I’m starting a new regular feature on the site: Top 10 Lists. Until I run out of ideas (or if there is a PPV taking place in the evening that deserve predictions), consider every Sunday morning from here on out to be when the new post will come out. So let’s kick things off!
When I was initially compiling this list, I really intended to only have 10. The problem was that when I tried to come up with an honorable mention or two, I ended up expanding my list to over 20 managers. Therefore, I made the decision to run down the Top 20 Wrestling Managers of All Time.
Obviously, this is totally an opinion piece. If your opinion differs, feel free to let me know!
20. Terri Runnels – I initially placed Terri Runnels on the upcoming “Top 10 Valets” list, but then realized that she was more than just a valet during her run in the wrestling business. She debuted in WCW back in 1990 as Alexandra York. She carried a laptop with her and managed The York Foundation, where wrestlers would use scientific data spit out by this laptop as a way to defeat their opponents. The stable included Michael Wallstreet (aka Mike Rotundo), Terrance (Terry) Taylor, Thomas (Tommy) Rich, and Richard (Ricky) Morton. After leaving WCW, she made her way to WWE with her then-husband Dustin Runnels (aka Goldust) and helped guide him to the Intercontinental title. She then moved on to manage Val Venis, Shawn “Meat” Stasiak, the Hardy Boyz, Perry Saturn, & even Raven. She had a ten year career between WCW and WWE, not being pigeon-holed into one managerial gimmick. She was more than just a pretty face, which is why she earned a spot on this list.
19. Truth Martini – I was hesitant to place Martini and his House of Truth on this esteemed list just because I’m not a big fan of his work (dude…that hair has GOT to go). However, his success as a manager in Ring of Honor shouldn’t be overlooked. He managed Roderick Strong to his first ROH World championship in 2010, which has helped to re-establish Strong as one of the best wrestlers on the independent circuit today. He also managed Matt Taven and helped him become ROH Television champion. Jay Lethal to becoming ROH Television champion for the past year before just recently becoming the ROH World champion by defeating longtime champ Jay Briscoe. So that’s two world champions and two television champions under his belt between 2009 and 2015. That’s not a terrible resume by any stretch.
18. Prince Nana – Without a doubt, Ring of Honor history would not have been the same if it weren’t for the brilliance of Prince Nana. The Embassy was born in 2004 and had a very successful run with John Walters, Alex Shelley, Abyss, and “The Crown Jewel” of the Embassy, Jimmy Rave. Nana left the company and returned in 2008 to eventually create a new Embassy that included Bison Smith, Claudio Castagnoli, Joey Ryan, and Necro Butcher. He also managed Tommaso Ciampa, Rhino, and even Moose in late 2014. It wasn’t his success or the success of his stablemates that makes him one of the best managers of all time, it’s the fact that Nana was a brilliant entertainer during a time in ROH where entertainment was set aside for straight-forward wrestling. He was always a welcome breath of fresh air when things got too stuffy. I only wish I could continue to see more of his incredible work on a full-time basis.
17. “The Sinister Minister” James Mitchell – Mitchell was first seen in a national promotion in 1997 as “James Vandenberg”, who was the manager to Mortis (i.e. Chris Kanyon) and Wrath (i.e. Bryan Clark / Adam Bomb). WCW was a mess by 1999, so the gimmicks were eventually dropped and he was sent home to collect a paycheck for two years until his contract ran out in 2001. He re-debuted as “The Sinister Minister” in ECW, where he created The Unholy Alliance of Yoshihiro Tajiri and Mikey Whipwreck, which ended up being one of the most popular tag teams in ECW history. He concluded his career in TNA, where he was “Father” James Mitchell and managed The Disciples of the New Church (i.e. Slash, Brian Lee, Shane Douglas, Sinn Bodi, & Vampiro). He then managed Abyss to becoming TNA champion , along with Judas Mesias and Rellik (which is Killer spelled backwards, y’know). I thought he was always one of those guys who could have flourished in WWE if given the opportunity.
16. Bill Alfonso – This is a tough pick, simply because Alfonso was only a manager for a very short time near the end of his pro-wrestling career (he was a great referee for 16 years). However, his time in ECW was as a top-level player. People absolutely despised his gimmick and the fact that he ended up managing three of the best wrestlers in ECW history: Taz, Rob Van Dam, and Sabu. Can you imagine RVD trying to do his initial trademark spots with chairs if Alfonso hadn’t been helping him out in every match? He wasn’t just there to blow his whistle and be annoying, he was a vital part of practically every single RVD and Sabu match. He was MUCH more than a mouthpiece and was instrumental in the careers of those three men in ECW. He was voted “PWI Manager of the Year” in 1997, thus cementing his place in wrestling history.
