It's safe to say that wrestling fans are a dedicated bunch. Like overly serious economists or monk-like scientists, they are keen recorders of minutia and arcane knowledge. From little-known histories about once prestigious title belts to the ins and outs of heel and face turns, serious fans of the grappling arts tend to be walking encyclopedias. Thanks to the internet, the WWE Network, and NJPW World, even wrestling fans who were not alive to see World Class Championship Wrestling or the great matches between Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa can now become experts. This is great news all around.
However, given that pro wrestling is such a large, many tentacled leviathan, it's impossible to know or remember everything. For instance, I was a huge mark for the WWE in the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras, but even I have completely forgotten about the careers of acts like The Basham Brothers, The Dicks, and Chaz Warrington. Such things are bound to happen. That's why this list, "15 Obscure Wrestling Personalities You Completely Forgot About," exists. Expect a lot of "aha" moments when reading through these entries. Maybe you will even hop on the WWE Network to relive some of their exploits. Hopefully, you'll at least fondly remember their quirks, defeats, or triumphs. That's what pro wrestling is all about.
15 Frenchy Martin
Tragically, Frenchy Martin, real name Jean Gagné, passed away on October 21, 2016 at the age of 69. The Quebec native had been battling bladder and bone cancer for some time before finally expiring at his home in Quebec City. As sad as this death was, it might be even more upsetting that few fans of the modern WWE product reacted to the news at all. Obviously, few of them grew up watching the company's so-called "Golden Era," and therefore had no idea about Martin and his time managing Dino Bravo.
Suffice it to say that Martin was not the greatest manager, but he certainly was colorful. During the late 1980s, the beret-wearing Martin would gleefully hold up a sign that read: "USA Is Not OK." Such anti-American sentiments did not play well with the Reagan-Era crowd, and as such the French Canadian manager became a hated heel. At his height, Martin managed not only Bravo, but other French Canadian talents like Jos LeDuc and The Fabulous Rougeaus. Long before The Hart Foundation's run as Canadian nationalist heels in 1997, Frenchy Martin and his men riled up WWE crowds with their overt displays of Quebecois pride.
14 Uncle Elmer
I have a bone to pick with Uncle Elmer for two reasons. First of all, as revealed on Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcast, Stanley C. Frazier, aka Uncle Elmer, was an unprofessional worker who nearly ruined Hillbilly Jim's career in the mid 1980s. Second, the very existence of Uncle Elmer causes me to inwardly groan. You see, I'm West Virginia born-and-bred and come from a long line of proud hillbillies. While I think the WWE has every right to mock and lampoon social groups to their heart's delight, I hate the predictability of these portrayals. Even Heath Slater, who is enjoying a career renaissance, is portrayed as the stereotypical hillbilly with many kids and an unnatural fixation on mobile homes and above ground swimming pools.
Now that the screed is over, it's time to remember the brief career of Uncle Elmer. Between 1985 and 1986, Uncle Elmer was the crassest of stereotypes as the mountain man who liked to eat from a bucket labeled "Uncle Elmer's Fried Pig Parts." The greatest thing the man from Philadelphia, Mississippi ever did was get legitimately married in front of a live audience. Of course, because this occurred during the middle of a feud between the Hillbillies and the trio of Roddy Piper, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and Bob Orton, Jr., Elmer's happy day was ruined by the heels. Although a relative flash in the plan, Uncle Elmer provided the archetype for most of the WWE's lovable losers from Appalachia.
13 Judge Jeff Jones
Extreme Championship Wrestling was always great, but as 1999 became 2000, it's greatness was clearly on the wane. Not only did it have to compete with a resurgent WWE, which was then at the pinnacle of its much-vaunted Attitude Era, but its hemorrhaging of talent to both the WWE and WCW meant that mid-carders had to be elevated and elevated quickly. That being said, Mike Awesome, a gigantic yet highly mobile big man who cut his teeth in Japan's Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling promotions as The Gladiator, helped to keep nominal fans of ECW interested in the product.
