A question was posed to me a couple of weeks ago by a very good friend of mine. I was reminded that it had been ten years to the day that I sat at home on a Saturday morning and began to follow Professional Wrestling on a regular basis. I was asked what my initial reasons had been, and why I wanted to follow the wacky world of wrestling anyway. And if that wasn't enough of a challenge, this friend wanted my take on what direction I thought the sport was headed, and what if anything, was lacking and in need of repair. Of course, how does one put ten years into perspective just like that? How could I return back to that 11- year-old boy I was, just starting to follow this "new" interest?
I find it very amusing that the moment one stops thinking about something and sets it aside for later retrieval, that which was once impossible becomes clear. All at once that child that had been so buried, so hidden, decided to make his presence known. Only problem was it was during a meteorology quiz! I suppose some good was had by that timing, considering the fact that I had my head in the clouds already talking about cloud- cover, and weather elements. At that moment, in that class, my focus was as clear as the maps we were discussing.
As the memories flooded back to me (and I promise, that is the last weather element in this column :-) I began playing back the first few shows I watched of the WWF, NWA, and AWA. The Hart Foundation had just come off a shocking win of the WWF Tag Team straps against the then darlings of the WWF, The British Bulldogs. Bobby Heenan had just finalized the biggest deal in wrestling, that only many years down the road, would we fans realize changed the course of wrestling today. Heenan had just signed Andre the Giant. Jimmy Hart and Adrian Adonis were continuing to embaress and raise the wrath of one Roddy Piper.
In the NWA, the Four Horsemen were on a roll. The Road Warriors were dominating the Tag Team scene.
Without realizing it, I had answered the first question. The answer is that it had been the real heat that was generated from within the ranks of wrestling. The Horsemen VS. Dusty Rhodes. Andre VS. Hulk. Harts VS. Bulldogs. The drama was all there. Excitement at every turn.
Does anyone find it surprising that in almost every heat generated angle at that time, there was an outside force helping to generate that heat? There was always a guiding light. There was always someone other than the wrestlers themselves to help storylines. Of course I am talking about wrestling managers. Many wrestling fans probably have let this thought slip from their collective heads as of late.
Wrestling managers have been around for the better part of forty years. The earliest record I could find of an active manager was Bobby Davis in the late 1950's, when he managed Champion Buddy Rogers. From the tapes I have viewed of Davis, as well as some documented encounters that I have read from others in the sport, Davis was a loud-mouth, but conservative in his out of ring antics. The nearest comparison I could make to relate Davis with today's crop of managers, would probably be somewhere between a Jim Cornette, and Clarence Mason.
There is no question that many men and women have come and gone in the managerial ranks since Bobby Davis. This subject could be discussed in many different ways, but rather than expound on all the colorful faces and personas in managing, I will concentrate on three wrestlers with their respective managers.
It is not without good reason that King Kong Bundy has lasted as long as he has in the sport of Professional Wrestling. Bundy has managed to combine his brute strength, along with his enormous girth to win many a match. But what would Bundy be like without the guiding forces outside the ring? With managers such as Gary Hart, and Jimmy Hart, Bundy was able to have quite a successful run throughout the southern promotions like the WCCW in Texas, and The Memphis based CWA. Bundy at one point was even a part of Paul Ellering's Legion Of Doom with Jake Roberts, Hawk and Animal.
IT is important to note that 1986 was the shining moment in this big man's career. Bundy did the unthinkable. He put the then WWF Champion Hulk Hogan out of action for several months. But who was behind Bundy's shining moment? Bobby Heenan. Heenan gave Bundy the added inspiration, the added killer instinct he needed to get the job done. When people flocked to LA to watch the long awaited cage match between Hogan and Bundy as part of Wrestlemainia II, (Editor's Note: I was there) they wanted not only Bundy to get his just desserts, but also they wanted Bobby Heenan to pay dearly as well. The fans got their wish that night.
Don Muraco is considered as one of the most vicious men in this sport's history. But what was Muraco without a strong managerial force outside the ring? Probably the greatest success Muraco had in wrestling was when he was with his first manager, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling. The Wizard knew how to get the best out of his men, and it was no different with Muraco. He guided this minimal talented wrestler to Two Intercontinental Titles. After the Wizards death in 1983, Captain Lou Albano, and Mr. Fuji took over where he had left off. I can't recall anytime that the Magnificent Muraco was without a manager in his career.
Probably the greatest success story for the managerial side of the sport of wrestling, has to be the Honky Tonk Man. Jimmy Hart was the manager of this WWF Intercontinental titleholder. Never before or after his stint in the WWF has Wane Farris had the success as he enjoyed with Jimmy Hart in the WWF. Say what you will about Hart's annoying laugh, and the megaphone which has made many a wrestler suffer from headaches. Who else could of planted the seed to hit Jake Roberts over the head with a guitar? Who else would have helped this otherwise boring grappler hold onto a title for nearly 24 months?
In keeping with the theme of this column, the one thing I think is missing in the sport is Managers. Right at this time, hardly any heat is being generated in the WWF. The fans are confused. The fans are lost and will latch onto any sense of good VS. Evil. Why? I think a huge part of the downfall and confusion stems from a lack of strong personalities outside of the ring. Today's manager is either too sexy, or too outlandish to take seriously. Today's wrestler is forced to make or break his or her own persona, instead of relying on the strengths of a Johnny Valiant, or Bobby Heenan to take some of the pressure off. Gone are the days that a young photographer named Paul Heymon could pick the brains of some of the craftiest men in the sport.
One last point. I have heard a lot of talk about this current NWO Angle. Many of the fans have expressed how they wish this angle would just disappear and go away. But as was evident on last Monday's Nitro broadcast, the NWO has really started to draw that line between good and evil. A line that has been sorely missed here over the passed year or so. It is interesting to note that with this heat there is yet again a guiding force outside of the ring, in Eric Bischoff. Say what you will about the storyline, but Bischoff in my opinion is doing what should have been done sooner. He is bringing back the heat. He in his own way, is the manager of a very important stable of wrestlers. I only hope that other promoters take note and bring back a very important part of the sport, that of the wrestling manager.
And with that, the eye on wrestling is closed until next time.
Jeremy Hartley has recently returned to the ranks of wrestling commentators after a prolonged absence and Solie's is proud that he has chosen our publication as a vehicle to again enter the frey. Welcome Jeremy!
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