WWE Greatest Wrestling Managers
Written by: Tom Hopkins
Well, it has been a long time since I reviewed a wrestling DVD, or anything wrestling related. The last DVD was the Benoit DVD and a lot has changed since then. I don’t actually watch the product anymore (and haven’t in over 4 years) but WWE is smart and puts out these great collections almost every month that lets old fans like myself relive some of our memories and grab some vintage footage and matches. I have picked up a few of these WWE collections and will be reviewing them on this website.
The Main Characters
–This is all about the managers of the WWE and how they’ve shaped the wrestling landscape.
The managers were active primarily in the early 80’s to mid 90’s, though some are still kicking around. They span all the different promotions, WWE, WCW, ECW, and even AWA.
The Film (1:33:01)
The main program looks specifically at some of the greatest managers in WWE and wrestling history. It starts with a little intro by Todd Grisham (no idea who he is, but he was a real pain in the ass on the Benoit DVD which I re-watched recently) and a little montage video. The line of the program comes from John Cena talking about Slick, the doctor of style. To paraphrase, any one with a doctarate in style is fine by me. The logical first person to be featured is considered the forefather of wrestling managers and still one of the best, the late Classy Freddie Blassie (1918-2003). The main thing about him was transferring heat (crowd reaction) from him to the wrestlers. We look at the Grand Wizard, Ernie Roth, who passed away in 1983. He managed Sgt. Slaughter and was a colorful personality to say the least. Next up is Sunny, (aka Tammy Lynn Sytch), one of the first Diva’s in the WWE, before the term was even used. McMahon called her “hot” which was a little creepy and they honestly talk about her downfall and perhaps not being able to deal with the fame. Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart is next, and he says he was the first to stay at ringside when his guys wrestled. He’s best known for his megaphone. We interject with a Women Manager segment (which shows a lot of T&A, and clips of Woman better known now as Chris Benoit’s murdered wife, though she was never actually mentioned by name). Someone who was a Bobby Heenan copycat earlier in his career got his big break managing Undertaker. None other than Paul Bearer. His high, weird voice, helped get over the Undertaker. Arnold Skaaland (1925-2007), the manager who threw the towel in on Bob Backlund is featured next, followed by a survey of the talent featured on the DVD if in-ring success helps managers. The answer is about 50/50. Sensational Sherri (1958-2007) is showcased as being the first woman wrestler to have success as a manager, and suceeding simultaneously at both. One of the best talkers in wrestlers, and one who is an encyclopedia of knowledge follows, the great Jim Cornette. Another segment ensues, this time on how to cheat (it involves distracting, tripping the opponet, and passing foreign objects to their wrestlers). Paul E. Dangerously, the great NWA manager is highlighted next, and he would actually achieve even better fame as the guy who ran ECW and later managed a bunch of guys in the WWE. You may know him better as Paul Heyman. Lou Albano is featured next, and they talk a lot about how ugly he is, even Lou himself. Lou was one of the first to branch out into the real world media, turning in appearances in Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Video,” and being the live-action Mario in the Mario Brothers. What follows next is a look at managers who wrestle, and they highlight Cornette’s scaffold match where he blew out both his knees. The final two are definitely two of the greatest managers in history, for completely different reasons. Miss Elizabeth (1960-2003) was not a physical manager, she didn’t say much, but she had a presence. She was a lady, not a bimbo, and could get across an emotion not seen in others. She will definitely be missed. Finally, we end with the greatest, Bobby Heenan. Bobby never wrestled and broke into the business as a manager and from AWA to WWE, he was the best. He was fantastic on the mic, had a stable of wrestlers he called his family (inspired by Charles Manson and his family), had a great nickname, The Brain, and his work as an announcer with Gorilla Monsoon still stands as the best on-air duo in wrestling history. As Vince McMahon says, he was the greatest manager ever.
This was an interesting DVD. First, I marvel at how many of the people featured died at a young age, including Sherri Martel and Miss Elizabeth. It’s a sign of how the business is more than anything, as many wrestlers seem to pass on before their time. The DVD itself is a good little feature on the managers. I think they spent enough time on each person to keep the segment moving and give you enough about the manager themselves. A lot of the people interviewed in the DVD seemed to keep kayfabe (a wrestling term meaning to keep the illusion it is all real) while others talked plainly and openly about the business, including Vince McMahon. It was an odd mix as you’d hear about a manager “helping” them study weaknesses of a wrestler. That aside, this is a very memorable DVD. I don’t think that most wrestling fans now, or even since the Attitude Era, will enjoy this as managers are vastly different now than what they were, but for old-time fans like myself, this was a trip through memory lane with the stars themselves, and great anecdotes about them. Recommended feature.
There are three matches included here, all including managers, and the rest are all interviews, vignettes and everything else.
