He was loud, arrogant, boisterous and outspoken. Jim Cornette was and still is to this day….one of the greatest promos in pro wrestling. His entire career was spent as a manager for a number of promotions and territories including Mid South, World Class, Memphis and the NWA/WCW. How did this southern good ol’ boy become a major player up north for the World Wrestling Federation? This is the unlikely story of how Jim Cornette came and briefly conquered Vince McMahon land.
In early 1993, Jim Cornette (Who was looking to get promotion for his struggling Smoky Mountain organization) made a working agreement with WCW head Bill Watts to exchange talent between the two companies. The problem was Watts was eventually fired from WCW and Ted Turner’s company decided to void the agreement. Cornette continued to run Smoky Mountain…but business was continuing to be on the decline. While doing tapings for SMW, Cornette and his charges The Heavenly Bodies cut a comedic promo about Bruce Prichard. At the time, Bruce was working for WWF creative.
Cornette called Bruce Prichard (Who were long time friends) and told him about the promo and sent him a copy of it. A few months went by and Bruce called up Cornette and asked him if he was interested in working for the WWF. This wasn’t the first time WWF offered Cornette a job. In 1991, McMahon reportedly offered Cornette a job managing Ric Flair…but was turned down. Jim Cornette was only interested in working with WWF if he could use and speak the Smoky Mountain Wrestling name. Cornette was 100% invested in SMW and would only go up north if he could have the same working agreement that he originally had with WCW. Vince McMahon agreed and set up a match for the WWF world tag team titles between the champion Steiner Brothers against Cornette’s Heavenly Bodies.
When Cornette and his Heavenly Bodies showed up to a Monday Night Raw taping…Bruce Prichard told Cornette that Vince wanted to speak with him. Jim Cornette assumed that McMahon wanted to talk with him to possibly go over the promotion of Smoky Mountain and perhaps air any past grievances he might have had with Vince. In reality, McMahon wanted Cornette to work with Yokozuna as his manager. While Yokozuna was WWF champion and already had Mr. Fuji as his manager….Vince was not satisfied. He felt that both Fuji and Yokozuna were horrible on promos and felt that Cornette as co manager could help Yoko become a bigger star. Cornette agreed to the offer.
Bobby Heenan would be the man to introduce WWF audiences to Jim Cornette. For the next month, Cornette was on a whirlwind between running SMW and fulfilling his WWF obligations. The working agreement did help Smoky Mountain’s business as his company was getting much needed exposure. The Heavenly Bodies unsuccessfully challenged the Steiners for the tag titles in a very good, yet underrated match at Summerslam ’93. The WWF would also agree to send The Big Bossman down to SMW to help boost ticket sales.
Ultimately, Smoky Mountain went under in 1995 and Cornette agreed to sell the video library to the WWF. Cornette was offered a full time job with the WWF as a manager and a part of the company’s creative team. He moved up north to Connecticut…which he absolutely hated and worked side by side with McMahon on creative. Jim would continue managing, as well as do color commentary and book. He would remain with the company in some form until 2005.