15. Mr. Fuji – When coming up with this initial list, I really wanted to place Fuji higher than just 15. I mean, this guy was an integral part to my wrestling childhood, having managed Don “The Magnificent” Muraco, Demolition, the Powers of Pain, Killer Khan, and Yokozuna. He got involved and threw salt into the eyes of opponents, helping his men gain tainted victories. He was a hated heel manager who had been a very successful wrestler in the years prior. So why so low? I think a big part of a wrestling manager needs to be the ability to talk. Looking diabolical and evil is nice and all, but Fuji could barely speak the language. He didn’t sell tickets in spite of his managerial success. So while pretty important to WWE during the 1980’s, I just don’t think he measures up to some of the other managers ranked above him.
14. Sheik Adnan El Kaissey – Wrestler-turned-manager El Kaissey has the auspicious title of being the only wrestler to pin Andre the Giant in Baghdad, Iraq. Years later, due to injuries suffered, he began to manage in the AWA, leading Sheik Ayatollah Jerry Blackwell and Ken Patera to the AWA world tag team titles. He was AWA’s top heel manager who also managed Bruiser Brody, Nord the Barbarian, & Boris Zuchov before moving to the WWE in 1990. There (as General Adnan) he managed Sgt. Slaughter to the WWF World title in additin to Col. Mustafa (aka the Iron Sheik).
13. Sir Oliver Humperdink – I remember first hearing about Oliver Humperdink when he was a member of the Army of Darkness, being a manager/wrestler for Kevin Sullivan, Abudadein, & Fallen Angel (aka Woman). The House of Humperdink was a stable from the NWA that included Greg Valentine, Paul Jones, and One Man Gang. In WWE, where he was probably best known, he was a babyface manager for Bam Bam Bigelow and Paul Orndorff at a time when there really wasn’t such a thing as a “babyface manager”. It was a role he didn’t really enjoy, but he survived and got over with Bigelow. He was last seen in WCW as “Big Daddy Dink”, a biker manager of the Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin).
12. “Classy” Freddie Blassie – Anybody who comes up with a catchphrase such as “pencil neck geek” deserves to be on this list regardless of what else he did as a manager. As it stands, he had a very successful career as a manager from 1974 until his retirement in 1986. While newer fans may only know him as the manager of the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, he also managed an array of diverse wrestlers such as Blackjack Mulligan, “High Chief” Peter Maivia, Adrian Adonis, Killer Khan, Jesse Ventura, George “the Animal” Steele, Professor Tanaka, Mr. Fuji, Dick Murdoch, and even Hulk Hogan himself! I think the only reason he is lower on this list is because I was only familiar with his work in the 1980’s with Sheik & Volkoff. As such, I don’t think I can rank him much higher.
11. “The Grand Wizard” Ernie Roth – Unfortunately, I have to claim ignorance on the Wizard, too. He stopped managing just as I came on the scene as a fan. From what I’ve read and heard, though, he was one of the best wrestling managers of all time. He managed Professor Toru Tanaka and Mr. Fuji to two WWWF world tag team title reigns, Stan Stasiak to the WWF championship, and “Superstar” Billy Graham to the WWF championship, as well. He also led Pat Patterson, Ken Patera, and Don Muraco to the Intercontinental title. With that type of resume, you can’t argue with his success. Because I never got to experience his awesomeness (he died of a heart attack in 1983), I can only rank him at #11…though ranking him much higher wouldn’t receive an argument from me.
Paul Jones – At the end of his career, Jones turned into a heel manager and was responsible for Masked Superstar, Manny Fernandez, Rick Rude, Baron Von Raschke, Abdullah the Butcher, and (briefly) the Powers of Pain. He was well known within the NWA circles, but I don’t believe he did enough to pop onto this list.
Slick – How could you not love a guy who came out to a song called “Jive Soul Bro“?? He debuted in the WWF with Butch Reed (they arrived together from the Central States area) and also managed Akeem (aka One Man Gang), Big Boss Man, the Warlord, Power & Glory (i.e. Hercules & Paul Roma), Rick “The Model” Martel, and Kamala. He never found tremendous success but still had a pretty good career.
“Sensational” Sherry Martel – Similar to Terri Runnels, I was hesitant about placing Martel on this list. For the most part, she was promoted and pushed primarily as a valet once she stopped wrestling. But she managed Randy Savage during his “Macho King” tenure, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, and Harlem Heat. Pretty impressive.