Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Harvey Dale: Heel or Heal? By Robert Shade

In the glory days of US Wrestling back into the 80’s and the 90’s one of the aspects of the business which often drew much heat was of course the manager on the outside of the ring who in varying different ways would intervene in matches affecting the outcome although not always in favour of their wrestler, usually the managers would be ‘managing’ the heel wrestler although this was not exclusive, Miss Elizabeth for one springs to mind as an outside influence who sometimes would be managing the face in Macho Man Randy Savage but most of the other managers who we remember I am sure fondly included the likes of Bobby Heenan, J J Dillon, Jimmy Hart, Paul Bearer and Sensational Sherri and they were predominantly people who would manage the heels.

Let’s face it the role lends itself more naturally to interference to cheat, to help the bad guy get over, to generate heat from the crowd, if this can be achieved then the manager is doing their job and doing it well and adding a lot of additional value to the show.

The dying out of managers by and large co-incided with the breaking of kayfabe and the movement of WWE into the PG era, yes I know that there have been managers during and since those events but if you compare the number during and since to before those two momentous events in wrestling history there has been a clear and significant reduction in their numbers.

Why is this? I am obviously not in possession of the WWE or other leading promotions answer to this but my take on it is that since the breaking of kayfabe it must be more difficult for a manager to do his or her job sufficiently well to generate the required reaction from the crowd, yes anybody with sufficient self confidence can stand outside a ring and make a noise, they can interrupt matches and they will automatically as a consequence generate a certain reaction from the crowd but purely by those acts alone these days they do not necessarily generate enough of a reaction to prompt the WWE or smaller promotions to employ them and put them onto shows, it requires these days something a bit extra, somebody who has the ‘it’ factor when it comes to doing all of the above but also naturally getting the crowd in such a frenzy over them that genuine heat is felt from the crowd toward this individual, the point where the person performing the role of manager and almost invariably a heel one annoys people so much that even people who are very well versed in wrestling’s ways, even people who may know that person out of character and who like that person out of character that even those people are quite literally wanting to trip them up or punch them as they walk past!!!

To me globally the best in that role today remains Paul Heyman, he is of course though restricted in what he can do to a certain extent by the PG environment within which he works but he is clever, he is inventive and he is obviously persuasive enough to be a key factor in a recently very heated moment mocking Jerry Lawler’s heart attack, he is also somebody, when you look at him and listen to how he speaks he comes across so naturally as immensely dislikeable that it works, he works and it is because he possesses the tools of the trade, not just the ability to speak on a mic loudly but the ability to speak with intelligence, to possess the wit to instantly put down any off the cuff remarks coming his way, to be able to verbalise his statements in the correct tone of voice, changing the speed at which he talks at the crucial moment to maximise the impact, using his body language to support his words and of course vitally using his facial expressions to really emphasise the point which he is making.

Back in August 2012 I was present at Southside Wrestling’s event in Nottingham and the feud between Southside and The House Of Pain had been going on for a few months and was doing well but suddenly it caught fire, it really caught my imagination and the level of intensity around the feud went up several levels as out of the curtain stepped forward an extremely mouthy unpleasant looking and sounding character who just looked arrogant and smug and with a highly slappable face, this person who I had never seen before turned out to be Harvey Dale, there was some outstanding wrestling on that show some of which will live forever in the memory but the highest impact person on the night, the one that got the Southside side of the crowd so worked up that one lady threw a glass of water at him and also physically battled with him over him trying to get hold of a chair to aid his guy in the match was of course the man himself Harvey Dale.

Since then I personally have witnessed Harvey Dale in action at two other Southside events and the debuting Maxd Wrestling show and on each and every occasion he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, he possesses the tools which just make him the most effective heel manager I have seen in years and why he has the potential to climb much farther in the business given opportunity and more experience.

The reason why I title this article Heel or Heal is because Harvey Dale has it within him to change the business’ attitude towards wrestling managers, yes he is not the only one in the UK or elsewhere but I have not seen anybody make such an impact so quickly upon entering the business.

It is not just myself who has been impressed by Harvey Dale, I publish some quotes I received about Harvey Dale from other people in the business some of whom have been prominent players for some time:-

Tyson T Bone (UK Heavyweight wrestler - recent WWE triallist)

One word I'd use is passionate! In life and in wrestling! He is what you see, real life or wrestling life! Some one who wants to help and make things a lil different along the way but has a determination to help in anyway he can.

Diamond Dale Mills (Long time wrestling announcer/manager/commentator)

It seemed very rapid to me. I knew he was doing some shows as an mc/announcer but the next thing I knew he was being used as the voice of HOP. Seemed like an over night success story to me.

Mark Haskins (UK Star Performer,Dragon Gate, Former TNA)

Harvey Dale, from what I understand, is a very opinionated person and has no issue telling you his point of view regardless of how obnoxious he may seem by doing so. I guess that translates when he's in front of a live crowd, which makes him easily dislikeable and a top candidate as a mouth piece for the unpopular. I don't know as to whether he would fit in to a company in Japan or America, but I do know it's good to see him get knocked flat on his arse regardless of what country he's in.

