ESPN: What's the role of a good wrestling manager?
Jimmy Hart: I felt like the hood ornament on a Cadillac. I made sure that if I was with the Hart Foundation, then I wore the hearts on my jacket. If I was with the Honky Tonk Man, then I wore the musical stuff. I just made sure that whoever I managed up there, I wanted to dress like them and carry my megaphone. It was great. I always felt that the fans were scared of the wrestlers I managed. They knew that they couldn't beat up Ted DiBiase, but I let them believe that they could kick Jimmy Hart's butt. I always played that sissy role and my voice would get high as I acted scared, but that's all part of giving people their money's worth.
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ESPN: How come WWE doesn't use as many managers these days?
Jimmy Hart: You know what, I really don't know. You'd have to ask Vince that one. I know for a while, they were only using the girls, and the girls were like eye candy and it seemed like there was a girl for every wrestler. Then all of a sudden, they started letting the girls wrestle, so now, you don't see a lot of valets, but you see the girls wrestling. So I think they overloaded themselves with girls going to the ring and people kind of saw through that after a while.
ESPN: It seems like there are a lot of guys today who could use a mouth piece, someone to help them draw heat. Some of these guys could really benefit from a Jimmy Hart comeback.
Jimmy Hart: I love you for saying that, but here's the thing, back then, we got to do our own interviews. They would come to us and tell us you had two minutes, and that's how we had to draw our money. It was about being quick and clever and trying to say the right things that made the people want to pay $20 or $30 or $40 to come see these guys. That made us a little different, which was great for us back then. People always ask me what Vince McMahon and the WWE did for me, and I always tell them the same thing: They gave me the keys to the world. And they really did, and I've always been so grateful.
ESPN: You had a ringside view of some of the greatest matches of all time. What one match stands out as your favorite?
I always felt that the fans were scared of the wrestlers I managed. They knew that they couldn't beat up Ted DiBiase, but I let them believe that they could kick Jimmy Hart's butt. I always played that sissy role and my voice would get high as I acted scared, but that's all part of giving people their money's worth.
”-- Jimmy Hart
Jimmy Hart: Bobby Heenan was managing Ric Flair at the time, but Bobby had hurt his neck and he couldn't go on the road, so I got to manage Ric against Hulk Hogan. That was one of the biggest thrills for me, to be in the ring with Ric Flair and getting the response from the crowd with Ric, and then for us to be there when they introduced Hogan, it was unbelievable. But you know what, none of that would've taken place if it wasn't for my experience in Memphis with Memphis wrestling. The biggest thrill for me was to get the call from WWF and to hear that they wanted me. But when I got the call, I thought it was a joke. I thought it was a rib. I was on the road at the Days Inn in Nashville, Tennessee and I was told that I got a call from Vince McMahon. I didn't believe it. I didn't even call the number. A week later, I get a call from a guy named George Scott who was one of Vince McMahon's bookers back then, but I still thought it was a joke and didn't call them back. Finally, Hillbilly Jim calls me up and asks me why I'm not calling these guys back. I finally called and the rest was history. It was the greatest phone call of my life from Vince. I'm glad I finally called him back.
ESPN: When you saw Hulk Hogan for the first time, did you know right away he was going to be a big star?
Jimmy Hart: Let me tell you a true story. Jerry Lawler always denies this, but it's the truth. I remember back then, before I went into wrestling and I was still playing with The Gentrys, we were playing two shows a night, and before our show, I would always go down and watch the wrestling matches. One night, I'm at the Coliseum and Lawler was there. He grabs me and tells me to look through the curtain. In the ring was this big, blonde-headed guy. Lawler asked me what I thought of him and I said: "King, he is a monster." Lawler then says that the kid just asked him to be his manager and that he'd give Lawler ten percent. But then Lawler turns to me and says: "Jimmy, there is no doubt about it, this kid will never make a dime in this business." To this day, Lawler denies this, but the more he denies it, the more I bring it up because you could just tell when you looked at Hogan that he was special. He always stood out.
ESPN: What's it like to see your legacy live on in "Legends of Wrestlemania?" They even have you cheating in the game, putting the Honky Tonk Man's leg up on the rope so he won't get pinned.
Jimmy Hart: Being in this game and being on the cover is phenomenal. You know the Academy Award Mickey Rourke didn't win? Jimmy Hart just won it. [laughs] And that's the truth. This is going to be in stores around the world and a whole new generation is going to play the game and see this crazy guy with all the crazy jackets. I'm psyched. It's just like Jakks Toys, the company that puts out all of the figures. Their biggest success has been putting out figures of the legends. This past year and a half I've had a three pack with Greg Valentine and Honky Tonk (Rhythm and Blues), and then there was one with me, Hulk Hogan and Brutus (The Mega Maniacs), then there was one with me and the Hart Foundation.
I just went out and got another tuxedo jacket made with the hearts on it so I can start wearing it around for all my personal appearances and autographs so when people see me, I'll look just like I do in the video game.
ESPN: If you look at the roster in the game, is there someone on there who you've never had the chance to manage but would've liked to?
Jimmy Hart: This might not be a big favorite of everybody, but I would've loved to have been with The Ultimate Warrior. We did his theme song when he went to WCW, and I think he would've been great to manage. Stone Cold would've been great. The Rock would've been great. Triple H, I would've loved to have managed him. That would've been awesome.
The thing about this game, though, is it really brings me back to a different time. It was just a great, great era back then. Imagine going to work every day and you walk in and see Andre the Giant playing cards with Arnold Skaaland. Then you turn around and there's Bobby Heenan telling jokes and keeping everyone happy. There's Mr. Fuji playing pranks on everybody. Honky Tonk Man is tuning his guitar. Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid are feeding their dog Matilda. Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik are rehearsing the Russian national anthem. You've got Koko B. Ware feeding Frankie the bird. It was just so much fun.
ESPN: That sounds like a really strange dream.
Jimmy Hart: But it was a dream come true for fans, it really was. Like I always say, the past will live on in the future, and that's exactly what THQ captured with this game.