wrestling / Columns

The Magnificent Seven: The Top 7 Non-Wrestling Characters From WCW

September 19, 2018 | Posted by Mike Chin
Paul E. Dangerously WCW

It has been over seventeen years since the final episode of Monday Nitro aired, effectively ending WCW as its own wrestling promotion before it was bought out by WWE. (For those sticklers in the comments section, yes, we could say WWE owned WCW even for that last episode, as Vince McMahon himself reportedly dictated the final card, and undeniably appeared on the show.) There are a great many fans who laugh off WCW this days for its inconsistent storytelling, over-reliance on former WWE stars, and tendency to promise matches it wasn’t ready to deliver on. All that’s not to get into the corporate chaos surrounding the company, which, above all other considerations ultimately led to its undoing.

Still, particularly for those of us who followed WCW in real time, the company does have its nostalgia value. For Cactus Jack’s absurdist amnesia angle, we also got him in a Texas Death Match with Big Van Vader. For booking Brutus Beefcake as the top challenger to Hulk Hogan at Starrcade 1994, we also got Hogan as one of the hottest heels in wrestling history after launching the New World Order. And Kevin Nash stealing the championship, leading to the Fingerpoke of Doom wouldn’t have stung half as bad had it not been preceded by Goldberg jackhammering Hogan into oblivion to win the title at the Georgia Dome in the first place.

So, this week’s column focuses on the good side of WCW, and to narrow in further, our focus is on non-wrestling, on-air personalities. While some of these individuals did wrestle a bit (or even a lot, more historically), the countdown is focused on talents who were primarily managers, authority figures, commentators, or referees in their on screen roles for WCW itself. This countdown is rooted in demonstrated talent and compelling storyline work, with factors like longevity and place on the card as secondary concerns. As always, my personal opinion weighed heavily.

#7. Colonel Rob Parker

It would be easy to laugh off Robert Fuller’s southern blowhard manager gimmick, Colonel Rob Parker, as a bad joke. Whether he was winning Harlem Heat as his slaves in a poker game (a storyline a variety of parties, including Parker himself, have revealed only narrowly missed going to air), managing the Stud Stable, or getting entangled with Sensational Sherri, Parker was a key cog in WCW’s storytelling, particularly from 1993 to 1995 (though he’d remain with the company up to 1998).

While Parker was no Bobby Heenan, he did embody some of The Brain’s ethos as a cocky, affluent big mouth, and more importantly as someone who embodied the old Heenan adage of wanting to “wrestle like a manager and manage like a wrestler”—playing the consummate chicken shit heel while not being afraid to take a bump or enter the fray for the occasional match. Particularly for his wars with the Rhodes family, Parker edges his way onto this countdown.

#6. Nick Patrick

It’s hard for a referee to truly stand out in wrestling, but WCW had its share of consisten , competent faces who became involved in angles now and again. There was Randy Anderson as the consummate professional and de facto face ref. Charlie Robinson started out with WCW, and got on the map for playing Little Naitch alongside Ric Flair. And then there was Nick Patrick.

After his own wrestling aspirations got cut short by injury, Patrick started refereeing for Georgia Championship Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions, only to hold on tight and find himself touted as a senior referee for WCW. He was competent in his role, and by virtue of his size—standing 6’2”–could believably direct traffic among the wrestlers.

While you can question the booking, Patrick demonstrated additional personality as the New World Order’s handpicked referee, and though his allegiance to the heel super group wavered over time, Patrick’s membership remained a shadow, following him for the rest of his days with WCW and occasionally leading him back into controversial scenarios.

All of Patrick’s fine work didn’t go unnoticed, setting him up to transition to WWE after the buy out, and work the final seven years of his career there.

#5. Tony Schiavone

Tony Schiavone tends to get a bad rap for his quality of work with WCW deteriorating as the years went by, and for being the voice of some WCW’s more obnoxious sound bites (not least of all, making light of Mick Foley winning the WWE Championship). However, Schiavone was a good-to-great play-by-play for years leading upto that point and, as longevity goes, a rock solid, consistent employee for the company.

At his best, Schiavone was less Jim Ross than Michael Cole, offering a relatively polished, posh take on the proceedings in WCW while treating it like a legitimate sport. He was the voice behind most of WCW’s most memorable moments, and so it’s a little unfair to dismiss his legacy in hindsight.

