying that she didn’t play an important role in the success of the “Macho Man” Randy Savage. She did, but what else did she do in her career? She was part of the Horseman entourage, but her role there was strictly eye candy. Same for her time with Lex Luger. She was a very attractive woman and helped to put butts in the seats, but she was not a manager, at least not in my eyes.
 
And I guess that’s it. What do you think of my list? Comments, questions and ideas for future columns can be sent to me at Doug28352@yahoo.com. Also, come visit me at Facebook at www.facebook.com/saltpalace. Add me as a friend. You know you want to.
 

And now, “dat is all de people need to know!”. I’m Doug, I’m down and I’m gone. Ubuntu!

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