Back in the day, in order to be a good heel, you had to have a great manager. First and foremost, managers were always there to help the heel cheat by grabbing a leg, distracting the ref, or clobbering the babyface with a foreign object. Babyface managers, a much rarer breed, tended to be life coach types or by-the-book cornermen who only got excited when the heels did something devious that the ref didn’t see.
These days, managers aren’t too terribly common in the world of professional wrestling. In the WWE, only “Precious” Paul Ellering, Bob Backlund, Maryse, and Paul Heyman keep the tradition alive. For hardcore WWE fans, the lack of managers is a deficiency in the current product that doesn’t look like it’s going to be rectified any time soon. As such, many message boards and blog posts have been written about bringing back past managers or creating new ones. Sadly, many of wrestling’s great managers are no longer with us, and thus any list dedicated to bringing back managers from the past contains a trace of fantasy. More than a few on this list are never coming back, but it’s always fun to remember them and the legacy they left behind.
15. Percy Pringle III/Paul Bearer
Before his untimely death in 2013, William Alvin Moody was one of professional wrestling’s most recognizable managers. A native of Alabama, Moody got his start in the business by working the various federations of the American South, including Eddie Graham’s Championship Wrestling from Florida, Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling in Dallas, and the Memphis-based United States Wrestling Association. During much of this time, Moody was known as Percy Pringle III. A bleached blonde sleazebag with a predilection for dressing up and making weird innuendos. Pringle managed the likes of “Ravishing” Rick Rude, The Missing Link, and Eric Embry.
Moody’s next iteration made him famous. Utilizing his real-life background as a mortician, Moody became Paul Bearer in the WWE. The perfect compliment to The Undertaker, Bearer, with his ghostly white face and shrill voice, is by far and away the most unique manager in wrestling history. Fans would welcome him back on TV right now.
14. Joel Gertner
Joel Gertner was not only a manager, but arguably the best mic worker in ECW during its glory days. The self-proclaimed “Quintessential Studmuffin,” Gertner was the voice of The Dudley Boyz who frequently stole the show with his highly un-PC and sexually explicit poems. At ECW’s first Pay-Per-View, 1997’s Barely Legal, Gertner famously claimed that The Dudley Boyz, despite being pinned by The Eliminators, had won the match via points. The chubby manager suffered a Total Elimination for his efforts.
Prior to becoming the neckbrace-wearing comic relief of the company, Gertner was actually one of ECW’s ring announcers. His mastery of Spanish often came in handy, as can be seen during the 1995 match between Rey Misterio, Jr. and Psicosis. Later, after The Dudley Boyz moved on to WWE, Gertner went into the booth as the color commentator to Joey Styles’s play-by-play calling. During this time, Gertner had a great feud with Cyrus, the fictional representative of TNN. These days, Gertner mostly works the independent scene in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Although fans would love to see him in the WWE, it’s unlikely that “The Quintessential Studmuffin” could keep himself PG.
13. Steve Corino
In ECW, Steve Corino went from being the goofy manager of Rhyno and Tajiri to being the “King of Old School.” During this later phase, Corino captured the ECW World Heavyweight Championship from respected grappler Jerry Lynn. Indeed, during the waning days of the company, Corino was one of the main reasons to tune in.
Post-ECW, Corino became one of the many heroes of the independent scene, winning numerous titles in America, Japan, and elsewhere. After retiring, then returning to wrestling in the mid-2000s, Corino’s career got a jump start in Ring of Honor. As one of the leaders of the group S.C.U.M., whose membership included Jimmy Jacobs, Kevin Steen (now known as Kevin Owens), and Matt Hardy, Corino enjoyed plenty of air and mic time. Eventually, Corino’s excellent communication skills made him the de facto manager of S.C.U.M. Nowadays, Corino does commentary alongside Kevin Kelly for ROH and New Japan shows. Corino’s in-ring abilities, along with his mic skills, would make him a great manager in any company.
12. Jimmy Hart
“The Mouth of the South” has enough natural energy to power an entire city. With his trademark megaphone and loud suits, Hart is the personification of over-the-top. Prior to getting involved in professional wrestling, Hart was a member of the 1960s rock band The Gentrys. This musical background would color his later work, as Hart managed acts like Rhythm and Blues (The Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine) while simultaneously recording music for the likes of Terry Funk, Jimmy Snuka, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, and, infamously, The American Males.
