09th Jul2020

Opinionated: Who is the Greatest Manager in WWE history?

by Chris Cummings

Oh, wrestling manager, how I miss thee. Remember the 80s? Remember pro-wrestling during the “golden era” and the sheer amount of managers we had on our screens? There was so many, from heel managers both male and female, and valets, we had loads of men and women standing ringside offering an element of potential interference or backup to their client in the ring. It was glorious, that’s what it was! I miss managers. We have had a few over the last couple of decades, from Vickie Guerrero to Zeb “Dutch Mantell” Coulter to Lana to Zelena Vega to Paul Heyman, but there aren’t that many compared to how it used to be.

I became a pro-wrestling fanatic in the early 90s and went back to watch 80s wrestling immediately on video tapes. Seeing women like Miss Elizabeth and “Sensational” Sherri doing a damn good job in their jobs as women with either a classy calm or a stormy aggression, and men like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette taking the role of heel-manager to a new level. It was a good time, the 80s and 90s for managers. Some were great, some were good, some were pretty poor, but they all offered a little something extra, a topping, a dash of salt, to the overall package of a specific wrestler, stable or tag-team. So, I figured I’d highlight the best of WWE’s managers and conclude with whom, in this fans personal opinion, is the greatest of all time.

To start with, I wanna talk about a modern day manager who is obviously the very best when it comes to sheer hype and trash talking. Paul Heyman, as the “advocate” to Brock Lesnar, has been the much-needed entertainment behind “The Beast Incarnate” for years. Heyman is an incredible promo, capable of selling a ketchup popsickle to a woman in white gloves. He’s intense, funny, arrogant and able to back up his claims via his “beast”. He is one of the great managers in history, and many accept that fact. Still… aside from Heyman who most credit regularly as being as great as he is, I feel like Zelina Vega doesn’t get enough credit or mention. She has been a big part of the current fan-free era of WWE programming. Managing Andrade since his NXT days, she’s a magnificent heel manager, interfering and doing all she can to see her clients find victory. She’s added more names to her stable of talent recently, like Angel Garza, and I feel like WWE have a greatly charismatic talker and talent here that they should definitely utilise more, and not drop the ball with. She’s underrated, and time will tell how good she can become. I hope she is able to flourish further.

Back in the Ruthless Aggression era, managers were few and far between, especially good ones, so Vickie Guerrero stands out quite easily. A phenomenal heel, she was able to take two simple words and turn herself into a magnet for heat with the audience. “EXCUSE ME!!!” she would bellow into the stick as she was showered with boo’s from the fans. Managing the likes of Edge and Dolph Ziggler, she became the biggest heel on the roster for a while and did it so well. Fantastic.

In the time between the New Generation Era and the Attitude Era managers began to simmer, with less wrestlers having a manager walk the aisle with them. Still… there were some great ones in there. Paul Bearer, who began in WWE back in 1990, managing The Undertaker, continued his managerial career with Mankind, Kane, Vader and ‘Taker himself, and carved our a Hall of Fame career with his passion, timing and peculiar intensity. He was amazing in his role, whether he was a babyface or a heel. You can’t ignore Sable, either. In late 1996 until early 1998 when she would start wrestling, Sable was very popular as a valet to Marc Mero. Her popularity would lead to her being the biggest female star of the era, regardless of her limitations as a talker and wrestler. Similarly, Sunny was very popular from 1996 until early 1998, managing The Body Donnas, The Smoking Gunns, Faarooq and the repackaged and pretty terribly named LOD 2000. She was very popular with the fans, though, and offered a bratty persona that helped her clients often garner a victory due to her frantic ringside whining. She was, for a while there, a pretty damn good manager. I’d hate to ignore Marlena, too. Terri Runnels’ run for a couple of years in the late 90s as the valet, main squeeze and manager of real-life husband at the time, Goldust, was top notch. Their duo was weird, fun and intriguing, and I’m a big fan of that era, and of the Goldust character. Marlena was a big part of the package for a while.

