Professional wrestling is known for its cast of unique characters, or gimmicks as they are often called by those in the know. Having a successful gimmick is crucial to a performer’s longevity, whether as a wrestler, manager, or other persona. People such as Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, The Rock, and Sgt. Slaughter are just a few who have made an iconic character that has been able to last for decades.
But not only are the men and women who step in the ring important, but also those who manage and promote a performer. The right verbal skills can take a great wrestler who can’t talk well, and make them a star. One man who was great at this was Louisville native, James Cornette.
As a youth, Cornette loved wrestling and would begin working for local promotions as a photographer and ring announcer at the age of 14. He got his first big break working for Jerry Jarrett as a rich kid turned manager, who was so terrible at his job that he would be fired after one match. This would begin a long stint with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in the 1980s, in which his loud mouth persona and trademark tennis racket made him a man the fans loved to hate. In 1986 Cornette suffered a severe knee injury during a scaffold match (in which wrestlers fought on a scaffold 20 ft high). Cornette was supposed to be pushed off the scaffold and caught by a fellow wrestler, but they misjudged his fall and he landed on his feet, blowing out his knees. From then on, Cornette tended to remain outside the ring.
From the late 1980s to 1990, Cornette would do commentary and manager work for NWA and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). In 1991 he began Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW) to promote more of an “old-school” style of wrestling. However, they lacked enough exposure, and it was closed in 1995. By 1993 Cornette had also begun working for the WWF/WWE. He was best known for managing the sumo wrestler Yokozuna. He managed several great wrestlers and also worked behind the scenes with developing new talent, and worked closely with their developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). Following an altercation with a wrestler, Cornette left WWE in 2005.
Cornette then went to rival promotion Total Nonstop Action (TNA) in 2006. He was the on air director of talent and worked to make several changes in the way the promotion would be presented. After his tenure ended with them in 2009, Cornette worked with Ring of Honor (ROH) as a producer and booker until 2012.
Following his departure from Ring of Honor, Cornette has stepped away from the world of wrestling. He now focuses on his health and other personal projects. That being said, we may not have seen the last of the great tennis racket welding loudmouth.