#4. Missy Hyatt

Sunny tends to get credited as wrestling’s first sex symbol, or some will defer to Miss Elizabeth for a more demur take on a similar dynamic of appealing to male fans via beauty over any real contributions to promos or the action in the ring.

Before Sunny and overlapping with Liz, there was Missy Hyatt.

Hyatt had a brief spell with WWE, recording Missy’s Manor interview segments that all parties involved were unhappy with. In WCW, while Hyatt’s career was largely scatter-brained, inconsistent, and prone to plot holes, she nonetheless remained a vivid presence as an interviewer, a cheesecake model, and a manager.

Hyatt’s tenure tends to go overlooked and underappreciated for it all happening before the Monday Night War era, but was nonetheless important in informing how sex might sell wrestling, besides which Hyatt herself was an underrated manager and wrestling mind in her own right.

#3. Harley Race

Harley Race was a legendary wrestler, no doubt, and he honored a tradition of the business in moving from being an in ring star into a managerial role. With his world title pedigree, he lent an immediate credibility to whomever he was seconding, differentiating Race from the Bobby Heenan’s and Colonel Parkers of the world as anything but comedic, but rather a serious coach, adviser, and meddlesome interloper.

While Race had made the choice to retire from the ring, he still had the talent and a body in reasonable enough shape to both deliver meaningful offense, and absorb a bump here and there. Thus, he was an effective heel corner man. While he’d manage a number of bad guys in the early 1990s, he’d be most synonymous with Big Van Vader, and particularly Vader’s time as WCW Champion. As a coda to his excellent managerial career, Race would make one last appearance for WCW, five years after he’d left to serve as the guest ring announcer for the Owen Hart tribute match that Bret Hart and Chris Benoit staged on Nitro. While Race’s contribution to that affair was small, he again lent his gravitas to the proceedings, not to mention a flicker of feel-good sentiment for him appearing one last time in front of his hometown crowd.

#2. Eric Bischoff

Eric Bischoff was a competent play-by-play man and, before there was a Mr. McMahon, Bischoff came out as the New World Order’s figurehead. He succeeded in generating heat—more than a cool heel like the Outsiders, he was the kind of heel fans genuinely paid to see get beat up. Moreover, he showed an admirable willingness to take a beating at the hands of performers ranging from Kevin Nash to Jay Leno to Ric Flair.

For this upper end of the countdown, the competition is stiff and I could understand an argument for ranking all three men in any given order. No doubt, Bischoff was the highest profile of these three, the most important behind the scenes, and the one with the greatest longevity. I’m leaving him at number two, though, for the uneven quality of his work as a broadcaster, and because his heel authority shtick, while excellent at times, and certainly influential, could also be grating and self-congratulatory at its worst.

#1. Paul E. Dangerously

The Four Horsemen and the New World Order will go down as the definitive heel stables for WCW, but it’s a shame that the group in between these two super groups’ heydays—The Dangerous Alliance—gets overlooked. From late 1991 to late 1992, the group was legitimately great, spotlighting Rick Rude as its main event heel, with a star-studded supporting cast of veterans Larry Zbyszko, Arn Anderson, and Bobby Eaton, femme fatale Madusa, and mid-card star on the rise Steve Austin. The mastermind behind the operation? None other than Paul Heyman, then known as Paul E. Dangerously.

Dangerously had been a heel color commentator until he was kayfabe fired and launched his faction to seek revenge. While Dangerously had already demonstrated his gift for gab, with the legitimate threat of a stable to shill for, he upped his game and signaled the masterful work he’d go on to do on the mic when he was at the helm of ECW, and later dominating the promo scene for WWE.

Ever the professional, Dangerously not only communicated the severity of the wrestlers he was backing and terrorized the faces, but also took his comeuppance beautifully, ultimately taking a beating from Madusa.

While this countdown focuses on on-air performance, as a background note, it’s also worth mentioning the degree to which Heyman really seemed to believe in the talent he had at his kayfabe disposal. Austin and Madusa, in particular, have cited Dangerously as important to their careers for not only believing in them, but actually serving as an excellent real life mentor at that stage in their careers.

Who would you add to the list? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Read more from Mike Chin at his website and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

article topics :

The Magnificent Seven, WCW, Mike Chin