The Absolute Best Wrestling Jobbers of All Time
Okay, one of my not-so-secret guilty pleasures has been my unabashed love for pro wrestling. Since I was seven years old, I have loved the spectacle, the sport, the commentary, the pathos. Wrestling was a jock soap opera, and the surprises and twists and turns always kept my friends and me captivated.
Times, sadly, have changed. My appreciation for their talents is still there, but the feeling is not the same as an adult.
Kayfabe is gone, probably forever. Internet spoilers ruin the returns and surprises that used to be fodder for an entire school week. And my biggest peeve is that there just aren't any quality gimmicks anymore. We used to see snakes and birds. There were dancing white men from "deepest darkest Africa," tax men, birdmen, all men it seemed.
Now, there are a bunch of monochrome stiffs who would've never been within 50 feet of a microphone 20 years ago. They would have had managers do their talking. Pay-per-views were built up for two to three months instead of four weeks. And that is where the genesis for this write-up brought me: I miss the wrestling jobber.
Understand, I'm not talking about a Santino Marella, who still gets a real ring introduction replete with pyrotechnics and music. I'm talking about a guy who was already in the ring, wore a cheap satin jacket and hailed from locations like "Schenectady, New York" or "Scranton, Pennsylvania." The more ridiculous the hair and mustache combination the better. And bonus points for being as pale as the paint on your bathroom walls.
So without further ado, let's give props to the greatest jobbers in my lifetime. The guys who not only made main-event quality wrestlers look great, but elevated abject scrubs like Big Bully Busick, Max Moon, Glacier and, of course, The Shockmaster.
No. 11: Rocky King
At No. 11 on the list is a personal favorite of mine, Rocky King. As a young black kid in central California, you just did not see many pro wrestlers on television in 1987. There was the Junkyard Dog, Koko B. Ware and, occasionally, "The Natural" Butch Reed (replete with a ridiculous blond haircut). That was really it.
So seeing Rocky King on television week in and week out was a bittersweet treat. Too young to understand the way the business worked, I foolishly got my hopes up for poor Rocky before he was left laying in a heap.
But he did have one moment in the sun. In the middle of 1987, he was used as a prop to elevate Ronnie Garvin to NWA World Champion status by being the guy Garvin came to aid as Ric Flair chose to make an example of him.
As a wrestling historian and being aware that many other wrestling fans are highly knowledgeable about the other gimmicks of wrestlers, I will not go further than point out that at the end of his NWA/WCW career, King was booked as "Little Richard Marley," the effeminate manager of the reincarnated Fabulous Freebirds.
No. 10: The Italian Stallion
You have to love the 1980s. Everything was in play, especially in wrestling. Mullets, midgets, turnbuckle eating animals. It was like one of those clubs that SNL character Stefan talks about on Weekend Update.
Best of all, you had promotions that were totally unafraid of ripping off hot pop culture topics/people/music and making them their own. Before Hulk Hogan was a Real American, he had the "Eye of the Tiger" as his theme music. Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji combined to make a classic spoof of Miami Vice. It goes on and on and on (and YouTube thankfully has it for prosperity).
But my personal favorite was the jobber known as "The Italian Stallion." Talk about blatant! The Crockett family (promoters of the Mid-Atlantic region of the NWA in the 1970s and 1980s) took a run-of-the-mill wrestler named Gary Sabaugh, who may or may not have actually been Italian, and a jobbing legend was born. Except, he didn't look like or remotely resemble Rocky Balboa!
To his credit, Stallion was a high-end jobber. Meaning he actually got to beat other jobbers, as evidenced by the video.
His claim to fame was being the man "unmasked" as The Midnight Rider in 1988 when the whole world knew it was Dusty Rhodes. Talk about a "Dusty Finish." Sabaugh would continue to job well into the 1990s in the WWF.
