August 30, 1926|
|Died||October 12, 1983
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
|Cause of death||Myocardial infarction|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||The Grand Wizard of Wrestling
The Grand Wizard
J. Wellington Radcliffe
Irwin J. "Ernie" Roth (August 30, 1926 – October 12, 1983), known by the ring names the Grand Wizard of Wrestling and Abdullah Farouk, was a professional wrestling manager of many infamous heels. Not a wrestler himself due to his small stature, he was noted for his flamboyant outfit of sequined jackets, wraparound sunglasses, and a brightly colored turban decorated with jewels and feathers. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.
Ernie Roth got his start in the entertainment business as a disc jockey, and became involved in professional wrestling as a manager in the 1960s in Detroit-based territories. Roth first worked under the names "Mr. Clean" and "J. Wellington Radcliffe", but more famously, he also portrayed "Abdullah Farouk", a man from the Middle East who was sent by The Sheik's wealthy "family" to handle their son's affairs in the US.
Roth on many occasions (when out of character and greasepaint mustache) co-hosted the syndicated "Big Time Wrestling" show with fellow announcer Bob Finnegan until 1969 when the hosting chores went to Lord Athol Layton.
Sporting a turban, Farouk took great pains in trying to control his madman protégé. But he also carved a niche for himself as a deceitful, underhanded character who insulted US fans whenever he had a chance, laying a template for heels for years to come. Farouk was a pioneer of "manager interference", as he physically would attempt to alter a match's outcome in the Sheik's favor whenever he could (inciting a full-scale riot on one occasion). By the early 1970s, after establishing himself as one of the most hated managers in the wrestling business, Ernie Roth parted with the "Abdullah Farouk" character and began a stint with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) (now known today as World Wrestling Entertainment), where he became The Grand Wizard of Wrestling.
The Grand Wizard of Wrestling, playing the "heel manager" role to the absolute hilt, had an instant impact in the WWF. Almost immediately after arrival in 1972, the Wizard managed Mr Fuji and Prof. Toru Tanaka to two reigns with the WWWF World Tag Team Championship (they would later win the titles a third time, in 1977 under the management of "Classy" Freddie Blassie.) A year later, the Wizard led Stan Stasiak to victory over Pedro Morales for the WWF Championship in Philadelphia on December 1, 1973. Stasiak lost the title just nine days later to the "Living Legend" Bruno Sammartino, but the Wizard's reputation was still pristine. In fact, the Wizard guided a second protégé, the flamboyant and chiseled Superstar Billy Graham, to the very same Championship on April 30, 1977, when Graham overcame Sammartino in Baltimore. Graham is now seen as the virtual prototype for later Superstars like Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura and Scott Steiner, and with the Wizard as his manager was seemingly unstoppable. Graham and the Wizard were arguably the first performers to be cheered without requiring a "push" as a babyface, once again laying a template for superstars to come.
On February 20, 1978, former amateur wrestling standout Bob Backlund took on Superstar Billy Graham for the WWF Championship at Madison Square Garden, and managed to dethrone the champion. The Wizard made it his duty to gain revenge on Backlund, sending charges such as Don Muraco, Ken Patera and Greg Valentine after the champion. The Wizard never managed a world champion again, however he did manage the very first Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson, and later Patera (who defeated Patterson for the title in April 1980 after the Wizard and Patterson parted ways) and Muraco to the same championship.
Other protégés of the Wizard included "Beautiful" Bobby Harmon, Killer Kowalski, "Crazy" Luke Graham, Sgt. Slaughter, "Big Cat" Ernie Ladd, Ox Baker, and Cowboy Bob Orton. In the 1970s the Wizard was known as one of the WWF's infamous Three Wise Men of the East, the other two being Captain Lou Albano and "Classy" Freddie Blassie, a loose conglomerate of heel managers that conspired to make life difficult for babyfaces.
A Boston radio program, The Sports Huddle, would feature in-character interviews with Roth portraying him as a hero. The program's hosts, Eddie Andelman, Jim McCarthy and Mark Witkin, once called the White House on the air to ask if The Grand Wizard (referred to as TGW on the program because "only those closest to the Grand Wizard are allowed to call him TGW") was finished with his consultation with President Richard Nixon. When the White House operator said she was not sure, the program hosts said "we have an important message for him," and after being connected with a series of administration functionaries, succeeded in getting one to agree to take a message to the Oval Office. The host dictated the message: "Tell him to bring home a loaf of bread and a quart of milk."
An example of his Farouk character's interview style is provided by the sing-song given prior to an upcoming bout between the Sheik and Haystacks Calhoun. Roth looked into the camera and said, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. If the camel clutch doesn't get you, Calhoun, the fire must", alluding to The Sheik's ability to toss fireballs.
Roth was revealed to be homosexual after his death, although some claim they were aware of his sexual orientation during his lifetime. He was the godfather of protégé Don Muraco's daughter. His parents were Evrum (Edward) Roth and Rizel (Rose) Stern.
On October 12, 1983, Roth died of a heart attack. He was cremated. In tribute to the Grand Wizard, Sgt. Slaughter came out during a match, just after his death, and saluted the empty ring corner. In 1995, he was also inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his friend Sgt. Slaughter.
- Tiger Jeet Singh
- The Sheik
- The Iron Sheik
- Magnificent Maurice
- Johnny Barend
- Killer Kowalski
- Crazy Luke Graham
- Sgt. Slaughter
- Ernie Ladd
- Ox Baker
- Cowboy Bob Orton
- Don Muraco
- Ken Patera
- Greg Valentine
- Pat Patterson
- Stan Stasiak
- Superstar Billy Graham
- Ivan Koloff
- The Masked Superstar
- Prof. Toru Tanaka
- Mr. Fuji
- Blackjack Mulligan
- Pampero Firpo
- Handsome Jimmy Valiant
- 'Cowboy' Bobby Duncum Sr.
- Buddy Rose
- Beautiful" Bobby Harmon
- Jimmy Valiant
- George Steele
- Jack "the Shirtless One" McCullough
- Bugsy McGraw
- Bruiser Brody
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Wrestling Federation
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (January 2007)|
- "Beautiful Bobby Harmon". Obsessed with Wrestling.com. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
- Oliver, Greg (June 19, 2006). "Managers DVD frustrating but entertaining". Canoe.ca. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
- My Genealogy Home Page:Information about Evrum Roth
- "The Grand Wizard Bio". WWE. Retrieved 2013-02-07.