Usually at Awesome's side was Judge Jeff Jones, a former ECW referee with a reputation for being more corrupt than a Clinton. As Awesome's manager, Jones saw his greatest success as a gavel-waving and black robe-wearing loudmouth. Little remembered is the fact that Jones also managed Sid Vicious during his super brief run in ECW in 1999. Unlike a lot of other ECW talents, Jones never made it to the WWE, a fact that he blamed on the decline of male managers in a interview.
In ECW, Jason proclaimed that he was "The Sexiest Man on Earth." This gave announcer Joey Styles a case of the kayfabe hives. From 1993 until 1995, Jason worked in both Eastern Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling as an in-ring talent. During this time he captured the ECW World Television Championship and held it for 83 days. Near the end of this run and during the entirety of his run between 1997 and 1999, Jason also worked as a manager.
Jason's most well-received work as a manager came during his association with Justin Credible. In the WWE, Credible had been a goofy jobber named Aldo Montoya. In ECW however, Credible got over as a brash and disrespectful heel who went after wrestling legends (sound familiar?). As part of this makeover, Credible led a small stable of managers that included Jason, Nicole Bass, Chastity, and Dawn Marie. When paired with Lance Storm as The Impact Players, the whole retinue could encircle the entire ring. Without question, the chief manager of this enterprise was the sleazy Jason.
11 Hiro Matsuda
Unlike a lot of pro wrestling managers, Hiro Matsuda had an illustrious in-ring career before he stepped down from the apron and began circling the ring like a shark. A veteran of both Japan's first wrestling federation and the many territorial promotions of the American South, Matsuda was a well-traveled veteran by the time he started showing up on World Championship Wrestling's weekly television program in the late 1980s. At first, the so-called "Master of the Japanese Sleeper" managed men like Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Kendall Windham, and The Great Muta. In this role, Matsuda played the heel, especially since his fictional Yamasaki Corporation reminded WCW's audiences in the Upper South and Mid-Atlantic about all of those rapacious Japanese corporations that were then in the process of buying out older American factories and corporations.
During the early 1990s, Matsuda became the face of New Japan Pro Wrestling, a fledgling company that had entered into a partnership with WCW. Although the WWE would never do it today, the NJPW-WCW partnership helped both companies to not only keep afloat during the choppy seas of the early to mid 1990s, but it also produced great wrestling matches and pay-per-views that are still worth watching today. Undoubtedly, Matsuda played a large role in creating these mostly hidden gems.
10 Rob Bartlett
It's no secret that Vince McMahon would like his company to be more about show business and spectacle than just wrasslin.' This is why McMahon has a history of inviting celebrities from the worlds of television and film to participate in his weekly television programs and monthly pay-per-views. On rare occasions, these crossovers work, such as the time when "Iron" Mike Tyson officiated the WrestleMania XIV match between Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Most of the time however, the inclusion of celebrities into the world of pro wrestling not only injects an unnecessary amount of corniness into the product, but it also demeans the wrestlers themselves by showing that anyone can step into the ring and be successful.
Rob Bartlett's time as a commentator on Monday Night RAW was a failure for different reasons. A genuinely funny on-air personality who is best known for his work alongside Don Imus, Bartlett's attempts at humor were constantly undercut by McMahon, who doubled as one of RAW's commentators. Bartlett didn't last a full year, and by April of 1993, the company wished him the best on his future endeavours. Today, Bartlett still does radio and tours the U.S. as a stand-up comedian. He's even told a few hilarious stories about working for McMahon's company.
As the Ruthless Aggression Era gave way to the PG Era, WWE programming performed an odd double switch. Although overt sex and violence got the old axe of censorship, the company doubled its efforts to portray its female talents as mostly T and A. As such, wrestling ability became secondary to good looks. Sometimes this helped to save the careers of otherwise horrendous in-ring workers (paging The Bella Twins), while on other occasions it handicapped the careers of legitimate technicians (Gail Kim, anyone?). Savannah, real name Angela Fong, didn't stick around long enough for anyone to determine whether or not she was a good worker.
Between 2008 and 2010, the Vancouver native worked as both an in-ring performer and as a valet in the developmental territory of Florida Championship Wrestling. Then, when FCW became NXT, Savannah was promoted to ring announcer during NXT's first season. Soon thereafter she was released.