Maxd Wrestling (New UK Promotion)

We love Harvey .. he knows wonderfully how to turn a crowd and work them so well ... in the ring the guy is fantastic ... as back room staff he is invaluable.

Brian Elliott (Editor of FSM Magazine)

There are other managers on the UK scene, like Chris Egan and Melanie Price, who do a fine job, but Harvey has a quality that all heels wish they had: that characteristic that fans can't quite put their finger on, but know that they don't like. Although their levels of brilliance are quite different at this time, in some ways that's what's made Paul Heyman successful in his WWE career on-camera.

What I like so much about Harvey Dale and why I am so excited about his potential is that despite achieving so many plaudits so quickly he is not resting upon his laurels he is constantly pushing for self-improvement, he is hungry and full of desire to go as far in this business as is possible and he totally believes in himself, when I spoke to Harvey he revealed that he has recently been speaking to and seeking advice for the furtherance of his work with various names in the business including Nick Dinsmore (Eugene), Greg Lambert, Gilligan Gordon (managed Dave Mastiff) and Charles Boddingtons (manages in Scotland).

I asked Harvey who his favourite managers from yesteryear were and how they each fed into his character now:-

Bobby Heenan - The greatest of all time, a thinking man's manager who used what he had to outsmart everyone around him....with Heenan it was always a case of HE was the draw and the talent he was with were second to him, if a talent got put with Heenan, they were elevated up to main event stature straight away!

Jim Cornette - Again, it was Cornette's brain and ability to insight the hatred from the crowd that drew me in. Loved his work!

Jimmy Hart - Annoying as hell and another with great skills to get his guys over.

I just liked the whole culture of it all, Captain Lou, Paul Ellering, Mr Fuji....even Slick and Brother Love to an extent. And then of course there was Sherri who was the perfect heel valet to Elizabeth's babyface!

I also asked Harvey how he would feel about being a manager of faces which is a much more difficult skill to pull off to be the good guy on the outside yet still make a lasting impression, such is Harvey’s self belief that without hesitation he proclaimed himself more than ready to face that head on.

Then I chatted away to Harvey about the limits of what he does working within a family show environment as both Southside and Maxd are and the fact that he manages to tread that delicate line of inflaming adults but not going too overboard and doing something totally inappropriate in front of the kids.

Then I asked a couple of specific questions about working an over 18’s crowd:-

What do you reckon you can bring to an over 18 show which you cannot to a family promotion?

Ha ha.....personality for one....the ability to insight a crowd to near 'riot' levels without fear of overstepping the mark of a family environment!

How far would you push it?

I'd push it as far as I could mate....the angrier I can make the crowd, the better the reaction....!

Stood in middle of ring with plastic beer glasses travelling through the air at you…?


I asked Harvey how he would like the next twelve months or so to go and his response was to name the opportunity to work in the following promotions:-

"I would love to break through onto some of the other top shows in the UK today. I am particularly fond of the work done by NGW up in Hull, Futureshock Wrestling in Stockport, Revolution Pro and IPW down in Kent, Infinite Promotions in Liverpool, Preston City Wrestling and of course the opportunity to work on adult shows such as Fight Club Pro and the amazing 'Progress Wrestling' in London would be fantastic. There is also a newly formed adult show in Manchester due to launch in 2013 called HXC that I would love to be a part of. I start with Full House Wrestling in Peterborough in February 2013 and of course we have big things planned already for Southside Wrestling, House Of Pain and Maxd Wrestling, so watch this space!"

My thoughts on what I would love to see Harvey Dale do in the next twelve months or so is to form a stable of heels all of whom would act according to his instruction and who would go around various different promotions attacking and taking out the leading faces in those promotions and in time to see his stable have on board any number of the current UK titles - I appreciate given that a lot of the wrestlers wrestle in a number of promotions both as faces and heels that practically that would be difficult to achieve but there is no better guy to form a stable and to manage it and to really really get a crowd angry and edgy and involved in the show and of course once they are involved they come back again and again and they tell their friends…

In addition to his role as manager Harvey Dale with his various contacts and sheer hard working attitude which is truly no nonsense is proving a real asset to promotions he is working for in terms of getting publicity for the shows and putting them over extremely well, recently managing to obtain a slot on BBC Radio Nottingham at Drivetime to promote the Southside vs. House Of Pain feud, he also promotes endlessly shows by in character using social media to relentlessly put across his heel point of view on upcoming shows and is more than happy to engage the fans through the social media which again involves the fans, makes them feel more part of it all and enhances the likelihood of said fans coming to the shows and bringing their mates along.

If you hear that Harvey Dale is on a show you are travelling to just sit and enjoy, if you are on the front row watch out for flying water or other objects! But also watch Harvey’s face during a match he is on the outside of, you can live the match through his facial expressions, so natural and so perfectly timed and related to the in ring action, the guy takes super kicks from international wrestlers and will do whatever it takes to truly become the best in the business at what he does and the heal for the heels out there!

Can I please thank T Bone,Mark Haskins,Brian Elliott, Dale Mills and Maxd Wrestling for their time and input into this article.

If you would like to follow me on twitter the handle is @Shadetheshoot.

If you would like to follow Harvey Dale the handle is @TheHarveyDale

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