A great manager can take an average professional wrestler and turn them into a genuine star.
Managers operate as strategists and/or mouthpieces for their on-camera clients. They tend to their personal and professional needs and get involved, literally and figuratively, in matches. Their job is to minimize any distractions that may prevent their charge from winning.
The greatest managers have personalities that outshine their representatives because of their charisma and ability to deliver promos. In some instances, a manager is more valuable than the talent themselves, especially if their client just started in the business. A manager's effectiveness is what can make or break a new wrestler's career.
There is an elite class of managers in wrestling. Their iconic personas, high-profile clientele, and proven track records set them apart from the rest of their contemporaries. They've not only shaped the careers of the wrestlers they mentored, but they've shaped the landscape of the industry as well.
Join us as we take a look at the greatest managers in pro wrestling history.
The widow of wrestling legend Eddie Guerrero surprised the world with her performance as a conniving cougar on WWE Television. When she first appeared in the company, she was Eddie's shy and compassionate wife, but an alliance with The Ultimate Opportunist Edge became the catalyst to her transformation.
Vickie's stint as a manager helped her on-screen boyfriend Edge win the World Heavyweight Championship after she became SmackDown! General Manager. She was also a part of Dolph Ziggler's rise as a superstar on the main roster, and she managed the team of Layla and Michelle McCool aka LayCool as well.
Guerrero's claim to fame is the intense amount of heat she received whenever she spoke. Live crowds showered her with boos whenever she yelled "excuse me!" in the most unbearable grating voice. Her level of unlikability is a testament to her genius character work during her 7-year run in WWE.
The original line-up of The Four Horsemen is the greatest faction in pro wrestling history. Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, and the tag team of Arn and Ole Anderson ruled the wrestling world during the days of the National Wrestling Alliance. The Horseman also had a fifth silent member in the form of their manager, J.J. Dillon.
J.J.'s role as manager saw him act as a reinforcing agent to whatever any of the Horsemen said. Flair and company bragged about their lavish lifestyle while J.J. parroted their sentiments. The Horsemen were capable of speaking for themselves, so there wasn't a need for him to function as the group's spokesman. Still, J.J.'s affiliation with the pioneering collective warrants the acknowledgment of his decent managerial skills.
Mr. Fuji earned the nickname "The Devious One" when he wrestled for Vince McMahon Sr.'s World Wide Wrestling Federation. His reputation for underhanded tactics — like throwing salt in his opponent's eyes and blinding them — followed him as he transitioned into a manager role when he worked for Vince Sr.'s son in the World Wrestling Federation.
Fuji's resume as a manager links him to wrestling's most influential figures. Hall of Famer Don Muraco was a real-life student of Fuji and one of the first wrestlers he managed. He also managed the tag-team Demolition, one of the longest-reigning tag teams in WWE History.
But, Fuji's shining moment as a manager is when he was paired with Samoan grappler turned Japanese sumo wrestler WWE Hall of Famer, the late Yokozuna. Yokozuna's intimidating size and Fuji's cunning lead to a reign as WWF Champion.
Some managers take their on-screen responsibilities beyond the ring. While in character, their obligation is to make sure their talent gets the opportunities they deserve, but behind the scenes, they arrange travel, manage spending habits, and plan out matches.
Paul Ellering (also known as "Precious" Paul Ellering) is a great example of this kind of a hands-on manager. He was the eloquent mastermind behind the dominant tag team of Hawk and Animal, aka The Road Warriors. Ellering is known for his vast intelligence and was probably one of the few people who could get The Road Warriors to listen.
During the early days as the duo's manager, Ellering configured their travel schedule and their investment strategies and helped with the development of their respective characters. Precious Paul was able to work his magic again in today's era of pro wrestling as the manager of the former NXT tag team, The Authors of Pain.
“Classy” Freddie Blassie
Very few in professional wrestling can say they managed a long list of stars who became synonymous with the sport. The late great Freddie Blassie is one of the few who can boast this illustrious feat. Blassie was also the archetype for the flamboyant charismatic manager gimmick that was seen a lot in the 70s and 80s.
