Ranking MVP, Zelina Vega, Arn Anderson and the Top Managers in WWE and AEW Today
The role of a manager in professional wrestling was once one of the most important staples of the business.
Greats such as Captain Lou Albano, Jimmy Hart, Sunny and more were responsible for injecting character into some often otherwise dull wrestlers. They cut promos for those who didn't have the gift of gab and even got physical to help score victories and draw heat.
At times, the managers stole the show and were the real act to watch, rather than the Superstars themselves. That is why you can remember The Heenan Family but not necessarily each member.
Eventually, the concept as a whole went dormant. For most of the 2000s, there were few managers at any particular time and it seemed the position was lost to time.
Lately, though, there has been something of a resurgence in using such supporting characters. Whether classified as managers, valets, advocates or mentors, there are several different talents in WWE and All Elite Wrestling occupying this type of position.
And just as there are wrestlers who stand out above the rest, the same is true for managers.
Let's take a look at all the manager-types on the two rosters, break down their strengths and weaknesses and establish a pecking order of the worst through the best out there today.
Outliers for AEW and WWE
Sometimes, the distinction between the leader of a stable and a manager can get fuzzy.
Is Seth Rollins a manager for Murphy and Austin Theory, considering he commands them, speaks for them and directs their actions? Does that apply to Mr. Brodie Lee with The Dark Order in AEW, too?
It's hard to compare them with true managers, so they should be excused from our list.
The same applies to Brandi Rhodes, Penelope Ford, Matt Hardy and Billy Gunn, who were outclassed.
Rhodes is ringside for AEW matches featuring The Nightmare Family, but she doesn't do enough to justify a top-five spot.
Allie has stopped supporting The Butcher and The Blade as The Bunny and moved on to standing alongside QT Marshall in The Natural Nightmares, which hasn't gone too far in the past month or so.
Matt Hardy has just started mentoring Private Party, while Michael P.S. Hayes and Gunn have yet to boost the latter's son, Austin, much out of the roster reserves.
Ford is coming into her own as a member of the women's division and provides some valuable interference here and there.
There are two managers in WWE who just simply didn't make the cut for a lack of quality.
One is Malcolm Bivens, who hasn't done anything but stand next to Indus Sher three or four times and cut about one minute's worth of a promo in total. Maybe there's something there, but it's too early to tell.
The other is Lana, who has been more of a detractor to anyone she works with than a benefit.
Her character has been one of the worst this past year, and her storylines with Bobby Lashley, Liv Morgan and Rusev were often insufferable.
She's now partnered up with Natalya and it's likely that duo won't do anything to break the mold and turn Lana into a great manager.
AEW: No. 5. Leva Bates
Leva Bates is far from the best manager AEW has to offer, but she's at least carved a niche for herself.
Unlike all the serious ones above her on this list, her character is entirely comedic and exists to be laughed at alongside Peter Avalon. That's what The Librarians have been from the start.
It's a compliment to say she does well at failing miserably, as that's her job.
While someone like Brandi doesn't do much to stand out with The Natural Nightmares, Bates has her own distinct gimmick, has committed to her role and helps push along the story of Avalon and Brandon Cutler's rivalry.
At some point, the act will get too stale to sustain itself—which may even be soon—but for now, she's worthy of this spot.
WWE: No. 5. Scarlett Bordeaux
Scarlett Bordeaux isn't a traditional wrestling manager; she's more of a valet type, akin to Sensational Sherri.
Her task is to provide a dark and alluring atmosphere to accompany Karrion Kross, help get over what their characters are all about and eventually interfere on his behalf.
With her lip-syncing their entrance music and setting the vibe, Scarlett has made Kross stand out as something more special than your run-of-the-mill monster.
It will be interesting to see how much more she does over time, particularly when there are fans back in attendance and when she starts stepping into the ring to wrestle.
AEW: No. 4. Arn Anderson
Despite Dusty Rhodes regularly feuding with The Four Horsemen, Arn Anderson has acted as a mentor for his former rival's son, Cody, for several months.
The connection those two share is much stronger behind the scenes than on AEW itself, though.
Anderson is fine as a father figure and a believable legend who can pass on knowledge to someone he's seen grow up and into his prime, but there's one big flaw: Cody doesn't need it.
The former Horseman isn't the one cutting promos, directing traffic, helping Cody win matches or much of anything tangible. It's more about what he represents than what he actually does.
Having Anderson in his corner means Cody and AEW as a whole can be taken more seriously, as it feels more real that someone would seek out the guidance of a family friend who happens to be a legend of the ring.
At worst, Anderson is just there for the sake of being there; at best, he's helping legitimize Cody's grit and character while acting as a sacrificial lamb if someone wants to attack him to get at The American Nightmare.
WWE: No. 4. Robert Stone
If this list was ranked solely on success rate, Robert Stone would be at its tail end. However, like Bates, he's a comedic character who serves a different purpose.
At first, the Robert Stone Brand did have legitimacy as he guided the career of Chelsea Green. She was on the upswing, and his clout was rising with each of her wins.
Once WWE decided to split them, he's been on a downward spiral, which has been interesting to watch. The cocky attitude has been replaced with what looked like a nonstop bender and sleepless nights.
