Managers and Valets
February 1, 2007
I wrote the following for my ďStorm FrontĒ article for ďFighting SpiritĒ Magazine, back in November, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
This month on the Storm Front I thought I would take a look at the role of Managers and Valets in the wrestling business and why there are so few of them in the industry anymore. Managers and Valets have always been a big part of the wrestling business. I remember back in the day when pro-wrestling managers were a staple of the wrestling industry. Back when I became a wrestling fan the WWF had Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Miss Elizabeth, Lou Albano, and Freddy Blassie. The NWA/WCW had Jim Cornette, Paul Ellering, Paul E. Dangerously, and James J. Dillon. Even on the Indy scene they had the likes of Eddie ďThe BrainĒ Creachman who worked for International Wrestling out of Montreal, Stampede Wrestling in Calgary had Abu Wizal, as well as JR Foley. Wrestling Managers/Valets were in integral part of the wrestling industry and were responsible for generating a lot of heat.
In todayís wrestling landscape Managers are practically non-existent, and Valets, for the most part, serve very little purpose outside of their T and A value. So I guess the question is; Why the drastic change, and perhaps more importantly is this a good or bad thing?
First lets take a look at the current Manager/Valet scene in the two major North American companies. TNA has Traci Brooks (now managing Bobby Roode) and Gail Kim (AMWís Valet). Itís too early to tell what if any value they place on Traci but Gail has actually served as a fairly useful Valet (though with AMWís pending face turn that may come to an end). In WWE we have numerous Divas but few of them have a purpose apart from those who actually wrestle on RAW. Michelle McCool is a full-fledged Valet, Ashley appears to now be a regular Valet for Kendrick and London, and they have recently put Amy (former Diva search contestant) with Jimmy Wang Yang. With 2 of these girls being with baby faces they will have very little purpose (more on this in a minute) so Michelle is the only real Valet who might have long-term purpose. On the Manager front we only have Armando Alejandro Estrada on RAW with Umaga.
Before we look at the why, letís look at whether Mangers/Valets are even needed in todayís wrestling landscape. I think they certainly are; I think Managers and Valets can serve a huge purpose and can add to both a feudís heat and the value of whomever they manage. Dawn Marie added so much to my character in ECW. She added to my personality and presence and also allowed a lot more creative options for me during matches in regards to drawing heat and creative finishes. Lance Storm would have had far less value on the whole in ECW without her. Bobby Heenan is another great example of a Managerís value. Heenan was an amazing talker and could pretty much get anyone or anything over on the microphone. The majority of the Hulkamania era, Hulk Hogan feuded with Bobby Heenan and whichever henchman Heenan was managing at the time. Heenan was a proven heat magnet and talker and Hogan could headline with virtually anyone he managed. Jim Cornette is another great illustration of a Managerís value. His stuff with the Midnight Express is some of my fondest memories as a wrestling fan. Jimís promos were incredible and The Midnight Expresses matches were superb. With out Jimmy as a mouthpiece I doubt anyone would have pushed Bobby Eaton despite how amazingly talented he was and on the same front obviously no one would ever pay to see Cornette wrestle on a regular basis. Each complimented the other and as a unit they had tremendous value. The whole was much greater than the sum of its parts.
So with such obvious value why are there less and less Managers and Valets. I think there are two reasons for this, one is the change in the wrestling landscape and the other is the short sightedness of people in the industry.
The drastic decline of the wrestling territory has significantly changed the wrestling landscape. There are so few territories anymore and most Indy promotions donít have a television show to air their product. With out a TV show there are fewer angles and feuds and a lot less need for good talkers and Managers. If you never get a chance to cut promos you are never going to be a good talker. Further more from an Indy standpoint budgets are very tight, and Managers and Valets are additional paychecks you have to cover without actually filling another spot on your card. With budgets being tight and no TV to capitalize on their value quality Managers and Valets are luxuries most Indyís canít afford. With the industry producing less experiences and skilled Managers and Valets the WWE and TNA have less to choose from and are stuck deciding whether they want to create and train their own.
This brings us to the second problem. I find a lot of the people involved in the creative process today donít have the years of experience in the wrestling industry to properly see or utilize the value of a Manager or Valet. When you look at the current creative process we see numerous Hot Valets being placed with Baby Face talent. This makes no sense to me. An additional body at ringside creates an advantage and allows for interference and cheating, which is why traditionally Valets were put with heels. If they are at ringside with a baby face they end up having no purpose apart from being nice to look at. If they are with a heel they can be utilized to create heat as well as be used to allow the baby face some measure of revenge should he be on the losing end of the match. Do you remember my big PPV win over Tommy Dreamer at Hardcore Heaven? I needed the strong win to elevate me to main event status and we protected Tommy by having him Pile Drive Dawn Marie and get a measure of revenge for her impersonating Beulah.
The current creative thought is (Iíve experienced it first hand) that you canít put a Hot Chick with a Heel because she will be cheered and ruin his heat. This is of course naÔve thinking and to me proves a lack of understanding of the wrestling business or at least a lack of faith in ones booking/writing ability. When I had Dawn Marie as a valet people still booed me, actually they booed me more because she was with me. They would initially cheer when she came through the curtain, because she was hot, but once I came through they would boo me, and I think a lot of that was because they resented the fact that she was with me. If you book effectively you can make them boo or cheer anyone.
With Managers the same short sightedness comes into play. Iíve often heard the complaints that all the heat is with the Manager instead of the Wrestler. I donít see why this matters, heat is heat. Heenan had the majority of the heat in the Hogan Feuds, as did Cornette with the Midnight Express. Instead of continually searching for the perfect performer who can work like Benoit and talk like Cena, the industry might be better served letting the Eatons and Corenttes of the world compliment each other, to create heat and draw money. The perfect individual may not exist so why not just create a perfect entity or Unit?
Thatís my 2-cents, for what itís worth.