Managing To Survive Part II: Tag Managers
October 28, 2006 by Daniel Johnson
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From the days of the NWA's Minnesota Wrecking Crew to the Midnight Rockers in the AWA to the current WWE Spirit Squad, tag partners have often had responsibilities similar to those held by managers. Tag partners like managers can perform many actions such as assisting his or her other half in a promo, escorting them to the ring, or interfering in their matches. Depending on the relationship between the tag partners, the line between having a partner and having a manager can either be extremely thin or remarkably thick depending on the circumstances.
When contacted through his official website, www.sterlingjameskeenan.com, Sterling James Keenan, a familiar face on the independent scene commented about the similar goals between tag partners and managers.
"A good tag partner will work with you to get the team over. A good manager works to get the wrestler he/she is with over. Both can be very beneficial to a wrestler's career," said Keenan.
One element that managers possess is that like tag team specialists, managers are often trained wrestlers.
Reached through, www.gambinobros.com, the online home of the Gambino Brothers Moving Company, Victoria Gambino commented on how she first became the manager for the Gambinos, a tag team wrestling in the IWC promotion.
"I actually didn't get into wrestling to manage I got into it to be a wrestler. I started managing because I thought it would be a great way for me to learn the business inside and out before I stepped into the ropes to fight," said Victoria.
Victoria later went on to mention what made her want to go into specifically managing a tag team, "As far as managing a tag team I feel that most tag team divisions are very diverse and competitive. Most tag matches aren't on the top of the card but you can bet that you won't see the same type of characters that you see in singles. I think that is why I wanted to manage a tag team you can really play off each other and go places with your character and mat work that most singles wrestlers can't do," stated Victoria.
Whether a wrestler is selecting a tag partner or a manager, having a relationship outside of the ring is helpful in order to acquire success. Mickey Gambino, one of the wrestlers managed by Victoria mentioned this detail in describing the method of choosing a partner.
"The only pre-requisite, so to speak, is that you get along outside of wrestling. You can't have two personalities that clash because you'll never get the true chemistry that you see some of the greatest tag teams have had. It can also help if you work [with] the guy a few times because the two of you can get the feel for the way you each handle and wrestle a match. It makes you more familiar with each other and the connection you see with the team members is much more genuine," remarked Mickey.
After being reached through, www.angelfire.com/wrestling3/jason_gory, IWC competitor Jason Gory went onto give his take on what is needed in order to select a partner for a successful tag team.
"The best way to choose your partner is [on] the basis of how well you know them. Their move set, attitude, even the way they think. If you have all or almost all of those components you will be a successful tag team," said Gory.
WWE Hall of Fame member, Nikolai Volkoff, when reached through his 2006 campaign site, www.volkoff06.com explained similarly that there are two different scenarios that can occur when putting together a tag team.
"In my experience the best thing is that [the tag teams,] they're working together. You know, they know each other, they know what they want to do and you know they are good friends and they have a good tag team," and continued "sometimes they put two people together you know just right on the spot there, the day of the match and you know sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, it all depends. I've been in both situations," detailed Volkoff.
Volkoff later went onto describe his experience in two tag teams. One of these tag teams included a manager while the other did not.
"When I was [a] partner with the Iron Sheik, we still had a manager, Freddie Blassie. [Blassie] was my manager and his manager and we got along together good," Nikolai said before mentioning tag wrestling with Boris Zhukov sans manager, "that was okay too because I know the business I know what to do, you know. It's a little bit more work, but that was okay."
In comparing tag partners to managers, the two can often be very different. This is often the result of tag partners having a much more physical role than managers.
Gory later went onto say, "The relationship between partners and managers can be completely different because: the manager isn't actually in the ring taking shots and having to defend himself."
As the two are sometimes strikingly different, the roles of tag teams and managers have often gone in opposite directions. While tag teams may be reaching a new level of popularity at one point, managers will vanish almost altogether from the limelight and vice versa.
Differences notwithstanding, the First Lady of Hardcore, LuFisto addressed the importance of both when contacted through www.lufisto.com.
"I strongly believe that tag teams and managers are essential to a wrestling show...You need diversity to keep the fans interested in a product. Tag teams are great to present different stuff that a single wrestle wouldn't be able to perform. Managers are great when it comes to spice up a match and fill out the blanks where a wrestler might have some difficulties such as mic work," commented LuFisto.
