Utilized far less today than they once were, managers have been a staple in wrestling for just about as long as wrestlers themselves. Call them what you will (managers, valets, bodyguards, mentors, trainers or good old fashioned emotional support), the ideal wrestler/manager tandem is a tough formula to crack. While some pairings throughout history have found incredible success together, others have been dismal failures.
The role of the manager has evolved along with every other facet of the wrestling business. Practically gone are the days where the manager is the kayfabe handler of bookings, travel and expenses for their client. Their role is one simple thing: to get somebody over. Give a good manager to someone who’s talented in the ring but lacks charisma on the mic or a connection with the fans, and you just might find yourself a winning combination.
To be clear, this is not simply the greatest and worst managers in history. These are the pairings who we either can’t imagine what might've happened had they not been put together or the ones where fans are still scratching their heads over why they were ever teamed up in first place. Some of the best and worst managers of all time certainly made the list, but it’s all about the combinations.
20 Worst: Lo Down / Tiger Ali Singh
What do you do with a wrestler you’ve invested three years into who just can’t seem to get over? Have him manage two other wrestlers stuck in limbo and ruin all three of their careers together!
Tiger Ali Singh is son of the legendary Tiger Jeet Singh of Stampede Wrestling fame. He debuted in 1997 winning the first (and only) Kuwait Cup, but was soon sent away for more training. He returned during the Attitude Era as a Million Dollar Man ripoff who, surprise, surprise, didn’t get over and Singh was again sent back to the drawing board.
Lo Down combined the once promising D’Lo Brown and former Headbanger Mosh, Chaz Warrington. Singh was put as their manager and WWE actually changed the tag team’s gimmick to fit that of Singh. D’Lo and Chaz sported turbans and M.C. Hammer pants as part of their attire and not even crickets would chirp during their entrance or matches. Thankfully, this trio vanished quickly, sadly ending all three of their WWE careers along with it.
19 Best: Mr. Perfect / Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan
My personal favorite, and arguably the greatest manager in the history of professional wrestling, nobody could get a guy over quite like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Long before Heenan was a broadcast journalist, he was a wrestler and manager in the WWA and AWA before finding his niche as a heel manager in WWE. Calling his stable "The Heenan Family," the guy The Brain had the best on-screen chemistry with was without a doubt the late, great Mr. Perfect.
Every time Perfect needed a powder, Heenan was right there to dab his head with his embroidered towel. Perfect was an excellent talker, so good he didn’t even really need a mouthpiece manager, but what The Brain added just made those promos even better. They were a classic example of two positives working together as one of the most over heel duos in wrestling. It was a combination that was absolutely perfect!
18 Worst: The Dudley Boyz / Stacy Keibler
The Dudley Boyz had several managers during their career, most of which came during ECW and all of them more or less made sense. Sign Guy Dudley was the silent weasel, Big Dick Dudley was the wrestler/bodyguard and the great Joel Gertner was the dirtbag mouthpiece. This all helped the Dudleys succeed and didn’t detract from the fact that they were fine on their own both in and out of the ring.
During the post-Invasion WWE days, the company decided Bubba Ray and D-Von, despite being as over as can be, needed a Duchess of Dudleyville. Stacy Keibler was a star and a coup for WWE to land from the WCW purchase, but what purpose did she serve with the Dudleys? She spent her entire tenure with them simply in their way while on the side having her fill of Evening Gown and Bra and Panties matches with other Divas. When they finally wised up and split them, Keibler went out in classic Dudley style… right through a table!
17 Best: D-X / Chyna
Chyna catapulted into the spotlight alongside Triple H when they joined Shawn Michaels to form D-Generation X and remained as the bodyguard of the group after The Game took the lead by bringing in X-Pac and The New Age Outlaws. She was always right there to make sure nobody messed with her boys. Her time with D-X made Chyna a fan favorite and paved the way for her to go on to have the most dominant career in Women’s wrestling history.
Chyna stayed true to herself during her time with the degenerates and still managed to get over while doing it. There she was, clad in black leather, stone faced, while the others were crotch chopping their way through the company, poking fun at The Nation and invading WCW. D-X was one of the best parts of the Attitude Era and none of it would’ve been the same without The Ninth Wonder of the World right there in their corner.
16 Worst: Practically Everyone She Managed / Terri
Terri Runnels’ WCW days as Alexandra York of The York Foundation weren’t bad. Smoking cigars in the director’s chair as Marlena while managing her bizarre husband Goldust was more or less entertaining. Everything after that, however, fell flat, as every wrestler Terri managed seemed to get over less with her in their corner than they would have without her.
