7 Things You Learn As A Pro Wrestling Manager

3. "Sweet And Sour" Larry Sweeney Would Have Been The Best Professional Wrestling Manager Of All Time

1958 45324041183 6097 N "Sweet and Sour" who? If you only remember Sweeney for that one time on Raw when he played Nick Hogan in a sketch with Randy Orton and ate an RKO for his troubles, you really missed out on one of the most undeniably charismatic performers and someone who would've evolved into the best manager in pro wrestling history. Trained in Chikara Pro, Sweeney was an Oberlin College-educated ex-carnival barker who also spent time at a yoga and meditation ashram in India. Born Alex Whybrow, the character of Larry Sweeney (initially billed in Chikara as the "sweet guy with the sour disposition") is a fine lesson in the absolute and complete belief in one's outsized self-as-chatacter (and how that outsized self-as-character fits into the magical, wacky and wholly carny universe of pro wrestling) is intrinsically linked to a) standing out and b) being a superstar. Sweeney's gimmick was that of the quick talking, perpetually-hustling and always seeming just a bit past-hit-prime 70s and 80s Southern territory wrestler. Equal parts Bill Dundee, Austin Idol and Eddie Gilbert, what he lacked in height and weight he more than compensated for with charisma. Sweeney believed so much in his gimmick that he actually had a custom title belt made for a promotion that existed only in the promotion he was the kingpin of in his mind - the ICW-ICWA Texarkana Television Championship. This belt was so "over" (as he was too) that he oftentimes defended in promotions (and once on his sister's college quad) in matches across the country. I first ran across Larry Sweeney as a manager/creative mind/young boy sitting under the learning tree in ex-ECW, NWA and AWA World Champion Steve Corino's 3KWrestling (later WORLD-1 and now PWF) in 2006. I was a fan of Sweeney's work and style, and when asked who I thought was in close distance to Philadelphia and deserving of a spot in 3K, Sweeney was my first choice. Of course, when I see the card for the first show, and I'm managing Larry Sweeney, I'll admit it, I was nervous. I was so nervous in fact that I pretty much blew every single spot we had in a six-minute match, and later on in the night, we couldn't cut a promo together because we were both so eager to say all of the exact same things. A combination of oil and oil, it seemed that this ideal situation was certain to become a nightmare. Enter King Kaluha and Tom Brandi. For those of you who are unaware, King is as 20+ year veteran of profession wrestling. He's worked just about everywhere with just about everybody, and was instrumental in accelerating the in-ring learning curve early Steve Corino's early career. Tom is not just Tom Brandi, but also was WWE's Salvatore Sincere, WCW's Johnny Gunn, and oftentimes on an independent wrestling show anywhere in America, The Patriot (and, sometimes, without the mask, he'll be Sal Sincere, too). At some point, Steve decided that King, Sweeney and I would be a group, and I named the group the Downtown Playboys. Based on the strength of belief in self-as-character of the strutting (his - and eventually ours as the Playobys - entrance theme was ABBA's "Dancing Queen") masked Hawaiian muscleman and ladies man teaming with the Southern superstar (in his own mind), I think I wrote a 1200-word backstory of how Sweeney, Kaluha and I came together. For the better part of 18 months, the 3K Wrestling tag-title scene was centered around the story of The Patriot and a partner of his choosing attempting to unseat the Downtown Playboys. Of course, if you look at how history plays out, it's Kaluha being handled by an in-ring and out-of-ring manager (As described earlier, Sweeney eventually became an incredibly gifted act in Ring of Honor) against Tom Brandi (and a number of other guys). From Sweeney grabbing his "12 Large" elbowdrop from a Brandi catchphrase to the combined 50 years of wrestling experience surrounding him imbuing his persona with a sense of history. Sweeney and I both benefitted. As well, from sharing that experience with him (and watching his work afterwards), I'm almost 150% certain that working with King and Tom in 3K is what took Sweeney from great talent to potential super-duper-star. There was nothing more bittersweet than seeing "Super Agent" Larry Sweeney's rise as a globally-respected manager in Ring of Honor getting eclipsed as he neared his tragic end via suicide by accused stories of drug abuse and the appearance of erratic behavior. As I stated earlier, from being a great wrestler, to being a great communicator, and moreover being a personality who understood himself as a character in the context of the world of pro wrestling, Sweeney is a legend who is absolutely gone before he could've had his most significant impact.
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Besides having been an independent professional wrestling manager for a decade, Marcus Dowling is a Washington, DC-based writer who has contributed to a plethora of online and print magazines and newspapers writing about music and popular culture over the past 15 years.