An important reason that tag partners can be compared to managers is that both can aid a wrestler in the entertainment and athletic aspects of wrestling. Though tag partners are often confined to in-ring competition and managers are left only to perform mic work this is not always the case.
When asked whether or not it was a necessity for managers to have developed mic skills, LuFisto replied, "It always depends on the gimmick, the character. A manager might not need to talk much as actions speak for themselves."
Likewise tag partners can be effective in acting as a source for wrestlers to develop their promo skills with. Marshall Gambino, a member of the Gambino Brothers Moving Company recalled some of his observations on tag team promos when contacted.
"Tag team wrestlers feed off one another during promos, a lot of times if one wrestler can't think of what to say the other can come up with something to say and help out with the promos. Again that goes back to chemistry. Having good chemistry within the team can make even the hardest promos easy," said Marshall.
Tag partners can differ from managers in their ability to add stress as opposed to reducing it. This is perhaps more likely the result of deciding on in-ring tactics rather than differences outside of the ring. When tag teams wrestle there are four bodies that need time and space to perform as opposed to the standard two.
Johnny Riggs, one half of the OVW tag team, the Riggs Brothers mentioned after being contacted through the official webpage of his team, www.theriggsbrothers.tripod.com the appeal of tag wrestling regardless of added pressure.
"Working in a tag team can be one of the most stressful things for numerous reasons, however its appeal is like that of a cage match, etc. a tag match is a gimmick in itself, something exciting for the fans to see, and for myself for example you can go into a business as family and make a living beating skulls as a brother tag team," replied Riggs.
The combination of having both a manager and a tag partner has often been effective in such cases as the WWF's Demolition, ECW's Dudley Boyz, and the regional tag team of the Heavenly Bodies. Contacted through www.patrose1.com, former Heavenly Bodies member, Pat Rose spoke of how a tag team can be effective along with utilizing their manager.
"I think it's effective in a number of ways. You have that third man and having that third man...there's more stuff going on, outside the ring, inside the ring and then you put it all together and it tells a story," commented Rose.
Rose later went onto mention what in his opinion was the most memorable storyline he had been involved in. The angle involved the Heavenly Bodies, which at that time was comprised of Rose, Tom Pritchard, and Sherri Martel.
"The angle we did on Memphis TV. See Sherri...was my girlfriend okay and I had to come out one week, and I...had a note in my hand and it read you know 'went to Houston with Tom see you later'. You know and it was like they left together and if you could have seen...the angle on TV from what Dutch Mantel and Lance [Russell] and all them told us it was great and they still talk about it from what I hear," recalled Rose.
On the other hand individuals are as diverse in the wrestling industry as they are in any other occupation on the planet. For this reason many wrestlers choose not to have a manager or be in a tag team. One such wrestler, who has gone the majority of his career thus far without a tag partner is IWC competitor Shiima Xion.
When asked what made him first want to compete as a singles athlete, Xion replied, "To be honest, I didn't want to share my spotlight with anyone else. I'm used to being on my own, and I have trust issues with others...so I decided that if I were to ever become a successful wrestler, I would get there on my own. I think that way works best for me, too."
For more tag oriented wrestlers the use of strength in numbers can be an efficient tool when used in storylines. When all members of a group appear as a legitimate threat through matches and promos, one angle can be used to make a variety of wrestlers look creditable rather than just one or two.
Following being reached from www.shirleydoe.com, independent wrestler Shirley Doe recalled what appealed to him about the Unholy Alliance stable regarding promos.
"I think it's the same as a match - give and take - if one of you is better at getting points across, that's what you do. It's pretty easy," noted Doe.
Currently tag wrestling and managers have noticeably become less and less common in wrestling's limelight. Though both still have places in the industry the growth of these roles is questionable.
Doe went onto state, "I wish that tag teams were as important today in wrestling as they were when I was growing up."
Similarly Riggs addressed the state of tag wrestling, "Tag team wrestling is most definitely a lost art. Something that needs to comeback to the mainstream, tag team wrestling has always been exciting for fans and a success for the business, part of what this era is missing."
The argument can be made and it is plausible that tag teams and managers are two unrelated entities that have nothing to do with one another business wise. However both tag wrestling and the use of managers are two positions, which have undoubtedly helped build wrestling into the industry that it has become today. For this fact alone, both of these roles having partly faded away in recent years is regrettable.
by Daniel Johnson
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