Managers: FS Reprint
Sept. 09, 2011
I wrote the following for my "Storm Front" article for the June issue of "Fighting Spirit" Magazine, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
My column this month is inspired by the passing of Larry Sweeny, but before I get started I want to pass on my condolences to his family and friends. I only met Larry one time but from the little I knew him he seemed like a great guy and he was most certainly a lot of fun to work with; he will be missed by this industry and those who knew him.
The one time I met Larry Sweeny was a ROH weekend where I attended shows in Toronto and Detroit, back in 2008. At the time Larry was managing Sweet and Sour Incorporated, and I was just doing an autograph signing at the event with the understanding that I was willing to do pretty much anything in the ring shy of having a wrestling a match to help out the show. Without any plans to build to a match, a great manager like Sweeny was the perfect foil to get me on the show, allow me to cut a promo, and do a little bit of physicality.
We had a lot of fun that weekend, and I was saddened when I heard of his death. He was one of the last of a near extinct breed of great managers. He was a hybrid cross of Bobby Heenan and Roddy Piper, and I believe if given the platform to do so he could have lived up to that level of performance. It's such a shame that WWE doesn't utilize managers anymore because they are becoming a lost art within our industry despite being, in my opinion, even more important today than they were in the past.
With an audience that is predominantly "smart" to the business, very few top heels can draw and maintain heat anymore. Almost all top heels are respected by the audience for being great workers and great heels. The fans know they aren't really bad people and that they are cheating simply because they are "heels", so as soon as a top level heel starts having great matches the crowd inevitably gets behind them because they appreciates their skill and hard work. This leads to either top heels with no heat, or eventual baby face turns.
This is why they turned Randy Orton, and the reason why, despite being a far better heel, HHH always ends up as a baby face. Why would a crowd boo a high level worker, with charisma, who can cut great promos? The answer is they almost never do, which is where managers could come in, and as the perfect example of this let's look at Michael Cole.
Now before everyone jumps on me and talks about how much "channel changing" heat Michael Cole has, or how damaging they think he is to the over all product in WWE, hear me out. Michael is the epitome of what a great manager should be; the only problem with what he is doing currently in WWE is that he is playing the managerial role while being the lead announcer. He is the perfect character just being used in the wrong role. If Cole was removed from the announce desk and used strictly as a manger, we would only see him 1 or 2 segments per show, which would be a much easier to take, and he would not overlap other angles and distract from them like he does now.
As a manager Cole would be perfect. He is a great talker, who generates tremendous amounts of heat, and as a manager there is zero chance the crowd will start respecting him for all the bumps he takes or great matches he will be having, because as a manger he won't be having any. Instead of feuding with another announcer (as great as Jerry Lawler is) and actually having matches, Michael Cole should be feuding with John Cena or Randy Orton and employing henchmen to fight his battles for him.
With Cole being the one to generate the heat, any heel that does his bidding for him gets heat by association. This provides a quick and easy way to step talent up the card; look at how the initial association with Michael Cole helped Jack Swagger. Now imagine how much more of a benefit this would have been if Swagger was wrestling John Cena on behalf of Michael Cole, rather than being the guy putting Jerry Lawler over to set up the Cole vs. Lawler matches.
In my opinion Michael Cole, as a manager, could be the single biggest asset WWE has over the next year as far as building talent toward the future, and if I were in charge this is exactly what I would do.
The fist step is getting Cole out of the feud with Jerry Lawler and getting him away from the announce desk. I would immediately build towards a Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole match where the loser is fired from the broadcast team and the winner gets to pick his replacement. In this match you have Jack Swagger attempt to interfere on Cole's behalf but John Cena runs down to neutralize Swagger, leading to Jerry Lawler picking up the win. This can lead to Jim Ross coming back and set up the Cole vs. Cena feud. Cena could use a boost as a baby face after his confrontations with The Rock so helping bring JR back and feuding with Cole would really help Cena getting cheered by the crowd moving forward.
Cole would be outraged that Cena cost him his job as a broad cast journalist and could vow to destroy John Cena's career in return. This can lead to Cole amassing a stable of men to destroy Cena. You start with Swagger and add heels as you go, allowing them to milk off Cole's heat while you test drive guys in that main event level spot. Guys, who do well in this spot, work longer programs with Cena and remain at the top of the card, while those who don't get beaten quickly before getting moved back down. Cena could run through countless challengers dispatched by Cole, keeping Cena busy most of the year, until it's time to build towards his match with Rock for WrestleMania.
This also allows the opportunity to create a very over baby face at the end of this run with whichever one of Cole's henchmen shows the most potential in a baby face role. An eventual turn on Michael Cole would create a huge bay face and allow for that top level program to start all over again with the new face in the John Cena role, as Cena moves on to face the Rock.
With this one program we would get: JR back on commentary, keep John Cena busy, most of the year as a universally cheered Baby Face, elevate and test several top level heels, and potentially create a new top level baby face. That's a Win, Win, Win, Win situation in my books, and all that from just one over heel manager. You need only look at Bobby Heenan's feud with Hulk Hogan in the 80's to see this concept at work. It worked once it could work again.
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