Stone's redemption story, partnering with Aliyah and trying desperately to latch himself onto the success of Rhea Ripley, has made him an interesting part of NXT to watch going forward.
It's the most interesting thing Aliyah's been part of in a while, so factoring that in with his pure entertainment value has him at our No. 4 spot for WWE.
AEW: No. 3. Tully Blanchard
What separates Tully Blanchard from Arn Anderson is how much more hands-on the former has been with his client, Shawn Spears.
Granted, the two haven't fully worked out a winning formula, but they're at least trying hard to do so.
In a way, Blanchard is the one thing keeping Spears from fully devolving into a total jobber.
There are examples of this, such as when Spears had Blanchard's face on his underwear. Instead of turning that into a running gag, the veteran scolded his charge and set him on a different path by giving him a black glove to wear.
Blanchard comes off like a true mentor trying to shape someone who has all the tools to succeed in the ring but little direction in how to use them.
At some point, this duo is going to click with the right storyline.
WWE: No. 3. Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman has put more work into the creative process in WWE this past year than just acting as Brock Lesnar's personal advocate, but that doesn't preclude him from our list.
There have been some nights when Heyman has cut almost the same promo he's been using for years, but there's no one better at getting a feud's central theme across while building up his client when he's on fire.
Half the mystique of Lesnar is Heyman's hype. He does the heavy lifting for every one of The Beast Incarnate's feuds and finds a way to always come off as slimy, yet trustworthy.
You believe he believes what he says, and when those results are backed up, he has all that much more of a right to boast "I told you so." He's the type of guy you hate to admit is right, but you know he is smart enough that you have to listen to what he's saying.
And yet, he's also a fantastic weasel who can't throw or take a punch but acts like he can so long as he knows his client can save him.
Heyman will always be in the running for one of the best managers of all time, but he's being outclassed in 2020 by two others on our list for WWE.
AEW: No. 2. Taz
The partnership between Taz and Brian Cage is still fresh, but it's yielding some serious fruit.
Cage is a specimen of what a professional wrestler should look like, and having Taz by his side has provided a much needed distraction from anything else.
Whether this was the plan or not, Taz is effective because he draws just enough attention away so that all Cage needs to do is look tough, beat someone up and his job is done.
There's no criticism of his mic skills, exposure of any lack of character or anything that would hurt his rise to the top. Taz is a loudmouth and Cage looks like a guy who can back up those words.
They're still getting into a groove, but since Cage has yet to lose to Jon Moxley and could well become the next AEW world champion, it's uncertain how far this will go yet.
However, nobody could ask for more than what we're seeing already.
WWE: No. 2. Zelina Vega
It's been clear from her debut in NXT that Zelina Vega runs a tight ship. It may have some leaks at the moment with Andrade and Angel Garza getting into it with each other and Austin Theory being excommunicated from the group, but that's not her doing.
In many ways, Vega is just as responsible for Andrade's entire success in WWE as he is. While he brings his own wrestling skills and bravado to the table, she's given him promos and character.
Her interference is frequently instrumental in the group's victories, and she commands great respect with her words. It's easy to buy into her being cutthroat and competitive when she is so feverish all the time.
That passion makes her engaging to watch and draws a ton of attention toward Andrade, Garza and anyone she's associated with.
If it weren't for one more person who has swooped in and stolen this year, she'd be the top of our list for WWE.
AEW: No. 1. Jake Roberts
What Taz does for Cage, Jake Roberts does for Lance Archer in his own, unique way.
There are parallels, as both men are the talkers for monsters who seem nearly unstoppable.
However, Taz is all about brute strength and force, so if Cage loses against Moxley, a lot of his magic will be rendered less effective.
That isn't the case with Archer, as Roberts is a more cerebral advocate. There's always something sinister lurking in the background of his mind, no matter whether he's babyface or heel.
We know Cage is powerful, but it's what we don't know about The Murderhawk Monster that's truly scary.
Roberts brings the reputation of a legend like Anderson, Blanchard and Taz, combined with the interesting character of Bates and the verbal skills to create a mystique for Archer he wouldn't have on his own.
By himself, Archer is just another big guy; with Roberts, he's an enigmatic savage.
WWE: No. 1. MVP
In January, MVP made his return at the Royal Rumble to wrestle what seemed to be his farewell match.
Within no time, he was back in the WWE shuffle as an in-ring performer and an even better asset as a manager.
There was a slight misstep with Shane Thorne and Brendan Vink, who haven't been on Raw in weeks and have seemingly been forgotten about. And rejections from Edge and Drew McIntyre added to a rough start.
But MVP has gotten into a fantastic rhythm with Bobby Lashley that has helped save The All Mighty's career.
This is the best Lashley has looked in years and the most credible he's been since his return to WWE in April 2018.
MVP has also started shaping Apollo Crews by proxy of this United States Championship feud, which may see Crews as his next protege in due course. That experience will likely do wonders for Crews, too, and could be the difference between him being a career midcarder and someone with main event potential.
No one in WWE is more effective as a manager at this particular moment than MVP, and it will be interesting to see who else on the roster he can improve and how.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.