Recently I have been doing a lot of watching of the old school WCW Monday Nitro shows on the WWE Network (only 9.99 a month!!!). I have been enjoying watching these old matches but I started to realize something this past week while watching. Where have all the Managers gone? What’s become of the colorful people who used to walk to the ring with the wrestlers and even run interference for them. Sometimes these people had as much to do with the matches as the actual wrestlers did and yet now a days in the WWE we are down to only 2 managers…sorry 1 advocate, 1 manager and if we have Zeb come back then we have 3 all together. (Sorry Lana almost forgot you here, you’re so lovely that for a bit I had you lumped in with the Valets please please forgive me!!!)
Looking at the old WCW we had Bobby Heenan who “coached” the 4 Horsemen, we had Sonny Onoo, Sister Sherri, Col. Robert Parker, Teddy Long and Jimmy Hart. This is just a small listing and only in the WCW for now, I mean I remember Jim Cornette, Mr. Fuji and Paul Bearer just to name a few. This is only a small number of the managers that were known through the 80’s and 90’s and I’m not even going to mention all the Valets that were brought to the ring (mainly because while they were nice eye candy they didn’t tend to speak for their wrestlers like managers did.) So what has happened to the art of the Manager?
Attending WXW Wrestling run by Afa the Wild Samoan has also made me wonder this even more because they have two great manager characters in this indie promotion. First there is the sinister Bryan Richards, who honestly reminds me in some ways to Mr. Fuji. Why do I say that? Well to me Mr. Fuji was kinda an evil sinister guy who would do anything, including throwings powder or salt into his wrestler’s opponents eyes to try and win his guy the fight. Now I haven’t seen Bryan much since he has been out on injury shortly after we started going to WXW, but between his look- which is complete sinister- and the way he has talked I can totally see him pulling off something like that. They also have Brian Rubright (Pronounced RubeRight if you want to be on his good side….but his scowl is sooooooo darned cute that I intentionally get his name wrong so he can make faces at me.) Rubright is interesting in that he looks like a mini Paul Heyman (lots of Oompa Loompa chants when he comes out) but he has the energy and voice of Jimmy Hart. This guy barely sits still and I kinda liken him to a hamster on crack. The thing is right now Rubright is speaking for a stable of about 5 guys who because of their characters don’t talk at all so he works, he gives them voice and depth that they otherwise would not have. Sure some people may find him a little annoying, but that’s also part of his character and he plays said part well and for that I applaud him.
So now we come to the present day WWE and the rabid fans that I keep coming across. You see I have been watching WWE since I was about 8, and when I was in high school I watched both WWE and WCW every week and to be honest looking back at it, this seems to be when things started to shift. In the WCW you had a lot of managers but then you look over at the WWE in the years of 1995 and 1996. This was the start of the attitude era and when you look around WCW had several manager types and one of our popular ones now a days Paul Heyman was working with his ECW brand. So in WWE I remember Mr. Fuji with Yokozuna and Paul Bearer with Undertaker. There were of course others, in fact if you look at some lists they show about 13 managers for the WWE, but over half of them are older wrestlers who in this case I am only half counting. Now by the time I get to 1999 I am only really counting three and that’s Paul Ellering, Paul Bearer and Michael PS Hayes, the rest of the ones listed at that point are valets or divas.
(I am getting the information from this site if you want to check it—> http://www.obsessedwithwrestling.com/profiles/wwe-alumni90s.php)
The pattern I was seeing in the Attitude era is that we suddenly had an intake of great superstars that could easily speak for themselves. From the Rock to Stone Cold to Triple H and Shawn Michaels we had a lot of good speakers. We saw people coming to the ring speaking their entrance like the New Age Outlaws. Then we saw people who had the managers leave and as the time went on those managers did not pick up new wrestlers because the ones that were on the top of their game and made the money didn’t need the speaking help. We also have to remember that during this time we had a ratings war going on between WWE and WCW and for a while WCW was winning. So what you may ask? Well when ratings go down you don’t make as much money in advertising and such so you want to get rid of those that “Aren’t Needed” So if Hogan had come back to WWE at that time do you really think they would have taken Jimmy Hart in as well or would he have been left on the wayside as redundant since Hogan is known to be able to cut promo’s just fine?
Now we get to present day again (sorry for the memory tangent) but we just saw Roman Reigns win the Royal Rumble match and I keep seeing on facebook and twitter things like “He’s not ready he has no mic skills!”, “This guy has no charisma he can’t be champ!”, “God no not him with the promo’s he does he’s not ready!”. Well first off I blame the scripting and if you don’t believe me take a look at the work he did on the mic before he went off due to injury and then also look at the interview he did this monday on the WWE snowed in special that aired instead of RAW. This guy has what it takes to talk well if you let him loose, what he doesn’t have is the ability to take crap scripts and make them likable, but thats not his fault that’s the fault of the writers giving crappy scripts. Whenever I see the people mention this though I say “Why does Reigns need to speak? Brock Lesnar sounds like he hasn’t even hit puberty when he talks yet he’s champ now!” to which I get “yeah but he has Heyman!” and therein lies my point. Most of the people in the WWE now are not as good on the mic as Stone Cold or the Rock or even dare I say Paul Heyman? The great talkers of the Attitude Era are mostly gone, sure we have some great wrestlers still but some of them are almost as bad as Psycho Sid when they speak.
Among other things I think should come back to the world of wrestling I think we need to see a return of the manager. Either that or some better writers, or maybe both! So come on WWE lets bring in some good managers that can help lend a voice to someone who needs it (like Ryback, Cesaro, Rowan though these guys are big guys so if anyone rats on me I did NOT say they need help on the mic!) Start looking into the places like WXW and start bringing up some new managers, other than just talking I think they could add a fun dimension to the shows that hasn’t been in there for a while….the chance to see some more nice underhanded moves without it being as blatant as J&J jumping in to try and beat someone up. There is just something great that can be added to a match with a little powder to the face, or a small trip with a persons cane. A surreptitious moving of your pinned mans foot to the rope can get your man a title and make you a hated manager in a second. But then again isn’t that the job of the manager? To take a little heat? Talk the big game and make sure his/her client gets to the top no matter what? Even a face could benefit from a dirty manager if they are too naive/oblivious to “see” what their manager is up to.
Imagine Bo Dallas with a manager! Sure Bo is a great guy on the mic, he has taken that overly joyous believe in yourself crap so over the top you can’t help but want to boo the man just to see how he spins it. But imagine this same character with a smooth talking manager that hypes him in a way that isn’t as annoying. Suddenly the heel Bo Dallas could become a face, he’s a happy guy that just doesn’t quite view the world around him through the same looking glass as everyone else. In fact he is so blinded by the “truth” of how great he is that he won’t feel the person picking his foot up onto the bottom rope. Oh no he did that himself. When in a submission he somehow was able to will himself to stretch far enough to grab those ropes, or perhaps he has someone like Bryan Richards on his side who could use his cane to push the ropes closer while looking the other way.
There are all types of ways to utilize the managers and I think a resurgence of them could help the WWE and wrestling in general. So lets get people like Bryan Richards and Brian Rubright heading towards some nice TV deals with WWE or TNA, I think they need these guys and others like them.
Photos Courtesy of:
Jimmy Hart- nationstates.net
Mr Fuji- aveleyman.com
Paul Bearer- zap2it.com
Paul Heyman- Sportskeeda.com
Bryan Richards- wxwwrestling.com
Brian Rubright- wxwwrestling.com
Heyman and Brock- cagesideseats.com
Bobby Heenan- katsfm.com