While it is going to be impossible to come up with a list of the top five managers in wrestling history without leaving some of our (and your) favorites on the outside looking in.
That being said, let’s give it a try.
The “Mouth of the South” has had a career that goes all the way back to 1978 when “The King” Jerry Lawler brought him into Memphis Wrestling to act as his manager. Once they split Hart would go on to take part in one of the greatest wrestling angles of all time as he paired with comedian Andy Kaufman to torment “The King”.
From there he would move over to the WWF in 1985 where he would get his feet wet by managing Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. It was later in his first year with the company that Jimmy would make his biggest impact outside of the Memphis territory when he helped form the legendary Hart Foundation.
Hart was named Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s “Manager of the Year” in 1987 while with the WWF and then again in 1994 while in the WCW. Most fans today probably know Hart as the loudmouth with the megaphone who seemingly has been side-by-side with Hulk Hogan for as long as they can remember. Behind the scenes, Hart has done everything from booking programs in WCW to composing the entrance music for numerous performers.
This might be due to my affinity with the old WCCW territory, but Gary Hart will go down as my personal favorite manager ever. During his run in the wrestling business, Hart managed some of the greatest performers to ever lace up a pair of boots such as The Great Muta, The Great Kabuki, Terry Funk, Gino Hernandez, and The Texas Outlaws (Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch).
While in WCCW Hart not only worked as an incredible mouthpiece for his stable of wrestlers but he also booked one of the best feuds in wrestling history between the Fabulous Freebirds and the Von Erich brothers. The casual or younger fans of wrestling may not remember how great Gary Hart was during his time, but it would be criminal to not include him in my list.
Talk about a name that is a lightning rod for controversy these days, Jim Cornette has been the master when it comes to getting under people’s skin. Modern fans may only know Cornette due to his feud with Kenny Omega or from his podcast, The Cornette Experience.
During Jim’s early years in the business, he was given the opportunity to manage a new upstart tag-team featuring two singles wrestlers that Cowboy Bills Watts threw together. Who were those two singles wrestlers? None other than Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton, known to older wrestling fans as the original Midnight Express.
It was this pairing that put Cornette, and his trademark tennis racquet, on the map as they would feud with the likes of Magnum T.A. and Mr. Wrestling II before kicking off an incredible program with the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express. Cornette and Bobby Eaton would move over to the WCW, but Dennis Condrey would not make the move as he would be replaced by Stan Lane. From there Cornette would head to the WWF where he would act as both a manager and as a booker behind the scenes.
He would eventually be given the opportunity to run OVW, which was WWF’s developmental brand. Jim also started his own promotion, Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but had to close its doors in 1995. If you are reading this and you haven’t seen Cornette in action, do yourself a favor and go watch some of his work with the Midnight Express. Well, after you finish this article, then go check out some of his work!
The current “wise man” of The Bloodline in the WWE has put together a ridiculous resume as a manager and mouthpiece of the stars.
Going all of the way back to the 80s when he was known as Paul E. Dangerously, the wise man burst on the scene as the manager of his version of the Midnight Express with original members Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose.
Constantly carrying around his cell phone, which was massive compared to today’s phones, Heyman had the gift of gab and was one of the kind of managers that we, as fans, would love to hate. During his run in WCW Heyman put together the Dangerous Alliance which is, arguably, the most underrated faction in wrestling history. This faction featured the likes of “Stunning” Steve Austin, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbysko, and Madusa.
After parting ways with WCW, Paul would have a pivotal role in the start of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) which, eventually, became THE alternative to the mainstream organizations.
Since returning to the WWE where he would have a stint as a commentator in the early 2000’s, Paul has been the example of what managers in the new era try and imitate. From being Brock Lesnar’s “advocate” to Roman Reigns’ “wise man” it is safe to say that Heyman will go down as one of the greatest managers of all time.
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
In my humble opinion, Bobby “The Brian” Heenan should go down as the G.O.A.T.
Heenan could play the crowd like a fiddle, and it always seemed like he had everyone right in the palm of his hand. While his career began in the WWA, the wrestling world really took notice of Heenan during his time with the AWA.
It was during his time in the AWA that he began the stable known as “The Heenan Family” which consisted of Nick Bockwinkel, Blackjack Lanza, Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, and Bobby Duncum Sr.
Heenan would go on to join the WWF in 1984 and the rest of his career in the business was seemingly spent trying to find someone that could take out Hulk Hogan.
During his run in the WWF Hennan would manage the likes of Andre the Giant, Paul Orndorff, Rick Rude, Harley Race, Mr. Perfect, and the Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard). Essentially the “who’s who” of heel wrestlers during the 1980s.
Though Heenan gave up managing as he would move to the role of commentating, his distaste for Hogan never waned. Famously Heenan caught some heat from the fans when he “spoiled” Hogan’s heel turn at the Bash at the Beach.
During the formation of the NWO Heenan would shout out “whose side is he on” as Hogan made his way to ringside. Fans looked at the above-mentioned line as The Brain spoiling the Hulkster’s heel turn but Heenan would let everyone know that he had no idea that Hulk was actually going to join forces with Hall and Nash. He was simply keeping kayfabe by thinking the worst of Hogan and it just so happened that this time, he was right!
While there are dozens of other managers that could have been included in this list and I am confident that there will be those that read this list that disagrees with my rankings but, in my eyes, The Brain was the best the wrestling business has ever seen.