1) Lou Albano vs. Arnold Skaaland (6:31)
Skaaland attacks Albano before Lou even takes his jacket off! Why would a good guy do that? Anyway, Lou bails for a while, comes back and hits Skaaland with a foreign object, turning momentum in his favor. By momentum, of course, I mean slow plodding action. Lou gets some shots in and parades around the ring, which Vinnie Mac says is strutting. The referee gropes Lou a few times trying to find the foreign object Lou had been using. Eventually Lou loses the foreign object and Skaaland uses it, busting Lou wide open. The referee doesn’t do anything about this. Yes, this manager match was HARDCORE! Lou heads back to the back and is counted out at 4:36. Can you really even rate matches like this? Yes you can, and this was quite boring. DUD.
2) Bobby Heenan vs. Greg Gagne (13:10)
This is a Weasel Suit Match from AWA dating back to 8/17/80. This is joined in progress. Basically, the stipulation is this, if Gagne defeats Heenan, Heenan will have to wear a weasel suit. Greg was the son of Verne, who ran the promotion, and people watched this match just to see Heenan get his comeuppance. Gagne pounds on Heenan in the corner for a little while until Heenan actually gets some offense in with what is probably a loaded cast and even some near-falls. I don’t know who the worse worker is, Gagne or Heenan. The company may not have tanked if they let Heenan run with the title a bit. Gagne beats up on Heenan some more, then puts the sleeper on him and surprisingly Heenan fights back. This is way too long for a manager vs. wrestler match. They keep going back and forth, we get a referee bump, and Gagne wins with a bodypress from the second rope. It came to about 8 minutes and change of what we saw. Bobby refuses to put on the Weasel suit, so Gagne puts a sleeper on him to knock him out, then forces the suit upon him. As I said, this was way too long for a manager vs. wrestler match. The stipulation would be used again, in almost exactly the same manner, by the WWE some ten years later in a match between Heenan and the Ultimate Warrior. Boring match (DUD), but entertaining post-match activity. Bobby waking up in the weasel suit is just classic.
3) Jim Cornette vs. Paul E. Dangerously (6:36)
This is a Tuxedo Match between the two managers from 1989’s NWA Great American Bash (7/23/89). The whole point of this match is to strip the opponent out of their tux down to their underwear. Luckily, the WWE would use women in these types of matches some 10 years later. This wasn’t so much of a match as it was two guys rolling around on the mat ripping each other’s clothes off. Cornette takes off Heyman’s, well, actually Paul E. Dangerously’s jacket so Paul E. cheats, throwing salt in Cornette’s eye then working on his injured knees with his massive Zack Morris cellphone. It’s funny they actually try to wrestle, with Paul E. using in-ring psychology to work over the knees. It’s about as fun and exciting as two guys undressing each other can be. Truth be told, in an event that featured a War Games match, a Flair/Funk title match (both coming in at **** or higher), this was the most different match on the card. Paul E controlled most of the offense but Cornette would pick up the victory at 6:22 when he strips Paul E. down to his underwear first. This is by far the best tuxedo match I have seen. This was just fun to watch, in a campy non-homosexual type of way.
4) Vince McMahon Interviews Freddie Blassie and Nikolai Volkoff (5:01)
They don’t put what year this was, but it looks late 70’s/early 80’s and Vince’s hair looked gooood. We’re talking Trump level good here. Nikolai is very young here, too. Freddie uses his catch-phrase (pencil-necked geeks) as they show a pencil-necked geek holding a sign calling Blassie a bum. Blassie goes off on some of the faces of the WWF at the time (including Monsoon, Garea, Strongbow, Calhoun, etc), and Blassie gets sure heel heat by making fun of the crowd and says their parents should’ve used birth control. This was actually very funny, and years ahead of its time.
5) Tony Schiavone interviews Jim Cornette (2:09)
This is from NWA World Championship Wrestling 06/29/85. Tony has a nice mustache and Jim won’t shake his hand. This is a promo for the Midnight Express and their first appearance in the NWA. This is his introduction promo and he’s a real jerk here, showing what a heel he will be.
6) Fuji Vice (8:01)
This was a real innovative skit back in the day. It first debuted on Tuesday Night Titans (a WWE interview show) on 05/07/86. Basically Mr. Fuji, manager at the time (though not featured in the main program oddly enough) recorded a skit with his wrestler, Don Muraco, where they spoofed Miami Vice. The acting and the writing was just terrible, but it was very different from anything WWE had ever done.
7) Vince McMahon interviews The Grand Wizard and Bob Duncam (4:57)
This is from All-Star Wrestling 04/02/75. It’s amazing footage this old is being seen on WWE DVD’s. That’s why I love these classic collections. The footage actually looks very nice for being over 30 years old. Like the Blassie interview, he calls out the big stars of the day, as well as Ivan Putski, the man he was feuding with. Duncam gets on the mic for a minute and you can tell why Wizard did all the talking.
