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If you consider yourself a fan of wrestling or if you have ever watched the spectacle that is Sports Entertainment, chances are you’ve seen a crazed, loud mouth manager wielding around a tennis racket.
Jim Cornette in his early 90s run with the WWE. photo: wwe.com
That man, Jim Cornette, has been a fixture in the wrestling business since 1982, and though he is best known to the public for his on screen managing persona, the man has quite literally done it all in the wrestling business.
I previously wrote an article highlighting the importance of having a manager and how it appears to be a dying art in the modern age. If you have seen the impact that Mr. Cornette has had on the business (and chances are you have), you’d be more than compelled to agree.
Depending on your depth of wrestling intake, it’s arguable what Cornette is best known for. He had a very successful run in WCW/NWA when he managed The Midnight Express to a pair of tag team titles.
In one of his most recognizable roles, Jim Cornette plays the role of Yokozuna’s spokesperson. photo: wwe.com
Later, Jim was recognized for his work in WWE for being the mouthpiece for then WWE World Champion Yokozuna. He has also spent time as a booker, promoter, and on screen management director, to name just a few hats that he has worn throughout his career.
Jim Cornette’s early career
It all started at the age of ripe age of 14 for James Mark “Jim” Cornette when he served as a photographer, ring announcer, timekeeper, and more for local promotions and even had his own wrestling magazine.
Jim was such a huge fan, that he had been to at least 1,000 live shows by the time he was 20. He was around so frequently, that eventually, then booker Jerry Jarrett approached a young Cornette and asked him to be an on TV manager for a local Memphis promotion. Jim gladly accepted and made his managerial debut in September of 1982 – a humorous gimmick in which he would be fired several times after just one match with a wrestler. His first gig saw him come to the ring with future manager Sensational Sherri.
Cornette would work the independent scene until 1985, when he began working for NWA/WCW. While there he would manage multiple personalities, having the most success with the aforementioned Midnight Express. He also managed Big Bubba Rogers who would later become WWE Hall of Famer – the Big Boss Man.
Early in his career, Jim Cornette manages Big Bubba Rogers (later he would become the Big Boss Man). photo: wwe.com
In 1989 Cornette’s role would expand with the company, when he became a color commentator for the company, while working beside fellow company legend Jim Ross on WCW’s Saturday Night program.
That same year, Cornette also became a booker and part of the WCW creative team, where he would help cultivate storylines and shape the television product.
Despite all of this success with WCW, Cornette has gone on record to say that he may be best known for a horrific incident that occurred Starrcade 1986. It was during a match between The Midnight Express and The Road Warriors where Cornette would take a fall from a “24 foot” high scaffold, a descent that would result in a blown knee ligament.
Jim Cornette joins the WWF, departs
Cornette had perhaps the most interesting period of his career from between 1991-1995. It was during this time that he helped develop Smoky Mountain Wrestling, where he would also serve as a booker, writer, and manager. The promotion only lasted 4 years, but it is well renowned for its popularity and a lot of the talented wrestlers that worked there at the time (The Funks, Dan Severn, The Smoking Gunns, among others).
Jim Cornette managing the Heavenly Bodies. photo: wwe.com
What’s interesting to note, is that Cornette was employed by the WWF during this time, as well, where he served as an on air talent, booker, and color commentator.
Jim would later state that SMW was his actual love and that he was using WWE as a way to finance it. SMW would close their doors in 1995, which led to Cornette joining WWE full time in 1996.
It was during his time in WWE that he would arguably find his most success, at least financially and in terms of mainstream appeal. He served as the mouthpiece for several WWE talents and helped a lot of “heel” talent get over – those who may not have been the strongest on the mic.
Cornette would be relieved of his booking duties in 1998 as a result of multiple disputes that he had with then head writer Vince Russo. Around 2002 Cornette became the lead booker and part owner of WWE’s developmental territory OVW. While there he helped nurture future superstars John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, and Dave Bautista – which is regarded as one of the greatest talent classes in history.
Jim Cornette during his run with TNA. photo: impactwrestling.com
Cornette was released from his contract with WWE in 2005 after a few backstage incidents were reported. One of those incidents involved Cornette slapping Santino Marella (Anthony Carelli at the time) because of Marella “no-selling” The Boogeyman.
Jim Cornette in TNA, Ring of Honor
After his release from the WWE, Cornette was not out work for long. He quickly signed a deal with upstart promotion TNA, where he performed as an on screen “managing director”.
Jim was let go from TNA in 2009, but again, quickly found work, when he signed with Ring of Honor just a few months later. He signed on with them to become their Executive Producer, as they had just recently signed a TV deal with HDNet.
The following year, he also returned to OVW to resume his prior duties as head booker. Cornette left OVW in 2011 and Ring of Honor in 2012, citing that he needed a break from professional wrestling and wanted to pursue other ventures.
Always an entertaining interview, an outspoken Jim Cornette shoots on his tenure with Ring of Honor (NSFW language)
What’s Jim Cornette doing now?
Cornette remains involved in the wrestling business, although mostly behind the scenes. He is currently partnered with memphiswrestlinghistory.com where he is producing a number of classic pro wrestling books, a few of which have already been released. His podcast, the Jim Cornette experience has gained a lot of momentum due to Jim’s honest, outspoken commentary.
While on television, Cornette was one of the most exuberant and entertaining talents you’ll ever see. His managing skills helped develop and prolong the careers of talents for nearly two decades. His backstage work is nearly unparalleled in the business. Cornette may not ever return as an active employee for a wrestling promotion, despite being very candid still about the modern product. Even if he is indeed done, his legacy is well intact and you’d be hard-pressed to find many that have had the impact on the industry that Cornette has.