Blassie's all-star line-up includes High Chief Peter Maivia, Hercules Henandez, and Hulk Hogan before he became the industry's biggest star. He also oversaw the in-ring careers of The Iron Sheik and future manager, Mr. Fuji. Blassie's legacy as a manager made his talent and himself Hall of Famers.
"Captain" Lou Albano
Captain Lou Albano was known for more than his loud outfits and trademark beard. He was also an expert at managing tag teams. His high success rate took thirteen different teams to championship victories in the World Wrestling Federation. Captain Lou was one-third of the heel manager faction known as the Triumvirate of Terror, along with Classy Freddie Blassie and The Grand Wizard of Wrestling.
Albano helped steer the careers of The Wild Samoans, The British Bulldogs, and The Valiant Brothers. His role as a manager is far from understated, but his biggest contribution was establishing the relationship between pro wrestling and the 80s pop music scene, which was dubbed the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection.
Traditionally, women who were called managers were more like valets. They were pristine and elegant and hardly got physically involved in matches, if ever. This until Sherri Martel, aka Sensational Sherri, redefined the role for women in the business.
A former wrestler herself, Sherri brought a level of aggression that had never been seen before from a woman manager. Her banshee-like energy paid dividends when taking advantage of her client's wounded opponent while the referee was distracted. Sherri's management of Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Shawn Michaels, and Harlem Heat legitimized them as superstars and proved that behind every successful man is a strong woman who can land a dropkick.
If you ask any legend in wrestling to pick the best character in the history of the sport, their answer will be The Undertaker. For 30 years, Mark Calaway entertained WWE fans as an undead funeral parlor employee with supernatural powers. The source of his powers was a gold urn wielded by his spooky manager, Paul Bearer.
When The Undertaker first debuted in WWE, he was a towering ominous figure who didn't say much. Paul Bearer's inclusion in the gimmick preserved The Undertaker's mystique and added an extra layer of creepiness to the character. However, Paul's relationship with The Undertaker was also extremely tumultuous. Bearer eventually turned on The Undertaker and aligned himself with his brother Kane, and on one occasion The Undertaker buried him alive in cement.
Pro wrestling insiders and fans are well aware of Paul Heyman's level of brilliance when it comes to sports entertainment. He was the mad scientist behind the legendary hardcore alternative to WCW and WWE called ECW and had been groomed by some of the greatest minds in the business, including Dusty Rhodes. But Paul's best work has been as the advocate for WWE's resident mercenary, Brock Lesnar.
Heyman has been an integral part of Lesnar's career since his debut on the main roster in 2002 and his return to WWE in 2012. Heyman's impassioned promos about Brock's combat credentials have aided in building up the legend that is Brock Lesnar. Heyman never hesitates to remind fans that he is the man behind the man who conquered The Undertaker's undefeated streak at Wrestlemania 30.
Currently, Heyman is playing counsel to the reigning Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. Many feel that Reigns is now the most entertaining version of himself and attribute his new level of popularity to his alliance with Heyman.
Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
Bobby Heenan's impact in professional wrestling is incomparable. He was nicknamed "The Brain" because of his quick-witted comebacks and his unrelenting plotting and scheming. As a manager, he was a despicable human being looking to seize every opportunity to get to the top, but as a performer, he was one of the industry's best.
Heenan's talent roster is a who's who of professional wrestling royalty, featuring King Kong Bundy, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Andre The Giant, and more. Heenan's involvement in high-profile storylines gave them legitimacy, including his role as Andre The Giant's manager in his historic encounter with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 3.
Heenan's entertaining promos and mic work landed him a role as a commentator alongside his managerial duties. When he wasn't crafting a scheme to earn his clients a victory, he insulted the good guys and antagonized his broadcasting partner Gorilla Monsoon.
Did we leave out a manager you think should've made the list?
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