Even considering all of his years in Memphis and the WWE, Hart’s best work occurred in WCW following Hulk Hogan’s debut in 1994. As Hogan’s manager, Hart helped the blonde muscleman to capture the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in his debut match. Later, in 1995, Hart returned to his heel ways by turning on Hogan and joining Kevin Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom.
11. Gary Hart
Unfortunately, Gary Hart’s death in 2008 means that he can never manage again. Still, thanks to YouTube and the WWE Network, younger fans can learn to appreciate the work of “Playboy” Gary Hart. A mainstay of the wrestling territories, Hart’s career began in the 1960s as an in-ring performer. In 1975, Hart was on board the Cessna 182 that crashed in Tampa, killing 29-year-old wrestler Bobby Shane. After this horrible accident, Hart began focusing on booking and managing.
In the early 1980s, Hart managed a slew of fearsome heels in Texas, Georgia, and the Carolinas. These bad guys included Abdullah the Butcher, Ivan Koloff, Killer Khan, and the One Man Gang. Later in the decade, Hart’s career hit its apex in the NWA territory run by Jim Crockett Promotions. There Hart led the J-Tex Corporation, a villainous stable that contained the likes of The Great Muta, Terry Funk, Buzz Sawyer, and Dick Slater. The J-Tex Corporation’s feud with Ric Flair and Sting was one of, if not the best wrestling storyline in 1989.
The “Queen of Extreme” was ECW’s ultimate gold digger. The manager of champions, including “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, and Justin Credible, Francine made it a rule to always leave when the gold changed hands. While not the greatest talker in the history of wrestling, Francine was always a spectacle. In particular, the red-blooded audiences of ECW enjoyed Francine’s many skimpy outfits, all of which would be banned on modern television. Despite her decidedly non-athletic wardrobe, Francine always evinced a willingness to mix it up with other managers, especially females like Dawn Marie and Beulah McGillicutty.
9. Harvey Wippleman
Harvey Whippleman always seemed like a mixture of geek and carnival barker. During the WWE’s cartoon period in the early 1990s, Wippleman was as much of an attraction as the freaks he managed. A typical dweeb, Wippleman was never above cheating to win or getting his man intentionally disqualified. As for the men who employed Wippleman’s talents, they were a true rouge’s gallery, including Sid Vicious, Kamala, and his on-screen girlfriend Bertha Faye. Unlike a lot of managers, Wippleman saw plenty of in-ring time, too. During 1994 and 1995, Wippleman had a notoriously ridiculous feud with WWE ring announced Howard Finkel that ended in a Tuxedo match on Monday Night Raw. Later, during the Attitude Era, Wippleman reappeared as Hervina, the suspiciously masculine female wrestler. On the January 31, 2000 edition of Raw Is War, Wippleman beat The Kat in a Lumberjill Snow Bunny match to claim the WWE Women’s Championship. Today’s WWE, with its relentless promoting of the Women’s Revolution, would like you to forget about that match.
8. Col. Rob Parker
Much like Harvey Wippleman, Col. Rob Parker’s glory days came during one of professional wrestling’s many low periods of bad business and little public interest. Prior to joining WCW in 1993, Parker, who was also known as Robert Fuller, made his living traveling the rasslin’ circuits of the South. A one-time co-owner of Knoxville’s Continental Championship Wrestling, Fuller favored the territories of Memphis, Alabama, and Texas. He even did a short stint in the AWA in the late 1980s.
Mimicking the style of Elvis Presley’s manager Col. Tom Parker, Fuller as Col. Rob Parker managed the likes of Sid Vicious, Harlem Heat, and “Stunning” Steve Austin. Parker found gold with Austin (the United States title) and Harlem Heat (multiple WCW tag team titles), and along with Harley Race and Vader, had a great feud with Sting and The British Bulldog.
