Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wrestling's Most Missed Concept: The Manager

A lot of things come and go in the pro wrestling business. Some miss the days when venues were lit with but a single light instead of the million-dollar lighting systems of today. Others miss when "preliminary" matches filled the television airwaves thus saving the main events for arena shows or even pay-per-view.

While many of these concepts are gone for good, there is one that is sorely missed and could easily be brought back under the right conditions. That concept is the wrestling manager.

While there have been a few throwbacks in recent years with names such as Armando Estrada and Tony Atlas, there was a time in the business when a manager could be the hottest name in a promotion.

Territories like Florida with Sir Oliver Humperdink, AWA with Bobby Heenan, and the WWWF's "Evil Trinity" (Lou Albano, Fred Blassie, & The Grand Wizard) were nearly defined by these men and their stables of wrestlers. These men were so devious and calculating that fans filled arena seats weekly in hopes of seeing the managers get their comeuppance.

The modern definition of wrestling manager seems to first come about when wrestling first hit television in the 1950s. Men like "Wild" Red Berry and Bobby Davis led such champions as Gorilla Monsoon and Buddy Rogers, respectively, to greater heights thanks to their charisma and gifts for gab. Joined in the 1960s by names such as Gary Hart, Bobby Heenan, and Ernie "Grand Wizard" Roth (under various aliases), it seemed that each territory, as mentioned above, had their own choice managers.

It's no surprise that when wrestling magazines from various companies exploded onto the newsstands, the colorful managers often made the cover. The word "colorful" is not used by accident as it was commonplace to find photos of such managers as Heenan and Humperdink with bright red crimson masks of blood plastered on covers. Arena programs also often featured the managers flanking their various charges.

With the first two major wrestling action figure lines finding their way into stores in the 1980s, the managers came along for the ride. LJN's WWF line featured a whole subset of managers including Heenan, Albano, Blassie, Jimmy Hart, Slick, Mr. Fuji, Johnny V, and Miss Elizabeth while Remco included Paul Ellering, Precious, and Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissey in their AWA series.

Cards, magazines, figures, and even record albums prove that managers were among the most marketable characters in wrestling. After all, the managers were essentially pop culture celebrities kicked up a notch. Bobby Heenan? Johnny Carson. Jimmy Hart? Dick Clark. Miss Elizabeth? Princess Diana. Slick? Well, you get the picture.

Many fans of today's wrestling product feel that there's just something missing. Maybe it's the crazy character at ringside with bleached blonde hair, face paint, a tennis racket, and diamonds screaming at the top of their lungs. The "GM" and "Commissioner" roles are played out...we want our managers back!

For more great photos of wrestling memorabilia celebrating the legendary managers, please visit and join our Facebook Fanpage.

1 comment:

Blair said...

Hi Josh - I've really been enjoying your blog (which I only recently discovered). I've been a fan of WWF/WWE since 1987 and have watched faithfully ever since. I, too, have some cool photos with WWE superstars (Mick Foley, Jim Ross, and Big Show). I also have lots of old program inserts from the Toronto (Ontario) shows at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Anyway, I collect wrestling figures - not so much after the change from Jakks... I was really into their classics line.

My question is: what's the size/scale difference between Mattel's Defining Moments series and their Legends figures??? Some are looking great and I might have to start back into it!!

Thanks for your great work on the blog!