She was with Val Venis and D’Lo Brown, tricking the latter into her services after faking an abortion and making him feel responsible for it. Then, there was her sex slave Meat during Terri’s PMS stable days. After that, she was the center of a program between The Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian that would see her awkwardly and unnecessarily managing both tag teams. Finally, she wound up with Perry Saturn only to turn on him and join forces with Raven. Terri’s managerial track record seemed like one lame flash in the pan after another until WWE finally chose to put her in the role of a backstage interviewer.
15 Best: The Midnight Express / Jim Cornette
Right up there with iconic tag teams of the 80s like The Road Warriors and The Fabulous Freebirds, The Midnight Express are one of the all-time greats. The revolving door of its members saw the name used by several variations over the years. Dennis Condrey, Norvell Austin and Randy Rose gave way to Condrey carrying the mantle forward with Bobby Eaton and then Eaton doing the same with Stan Lane after the demise of The Fabulous Ones. The one constant of The Midnight Express that helped make every iteration so successful was that they were all managed by Jim Cornette.
The Prince of Polyester, his tennis racket in hand, managed all variations of the team to glory on the NWA independent circuit, while aiding them in winning countless championships from various promotions along the way. They were the brawn while Cornette was the big, fat, loud mouth! He generated massive heat while helping The Midnight Express become one of the most hated tag teams in wrestling history.
14 Worst: Shelton Benjamin / Momma Benjamin
Thea Vidale is a stand-up comedian and actress who once had a short-lived television sitcom in the early 90s. She was brought into WWE in 2006 for a thankfully short stint as Shelton Benjamin’s loud-mouthed, muumuu-wearing Momma. It was a time most wrestling fans, and likely Shelton Benjamin himself, would like to forget.
It’s not Vidale’s fault she left such a bad taste in the mouths of fans. She was hired to do a job and by all accounts she did it very well. The problem was Shelton Benjamin didn’t need some goofy, comedic gimmick to get over as he was pound-for-pound one of the best in-ring performers the company’s ever had on the payroll. Momma Benjamin was as annoying as she was unnecessary, and while the gimmick did see Benjamin successfully win the Intercontinental Title, it was far from the highlight of his career and was a match-up that should have never happened.
13 Best: ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage / Sensational Sherri
When WWE gave a crown to Randy Savage and turned the beloved Macho Man into the devious Macho King, he was able to get over as WWE’s most hated wrestler for two very distinct reasons. One was that his heel turn resulted in a feud with Hulk Hogan who fans loved more than anyone. The other was they replaced Savage’s longtime valet, Miss Elizabeth, with the wickedly entertaining Sensational Sherri.
With an ear-splitting voice screaming from ringside and terrifying painted face, Sherri was one of the most hated people in wrestling, making it easy for fans to despise Savage all the more with her in his corner. Sherri and Savage had a fantastic run, playing off of one another with a unique onscreen chemistry rarely seen by any two other performers. It made it all the more sweeter when Sherri attacked Savage after his career-ending match at WrestleMania VII that saw Miss Elizabeth return to make the save.
12 Worst: The Steiner Brothers / Ted DiBiase
Here’s one you may not remember. Ted DiBiase jumped ship to WCW in 1996 as the nWo’s benefactor, adding to the allure that the group were outsiders from the competition there to take over. DiBiase had managed since his retirement three years earlier and it made sense for him to become the voice of the nWo until Eric Bischoff soon gave himself that role. It made DiBiase’s presence pointless so WCW turned him babyface and had him manage The Steiner Brothers in a move that made no sense whatsoever.
The Steiners had already been over for nearly a decade without a manager and didn’t need one now, especially since plans for Scott Steiner’s heel turn were already underway. The most baffling part of this decision, however, is who in their right mind wants a face Ted DiBiase? He was the Million Dollar Man, a consummate heel and one of the last people in the world fans would ever take seriously as one of the good guys.
11 Best: The Road Warriors / Paul Ellering
Some younger fans or those who primarily watched WWE in the early 90s may not think of this one. “The biker guy with the Rocko puppet? That sucked!” You’re correct, that McMahon brainstorm addition did indeed suck! But long before Animal and Hawk were the WWE’s Legion of Doom, The Road Warriors and Paul Ellering were tearing up the AWA and NWA as a trio few wanted to mess with.
