Last week, WWE announced that it had released a slew of wrestlers in the annual tradition of “future endeavor” post-WrestleMania announcements. Those talents were Cameron, Hornswoggle, El Torito, Wade Barrett, Alex Riley, Damien Sandow, Zeb Coulter and Santino Marella. Wade Barrett had already made plans to move on, so his release was a formality. Marella had also already announced his retirement from in-ring work. The others, however, were actively trying to get on TV. All of the remaining people who were fired had two things in common: 1) they were entertaining as hell and 2) they never really showed a pension for having great matches.
Damien Sandow’s release was the news that seemed to upset the most people. We all remember Sandow’s most entertaining moments: him remixing Randy Orton’s theme song, or his stint as The Miz’s stunt double, and for me, when he wore his robe outside to watch Mark Henry push an 18-wheeler on Smackdown one time. Sandow showed that he could be endlessly entertaining with a microphone, but — aside from the Money in the Bank cash-in attempt against John Cena on an episode of RAW — I can’t think of any great Sandow match. With WWE’s current TV climate where there are upwards of seven hours of TV a week, which demands that wrestlers are able to put on 15-minute matches every week, it was hard to see Sandow fitting in as an in-ring worker. But that doesn’t mean his entertainment value wouldn’t have been of use.
The same goes for the rest of the people who were released. (I’m omitting Alex Riley from the rest of this article because, well, I don’t have anything good to say about him. Sorry not sorry.) Cameron couldn’t wrestle, but she certainly had charisma. Marella was funny as hell. Torito and Hornswoggle added value to matches. These acts have a place in wrestling. Each of the people released would have served as tremendous managers, but for some reason WWE seems to be of the opinion that managers aren’t necessary anymore.
Since the beginning of time, wrestlers have been accompanied to the ring by mouthpieces — whether they be called managers, valets or advocates. For every great wrestler of yesteryear, there’s an iconic manager who helped. The Four Horsemen had J.J. Dillon. Hulk Hogan had Jimmy Hart. Andre the Giant had Bobby Heenan. The Undertaker had Paul Bearer and so on. And, for the most part, managers only added to their wrestlers’ appeal. Bobby Heenan, for instance, made us instantly want to see his wrestlers lose just by virtue of being around him. When WWE wanted to turn the beloved Andre the Giant into a villain, they paired him with Heenan. Even now Paul Heyman has carried most of Brock Lesnar’s storylines by being such a great talker.
Most managers in wrestling history were either former wrestlers who retired or got injured, or they were people who were interested in wrestling, but couldn’t cut it for whatever reason. So they decided to be talkers instead. Now the bar for who “can” and “can’t” wrestle is as absurd as ever. Wrestlers need to have matches that cover two or three TV segments to get any amount of TV time. There are plenty of talented wrestlers from the past who I’m not sure could make it based on the requirements of 2016. Take the New Age Outlaws. They were incredibly popular for their catchphrases and mic work, but they never had great matches or were asked to wrestle 20 minutes on RAW. Which means more wrestlers who can talk, but can’t have great matches are going to be cast aside despite the fact they’re entertaining and have fans.
That’s where managers come in. Imagine someone like Sandow being Apollo Crews’ manager. Imagine Cameron talking for Ryback — you’d want to see him get killed just to shut her up. And we already see what Zeb Coulter did for Cesaro. Hell, maybe a manager would have saved Roman Reigns from having to talk about his suffering succotash or tater tot balls or whatever.
For some reason a few years ago, though, Vince McMahon decided to get rid of managers. (Maybe the Kobe Bryan rape joke on national TV did it. I’m not sure.) It seemed to be one of those weird Vince hiccups that pop up every once in a while like when he stopped wanting people to pull tights. He just gets in moods where he wants to get rid of certain aspects of wrestling for reasons unknown to the rest of us. The only manager we have on RAW on a consistent basis is Ric Flair and he’s great. He’s helped make his daughter hated just by being his natural self at ringside.
As a result we have talents who don’t quite fit the superstar mold of 2016, but have value. And they end up being off of TV.
Instead of finding new ways to maximize the talent they have, WWE lost out on tons of potential storylines and ways to get their current wrestlers more over. Which is a shame. Because managers have been a vital part of wrestling since its inception, and they have the personalities to bring them back. Otherwise we’ll be seeing great workers who can’t talk on the same chopping block next year.