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Point/Counterpoint:  Can Babyface Wrestlers
Benefit from Having a Manager
May 2, 2003


The Face Stands Alone
by Tony Kowalski 

Can a wrestler succeed as a babyface while having the traditional mouthpiece manager accompany him to ringside? Hell no. In the end, the fans want to see their heroes overcome overwhelming odds to triumph in the face of adversity. This doesn't work if another person stands there claiming half of the credit, a person whose presence indicates that the hero would not have been successful were it not for his guiding hand. Ultimately, the hero must face his demons and conquer them alone.

To be cheered as a conquering hero denies the basic dynamic that exists between a manager and his/her wrestler. That dynamic states that the manager is the brains of the outfit, while the wrestler is the muscle. As a heel tandem, they form a symbiotic relationship that echoes the toady/bully relationship seen often in everyday life. The toady does the talking for his somewhat thick-witted counterpart, and generally instigates the conflicts in which the bully defends his smaller and mouthy associate against those who would like to litter the surrounding landscape with the toady's teeth. The toady stands at the side shouting encouragement and may even deign to trip the poor soul whom he baits into the scrum with his hired gun, but for the most part he lets the bully do the dirty work. If the two were to ever face off, there is no doubt that the bully would prevail, but at the same time there is no doubt that the toady is in charge of the symbiotic unit that they represent.

The same goes for the wrestler and his manager. The manager talks for the wrestler, who cannot convey his thoughts and intentions to the fans as articulately as is needed to get over. When the wrestler picks fights, he is doing so at the behest of the manager. The manager is the driver of the 18 wheel truck of doom that is the wrestler, and the wrestler runs down anything at which the manager steers him. Whether it is a "brains behind the brawn" gimmick, a "handler of a wild beast" gimmick, or a "hired muscle" gimmick, one point remains the same; the manager is in control of the machine.

This is where the dynamic of the relationship would fail a tandem trying to get over as fan favorites. The fans cheer for the wrestlers who go out and smite their foes in the most entertaining way possible. Hence the Rock gets cheered for talking proverbial circles around his adversaries. But would the Rock have been cheered so wildly if some smaller, squirrelly little man standing next to him had been explaining to his opponent how the Rock was going to check him in to the Smackdown Hotel? Unlikely. Would Steve Austin have t-shirts if Ted DeBiase had spoken for him after his King of the Ring victory, proclaiming the meaning of "Austin 3:16" to all within earshot? Doubtful. If a wrestler requires a manager as a mouthpiece, it's the same as saying he's not entertaining enough to connect with the fans on the level necessary to succeed as a face. The fans can't connect with a wrestler through his manager. A middleman in the equation means that the fans are one step further removed from the wrestler in question.

A face with a manager also runs into logistical problems in the wrestling world of suspended disbelief. If the manager is the brains behind the operation, it stands to reason that the wrestler is the extension of that manager's will. Thus an evil manager will field a wrestler who does evil things, and conversely a good manager would field a wrestler who would fight on behalf of truth and justice. This works in a heel tandem because both parties are equally loathsome. One is giving the orders and the other is carrying them out with enthusiasm. It is easy enough to believe that a wrestler who would commit atrocities at the behest of another might be willing to do the same thing of his own volition.

In a face relationship, the question "Why does the wrestler need the manager to tell him to be a good guy?" is begged. The wrestler seems no more than a ventriloquist dummy upon the hand of some nobler creature (which is a more than apt description in Test's case). Why would fans cheer someone who needs to be told to do the things they want to see? Would all of the Stunners that Steve Austin delivered to Vince McMahon been so satisfying had he been following the orders of some ringside mastermind? Fans want a wrestler who delivers the desired payoff on their own, not with the coaching of another.

Another problem the face tandem of a manager/wrestler would run into is the manager's role once the match has begun. Is the manager supposed to stand idly by and watch the match? If the wrestler can stand on his own in the match, his need for a manager is diminutive. Look at Brock Lesnar. His in-ring arsenal has more than compensated for his inexplicable need to start and finish every sentence with the name of the person to whom he is speaking. On the other hand, if the manager is going to play a more active role in his client's matches, then he is undermining their role as babyfaces. Good guys don't have their manager pull the ref out of the ring to keep them from losing, if you catch my drift. Guys like Eddie Guerrero can get away with cheating and staying in the fans good graces, but that's because Eddie delivers in and out of the ring better than 99% of the other wrestlers in the industry. If a charisma face-plant like Rodney Mack tried to get over as a face with Teddy Long throwing shoes at his opponents, it probably wouldn't work.

