the first time in our Interviews
series, the Mid-Atlantic Gateway
is featuring a full-time
professional wrestling manager.
The Gateway is excited and very
proud that John Sutton, better
known to most fans as Sir Oliver
Humperdink, is the first manager
to grace the pages of our
Interviews section. Jim Crockett
Promotions had a rich tradition of
managers that performed in its
territory over the years, and
without question Sir Oliver is one
of the all-time greats on that
my recent conversation with Sir
Oliver from his home in Minnesota,
we talk in depth about his nearly
thirty year career in the
wrestling business---from his
start at the Minneapolis
Auditorium as an usher in the mid
1960s, to his final stint in WCW
in the early 1990s. And everything
fans of Mid-Atlantic Championship
Wrestling, we remember Sir Oliver
Humperdink most vividly for an all
too short one year stint with Jim
Crockett Promotions in 1982-83.
Despite the relative brevity of
his stay in the Mid-Atlantic area,
Humperdink made an indelible mark
on the promotion. Coming to the
area when there were no managers
on the scene, Sir Oliver’s ‘House
of Humperdink’ dominated the
territory over the year he was
here. And by the time he departed
the territory in July of 1983,
managers were once again a fixture
within the promotion.
Oliver was certainly a ‘Manager of
Champions’ while he prowled around
ringside in the arenas of Virginia
and the Carolinas. Humperdink
captained Greg Valentine to the
United States Title, Paul Jones to
the Mid-Atlantic Title, One Man
Gang and Kelly Kiniski to the
Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles and
managed Ivan Koloff, Jos LeDuc and
Bad Bad Leroy Brown during their
NWA Television Title reigns.
time period of 1982-83 was one of
transition for Jim Crockett
Promotions, and Sir Oliver
Humperdink was part of that time
of change. He managed Paul Jones
in Jones’ last stint as a
full-time wrestler, until
interestingly enough, Paul became
a manager himself. One of Sir
Oliver’s last TV appearances in
the Mid-Atlantic area was among
the first after the promotion left
the TV studio for good, and would
tape its television shows
thereafter from arenas around the
territory. And while Humperdink
left the area in 1983 several
months before the inaugural
Starrcade, Sir Oliver was around
as the promotion slowly built
towards that first mega event, and
where the regular house shows all
around the territory started to
have that “super card” feel to
them. In some respects, Humperdink
came full circle with Jim Crockett
Promotions, as he reappeared in
1988 and participated at that
year’s Starrcade, and was there
when Crockett Promotions
officially died as a functioning
Oliver’s long track record of
success in the wrestling business
has earned him the distinction of
being honored at this year’s
Cauliflower Alley Club 2005
Reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada on
April 14-16. An honor that is not
only a tribute to his brilliance
as a wrestling mind and manager,
but someone who is a credit to,
and ambassador for, professional
wrestling at the very highest
While Sir Oliver Humperdink spent
many a successful year in the
state of Florida and elsewhere, we
in the Carolinas and Virginia are
grateful that he found his way to
the Mid-Atlantic area for a year
or so during his long journey in
professional wrestling. Sir
Oliver, you had the remarkable
ability to elevate the talent you
managed to amazing heights, while
never shining that spotlight
brightly on yourself. When you
finally decided to make the
Mid-Atlantic area your base of
operations, we all knew first hand
about the power of the House of
Humperdink by the time you
departed. And we all knew that the
House’s driving force was a
manager who was a very special
man, indeed. And we haven’t
David Chappell: Sir Oliver,
thank you for spending some time
with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway this
evening. I’ve been wanting to do
this for a long time!
Sir Oliver Humperdink: It’s
good to be with you David.
Chappell: I understand that
you got your start in the
wrestling business by working in
one of the arenas in Minneapolis,
Minnesota…and you sort of got in
with some of the wrestlers that
Humperdink: Exactly. I was
working for an ushering outfit
here in the Twin Cities…they had a
contract for Met Stadium and a
couple of other venues. And then,
we picked up the contract for the
Chappell: When did you
begin working for the ushering
Humperdink: Let’s see, I
graduated in ’67, and saw the
World Series here in ’65. So, it
would be around 1964-65 when I
started working for them.