Ellering retired as a wrestler to manage The Road Warriors en route to becoming the most dominant tag team of the 80s. Not only was he in their corner for matches, but Ellering was one of the few true managers not in kayfabe. He legit took care of his team’s travel and hotel bookings and worked his magic in the back to make sure his duo was properly booked. He also helped them on the mic, getting them over with fans long before the boys were comfortable with promos or Hawk was spouting “Ohhhh, what a rush!”
10 Worst: The Hardy Boyz / Michael Hayes
Long before The Hardys featured a broken madman trying to delete his obsolete brother, before they were Team Xtreme with Lita and even before they were Gangrel’s New Brood, Matt and Jeff were jobbers. The company finally saw something special in them and signed them to contracts, but decided they needed a manager to get them over. They weren’t wrong. While The Hardys dazzled fans in the ring, they didn’t have the promo skills and needed that extra something special.
Michael "P.S." Hayes took it upon himself to make the Hardys into stars, but was far from the answer they needed. He bought himself a baggy pair of jeans and wedged his upper body into the tightest T-shirt he could find as he became the Boyz’ mentor. Hayes may have managed them to their first Tag Team Titles, but it always seemed wonky to see the aging hipster with the young duo. Thankfully, the former Dok Hendrix went back to his backstage duties and the Hardys continued on to greatness without him.
9 Best: Andre The Giant / Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan
Though not having the same dynamic chemistry he had with Mr. Perfect, Bobby Heenan takes a second spot on our best list with his legendary run managing the great Andre the Giant. The Eighth Wonder of the World was a mega crowd favorite, holding the longest undefeated streak in wrestling history for nearly two decades. A heel turn and challenge to Hulk Hogan was inevitable, but he needed a helping hand on the microphone to make his bad guy transition legit. Enter "The Brain."
Bobby Heenan ran rampant on Hulkamania while guiding Andre to his WWE Championship shot in the most iconic match of all time at WrestleMania III. Though Andre dealt with back issues from his gigantism during the later years of his career, he did so as the larger than life backbone of The Heenan Family. Their classic union would end at WrestleMania VI, when Heenan was irate at Andre over losing the Tag Team Titles and slapped The Giant across the face, a mistake he would dearly pay for!
8 Worst: L.O.D. 2000 / Sunny
For all the same reasons Paul Ellering’s pairing with The Road Warriors was great, Sunny’s time with Hawk and Animal was the complete opposite. When The Legion of Doom was set to return at WrestleMania XIV, WWE decided to jazz them up for the new millennium by giving them a modified look and the name L.O.D. 2000. A part of that modification was bringing in WWE’s original Diva, Sunny, as their manager.
It was a pairing that made little sense aside from giving them a piece of eye candy at ringside. Sunny, much like Ted DiBiase in the case of The Steiners, was a mismatch to the babyface duo. She was better served being a heel and added little to their matches and promos. Sunny’s parting of ways with L.O.D. 2000 led to the inclusion of Droz and the horrible drunk Hawk angle. As awful as she was with L.O.D., they’d been better off keeping Sunny with them if it meant avoiding that train wreck!
7 Best: The Four Horsemen / J.J. Dillon
In between retiring as an active wrestler and becoming a corporate figure for both WCW and WWE, J.J. Dillon was the man in the corner of the greatest wrestling stable in history. J.J. managed the original iteration of The Four Horsemen, which included "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Arn and Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard and later Barry Windham. They were rock stars of professional wrestling, styling and profiling across the mid-south during their heyday in the NWA.
Much like Paul Ellering for The Road Warriors, J.J. also handled the travel and accommodations for his posse and was a political power player in the back to make sure the Horsemen were used right. With Ric Flair in the lead, the Horsemen weren’t in the market for a mouthpiece, but J.J. fit his role regardless and helped by interfering in matches when necessary. When you look back on their run and accomplishments, it’s hard not to think of them as The Five Horsemen.
6 Worst: ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude / Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan
Bobby "The Brain" makes our list for a third time, only now as part of one of the worst combinations. It may seem odd Heenan and "Ravishing" Rick Rude are listed as one of the worst since on camera they seemed like the perfect pair. In truth, both men hated being together and looking back on footage now, you can almost see it.
For every other member of The Heenan Family, Bobby was the fast-talking weasel who drew their heat. Heenan would mostly keep quiet next to Rude who would draw his own heat, making it seem like Heenan was only there to remove Rude’s lavish robe. The Ravishing One felt as if he was over enough without needing a manager, and to that respect, he was sort of right. But Heenan also has vocally stated in interviews and his autobiography that he and Rude didn’t get along. He would’ve dropped Rude in a second had WWE allowed him to do so.