After turning on Harlem Heat in 1996, Parker’s stock in WCW declined rapidly. He was eventually released and found himself in WWE as Tennessee Lee, Jeff Jarrett’s manager. Parker didn’t last a full year in the Attitude Era and soon went back to the indies. With renewed appreciation for the old school, Col. Parker would be a welcomed edition to the WWE.
7. Bill Alfonso
Bill Alfonso, aka “Fonzie,” is a caffeine made manifestation.The man is pure energy inside and outside of the ring. Before joining ECW in 1995, Alfonso was a staple of the territories. A referee who got his start in Texas, Alfonso worked in pretty much every promotion you could think of, from Championship Wrestling from Florida, NWA-WCW, AWA, WWF, and others. Eagle-eyed viewers of the WWE Network will notice that Fonzie refereed The Undertaker versus Giant Gonzalez match at WrestleMania IX.
With his referee credentials in hand, Alfonso made a raucous splash in ECW as the obnoxious official who never stopped blowing that damn whistle. While managing Taz during his year-long winning streak, Alfonso had a feud with ECW owner Tod Gordon. Then, after turning on Taz at 1997’s Barely Legal, Alfonso began managing the team of Sabu and Rob Van Dam. Crowning himself the “Manager of Champions,” Alfonso helped Sabu and RVD to win the ECW World Tag Team Championship on two different occasions, while he simultaneously oversaw RVD’s nearly two-year reign as the ECW World Television Champion. If and when RVD returns to active competition, it would be great to see Alfonso beside him.
6. James J. Dillon
J.J. Dillon (Pictured Middle) was one of the kings of the Carolinas during the heyday of the territories. The perfect schemer, Dillon initially managed singles competitors like Abdullah the Butcher, Ox Baker, and “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landell. However, Dillon’s greatest impact came with The Four Horsemen, arguably the greatest stable in the history of professional wrestling. The brains of the operation, Dillon managed Ole and Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, and Ric Flair to multiple championship victories. A former wrestler himself who saw a lot of success in Florida, Dillon was known to get physically involved in matches. It’s hard to imagine WCW in the late 1980s without either The Four Horsemen or Dillon.
In 1989, Dillon left for WWE, where he started working for Vince McMahon and the head office. A major behind-the-scenes figure, Dillon hasn’t been seen too much in or around the ring lately. That being said, Dillon was rightfully inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012 as part of The Four Horsemen.
5. Sherri Martel
A child of the industry, “Sensational” Sherri Martel began her in-ring career after studying under The Fabulous Moolah. After learning the ropes in Japan, Martel returned to the United States and began working in Memphis. Martel split her time as both a wrestler and a manager. In the latter capacity she managed Tom Pritchard and Pat Rose, alias The Heavenly Bodies. Upon moving to the AWA, Martel managed the tag team of “Playboy” Buddy Rose and Doug Sommers. In 1987, Martel won the WWFEWomen’s Championship from her former teacher Moolah. When Martel won the title she was also the Women’s Champion of the AWA. All told, Martel would hold the WWE Women’s Championship for 441 days.
During late 1980s and early 1990s, Martel transitioned back to managing and famously helped a heel Randy Savage, then calling himself The Macho King, to the world title. Martel played the hated homewrecker to the relationship between Savage and Miss Elizabeth. When she turned on Savage at WrestleMania VII, Miss Elizabeth came to the rescue, thus creating one of the most emotional reunions in wrestling history.
Later wrestlers who employed Martel always seemed to win championships, whether it be Shawn Michaels, Shane Douglas, or Harlem Heat. Before she sadly died in 2007, Martel was widely considered one of the greatest female managers ever.
Nancy Benoit may forever be linked with the ghastly murder-suicide that happened on June 22, 2007. This is unfortunate for many, many reasons. One of them is the fact that Nancy, known for much of her career simply as Woman, was a successful manager who was part of some of the most interesting feuds and storylines in wrestling history. A young model who first entered into the wrestling business thanks to the semi-disreputable world of “apartment wrestling,” Woman quickly caught the eye of Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan, who would later marry Nancy in the 1980s, labeled his new valet as The Fallen Angel. As a member of Sullivan’s satanic Army of Darkness, Woman was one of the most loathed heels in all of Florida.