And as I said, we picked up the
contract for the Minneapolis
Auditorium. Of course, that was
where Verne (Gagne) had his big
shows. And my position at the
time, was to be stationed at the
dressing room door…
Chappell: As sort of the
Humperdink: Yes, and that’s
how I got to know the boys.
Chappell: Who were some of
the guys you got to know during
this time frame?
Humperdink: Oh, let’s
see…Red Bastien, Ray Stevens, Nick
Bockwinkle, (Bobby) Heenan, Dr.
X---Dick Beyer come to mind
Chappell: Some big, big
Humperdink: They had the
cream of the crop in there, just
some terrific talent.
Chappell: At this point,
you actually moved from working
the Minneapolis Auditorium during
the professional wrestling shows,
to getting out and traveling with
Humperdink: Absolutely. I
started out on the road, helping
them set up the ring. And also
David, during that same time I
kind of left the position at the
dressing room door…and I started
working security. By that I mean,
sitting at the corner of the ring.
Back then, there were no
guardrails or anything like that.
Chappell: No…very little to
Humperdink: So, I would be
charged with dealing with a fan
that came up to the ring for any
Chappell: I bet that got
quite interesting on occasion!
Chappell: And you were
still in high school at this time?
Humperdink: I was still in
high school. Yeah, probably
17…something like that.
Chappell: Were you a big
wrestling fan at this point in
Humperdink: I had been a
wrestling fan really all my life.
I remember as a kid, in grade
school and junior high school,
watching wrestling. I was
fascinated by the whole thing, you
Chappell: Did you always
want to be a wrestling manager?
Humperdink: No…I just
really wanted to be around the
business. I didn’t care if I had
to set up the ring, or carry
jackets. I was just happy to be a
small part of the whole thing.
Chappell: How long was this
period of time, Sir Oliver? When
you were working your way into the
Humperdink: It was about
1964-65 when I started at the
Minneapolis Auditorium, but I
actually started in the business
drawing a paycheck, on the road as
a performer, in 1973.
Chappell: That’s quite a
long time…you definitely paid your
Humperdink: I did my
Chappell: Didn’t you also
do a little refereeing in the
Humperdink: That was in
Canada, about 1972. That was in
the office that was run by Maurice
and Paul Vachon….Edward
Chappell: You weren’t a
referee for all that long, were
Humperdink: No, I wasn’t.
We went up there on a vacation,
and we knew half of the boys in
the territory because they had
been through here (in Minnesota).
Me and a buddy of mine had gone up
there the year before for a
vacation in the summertime.
They put my buddy with Vivian
Vachon as her manager, and I
Chappell: How did that
feel…actually being inside the
ring during a match?
Humperdink: Oh, that was
Humperdink: Just to be able
to get my foot in the door…was
spectacular to me! Anything I
could do to be involved was great.
Chappell: From several guys
I’ve talked to about that time
period…Canada was a good place to
go and work. But, of course, not
during the cold weather months!
Humperdink: As a matter of
fact, back then, they shut down in
the wintertime because all those
arenas were used for hockey!
Chappell: I hadn’t even
thought about that!
Humperdink: Hockey took
over. Hockey was huge up there.
So, we’d go up there and work from
April to October-November. And
then they’d shut the whole
territory down from December
through March. Hockey ruled during
those months, and we’d pick back
up in the spring.
Canada had a lot of territories.
You had Rudy Kay in the far
eastern part of Canada, you had
the Montreal office, you had
Toronto, and out west you had
Calgary and Vancouver.
Chappell: East to west, a
very large land mass.
Humperdink: Absolutely. But
David, that wasn’t the first time
Humperdink: No, the first
time was in Fargo, North Dakota.
It was during the wintertime. I
had ridden up with a guy named
Mike Boyette…I don’t know if you
Chappell: (laughs) Yeah,
actually I do! I was living out in
Arkansas during the mid 80s, and
remember Boyette from Bill Watts’
Humperdink: Yep, he was
Well, he was driving the ring
around, and I went up to Fargo
with him. And we had a tough time
getting up there…a bad, bad
Chappell: That’s blizzard
country up there for sure.
Humperdink: We finally made
it, but a lot of the guys
scheduled for that card didn’t
make it. [Mike Boyette] was
supposed to referee that night,
but because so many guys couldn’t
get there, they put him in a match
So, I had to step into the role of
Chappell: Fate steps in!