No. 9: Tom Stone
Now, we're talking! One of the guys who came to epitomize the look of what we knew as "preliminary" wrestlers was Tom Stone. Overweight, pale as the moonlight the Joker danced in and rocking the black singlet, Stone was a regular on WWF syndicated programming. A heel jobber, Stone would usually get run over by rising bigger faces or the occasional middling face (think Koko B. Ware).
To his credit, Stone was a real pro. You hardly saw a match where he didn't do a decent job selling, and he acted the part of roguish jerk. This, of course, made it easy to love the guy who was about to beat the brakes off of him. His big moment in wrestling came from winning (via disqualification) against a livid Jake "the Snake" Roberts leading up to the 1990 Survivor Series.
No. 8: Jim Powers
You know, some guys just never get a break in this business. One of those guys was Jim Powers. As I got older, I wondered why he was never given a real push. Powers had the look, certainly had a good physique, and as you can hear by the girlish cheers in the clip, was a classic babyface.
Yet the only mild run Powers got was as half of the tag team The Young Stallions with Paul Roma. Of course, most people snicker when hearing Roma's name, knowing full well he is the most mocked member in the history of The Four Horsemen. But Powers never got a sniff of that opportunity before retiring in 2010 from wrestling.
No. 7: Pete Doherty
Easily the most comical wrestler on the list, at No. 7 is the "Duke of Dorchester" Pete Doherty. A toothless heel who managed to somehow bite his way through most matches, Doherty is lovingly known as Boston's favorite jabroni.
Beginning in the 1970s, Doherty worked mostly as enhancement talent but carved a name out for himself with his in-ring actions. Much like Ric Flair had his famous flop, Doherty, too, had a signature move: After getting stuck in a full nelson headlock, the Duke would stick his legs on the ropes, forcing a break. He would then typically land on his head after the hold was broken.
Having worked almost exclusively in the northeast region of the United States, Doherty would occasionally work as a heel commentator. To say he was bad is being generous, but it was never boring. After retiring in 1997, Doherty made sporadic appearances for local and larger promotions in the Boston area before being inducted into the New England Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
No. 6: The Mulkey Brothers
At No. 6 is the only tag team in the group. They get a special distinction because of the comical gimmick slapped upon them at the apex of Hulk Hogan's run in the 1980s. The Crockett brothers turned jobbing brothers Randy and Bill Mulkey into the team that started Mulkey Mania.
On March 28, 1987, the Mulkeys faced the hyped West Coast tag team champions "The Gladiators." After years of being beaten within a minute and to within an inch of their lives by teams like The Andersons, The Midnight Express and Manny Fernandez and Rick Rude, a moment in the sun had some for the brother in purple.
The best part about this is that the Mulkey's went right back to jobbing after their moment. But not before Mulkey Mania was born, complete with their own t-shirts.
No. 5: SD "Special Delivery" Jones
Now we start on the top half of the list, with another solid guy who never seemed to get a real push anywhere. Billed from the Caribbean, the late SD "Special Delivery" Jones was a good worker and a great guy to get heels over. Like The Italian Stallion, Jones was the guy at the bottom of a card who would occasionally defeat another jobber in dark matches or those filler matches between high-end feuds.
Jones wrestled in the WWF for the better part of three years. Without a doubt, his biggest moment in that promotion was being a part of the original WrestleMania. It was there he was pinned by King Kong Bundy in a now infamous nine seconds.
The reason I loved SD Jones so much was because he bought me a few more rentals from the video store as a kid. You see, my father hated wrestling. But he saw Jones perform a sunset flip in that amazing Coliseum Home Video montage they had on all the WWF wrestling tapes from the mid- to late 1980s. As such, he looked at him and said, "Who is that brotha? Does he wrestle on this?"
My response was always, "He's at the end of the tape." So thanks, Mr. Jones. And rest in peace.
No. 4: Leaping Lanny Poffo
Before he was The Genius, Lanny Poffo was the late Randy Savage's poem reading, sequin jacket rockin', Tony Orlando-looking kid brother. His was the look of a jobber original: pseudo Prince Valiant haircut, not-quite-full mustache, sequin jacket and, of course, no knee pads.
