The art of the manager used to be one of the pillars of the wrestling business. Not every wrestler is blessed with the gift of the gab or knows how to get over with a presence. That’s just life. Everyone has different strengths and flaws in any field. Some wrestlers need a little help in the presentation to harness their talent into success. A manager’s role is to help add to a wrestler’s act and accentuate the positives while making up for the negatives. The most common scenario is a charismatic manager being paired with a wrestler that struggles with cutting promos.
Managers used to be more prominent in the 80s and 90s. The WWE would utilize managers to improve the work of a wrestler. There are many things a manager can do to help add to the story of a match while ringside. Between spots like distracting a referee so the wrestler can get an unfair advantage or throwing in a weapon, managers can contribute to the performance in every way, including the actual wrestling match. The ability to get love or hatred from fans by their mannerisms is the biggest job of a manager. They can’t do things in the actual ring to sell their personas so the character work is key.
Currently, there are less successful managers and WWE has phased the art out but there may be an upswing coming. Paul Heyman’s return to the company with Brock Lesnar a few years ago reminded the world just how tremendous a great manager can be. Lana has been another great manager with her character work being a very valuable asset to Rusev’s act. There’s hope for more managers coming into the business but the roles are limited and success is not always guaranteed. Not every wrestler can be saved by a great manager and we’re looking at those stories here. These are the top fifteen stories of legendary managers who couldn’t save terrible wrestlers.
15 Paul Heyman and Ryback
The popular choice for greatest manager of all time would be Paul Heyman. With his reputation as one of the most intelligent minds in wrestling history, Heyman has managed stars like Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar and CM Punk. Heyman has had success at managing over 25 years. WWE has tried pairing Heyman with various wrestlers in hopes of getting new talent over but it sure didn’t work with Ryback. The company had high hopes for The Big Guy but he has failed to generate momentum as a face or a heel. Heyman tried to sell him as an intimidating force but it was just a flop.
14 James Mitchell and Judas Mesias
One of the most underrated managers of all time has to be James Mitchell. Between stellar runs in ECW and TNA, Mitchell has quite the impressive resume in the wrestling business but has never been given a chance by WWE. Mitchell has a unique and scary look that would only work with specific wrestlers but he makes any heel he works with more credible. Well, except Judas Mesias. TNA debuted Mesias to feud with Abyss in hardcore matches on behalf of Mitchell. Mesias was not a very interesting watch in TNA and Mitchell’s usual stellar work couldn’t add to the act this time in one of TNA’s weaker feuds.
13 Sunny and The Smoking Gunns
Before she became known as the crazy Hall of Famer who posts racist tweets and shoots adult films, Tammy Sytch was a tremendous manager for WWE as Sunny. Her greatest success came in the tag team division as she would manage various different tag teams to championship gold. The one team that her character couldn’t save was The Smoking Gunns. Billy Gunn was talented but his team with Bart Gunn could not get him over. Sunny was placed with the team in hopes of improving their presence but they were still extremely boring. The only thing memorable of her time with the Gunns was her attractive country themed outfits. No word if she’ll wear them during her Skype chats today.
12 Missy Hyatt and The Nasty Boys
Another case of a female manager failing to save an overrated tag team was Missy Hyatt and The Nasty Boys. Hyatt was one of the first female acts to get over as a successful manager and WCW tried pairing her with the tag team of Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags. They just looked like they didn’t belong together visually and it hurt the overall purpose. Hyatt couldn’t use her typical character to fit The Nasty Boys persona and the slobby tag team continued to tread water. Knobbs and Sags achieved more success without Hyatt but they are one of the more overrated teams in the history of the business.
11 Teddy Long and Rodney Mack
Teddy Long never gets the credit he deserves for his work in wrestling. His work as a manager was underrated and Long had a couple of successful stints helping out wrestlers. Long helped Jazz become a more all-around character in WWE but he couldn’t do the same with Jazz’s husband Rodney Mack. WWE had high hopes for Mack to improve into a credible talent but he never connected. Chris Nowinski somehow did a better job with Thuggin' and Buggin' Enterprises than Mack. Teddy couldn’t get the personality out of Mack that was needed to succeed but he likely fantasy booked Mack into plenty of tag team matches, playa.
10 Jim Cornette and Dan Severn
There’s no argument Jim Cornette is one of the greatest wrestling managers of all time. Almost every wrestler to work with Cornette benefited from his managing skills but WWE had a terrible idea in the late 90s that ended the streak. Cornette was leading an NWA faction of old school wrestlers looking to invade the WWE. Former MMA fighter Dan Severn was one of the talents looking to find more success in WWE but he flopped hard with the angle. Cornette didn’t help any of the talents in NWA because the angle was so weak but this was Severn’s best chance at success. It sadly didn’t work.