Currently, Fong works for Lucha Underground under the name of Black Lotus. Again, Fong has returned to her earlier roots as both a valet and in-ring worker.
8 Coach John Tolos
John Tolos's time as a manager in the WWE didn't last longer than a hiccup. First of all, while managing "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, Tolos was seen as nothing more than a shoddy replacement of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Also, with his whistle, clipboard, sweats, and sunglasses, Tolos was every bit the stereotypical football coach. Unfortunately, the ghost of Bear Bryant did not possess Tolos, and not long after supplying his managerial talents to Mr. Perfect and The Beverly Brothers, Tolos got his walking papers and was out of the company by 1991.
Although his time as Coach John Tolos was his closest brush with national stardom, Tolos had actually been an accomplished wrestler of the territorial era. From the 1950s until the 1970s, Tolos held belts all over the country and worked for such respected promotions as Calgary's Stampede Wrestling, NWA Los Angeles, and the WWWF.
7 Dark Journey
If you've ever listened to Steve Austin's podcast, then you know how much he loves the feud between Dark Journey and Missy Hyatt. Back in mid to late 1980s, Dark Journey and Hyatt had an extended feud that saw action in two promotions run by Bill Watts--Mid-South Wrestling and the Universal Wrestling Federation. The most recognizable symbol of this feud (and the thing that "Stone Cold" loves to bring up) is Hyatt's "loaded" Gucci bag, which the heel manager successfully used on many occasions.
Besides engaging in legitimately nasty cat fights with Hyatt, Dark Journey managed "Dirty" Dick Slater during his highly rewarding days as a heel in Mid-South Wrestling. Dark Journey, real name Lynda Newton, was a transformative figure, as well. A former stripper of biracial ancestry, Dark Journey was something of an oddity in the world of Southern wrestling. Many fans did not like the fact that a white man flaunted his black female manager around. Newton has claimed that she once received a letter from the KKK because of her work with Slater. By the late 1980s, after briefly managing Tully Blanchard during his time with The Four Horsemen, Newton left the sport entirely.
Female valets were all the rage in the 1980s. Previously, most managers had been men, but in the glamorous world of 1980s wrestling, women had to be thrown into the mix to appease the MTV generation. Precious, the real-life wife of "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin, brought a little class and sophistication to the usually rough and rugged world of Southern wrestling.
At first, during Garvin's years in Fritz Von Erich's WCCW promotion, Precious worked alongside Sunshine, who was really Garvin's cousin. After Sunshine cost Garvin his prized WCCW Television Championship, Precious and Garvin entered into a feud with Sunshine and "Gentleman" Chris Adams. This feud helped to put over both Adams and Garvin, who traded the NWA American Heavyweight Championship back and forth between 1983 and 1984.
Next, after stints in the AWA and All Japan Pro Wrestling, Garvin and Precious began working for Jim Crockett Promotions and its successor, WCW. Before Garvin joined forces with Michael P.S. Hayes during the second run of The Fabulous Freebirds, he and Precious oscillated between heel and babyface. Their best feud in WCW came in 1988, when "Gamesmaster" Kevin Sullivan, then the leader of The Varsity Club, became infatuated with Precious. This led to many excellent matches, including Garvin's failed attempt at winning the NWA World Television Championship from Mike Rotunda at the first Clash of Champions.
5 Todd Pettengill
Like Rob Bartlett, Todd Pettengill came to the WWE from the world of New York radio. A former disc jockey for WPLJ, Pettengill was initially hired because of his broadcasting chops. At first, Pettengill hosted and co-hosted WWE B-shows like LiveWire and Action Zone. Besides being a staple of the Slammy Awards shows for a few years, most of Pettengill's on-screen time came as a backstage interviewer, especially during the company's run of In Your House pay-per-views. During the New Generation Era, Pettengill's combination of wholesome and silly worked well enough, but as the company moved in a more aggressive direction thanks to the popularity of men like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mankind, Pettengill seemed stale and out-of-touch. By 1997, Pettengill returned to radio.