Humperdink: That was
actually the first time I
Chappell: That sounds very
similar to the way Tommy Young
said he got started as a referee.
He was basically a fill-in because
somebody didn’t show up. Of
course, in Tommy’s case,
refereeing became his career!
Humperdink: I just happened
to be in the right place at the
right time that night.
Chappell: That seems to
happen so often, in so many
Humperdink: Funny story, on
the way back…
Chappell: From Fargo?
Humperdink: Right. They had
blizzard warnings out…nobody that
didn’t have to travel was supposed
to. But we had a boxing show the
next night in Minneapolis for
Verne, so we had to drive that
ring back and have it back there
the next night. Or else, there was
no boxing show! This is when Verne
was doing both wrestling and
Chappell: I didn’t realize
that Verne was involved in boxing.
Humperdink: Yeah, he had an
interest in a fighter here by the
name of Rodney Marshall. The
official name of the wrestling
office here in Minneapolis was
‘Minneapolis Boxing and
Humperdink: But after that
show in Fargo, Boyette and I
foolishly headed back into that
blizzard on the way back to
Minneapolis. I’d say we got
probably five miles out of Fargo,
and we couldn’t see anything…a
Chappell: That’s scary.
Humperdink: We had gotten
off over on the side of the
road…the ditch side of the road.
The ring was so heavy, that the
back of the truck had gone further
off to the side than we were
And eventually, that back side of
the truck had swung on over into
Chappell: Uh oh!
Humperdink: And there we
are, looking up!
Humperdink: With the weight
of the ring and all…we were really
stuck! And NOBODY was on the road!
Chappell: I’m sure by that
point, you wish you hadn’t been as
Humperdink: Luckily we had
filled up in Fargo, so we had a
full tank of gas. I guess we went
off the road about midnight, and
the rest of the night we ran the
engine judiciously. We didn’t want
to burn off all the gas, you know,
because we didn’t know how long
we’d be there.
Chappell: I’ve never been
caught in a blizzard, but it
sounds like you all were in big
Humperdink: We had to keep
each other awake, because when you
fall asleep in situations like
So I’d take a little snooze and
wake him up, and he’d do the same
thing with me. And about eight
o’clock the next morning,
conditions had gotten a lot
better. Chris Markoff and Pampero
Firpo came by, driving back from
Minneapolis…and saw the ring truck
in the ditch.
Chappell: Help was on its
Humperdink: They stopped,
got us in the car and got us
warmed up and back to town. And we
got help from there.
Chappell: Wow…that’s some
really, they saved our lives.
Chappell: And even though
you all were only a few miles
outside of Fargo, under those
circumstances, you may as well
have been a million miles away.
Humperdink: Exactly. And
when you’re down in the ditch with
a blizzard going on, you don’t
want to get out of the vehicle and
try to walk around…nothing good
would come out of that!
You can imagine how my psyche
was…I had gone from being on top
of the world, because I think
earlier that night was the first
time I had ever been in the ring
in an official capacity. I went
from thinking I might have a
career in wrestling…to thinking I
might die right there on the side
of the road.
Chappell: The whole aspect
of the travel involved in
professional wrestling is mind
boggling to me. The more I hear
about it, the more I think it’s a
miracle that more of you all
didn’t perish out there on the
Humperdink: I was very
lucky, but there were a lot of
guys that died out there on the
Chappell: There certainly
were. But I hear these type
stories, and I’m surprised there
weren’t even more.
Humperdink: It’s almost
like being an over the road
trucker. Those guys are pretty
safe guys. They spend their entire
lives driving the roads, and sorta
know what to look for and what to
Chappell: You raise a good
point there, Sir Oliver. I had
never really thought of it in that
way. But, you’re right.
Humperdink: Unless you’re
stupid like me, and try to head
out into the teeth of a blizzard!
Chappell: (laughing) Well,
we’ll cut you some slack, since
you were still on an adrenaline
rush from working in the ring for
the first time!
Humperdink: But I do think
that by and large, we were
probably better on the highways
than say Mary and George…who were
driving extended distances on a
once a year vacation or something.
Just because we were out there
CONTINUED IN PART TWO