What it all boils down to is that managers are provided for wrestlers as compensation for some kind of deficiency in most cases. A wrestler can't speak, so they give him a mouthpiece; or a wrestler who has spent the last few months jobbing could get a manager to explain his reversal of fortune. But fans don't like deficiencies in their chosen ones. They will cheer for these deficient wrestlers despite their flaws, yet they will never elevate them in their minds beyond a certain point. If these wrestlers were given managers, the fans would see it as what it was, an obvious attempt to cover up for that wrestler's shortcomings. But those shortcomings represent the adversity that the fan wants to see the hero overcome, and it's unlikely that he will ever cheer a wrestler for taking a shortcut like a manager to get around it.

Going Beyond The Archetype
by Eoghann Irving 

There is no disputing that the traditional manager archetype is a weasely little man who cheats and talks for his heel client. It's a nice archetype that serves not only to make the heel wrestler look physically impressive, but also builds up his heelishness and gets around any speaking limitations the wrestlers might have.

There are numerous examples of this style of manager, most recently Teddy Long and Paul Heyman, but the tradition goes back many years. However, just because that is how managers have been traditionally used, does not mean that there is nothing else you could potentially do with them.

Wouldn't it be great if we could give managers to face wrestlers like RVD or Test who have few, if any, acting skills? Using the traditional manager archetype clearly would not work in this scenario. What would a face be doing with such a blatantly heelish manager? It defies logic even beyond wrestling norms. What then if we actually took a step beyond tradition and redefined the role of the manager?

What about presenting us with a less blatantly evil character for a manager? Give us, say, an individual who is obsessed with seeing his client win, but does not actually run his mouth off at every opponent. Imagine a scenario where this manager introduces a new face wrestler to us. He comes down to the ring with his wrestler and joins the commentary team for his matches, taking the opportunity to really sell his wrestler.

What if that wrestler then gets stuck in a bad run of losses? Can you picture the increasing frustration from the manager? His pay is related to his client's success. He desperately wants to see his client win. We then get a series of incidents that are borderline. Maybe the manager interferes to stop the opposing wrestler's manager from spoiling the match. Maybe he attracts the ref's attention to some cheating going on.

However, that is not enough. Still his wrestler is losing. Each time coming close, but never quite getting that pin. Finally, he gives in to frustration. He blatantly cheats and his wrestler wins. However, the replay catches the cheat and the wrestler is furious. Here he gets a chance to define his true heroic nature, by turning his back on the manager and standing alone, a true underdog.

That's just one of the many new dynamics that could be introduced to wrestling if we finally move beyond the manager archetype. While archetypes are great building blocks for storylines, they can also be limiting if you never tweak them. Forcing all stories to abide by the archetype turns it into a straightjacket.

It's absolutely true that in order to reach the top level in wrestling, the wrestler must eventually part with his manager and stand alone. You cannot be a true main-event draw if you do not have the charisma and skills to do your own promos. That is true whether the wrestler is playing a heel or a face.

The manager is a character whose primary purpose is to push a wrestler up to the next level of fan awareness. He cannot miraculously turn a jobber into a main eventer. Eventually the wrestler stands on his own. Look at any top-level heel in the WWE, and you will see a wrestler who can stand on his own and talk on his own. So, the notion that heels are allowed managers but faces are not is essentially a red herring.

You could not credibly give Brock Lesnar or Bill Goldberg managers right now, however much they might actually need them. It simply would not be credible. Everything the audience knows about sports in general tells them that by the time you have reached the upper ranks, you are not a rookie anymore. You are an experienced, talented wrestler, who ought not to need any help.

Here is another potential scenario. Picture a retired wrestler who picks an up-and-comer and decides to mentor him. We are shown him actively coaching the new wrestler; maybe we even see this wrestler use one of the manager's signature moves.

Each match, the manager comes down to the ring with his student. We see regular conferring between the two men. The manager never interferes inside the ring, but he will on occasion step in for events outside the ring. The dynamic presented in this relationship is one of friendship and of tutelage. We are presented with a rookie, someone who has a lot to learn, but he shows heart. Again, this is the perfect underdog face. Someone who does not have the skill and practice of his opponents but who throws everything into his matches.

As I noted at the beginning of this, the way to make a face wrestler with a manager work is to look beyond the archetype. Look at how managers and coaches actually function in various other sports. By doing that we see that there are actually numerous new archetypes that we could apply to the manager character. And with those new archetypes come many new story opportunities.

Wrestling fans lately have taken to bemoaning the lack of anything new in wrestling. One of the reasons for that is the reluctance of the WWE to move away from the traditional storylines and characters that have served it so well over the last few years. One factor in that reluctance is oddly enough, the conservative nature of fans who, despite bemoaning the lack of anything new, are inclined to get very nervous when something new is suggested.

Take a moment to consider the two scenarios I have presented here. I didn't go into great detail, but I think there's enough there for you to picture the possibilities that they would offer. In neither case would the face wrestler have to look weak or as though he relied on his manager and could not function without him.


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