Currently, Pettengill is the co-host of the Todd & Jayde in the Morning program. Prior to that, Pettengill had co-hosted a notoriously cringe-worthy show with Scott Shannon.
4 Lord Alfred Hayes
Lord Alfred Hayes (Pictured Middle) always sounded too genteel for the WWE. The London-born wrestler-turned-announcer shared mic time with the likes of Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and "Mean" Gene Okerlund, and in almost every instance, he sounded like the steady voice of reason. Besides running down wrestler bios or reciting wrestling history (he often got both wrong), Hayes sometimes acted as the chuckling straight man to Heenan's nonstop parade of dad jokes. In short, Lord Alfred Hayes enhanced the experience of watching WWE television.
After a successful wrestling career in both the United Kingdom and America, Hayes joined the WWE in 1982. Although best remembered for his work in the 1980s, which included a brief stint working alongside Bob Caudle for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, Hayes was employed by the WWE until 1995. However, by 1993, Hayes's on-screen time had drastically diminished. After a series of health problems, Hayes died in 2005 as the result of numerous strokes.
3 Sean Mooney
Sean Mooney filled the "regular guy in a suit and tie" position for the WWE during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Before Todd Pettengill took his spot, Mooney's was McMahon's milquetoast backstage interviewer and presenter. Most of Mooney's work wound up on Prime Time Wrestling, WWF Wrestling Challenge, and some of the company's Coliseum video releases. While Mooney did solid work alongside Bobby Heenan, hardcore WWE fans might remember the storyline involving his twin brother Ian and his twin sister Betty. It was not inspiring stuff.
When his contract expired in 1993, Mooney pretty much left the business entirely. For years he made his money as a sports announcer and anchorman. Sometime in 2010, he started the blog Sean Mooney...Who? Despite its obvious lack of flash and sizzle, Mooney's blog, which hasn't been updated since 2010, is worth at least one glance over.
2 Vic Venom
The name "Vic Venom" has little resonance among even the smartest marks. However, say "Vince Russo" and you might start a riot (especially if Jim Cornette is within earshot). Depending on who you ask, Russo is either the man responsible for pro wrestling's explosion in popularity during the late 1990s or the man responsible for the death of the industry's credibility. As head of creative between 1997 and 1999, Russo played a role in creating and producing such groundbreaking angles as the original Kane vs. Undertaker feud, the creation of D-Generation X, the three faces of Mick Foley, and the feud between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mr. McMahon. However, after Russo left for WCW before ultimately winding up in TNA, his earlier triumphs came into question after a prolonged period of horrible writing and terrible angles.
Little remembered is that before Vince Russo became a well-known name, Russo played the part of Vic Venom, a one-time freelance writer who became the editor-in-chief of WWF Magazine sometime around 1994. As Venom, Russo not only penned columns for the magazine, but he also occasionally appeared on television during LiveWire segments and commercials for the magazine. Vic Venom pretty much existed only to hype the edgy content of the magazine during the Attitude Era. It worked, because during the late 1990s and early 2000s, WWF Magazine seemed just as dangerous as RAW Is War.
1 Barry Didinsky
Rather than make cool merchandise or create interesting gimmicks that would inspire someone over the age of four to wear a wrestling t-shirt, McMahon and company hired Barry Didinsky, the WWE's "Mayor of Merchandise" in 1995. Pity poor Barry. Not only did he have the unfortunate task of pitching terrible, mid-90s kitsch, but he had do his pitching to almost no one. By most measurements, between 1994 and 1995, the WWE hit rock bottom in terms of general interest. The company that once sold out the Silverdome was by then reduced to holding house shows in high school gyms. Yikes!
As part of the WWE's nadir, Didinsky has long been forgotten. Even at the time he was mostly seen as a nuisance who was way too excited about talking up Shawn Michaels' heart-shaped sunglasses. Even worse, Didinsky's many obnoxious pitches tended to happen around ringside, which reminded viewers that McMahon and the WWE saw merchandise sales as more important than quality in-ring action. Again, pity poor Barry.
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