9 Jimmy Hart and Hugh Morrus
The Dungeon of Doom was one of the sillier ideas in WCW and the one bond that lasted after the faction ended was Jimmy Hart managing Hugh Morrus. Despite being an agile big man with the ability to pull off a couple impressive moves, Morrus was unable to get over with the WCW fans. Hart has the reputation of being one of the best managers in wrestling history and is known most for his pairing with Hulk Hogan. The master of the megaphone did a solid job with The Dungeon of Doom but Hugh Morrus still couldn’t improve his standing with the help.
8 Mr. Fuji and The Berzerker
The partnership of manager Mr. Fuji and superstar Yokozuna was one of the most successful relationships in WWE. Fuji achieved success with various acts and is remembered for his hilarious heel tactics. The less than physically intimidating manager would throw salt into the eyes of the opponents or would hit them with a cane. However, one wrestler Fuji couldn’t help was The Berzerker. With the gimmick of a ridiculous cartoon-like viking, Berzerker was one of the biggest disappointments in WWE history. Fuji was not able to improve Berzerker’s absolutely foolish gimmick despite having silly segments like the duo giving out party tips.
7 Ted DiBiase and Tatanka
Ted DiBiase is one of the greatest wrestling heels of all time and turned into a very good manager after his in-ring career ended. As the leader of The Million Dollar Corporation, DiBiase recruited wrestlers into his faction by offering them money to sell out. One of the bigger swerves was Tatanka turning heel to join the hated group but after the big moment, it all fell apart. Tatanka failed to become more noteworthy and wallowed away in mediocrity for the remainder of his career. DiBiase was not able to add to Tatanka’s presentation and his faction actually suffered from the addition. This was a double whammy in hurting each other.
6 Vickie Guerrero and Eric Escobar
You don’t have to like Vickie Guerrero’s career in WWE but you have to respect her success. Vickie was a heat magnet. The crowd would react as if they were witnessing the most horrible act in the world any time she tried to speak on the microphone. This led to wrestlers managed by Guerrero to become more hated villains. Edge and Dolph Ziggler specifically benefited from the pairing with Vickie but Eric Escobar completely flopped with her. The young prospect could not put the pieces together so WWE paired him with the hated Guerrero but the fans apathy towards him never changed. Vickie could not “excuse” his irrelevance and the partnership ended quickly.
5 Bobby Heenan and The Brooklyn Brawler
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is the most decorated manager in wrestling history. Looking at Heenan’s resume of wrestlers managed is like its own special Hall of Fame but there was one wrestler that stands out among the worst pairings with Heenan. The Brooklyn Brawler is remembered for being one of the most memorable jobbers, but he was still a jobber. Brawler just wasn’t a high caliber performer that fans would look forward to seeing on television weekly and not even Heenan would fix that. This was one of the rare cases of The Brain failing to take a wrestler to the next level, but it definitely wasn’t his fault.
4 Paul Heyman and Heidenreich
The work of Paul Heyman is spectacular due to his creativity and overall feel of the wrestling business but he's definitely had a few flops. Heidenreich was another tall stiff that couldn’t get over in WWE but the company badly wanted him to become successful. Between a feud with The Undertaker and his management with Heyman, he was given every chance to succeed but he could not become a WWE star. Heyman’s skills could not sell Heidenreich to the fan base and remember he’s the guy that could sell ECW wrestlers into jumping off balconies. Heidenreich was horrible and Heyman has a blemish on his record due to him.
3 Paul Ellering and D.O.A
Many refer to Paul Ellering as one of the greatest managers in wrestling history due to his managing of The Road Warriors. The trio was perfect and Ellering absolutely added to the act despite having limited skills for a manager. The issue would arise when Ellering tried to manage other wrestlers and WWE found that out firsthand in 1997. A faction of bikers called The Disciples of Apocalypse were positioned with Ellering as the team’s new manager but it failed. Ellering stated he had a difficult time working in a feud against Hawk and Animal. It led to ineffective results as Ellering had a hard time trashing the opponents of the team he worked with in promos.
2 Bobby Heenan and Lex Luger
The magic of Bobby Heenan was shown on display perfectly with Lex Luger. WWE tried to make Luger a top star on multiple occasions and his best chances as a premiere heel came as “The Narcissist.” Heenan flawlessly built him up as a gift from the Gods and made Luger’s debut a big moment. Luger posed in front of various mirrors while Heenan treated him like the most important star in the company. Despite Heenan’s greatness, Luger’s work couldn’t back it up and it turned into a failure. The Brain put Luger in a position to achieve great success but the lack of wrestling talent ruined it all.
1 Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel
For the third time on this list, Paul Heyman failed to get over a poor wrestler. Curtis Axel was viewed as a can’t miss prospect as the son of the late, great Mr. Perfect. His WWE run was extremely disappointing and the company tried rebuilding him with Heyman as the manager to help turn it around. Axel entered a feud with Triple H and won the Intercontinental Championship within months. Despite the push and the work of Heyman trying to mold him into a superstar, Axel fell flat and didn’t have the ability to become a top guy. Axel’s mundane matches and lack of charisma prevented Heyman from saving him, making this one of the saddest stories of a top manager failing to save a bad wrestler.