At Woman’s next stop, WCW, she managed her first Tag Team Champions in the form of Doom (Butch Reed and Ron Simmons). After leaving WCW in 1993, Woman entered the land of extreme and began managing The Sandman and 2 Cold Scorpio in ECW. While there Woman was involved in the well-received feud between Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman, which introduced the wrestling world to the Singapore cane.
When WCW called again in 1996, Woman rejoined The Four Horsemen as the valet of Chris Benoit. In a storyline that blurred fiction and reality, Woman left Sullivan (her real husband) for Benoit both on screen and off. The 1997 feud between Benoit and Sullivan was a classic that would later inspire a lot of unfortunate internet conspiracy theories.
3. Miss Elizabeth
Dubbed the “First Lady of Wrestling,” Elizabeth Hulette, aka Miss Elizabeth, was every wrestling fan’s favorite sweetheart. As the escort of her real life husband “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Miss Elizabeth was the classy, pretty face who could sometimes control the wild beast that was Savage. Many of Savage’s early feuds revolved around his paranoid ideas about Miss Elizabeth and other men. George “The Animal” Steele’s crush on Miss Elizabeth ultimately led to one of the greatest matches in history when Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat defeated the Macho Man for the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania III.
During the next two years, Miss Elizabeth was again a major part of one of WWE’s’s greatest feuds, when The Mega Powers dissolved because Savage thought Hulk Hogan was paying too much attention to his wife. The Savage-Hogan feud effectively turned the Macho Man heel and thus Miss Elizabeth was taken from his side. When the pair reconnected at WrestleMania VII, there weren’t too many dry eyes in Los Angeles.
Two years after the Macho Man’s departure for WCW in 1994, Miss Elizabeth turned up on television again, this time as a heel who turned her back on Savage in order to join Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen. Miss Elizabeth would pull another turn in 1997 when she joined Savage and the nWo. Miss Elizabeth would remain active on WCW television until she was released in 2000.
2. “Classy” Freddie Blassie
The inventor of the insult “pencil-neck geek,” “Classy” Freddie Blassie was one of the main figures of Vince McMahon, Sr.’s WWWF and the early WWF. Long before he was the gravel-voiced manager of The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, Blassie was a highly successful in-ring performer who had traveled the world as a notorious heel. Nicknamed “The Vampire” because of his propensity to bite his opponents, Blassie was one of the more beloved figures in Los Angeles, while he also spent time wrestling in Georgia, Mexico, Japan, and New York. For much of the 1950s and 1960s, Freddie Blassie was the most reviled heel in professional wrestling.
Later, as a heel manager, “Classie” Freddie Blassie, the so-called “Fashion Plate of Professional Wrestling,” showed off his excellent mic work and became one of the more charismatic talkers in WWE. Although a natural heel, Blassie did perform a few babyface turns throughout his career, most notably in 1989 when he went after Bobby “The Brain” Heenan for a delinquent debt.
Since his death in 2003, Blassie’s legend has only grown, for along with managers The Grand Wizard and Captain Lou Albano, Blassie was an integral part of pro wrestling’s breakout into the mainstream.
1. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
One of the world’s great tragedies is the fact that Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, one of the greatest talkers in wrestling history, was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer. Because of his declining health, it’s very unlikely that Hennan will return to the WWE for one more run. No matter what happens in the next few years, we’ll always have Heenan’s great work to look back on.
A native of Indiana, Heenan got his first taste of popularity in Indianapolis’s World Wrestling Association. Sticking to the Midwest, Heenan then joined Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association, where he became the company’s archfiend manager. The stereotypical weasel, Heenan hitched his horse with the likes of Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, Ken Patera, King Kong Bundy, and the great Nick Bockwinkel.
Heenan continued to manage when he joined WWE, but although he helped the likes of Andre the Giant, Mr. Perfect, and Ric Flair to main event victories, his greatest work came at the commentary table. Alongside his partner Gorilla Monsoon, Heenan delivered hilarious one liners and satirical observations while still remaining a consummate heel. Unsurprisingly, Heenan continued his commentary work in WCW, but without Gorilla Monsoon as his straight man, it just wasn’t as good. Still, ask any wrestling fan who their favorite manager of all time is, and nine out of 10 will say Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
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