What makes a great manager?

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What makes a great manager?

Post by Adam D on Mon 27 Jul 2015, 1:55 pm





By Lexi Helms

Watching the WWE network recently, I stumbled across a series top ten countdowns. One of which discussed the greatest managers in WWE history. I won't spoil it, but I managed to call the number one manager. Watching WWE nowadays, the amount of talent who has a manager is few and far between. Most recently, on the main roster, there has been Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman and Rusev with Lana. Could it be that this is actually harming WWE Programming? During the 80s, 90s and early to mid 00s, WWE had several talents who had managers. Whilst these talents were usually in a stable of some sorts (something I wrote about a few months ago), the managers made an impact in some way, shape or form. Either they were very effective in; creating a sold heel, being comedic relief or to support someone who wasn't fully developed as a talent and their presence didn't go unnoticed. As usual, this got me thinking about the managers that I consider to be great and made me question what makes a great manager? And, spoiler alert, why are the majority of them male? When I decided on this topic for an article, I made a list of qualities that I feel make a great manager. Deciding on which was the most important quality was difficult... So, below are the qualities I feel are what makes a great manager in no particular order... 

One of the most important qualities needed to be a manager is mic skills. In planning this article it was the first thing I wrote down. The reason for this is simple, whoever the manager is, they should not only push and believe in their talent, but if necessary be their mouthpiece. Without this skill, it could kill the career of both the talent and manager. When you think about the early WWE career of a certain Stone Cold, The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase Snr was his mouthpiece. I can remember interviews with the Ringmaster in which he just looks and grimaces at the camera, and DiBiase is doing the talking for him. As a child, this made me sit up - why does this man not speak? Another is J J Dillon - I've made no attempt to hide my love of the Horsemen, and this man was key to their success. He was able to talk the talk and walk the walk. He made everything the Horsemen did seem even more legitimate and badass. This section wouldn't be complete without mentioning Jimmy Heart, who, let's be honest didn't need a microphone to put talent over - he's not earned  the moniker of "Mouth of The South" for nothing. On the flip side of that is Chyna and her role of manager with HHH, who didn't need someone else to cut a promo for him. This is a rare example of a manager hardly speaking, yet making an impact in some way, shape or form, but more on that later...

Another important quality is the relationship the manager has with with the talent. If a manager and talent get on and have great chemistry, it should transpire to the audience. Case and point, Miss Elizabeth and Randy Savage. It was clear that they loved each other deeply, and her presence at ringside seemed to intensify the drama - if Savage was in trouble, the concern on Elizabeth's face was evident, something that made the crowd seemingly shout that little bit louder to spur him on in the match. Ultimately making his win that much sweeter and defeat that little bit more bitter. Another pairing is Undertaker with Paul Bearer. It was clear that these two had a mutual respect for one another, which helped intensify their relationship on screen. As a young child when Undertaker made his debut, I couldn't understand why the Undertaker was with Brother Love. The two didn't seem to fit together, however when Paul Bearer came onto the scene, it made sense; seemingly making the character of the Undertaker more scary. Speaking of the Undertaker, there's the relationship between Paul Heyman and any talent that he manages. From Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, Big Show, Kurt Angle to RVD, it is clear that Heyman will only manage a guy if he has a respect for them and if he believes in them. This is why, in my opinion, if Heyman manages someone, you should be sitting up and paying attention. His skills on the mic are also a big factor in his success as a manager. Then, there is Ric Flair, the Horsemen and the members of Evolution. It was clear that Flair had the respect of Batista, HHH and Orton, and in turn, he respected them. Again, when Flair endorses a talent, he's usually on the money. With this in mind, there are times when a real life relationship does not translate well with the audience. Kenzo Susuki and Hiroko, who were on SmackDown! from 2004-2005 spring to mind. Hiroko played a geisha to Kenzo, who seemed to treat her badly. Apart from Hiroko having a brief feud with Torrie Wilson and  Kenzo having a tag team title run with Rene Dupree, their run was forgettable at best. These are legitimately married, but it didn't come across that way. From what I remember, their relationship seemed to be very strained and came across as weird. However, this could be due to not having a full understanding of Japanese culture, and WWE not fully explaining it to the audience... So maybe not their fault.

The presence and impact a manager has on a match is another vital quality. Usually, a heel will have a manager who gets involved in the match in some way, shape or form, adding heat to the talent and manager. Easily, I could further discuss Dibiase, Heenan and Heyman but that's too obvious. Earlier, I discussed Chyna in her role of manager / bodyguard to HHH. At some point in the match, you knew that Chyna would get involved and usually earn HHH a win. This sense of anticipation made me want to watch the match - for a variety of reasons. To find out the way in which Chyna would be involved and if it affected the outcome. When we look at the likes of Flair, his own accomplishments in the ring only adds to their presence, which ultimately impacts the match. Case and point, Flair made his career from cheating, something that carried over to his managerial career. Because of this, he could elevate his talent further and make them seem like a legitimate badass, that should be taken seriously. Sometimes, the look of a manager is paramount for making an impact and having presence. This usually falls to the likes of Sunny, Sensational Sherri and Stacy Keibler. All of these used their presence to distract opponents to gain the win. For example, Keibler used to dance mid way through a match to distract an opponent, a technique that used to work. However, there are times when this can backfire. The most recent example I can use is Lana. By the end of her run with Rusev, Lana was majorly over with the fans. During matches, the Lana chants were difficult to ignore. She gained this by simply being the mouthpiece for Rusev, not really relying on her looks or body to get over. Admittedly, her clothes were fitted, but I praised WWE for the way they used her on TV... now she's with Ziggler as the "girlfriend"... Great way to kill her momentum with me at least. 

