Where Are They Now? Harvey Wippleman
One of sports-entertainment’s best managers, Harvey Wippleman hasn’t been a regular in WWE rings since 2000, but he never left the company. Find out what the only man to hold the WWE Women’s Title has been up to in WWE.com’s latest "Where Are They Now?" feature.
From setting up rings to backing Giant Gonzales against The Undertaker at WrestleMania IX, there isn’t too much that Bruno Lauer hasn’t experienced in the sports-entertainment industry. The man better known as Harvey Wippleman has done pretty well for a scrawny guy from northwest Mississippi. ( CLASSIC PHOTOS | CURRENT PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
Growing up in The Magnolia State, Lauer admitted he wasn’t a huge wrestling fan when he got the opportunity to get into the business in 1979 as a ring crew member, setting up and tearing down the ring for a promotion that toured as part of a carnival. Little did he realize at that time that he’d be working in sports-entertainment until this very day.
“I was a big fan of eating, paying the bills and having some money,” he told WWEClassics.com of his carefree teenage days.
Although he was never formally trained, Lauer stuck with wrestling and soon became a manager, using goofy names like Dr. Lennerd Spazzinsky. After a few years, he got his first big break in 1984 in one of the hottest territories in the country thanks to a WWE Hall of Famer.
“It all came from Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler,” Lauer explained. “I owe him my career. Every bit of knowledge, every break is from him. I owe him everything, 100 percent.”
He was perfect as a manager for all the monsters that took on the heroes of the Memphis, Tenn., territory. Short and skinny, Lauer was dwarfed by his charges, making them even more imposing to the fans. Still, the so-called Dr. Spazzinsky was looking to get rid of his goofy moniker and find something that could incorporate his real name while keeping his irritating persona. He found his inspiration from an unlikely source.
“I was watching Tim Reid, he was ‘Downtown Brown’ [on the 1980s detective show ‘Simon and Simon’],” Lauer said. “I thought that sounded great, so I became Downtown Bruno.”
Downtown Bruno led a vast variety of villains into battle against Lawler, Jeff Jarrett and many of Memphis’ other white hats. Handling the affairs of stars like Sid, Cactus Jack, The Moondogs and Robert Fuller, Lauer made a lot of connections during this time, some of which would pay off in the long run.
After some time in Memphis, he branched out into other territories, going to Alabama, Hawaii and anywhere in-between that would have him. Although he was trying to get his name out there, Bruno often found himself wanting to go back to Memphis, which he considered his home promotion.
“Lawler would always tell me to go other places and learn other styles, but it was hard,” Lauer said. “In Memphis, I’d run around and get involved in the match, but then I’d go to Kansas City for Bob Geigel and they didn’t want me to do anything — just sit in a chair. I wasn’t used to that.”
Still, Lauer learned and eventually came back to Memphis, where the territory was still running strong, putting on shows at the Mid-South Coliseum every Monday night. With most of the city and the surrounding area tuning in to see Bruno and his baddies, Lauer enjoyed a level of celebrity that most local wrestlers today couldn’t imagine.
“In our little world, we were superstars,” he said. “I couldn’t go anywhere in Memphis or the surrounding areas.”
As the ’80s turned to the ’90s, though, Bruno began to think about life beyond managing. He took on jobs overseeing the ring crew and box office for the Memphis territory. He felt like he had a solid gig that he could stay in for a long time.
“I said I was never going to leave again,” he said.
That all changed with one phone call from WWE.
“WWE was looking for a manager,” Bruno explained. “Sid went to [WWE officials] and said, ‘There’s a guy that used to manage me in Alabama and Memphis named Bruno. Why don’t we give him a tryout?’ ”
At first, Lauer had every intention of turning the opportunity down and staying in Memphis. But when Lawler, his longtime mentor, got wind of this, “The King” left him with no option.
“He said, ‘You mean WWE called and you’re not going to go?’” Lauer said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to stay here.’ Then he said, ‘You’re fired.’ He knew I was being stupid, and he was right.”