There were guys, like Bearer, who managed to reinvent themselves and become parts of WWE programming in more than one era. Paul Ellering would manage The Road Warriors during their 1992 run and in 1998. His WWE manager work wasn’t the best, but he would be a big component in helping Authors of Pain feel like a big deal in NXT a couple of years ago. You can’t ignore “Precious” Paul when talking about the great managers in history. Jim Cornette did a similar thing, starting as a manager in around 1993 in WWE and remaining relevant until 1998, managing some incredible talent like Owen Hart, Yokozuna, British Bulldog, Jeff Jarrett, Vader and… “Bodacious” Bart and “Bombastic” Bob, The New Midnight Express. Oh. Cornette was a fantastic cowardly and snivelling heel manager who would go to any scumbag lengths to help his guys win. Let’s ignore his views as a human being though.

Before delving into the golden era of the WWE manager, I wanna make mention of guys like Freddie Blassie, The Grand Wizard, Captain Lou Albano and others from the 70s and early 1980s. I’m not as familiar with these guys, although I am a fan of Blassie and his work as a heel manager. Still, I don’t dispute that there are guys who I simply haven’t seen enough of, so accept my apology for skimming over a few folks here.

It truly is the 80s and early 90s in WWE where the manager was King, though. We had factions led by managers, we had new gimmicks debut under managers who would immediately give them a rub and some legitimacy. Some were decent but didn’t reach great heights, such as Harvey Wippleman, a good guy who was a loyal WWE staff member as well as a manager to some lesser gimmicks in the 90s like Big Bully Busick, Giant Gonzales and Kamala. His biggest star under his management was Sid Justice in 1992, but he didn’t see great success. I still liked Harvey though, and wish he’d had a chance to do more. Slick, “The Doctor of Style”, was a big part of 80s programming, managing top heel tandem “The Twin Towers” of Big Boss Man and Akeem, as well as others. He was a decent talker and would eventually have a short babyface run managing Kamala. He was okay.

Mr. Fuji, even though there are obvious issues with the stereotype gimmick he had, did some good things as a manager. Most famously, he managed Yokozuna during the Samoans main event run. Prior to that, Fuji managed the likes of Demolition and The Powers of Pain. I thought he as a good manager, but didn’t necessarily stand out beyond offering some outside interference. “Sensational” Sherri and Luna Vachon, however, both offered a lot. I was a fan of both women. Luna, who managed Shawn Michaels, Bam Bam Bigelow and Goldust, most famously, was great as the small but fierce monster valet, screeching and howling at ringside. She was committed to her role and it showed. Sherri was similar in her commitment. Whether she was managing Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase or Shawn Michaels, she was magnificent. An all-time great in women’s wrestling, she became one of the most memorable managers ever for her work in the 80s and early 90s.

Miss Elizabeth was one of the best valets ever, too. Standing with poise and calm, alongside the manic Randy Savage, was a great change of pace. She nailed her role. Sure, she was quiet and didn’t interfere a whole lot, but she didn’t need to. The fans loved her and she offered a lot to the matches she was involved in.

“The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart was one of the greats too. I mean, look at who he’s managed over the years. Honky Tonk Man, The Nasty Boys, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, The Hart Foundation, Greg Valentine, Dino Bravo, Earthquake, Money Inc, Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake. That isn’t even all of the guys he managed in WWE. Hart and his stable were a big part of programming for a long time. He was a whiny, annoying, cowardly bad guy, like most managers back then, but his megaphone gimmick and his overall look made him stand out. He did his job so well.

Finally, because I can’t name every manager that’s ever worked in WWE, I want to talk about the very best manager in the history of WWE and wrestling overall. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was phenomenal in his role as the manager to the big bads of WWE in the 80s and early 90s. He was also one of the best colour commentators in wrestling, too. He stood ringside as the manager to Andre the Giant during Andres’ feud with Hulk Hogan. He managed Big John Studd when Studd was feuding with Andre. He formed a stable called The Heenan Family, and had tons of talent under his management through the years. Mr. Perfect, The Brain Busters, Rick Rude, Harley Race and many others would have the privilege of Heenan as their manager. He would manage Ric Flair when Flair entered WWE in 1991. As a talker, as a worker and as a leader of the opposition, he was terrific. He sold for the babyfaces wonderfully, making everyone look like gold. Heenan, in my view, is the best manager ever, and I can’t see anyone doing it any better.

So there we have it, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is, in my view, the GREATEST manager in WWE history. Do you agree? Who is your favourite? Thanks for reading! Let’s go watch some wrestling.


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