There are a few other qualities that make a manager great, but not essential. The ability to spilt opinions and the audience is one of the higher abilities to have. Regardless of the ability of the manager, if they can divide opinions in the audience and get them talking they're doing their job. For example, Stephen Richards in the Right to Censor. Some people loved him based upon on his ability to cut scathing promos and generate heat. To others, he was not the greatest of wrestlers and they couldn't see the point of him and the Right to Censor. Another example of this is Trish Stratus when she managed T&A, some saw her as her as arm candy and others saw the talent she would ultimately become. Additionally, a quality that a manager should have, but is not essential, is an air of arrogance about them. One of the best who oozes arrogance is Bobby Heenan - no doubt in my mind this man had the arrogance in both his and his clients talents, often talking to anyone who would listen about their talents. But, he often backed it up with achievements. In contrast, Paul Bearer didn't seem to ooze arrogance, yet he was so successful. Maybe his arrogance is clouded by the fact that he was as creepy as hell. 

The role of the manager in professional wrestling is a difficult one. There is no set formula or mould to make a great manager. To be one of the best, you have to tick several boxes. Whilst this article has been WWE influenced, I am aware that other promotions have their own collection of great managers and I mean no disrespect in not discussing them, maybe they can form articles for another day. As always I am sure that I have missed out qualities that make a great manager, as well as those who you consider to be a great manager. As always, it's over to you...

Adam D
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Re: What makes a great manager?

Post by Prometheus on Mon 27 Jul 2015, 2:11 pm

I like this article. I feel that the role of the manager is greatly under used in modern wrestling.

If I were to ever set up a promotion, I would make managers a feature of that promotion. Let me run you though the set up. Say you have a brand new promotion, like GFW. I'd start my first TV show with 5 managers picking their team, say 1 heavy weight, 1 cruiser weight, 1 tag team and 1 woman. So, a roster of 25 split into 5 teams. I feel that gives me an easily identifiable set of teams, and each of those managers would be an actor like Lana or Dario Cueto. Let them set the tone for the team and do most of the speaking.

I'd also feel that would give me a lot of potential storylines. Not just in the conflict between teams, but also internally. What if one manager was bribing a star in another's team? Or a team member felt they were being held back by their manager. Say the manager had the choice his tag team gets a title shot or his woman. What if he chooses the tag team, how does she feel?

So, I kind of see why it has gone out of fashion. But in terms of creating TV angles. And IMO most importantly to not have the bad boss gimmick that it seems a wrestling TV show can struggle to live without, I'd put all my eggs in the manager basket.
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Re: What makes a great manager?

Post by Lexi Helms on Mon 27 Jul 2015, 10:09 pm

Thanks Prometheus. I LOVE the idea you have of the 5 groups in one brand - that has the potential to be awesome! Very Happy
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Re: What makes a great manager?

Post by Prometheus on Tue 28 Jul 2015, 1:47 pm

Thank you.

I think the obvious case for becoming a manager that WWE has on their hands right now is NXT's Enzo Amore. There is no doubt that he can have an audience listening to him. The schtick that he and Big Cass do is reminiscent of NAO. It is interesting that they have just run a WWE house show, IMO that seems to be a test of can they do it outside the "in crowd" of NXT.

Unfortunately for Enzo, what he has on the mic, he lacks in the ring. Cesaro might still make him look a million bucks, but he can't work. I'm not that sure that Big Cass can either, but at 7 feet tall (and you can't teach that) he has something and Enzo's mouthpiece would really help establish him if he makes the main roster.
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Re: What makes a great manager?

Post by Dr Gregory House MD on Wed 29 Jul 2015, 1:22 am

One thing I miss is a heel manager vs face feud in the style of Heenan and his family vs Hogan (the big racist Tinkywinky that he is) or Camp Cornette vs Bret and HBK

I think it could be useful in a day where no one in the WWE midcard is really over, if they could pit a particular talented manager, Heyman being the standout example, against a big babyface, let's say Cena or thinking more long term Reigns, it creates a logical reason for heels to come in and out to challenge the babyface keeping things fresh while also a level of consistency, the obvious problem with Heyman is the omnipresent spectre of Lesnar in the background which was an issue last time they tried a manger vs wrestler feud with Punk and Heyman but hopefully you get my gist

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Re: What makes a great manager?

Post by Dr Gregory House MD on Wed 29 Jul 2015, 1:23 am

Good article btw

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