TCWNN #9: The End of an Era

Captain Lou Albano is dead. And so it seems is the era of the pro-wrestling manager.

Other wrestling managers have died before, of course, but none were as well known to the general public as Captain Lou. To the average joe, Captain Lou was THE pro-wrestling manager. The only other managers who you can even argue as being in that position in the public conscious are Bobby The Brain Heenan and the late great Classy Freddie Blassie. But more people remember the Brain as Gorilla Monsoon‘s nemesis at the announce table than they do as the head of the Heenan Family, and I’d wager most non wrestling fans don’t know about  Blassie’s famed contribution to pop culture (I speak of course of his popularizing the phrase “pencil necked geek”, made famous in a song that became a regular Dr Demento feature). Albano was one of those names that everybody knew, regardless of whether or not they actually watched the WWF in the 80s or not. Even if they just knew him from Cyndi Lauper videos, or just knew him as the loud fat guy with the rubber band beard, the average person knew who Captain Lou was, and that he was a manager of professional wrestlers.

More than likely, we are never going to see a manager with that type of “brand name” recognition ever again. And it won’t just be because Albano was one of a kind.

In times past, the manager was always used to fill in the blanks for a guy who was missing certain parts of the total package. Guy can’t talk? Put him with a talker. Guy having trouble getting the interest of the crowd? Put him with an established manager that the crowd has heat with. But the modern mainstream wrestling industry seemingly has no use for managers anymore, despite the overabundance of talent who need such assists. Every so often we get an Armando Estrada or a Larry Sweeney (and arguably, Vickie Guerrero), but other than that I am hard pressed to name any managers whose careers started post-Monday Night War. In the WWE especially, the manager seems to be a forbidden concept, something to be discarded the second it appears the wrestler being managed can get by on his own, regardless of whether or not this is true (as was the case with Estrada). The idea seems to be that every one on the roster should be as well rounded a performer as The Rock. Which is an understandable goal, but let’s face it; much like Captain Lou, The Rock was one of a kind.  What both men had in common was charisma.  And you can’t teach charisma.

Charisma is what makes the Sid Eudy’s of the world a marketable commodity. I’m totally fine with admitting that I’m a mark for Sid, but even I have to agree that he can’t talk, and can’t tell the proverbial wrist lock from an wrist watch. But he has charisma. There’s just something about that big blonde Michael Rooker looking fella that commands attention. He oozes danger and unpredictability, and that’s what made him a marketable commodity time and time again, to the point that even the anti-hoss ECW crowds treated him like a king during his brief tenure with the company.

But despite the charisma, Sid tended to have a marble mouth.  It made him look foolish, not dangerous, thus undermining his charismatic aura. What the man needed most was a full time manager to do his talking for him, something he has in fact had at various points in his career. But by the time Sid became a World champion, the WWE (then WWF) was already beginning it’s slow lean away from managers being an essential part of the programming.  And when he made his late 90’s return in the WCW, the idea of a manager had been scrapped almost entirely, replaced mainly with scantily clad valets.

Female valets, of course, have also been a staple of pro-wrestling, and in many ways served the same purposes as the manager. Of course they are now considered “Divas”, and are actually expected to wrestle. So instead of Rosa Mendes simply accompanying Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella to the ring during the “Glamarella” period of their careers (a completely unnecessary addition I might add, especially seeing as Santino was essentially Beth’s valet), we are treated to her flopping around the ring like a fish.

Ironically, the WWE fails to notice that when they utilize the “old school” style combination of wrestler and manager, or valet and wrestler, it almost always works BETTER than whatever other awkward pairing or triumvirate they utilize. Take the aforementioned Santino, who was at his best both as dim bulb Maria’s moronic jerk boyfriend and as Beth’s dim bulb boyfriend/mixed tag partner.  Once they stripped Maria of her cutesy clueless personality and began to split her off from Santino, the two began to flounder.  The same has since happened with Glamarella.

Yes, in my eyes, the era of the professional wrestling manager is more than likely completely over. The valet may live on for a little bit longer, because the WWE will always need an excuse to put more Divas on the screen,  but the manager is almost definitely dead.

And so is Captain Lou.

Rest in peace. The both of you.

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