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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Manager's Corner: Jim Cornette
August 15, 2003 by Kenneth Coker



In the Manager's Corner will take you back to a time when the heat for many stars was overshadowed by the heat of their mouthpiece or manager.

First up, is my personnal favorite, "The Louisville Slugger" James E. Cornette.

Jim Cornette began his wrestling trek back in the early 80's, as he was helping to write on a dirt sheet, as well as taking photographs for the Memphis wrestling territory.

The funny and ironic thing is that Cornette has probably surpassed most of the guys he took pictures of in popularity and notoriety over the years.

From there, Jim was given a shot at managing, as his first client was in that of a future legend of women's wrestling, and possibly the first valet to really be manhandled, in that of "Not quite Sensational, nor Scary yet" Sherri Martel.

Cornette would treck on in Memphis as Jimmy Hart's understudy, and eventually branch off towards Bill Watts's Mid South Wrestling Promotion in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It was there, that one of the most legendary tag team feuds or feuds for that matter began, as fellow Memphis castaways, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, better known collectively as The Rock 'N' Roll Express first tangled with Jim Cornette's Midnight Express team of Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton.

With tennis racket in hand, Jim Cornette was ready to play a set in the wrestling world.

The chemistry was there between the two teams, as Eaton's finesse in the ring coupled with Cornette's outlandish promises and Condrey's all around ruggedness were a good opposite to Morton and Gibson's teenie bopper ring personas.

Cornette came across as a rich Momma's boy, often referring to "Mama Cornette", who would help him with cash, and so forth along the years.

This storied feud between Jim Cornette and The Rock 'N' Roll Express would spill to Jim Crockett Promotions, and once again become the hottest feud in the country, as the two teams fought over the most coveted NWA World Tag Team Titles. It was around this time, that Big Budda Rogers made his debut as the bodyguard for Cornette and his charges. For those of you who do not know, Bubba would go on to make a name for himself in the WWF as The Big Bossman.

In the latter part of the 1980's, Dennis Condrey left the NWA, and was replaced by Stan Lane. The new Midnight Express combination was one that exceeded all expectations, as the team soared to heights that the original Cornette managed incarnation never reached.

Just before the beginning of the 90's Condrey returned with Cornette wannabe, Paul E. Dangerously and Randy Rose forming "The Original Midnight Express" based on the fact that the two did team under that name long before Jim Cornette took over the managerial duties for the team.

This move turned The Midnight Express babyface, ending a near five year run as the top heel tag team in wrestling.

From there, Cornette would mostly provide commentary in the NWA and was restricted to announcing duties till the end of his contract.

The next significant move in Jim Cornette's career came in 1992, as Smokey Mountain Wrestling was launched as an old-time Crockett feeling company out of Knoxville. The company did well in the initial years even working out an agreement with WCW, as The Heavenly Bodies (Stan Lane/Tom Prichard) would combat The Rock 'N' Roll Express in a feud that would recaptivate the feeling of the old Midnight-Rock 'N' Rolls matches of the years past.

Another high point for Cornette was when he not only joined the WWF, but had a working agreement with that promotion, as well. Cornette came into the WWF, as Mr. Fuji's translator, and quickly was involved as one of Yokozuna's managers at the time. For Cornette, it had to be a bittersweet moment, as now he had managed a World Champion in his illustrious career.

The WWF version of Camp Cornette featured some of the biggest names of the era with the likes of Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, Yokozuna, and Vader.

Cornette also managed an ill-fated New Midnight Express of Bob Holly and Bart Gunn, as well as Dan Severn during the NWA's brief prescence on WWF programming.

Sadly, though in the past decade Jim Cornette has lost two of the most dear things in this life. One was the real life "Mama Cornette', who unfortunately passed away a little over a year ago, while the other was Smokey Mountain Wrestling, as the company folded in the mid-90's.

Despite all the downfalls, Jim Cornette is still making a huge impact in professional wrestling today. Cornette is the owner of Ohio Valley Wrestling, a promotion based out of Louisville, KY, that is the training grounds for young WWE talent with developmental deals.

Cornette is certainly a holdover from the days past, and has achieved everything a manager would hope for.

Even to this day, "The Louisville Slugger" is still hitting home runs.

NEXT WEEK: The only manager in WWF history to guide Andre The Giant on a consistant basis, as well as a great WCW and WWF Announcer, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.

by Kenneth Coker..


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