Real Name: Ernie Roth
Born: June 7, 1929
Often in wrestling, the men who go on to become "managers" generally do so after spending time in the ring as a wrestler. Successful managers like Lou Albano, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Arnold Skoaland, Skandar Akbar, "Number One" Paul Jones, "Precious" Paul Ellering, and many others all made the transition after years of battling in the ring. However, the man who is thought by many to have been perhaps the greatest manager in pro wrestling history never wrestled a day in his life. At barely 5`7 and weighing around 130 lbs., he was certainly no physical threat. But in his case, size didn't matter...unless you were referring to the size of his brain, in which case it meant everything. It was his intellect, an almost "mad genius" aspect to his character, that allowed this frail man to become the WWWF's diabolical leader of champions, perhaps the most successful manager of his day, and an inspiration for future managers in wrestling. Although he went by many names during his 20+ years in the sport, he was most commonly known as The Grand Wizard...
Ernie Roth first made waves in wrestling not as The Wizard, but rather, Abdullah Farouk, the "Middle Eastern handler" sent by The Sheik's wealthy "family" to look after their son's affairs in America. The turban-wearing Farouk, in addition to trying to maintain control over his crazed protégé, often took time to insult all of the U.S. fans in the audience or watching on TV. His small stature combined with his cowardly and deceitful methods made him very unpopular, and a man fans loved to hate.
He also occasionally cheated on behalf of the Sheik (pictured) by tripping up an opponent or distracting the referee, somewhat common actions by today's standards that were far less frequent (and therefore, dramatic) during the mid 1960's. The "Arabian" duo reached great success during their partnership (which lasted nearly five years) and Farouk led The Sheik to title after title during the 1960's. But as the 1970's rolled in, the successful duo made an amicable split. Abdullah Farouk dropped out of the scene, while The Sheik went on to a decade (or so) more of insanity. But in the East Coast cities of the World Wide Wrestling Federation, with the new decade came a devious and flamboyant manager. Known as The Grand Wizard of Wrestling, he quickly burst into the WWWF storyline, lending his large vocabulary and quick wit to his various protégés. Almost immediately, The Wizard became a truly hated figure in the Northeast. However, more importantly, The Wizard quickly led his main protégé (at the time) Stan "The Man" Stasiak to the WWWF Heavyweight title. The fact that Stasiak would quickly lose the championship (just 9 days after winning it from Pedro Morales on December 1, 1973) to "The Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino did not tarnish The Wizard's accomplishment, or his winning ways.
In fact, within 5 years of Stasiak's loss, The Grand Wizard was once again managing the WWWF Heavyweight champion -- this time in the bulging, tanned, statuesque figure of the man from Paradise Valley, AZ., "Superstar" Billy Graham. Led by the genius of The Wizard, the revolutionary, extremely charismatic champion would become the man (chosen by Vince McMahon, Sr.) to finally end Bruno's 11-year tenure as WWWF champion. After only a few years in the promotion, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling was once again at the top of the WWWF...
The colorful, articulate Wizard, with his loud polyester clothing, turban, and ever-present sunglasses was a good match for the equally flamboyant "Superstar" Graham. Together, they made a nearly unbeatable combination of power and intelligence -- and as a result, Graham remained WWWF champion for nearly a full year. Considering that the WWWF's management had traditionally preferred "good guy" champions during its (at that time) short history, the fact that Graham and The Wizard were so popular -- despite their "bad guy" personas -- was quite an accomplishment for a "heel" WWWF champion and manager in that era.
In addition to his two World Champions, The Wizard managed dozens of top wrestlers in the WWF, both Intercontinental champions, tag team title contenders, as well as some of the toughest, meanest challengers to Bob Backlund's WWF championship. WWF Intercontinental champions such as Pat Patterson, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Ken Patera, and "Magnificent" Don Muraco all enjoyed title runs thanks, in part, to their collective manager, The Grand Wizard. Other all-time WWF legends such as "Killer" Kowalski, Crusher Blackwell, Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd, Ox Baker, "Big, Bad" Bobby Duncum, Sgt. Slaughter, Stan Hansen and many other greats from the WWF's past were guided at one point in time by the evil genius of The Wizard.
As part of the WW(W)F's "evil trinity" of managers -- Wizard, Albano, and Blassie -- he made life extremely difficult for former WWF champions such as Pedro Morales, Bruno Sammartino, and Bob Backlund. Essentially, any "good guy" who got in their way was eliminated by one of the three devious managers. Individually, their forces were formible enough for any champion...but when their collective talents were focused on a common goal, they were nearly unstoppable. The loose alliance that the three maintained was one of the most successful "partnerships" of the 1970's, and weaved its way in and out of various WWWF storylines for years.
Bob Backlund, in particular, was the focus of The Wizard's evil, perhaps stemming from the young champion taking the WWWF championship from "Superstar" Graham (and by extension, The Wizard) back in 1978. For nearly half a decade, all of The Grand Wizard's focus went into taking the prized WWF championship from around the waist of the young, wholesome Backlund, and placing it around the waist of one of his own men -- his elusive 3rd World Champion. It was a dream that would not be realized in his lifetime, although not for lack of trying.
Despite the fact that the three dastardly managers were cohorts and professional associates, there was a level of friendly competition and pride between them that would occasionally find its way into the storyline. In fact, much of the intrigue that the unique trio of managers garnered was due to the underlying tones of internal competition, and trying to "out do" each other. The managers would often vie for incoming talent, and "bidding wars" over top WWF rulebreakers between the trio were not uncommon. Not uncommon, as well, were diabolical schemes "conjured up" between the three to overturn the 5-year championship reign of Backlund.
As the 1970's turned into the 1980's, The Grand Wizard was busy at work, tirelessly attempting to gain the coveted WWF title from his nemesis Backlund through one of his men. His three main proteges in the early 1980's -- Inter-Continental Champions Greg Valentine, Ken Patera and Don Muraco -- all came very close to bringing the Wizard his prized 3rd title, but one way or another, Backlund was able to maintain his grasp on the WWF championship belt. Seemingly, it was business as usual for The Grand Wizard as the new decade got underway...get Backlund's WWF title, through any means necessary. However, an unexpected tragedy was about to strike the wrestling world, and the story of The Grand Wizard of Wrestling came to a shocking, sudden end...
On October 12, 1983, Ernie Roth a.k.a. Abdullah Farouk a.k.a. The Grand Wizard of Wrestling died of a heart attack at the age of 54. The WWF, and the rest of the wrestling world, was obviously caught off guard by the unforeseen tragedy. Putting aside all of his "past indiscretions", the WWF honored The Grand Wizard on various WWF broadcasts after the announcement of his untimely death. Wrestlers, both friends and "enemies" of The Grand Wizard, gave their condolences and paid their respects, some in a very public fashion. Ernie Roth made hundreds of close friends during his nearly 25 years in the wrestling business, and it was a very sad time for many wrestlers, promoters, and fans alike. Nearly 15 years later, the World Wrestling Federation officially inducted The Grand Wizard into the WWF Hall of Fame. There is no doubt that he was a driving influence in wrestling, and aspects of his ingenious persona have been openly borrowed (and praised) by the likes of Paul E. Dangerously, as well as James E. Cornette, James Vandenburg, and other managers that have come after him. We at the Ring Chronicle are well aware of The Grand Wizard's important contributions to pro wrestling, as well as his huge impact on the genre of wrestling managers, and it is with great pride that we honor his accomplishments within the T.R.C. Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame....
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