Preceding every match he would have (and usually lose), Poffo would read a poem that would amuse the audience but invariably anger his opponent into beating the tar out of him. The thing is, though, Poffo was a very talented wrestler. A good grappler, he was best known for being one of the original high-flyers in wrestling. Poffo would break out moves like the moonsault long before they became common in America.
Most people who watch wrestling will remember him as "The Genius." That was a clever gimmick for an intelligent man who could cut a good promo on the microphone. But Leaping Lanny will always be the guy I remember. If I could only have caught that frisbee!
No. 3: Barry Horowitz
The first member of the top three is definitely a classic. Barry Horowitz was the type of jobber who you loved to see get beat. I mean, the guy would literally pat himself on the back before his matches started! That was golden.
Of all the wrestlers on the list, Horowitz was by far the best actual wrestler. He had a decent skill set.
But for whatever reason, Horowitz languished as a jobber supreme. He seemed to be on television every week, the way the Coyote would continuously chase the Road Runner fruitlessly. Then, he got his first real push, beating the late Chris Candido (aka Skip the Bodydonna) on WWF Superstars. The immortal call of "HOROWITZ WINS! HOROWITZ WINS!" by Jim Ross was one of the highlights of my teen years.
A mild push was all it turned out to be, but Barry Horowitz deserves his place on this list. A great wrestler, decent enough on the mic and just enough charisma to make you want to see him get beat up without much promotion. Quality stuff if you ask me.
No. 2: Steve Lombardi (aka the Brooklyn Brawler)
This selection is probably going to be controversial to some. Many see Steve Lombardi as the epitome of a jobber: You know him well enough to know he's going to get beaten by someone else. And yes, Lombardi has worked dutifully for the WWF (and WWE) for nearly 30 years. There is no taking that away.
Really, I am splitting hairs. When it comes to being the greatest loser in wrestling history, I had to deduct because for a time, The Brooklyn Brawler (Lombardi's gimmick until retirement) was managed by Bobby Heenan. You know, the greatest manager in wrestling history. So, I can't in good conscience have him at No. 1, despite his amazing ability to put faces over.
Because Lombardi won, he loses.
Seriously, Steve Lombardi has always been lauded for his ability to work, sell moves, and for being a pro. Being No. 2 is nothing to be ashamed of.
No. 1: Iron Mike Sharpe
To be the best at being the worst, you have to have a certain flair (no pun intended). Iron Mike Sharpe always had that flair. Billing himself as "Canada's Greatest Athlete," the man from the city of Hamilton, Ontario, was a flailing, screaming mad man in the ring—who almost always lost.
Where do I begin? The hair. Mike Sharpe's hair looks like the brainchild behind the original toupee. It was really his hair, but it looked ridiculous. Perfect.
Then you had the mysterious black forearm braces he wore for most of his career. A subtle distraction that worked beautifully with the black trunks and black boots he wore. The contrast with this look and the body hair he had everywhere was perfect. The guy just stood out.
In the ring, he was a classic jobbing brawler. With no pretense of wrestling, Sharpe punched and whacked forearms. But he was at his best when being attacked. Every hold, every chop, every punch elicited a primal yell/grunt from him as he flopped around.
It was so comical, my friends and I emulated it when we would wrestle. Only Lex Luger comes close on the yell factor for taking a bump.
Ultimately, though, I chose Sharpe because from the time I saw him wrestle (beginning in 1986), I never once saw him win a match. Not a count out, not a submission and definitely no pins or submissions. Iron Mike Sharpe was there to job, and job he did. So kudos to Iron Mike, for my money, the greatest jobber who ever lived.
I would like to give an honorable mention shout-out to names like Scott Casey, Phil Apollo, Salvatore Bellomo and George South. I narrowed the list down to 11 guys (okay, technically 12). But if you have any thoughts, remembrances, disagreements, I would love to hear them. This was meant to be a fun column, and I had a blast going over it. Enjoy.