The WWE wrestlers get all the glory. Fans want the T-shirts and action figures of The Rock, Rowdy Roddy Piper, John Cena and Macho Man; they rarely care about the wrestling personalities that are on the sidelines. What about the announcers, promoters and managers?
There have been many wrestling personalities who weren’t predominantly fighters who’ve captured the imagination of wrestling fans worldwide. Some have even made it into the coveted WWE Hall of Fame.
The stars on this list may not have reached the heights of stardom like the best wrestlers, but many of them have diehard fans. More importantly, many of these wrestling promoters, managers and commentators have discovered some of the biggest wrestling talents in WWE history and helped shaped their careers. Here’s a look at the ten most successful and influential wrestling personalities whose work took place predominantly outside the ring, or on the sidelines.
10. Jim Ross
Jim Ross will go down in history as one of the best, if not the best, announcer in the history of the WWE. He is the voice of the WWE, and he has been there to announce the play by play and give the color commentary on the biggest and best moments in wrestling history.
There have been a few storylines that saw him enter the ring and face opponents like Triple H, but it’s his iconic voice and commentary are what make him an icon. Good Ol’ J.R., as he is affectionately known, recently left the WWE, and this year worked as an English language commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
9. Paul Bearer
Paul Bearer, whose real name was William Moody, was one of the greatest wrestling managers of all time. He became an icon as the constant sidekick of the Undertaker, but he managed many other big names in the world of wrestling.
Several WWE storylines incorporated Paul Bearer’s death. At one point CM Punk even stole Paul Bearer’s urn and poured his ashes over a defeated Undertaker. Last year Paul Bearer was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
8. Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman didn’t actually become part of the WWE team until 2001 after the WCW was bought out by the WWF, but his career in the world of wrestling goes back much farther than that.
He got his start as a wrestling photographer when he was a mere 13 years old, and his shots of Vince McMahon Sr. with Andre the Giant caught the eye of top wrestling brass and media types. He spent time writing for wrestling publications before becoming Bam Bam Bigelow’s manager in 1987.
Heyman has managed many huge superstars such as CM Punk, Steve Austin, Big Show, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam and Brock Lesnar, who he currently manages. Wrestlers managed by Paul Heyman are known as “Paul Heyman Guys.”
7. Bobby Heenan
His place in the WWE Hall of Fame cements Bobby “the Brain” Heenan as one of the greatest managers and commentators of all time. He and the wrestlers he managed were best known as being heels.
Wrestlers he managed were part of “the Heenan Family,” and the group has consisted of a number of huge wrestling stars such as King Kong Bundy, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, CM Punk, Big John Studd and even Andre the Giant.
Heenan himself has been an occasional wrestler, but it’s his managerial and announcing skills that have made him a true legend.
6. Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette’s time as a wrestling promoter, manager and commentator spans decades across multiple wrestling leagues from the WWF to the WCW and TNA Wrestling. He famously managed the tag team group the Midnight Express, and he helped launch and strengthen the careers of such wrestling legends like Owen Hart, Vader, the British Bulldog and Yokozuna.
Like Heenan, he was best known for managing heel wrestlers during his time in the WWF. The wrestlers in his stable were said to be part of “Camp Cornette.” One of his biggest contributions to the world of wrestling was as the founder of Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
5. Jerry Lawler
Jerry “the King” Lawler had a prolific career as a wrestler before becoming a commentator, but as part of the WWE he has rarely been a wrestler.
Since the moments when he has stepped in a WWE ring are few and far between, he is much better known as an announcer – and an amazing and entertaining announcer and commentator he has been. When he was paired with Jim Ross the duo had a knack for storytelling, as Ross would give the play by play and Lawler the color commentary. Lawler was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007, and he is currently a color commentator on WWE Smackdown.
4. Gene Okerlund
The buildup of tension and excitement for the biggest showdowns in wrestling history was accomplished thanks to “Mean Gene” Okerlund. He interviewed the biggest WWE superstars before and after their matches. His skills as an interviewer and announcer led him to be inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2006, and his iconic voice is recognized by wrestling fan the world over.
Okerlund has lifetime employment with the WWE, so he can stay with the organization as long as he wants. He currently does promotional work for WWE Classics on Demand. Okerlund won the WWF Slammy Award for best commentator in 1986.
3. Vincent J. McMahon
His son helped make the WWE what it is today, but it was Vincent McMahon Sr. that started it all. The history of the WWE dates all the way back to the 1950s when Vince McMahon Sr. launched Capitol Wrestling Corporation.
Eventually, Capitol Wrestling Corporation would become the World Wide Wrestling Federation then World Wrestling Federation and finally the WWE. McMahon Sr. saw great potential for pro wrestling to become a huge success, but he disagreed with his son and thought managers should only work behind the scenes. He also thought pro wrestling should focus on regional markets, rather than being a national spectacle.
2. Stu Hart
Stu Hart was never a part of the WWE, but his shaping of the league and the world of pro wrestling in general is hugely significant.
He trained and launched the careers of a plethora of wrestling superstars, including his sons Owen and Bret Hart. He was an amazing wrestler himself, and was also a stupendous all-round athlete, but it’s his work as a wrestling promoter, manager and trainer that make him truly influential.
As the founder of Stampede Wrestling he introduced pro wrestling to thousands of Canadian fans. His wrestling school “the Dungeon” is where his sons learned the basics, and it’s where other future WWE stars like Chris Jericho, Edge and Mark Henry were trained.
1. Vince McMahon
The WWE would not be where it is today if it weren’t for Vince McMahon. He has shaped the league into a wildly successful entertainment franchise, and his in-ring antics as his character Mr. McMahon have always been memorable and entertaining.
He has been so successful that many have wondered how the WWE could possibly survive after he leaves. By recruiting talent like Hulk Hogan, McMahon made pro wrestling far more successful that it had ever been before. He innovated the idea of a wrestling promoter being part of storylines, and his dream of being a wrestler himself has led him to enter the ring from time to time with extremely entertaining results.