5 Best: Brock Lesnar / Paul Heyman
Before the great Paul Heyman had his own promotion with ECW, he was Paul E. Dangerously, a classic stooge from the early WCW days who managed the likes of Rick Rude and much younger versions of Steve Austin and The Undertaker. It wasn’t until over a decade later that Heyman would be put with his greatest client, The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar.
It’s hard to think of Lesnar without Heyman at his side. What Brock makes up for with talent in the ring, he lacks on the microphone and Heyman is there to pick up the slack tenfold. Heyman’s unparalleled promos have helped catapult Brock to a stardom he simply wouldn’t have reached on his own. The duo is so good together that when Lesnar returned to WWE in 2012, they were forced to bury the hatchet with Heyman to bring him back as Brock’s hype man. It’s a partnership not often seen in wrestling, certainly not in today’s manager-lacking world.
4 Worst: Dusty Rhodes / Sapphire
When WWE secured the services of The American Dream in the late 80s, they acquired a true wrestling legend who was over with fans worldwide and amazing on the microphone. Dusty never needed much to get over; he certainly didn’t need a manager, and it’s sad WWE chose to make such a spectacle of him. They put him in polka dots and had him dance around like a fool. Worst of all, they gave him a manager in the one-hit wonder, Sapphire.
Truth be told, Rhodes and Sapphire were a hot commodity who were over with the fans and I’ll admit that when I was younger, I loved both of them. But looking back, what was the point? While Sapphire was certainly adorable dancing next to Dusty, she added quite literally nothing to the table. WWE took a once in a lifetime star who should’ve become their World Champion and turned him into a joke whose manager had no business being in wrestling to begin with.
3 Best: The Undertaker / Paul Bearer
When The Phenom made his legendary debut at the 1990 Survivor Series, it was with WWE interview gimmick Brother Love as his manager. It was an odd pairing, not bad enough to make our list of the worst, but bad. Thankfully, shortly into The Dead Man’s run, they dropped Bruce Prichard from the scene and hired one Percy Pringle, the future Paul Bearer, merging together one of the best duos in sports entertainment history.
The frightening, solemn, soft-spoken Undertaker was given one of the cheesiest, yet most prolific managers of all time, and they played off of one another extraordinarily well. Few can look back on those earlier years of The Undertaker’s career without hearing Bearer’s shrill voice in the background screaming “oh yes!” as he put over his beloved Undertaker. Whether heel or face, the duo of 'Taker and his urn-wielding mentor are without question one of the greatest combinations of all time.
2 Worst: Hulk Hogan / Jimmy Hart
The Mouth of the South, Jimmy Hart, was one of the best heel managers in the business. He was the minuscule pipsqueak who managed some of the greatest bad guys in history, like The Honky Tonk Man, Earthquake and The Hart Foundation. His infamous megaphone in hand, Hart played the role well. There was no reason to ever turn him babyface, but in 1993, WWE did just that by putting him with a returning Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake for their WrestleMania IX match against Money Inc.
It was a move to this day that baffles me. I get Hogan and Hart were buddies and Hulk used his sway to call a lot of the shots over the years, but Hogan didn’t need a manager, let alone such a classic heel like Jimmy Hart. When the two jumped to WCW, they too needlessly booked Hart as Hogan’s manager until someone wised up and put Jimmy in his rightful place as a heel when he joined The Dungeon of Doom in 1995.
1 Best: ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage / Miss Elizabeth
Was there ever a better onscreen duo than The Macho Man and his First Lady of Wrestling? Savage brought in real life wife Elizabeth as his valet early on in his WWE career during the mid 80s. Elizabeth’s popularity skyrocketed, making her perhaps an even bigger draw with fans than Savage. She was used heavily in the Mega Powers angle, when Hogan and Savage split and Savage turned heel, aligning himself with The Sensational Sherri.
The two divorced in real life in 1992, one year after being married onscreen at SummerSlam, and Elizabeth left WWE. She arrived in WCW in 1996, reuniting with Savage when he joined her in the nWo. It was never quite the same as the glory days of the 80s when he would put her on his shoulder to celebrate his victories, but it still felt right to see them together. Despite any backstage drama that may have taken place, they were without question a match made in heaven, the best wrestler/manager combination of all time.