Sir Oliver Humperdink will be receiving special recognition at the Cauliflower Alley Club 40th reunion in Las Vegas taking place on April 14-16.

Look for a special article by SOH here soon!





For 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 illustrious list.


In 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 in between.


To 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.


Sir 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.


The 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 entity.


Sir 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 level.


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 forgotten him.


-  David Chappell

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 way?


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 Minneapolis Auditorium.


Chappell: When did you begin working for the ushering company?


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 gatekeeper?


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 immediately.


Chappell: Some big, big stars there!


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 the boys?


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 no protection.


Humperdink: So, I would be charged with dealing with a fan that came up to the ring for any reason.


Chappell: I bet that got quite interesting on occasion!


Humperdink: Very interesting!


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 time?


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 know?


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 business.


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 dues!


Humperdink: I did my apprenticeship!


Chappell: Didn’t you also do a little refereeing in the early 70s?


Humperdink: That was in Canada, about 1972. That was in the office that was run by Maurice and Paul Vachon….Edward Carpontiere.


Chappell: You weren’t a referee for all that long, were you?


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 refereed.


Chappell: How did that feel…actually being inside the ring during a match?


Humperdink: Oh, that was like…nirvana!


Chappell: (laughs)


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 I refereed.


Chappell: Really?


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 remember him.


Chappell: (laughs) Yeah, actually I do! I was living out in Arkansas during the mid 80s, and remember Boyette from Bill Watts’ Mid-South territory.


Humperdink: Yep, he was there.


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 blizzard.


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 to wrestle.


So, I had to step into the role of a referee!


Chappell: Fate steps in!


Humperdink: That was actually the first time I refereed.


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 different professions.


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 boxing.


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 Wrestling.’


Chappell: Interesting…


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 total whiteout.


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 realizing.


And eventually, that back side of the truck had swung on over into the ditch.


Chappell: Uh oh!


Humperdink: And there we are, looking up!


Chappell: (laughs)


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 well!


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 time danger.


Humperdink: We had to keep each other awake, because when you fall asleep in situations like that…you die.


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 way!


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 story.


Humperdink: Actually, 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 roads.


Humperdink: I was very lucky, but there were a lot of guys that died out there on the roads.


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 avoid.


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 more.