8) Mene Gene Okerlund visits the Hart Foundation (14:25)
NYC houses the Office of the Hart Foundation and Mene Gene takrs a look at a segment that was on the Hart Foundation Coliseum Video I believe. Yep, Gene just confirmed it. Mene Gene is shown around the building and hits on the pretty ladies there. Mene Gene eventually finds the Harts and they are playing with WWE action figures. The interview is very boring, and tough to sit through for almost 15 minutes and Gene even namedrops Stu Hart. Bret was not a good talker here, at all.
9) Bobby Heenan wins the 1976 Manager of the Year Award (4:03)
This comes from AWA All-Star Wrestling on Christmas Day, 1976. Bobby and his family are in the ring and they present a trophy to Bobby Heenan. This leads to a donnybrook where Ray Stevens strikes Heenan, pissed at his treatment in the family. The family bails and Ray breaks the trophy. The family comes back and destroys Ray, then the faces run out to save him.
10) Capt. Lou Albano wins the 1985 Manager of the Year Award (4:35)
This is another gem ftom TNT, which aired on 09/27/85. This is another in-ring celebration. Heenan and Lou are in the ring waiting to hear who won the award. Lou was the face here, Bobby the heel. Bobby has over 500,000 votes making him the winner, but Hillybilly Jim, with 300,00 votes, gives Lou (also having 300,00 votes) his votes, making him the winner! Bobby is not happy, he attacks Lou with the trophy, then Studd and Bundy go to work on Jim.
11) Larry Nelson interviews Paul E. Dangerously (1:55)
This aired on 09/30/87 and comes to us from AWA Championship Wrestling. This is a standard Paul E. yelling promo with his huge ass cell-phone. He reads a letter from the mother of a wrestler he’s after.
12) “Together” Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth’s Wedding Video (3:30)
This first aired during Summerslam 1991 (08/26). I remember this event, a match made in heaven and a match made in hell, and of course, the match made in heaven was the marriage of Randy and Elizabeth. Something that had happened before but was not public knowledge until this ceremony. They show a lot of clips of Randy and Elizabeth from their years in the WWE together. It takes on a whole new meaning now that Elizabeth has passed on.
13) Sensational Sherri Visits The Funeral Parlor (3:58)
This is WWE’s way of killing two birds with one stone. Paul Bearer, manager of the Undertaker, had his own segment for a while and here, another manager, Sensational Sherri, shows up. This is from way back in 02/01/92. Paul Bearer had only been in the WWE for about 4 months at this time, and Sherri was with Money Inc. at the time. Sherri announces she’s in love with Shawn Michaels, and thus begins their relationship.
14) Bruno Sammartino Interviews Arnold Skaaland (1:28)
This is from Championship Wrestling, first airing on 05/27/80. Arnold talks about his partnership with Bob Backlund.
15) Sunny sings “Happy Birthday” (0:31)
This comes from the 02/19/96 episode of Raw. She sings Happy Birthday in a nightgown, there’s really not much else.
The video is just a standard full-screen presentation. The quality varies since some of the footage is very old, but since it is all WWE’s own personal library, even the old stuff is in great shape. Audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, but the same thing applies with the video based on age.
C) Packaging / Liner Notes
This is just a regular DVD case, with a couple of inserts. One is an ad for the Dusty Rhodes DVD (I passed on that one) and other collections the WWE will be putting out in 2006, or as the case may be, have put out already. I guess it explains why Benoit was still in it as he was still alive and not a murderer yet. This also came with a pack of cards featuring managers. I bought this on Ebay for cheap and I don’t know if all the DVDs came with it but I won’t open it.
D) Easter Eggs
1) Sensational Sherri (0:37) Go To Chapters, the second page, highlight Sensational Sherri, hit left twice. They show Sherri walking Shawn down to the ring, with the original version of Shawn’s entrance music (sung by Sherri) and Shawn Michaels (in a new interview) says she could shriek like no other.
The DVD starts with the usual WWE stuff: WWE 24/7, WWE DVD’s and the Don’t Try This at Home thing. They should fix that since Angle and Benoit are still in it. This was a very fun and nostalgic collection. It is very light on actual wrestling but that’s because of the content. It was all about the managers and for fans of the 80’s, there were some great, talented managers, and they actual do run through the best ones here. Even with the WWE Grudge against Macho Man, Elizabeth was one of the featured people on here. I would have to say this was a very good collection. I got this for very cheap on E-bay, and I don’t know if I would pony out the $21 for this on Amazon, but if you can find it for $10 or less, it is definitely worth it. I would’ve liked more wrestling matches, but as it stands it is a recommended disc.
9.0-9.5 Near Perfect, Highly Recommended
8.0-8.5 Really good disc, Recommended
7.0-7.5 Good DVD, Mildly recommended
6.0-6.5 Above Average DVD. Mildest of mild recommendations
5.0-5.5 Decent all around disc, but catch it on TV
4.0-4.5 Great Movie but horrible DVD
3.0-3.5 Horrible movie but great DVD
2.0-2.5 There’s at least some merit to this DVD, but not much.
1.0-1.5 Horrible DVD, don’t even bother
0.0-0.5 Worst DVD ever