So Bruno headed up north, to Worcester, Mass., for his official tryout with WWE. With no guarantee of a job, he put it all out there for the WWE Universe to see.
“Mr. McMahon said, ‘Show me something I’ve never seen before,’ ” Lauer said. “I went out there and did an interview with Gene Okerlund. Eventually, Gene said something nasty and I just reached back and slapped him.”
“I got to the back and Mr. McMahon said, ‘Good interview, but I didn’t like the slap. We’re going to do the same thing tomorrow night, but I want you to slap him harder.’ “
After the tryout, Lauer headed back home, and found a WWE contract waiting for him. Soon, Lauer made his official WWE debut, donning a suit similar to TV star Pee Wee Herman’s, leading the WWE Universe to shower him with chants of “Pee-Wee.”
“At first they called me Henry Herman,” Bruno explained of his unique name. “But they thought it was too much like Pee Wee Herman; it would give away the hook. Then, I was Harvey Wipple. Another night, we went out for introductions and Gorilla Monsoon told Howard Finkel that I was Harvey Wippleman. He misspoke, but it was on TV and that was that.”
Chomping on a cigar that he used to puff disgusting smoke into the faces of the WWE Universe, Wippleman arrived on the scene in summer 1991 with Big Bully Busick in tow ( WATCH). When the old-timey brawler’s career didn’t pan out, Wippleman took on the massive Warlord as a client ( WATCH).
Not long after, Wippleman secured his first major signing when he procured the services of Sid Justice. In the midst of a heated rivalry with Hulk Hogan, the psychotic giant and Wippleman ran roughshod over WWE. Sid would destroy his hapless opponents, and then Wippleman would have them loaded up on a stretcher, hanging a sign that read “Call 911” around their necks. Of course, that was just the precursor to Justice sending them crashing off the gurneys, guaranteeing them a legitimate trip to the emergency room ( WATCH).
Just months after his WWE debut, Lauer found himself walking to the ring with Justice in the co-main event of WrestleMania VIII against The Hulkster, in front of more than 60,000 people at Indianapolis’ Hoosier Dome. For Bruno, though, it was just another day at the office.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be featured in a WrestleMania main event,” he said. “But I’m funny. I work just as hard if I’m in a National Guard armory in front of 90 people. It’s the exact same job, just on a different scale.”
After WrestleMania, Wippleman set his sights on another Superstar, who was just beginning to realize his true potential: The Undertaker. The scrawny manager found any beast willing to take on The Deadman, leading to some of the most unusual matches in WWE history. Up first was the Ugandan savage, Kamala ( WATCH), who had to face his fear of death in the first ever Casket Match at Survivor Series 1992. After The Phenom vanquished Kamala, Wippleman searched the world for his next oddity, discovering Giant Gonzales, who stood in at nearly 8 feet tall ( WATCH). The towering Superstar in the furry bodysuit was also no match for The Undertaker.
“He’s one of the Superstars where all of the hype is completely true,” Lauer said about The Deadman. “He’s a true legend.”
By 1995, Wippleman saw his time as an on-screen member of the WWE roster winding down. Although he managed a number of colorful Superstars, like Adam Bomb, Kwang and Well Dunn, while leading his main squeeze, Bertha Faye ( WATCH), to the WWE Women’s Title (he even crooned her entrance music), Lauer felt he could contribute to the company in other ways.
“[Former VP of Talent Relations] JJ Dillon and a few others knew that I had quite a few years under my belt, so they gave me some other responsibilities,” he proudly said.
He started out as a referee, after compiling a report on all of WWE’s men in stripes for president Gorilla Monsoon. That grew into other roles, at the behest of WWE bigwigs. Aside from his turn as WWE Women’s Champion, which he won in a match he jokingly described as “the worst in the history of Monday Night Raw,” Bruno has been the go-to man backstage for nearly two decades.
“Whenever a guy needs a new outfit picked up, I’m the one that gets it,” Lauer explained. “If you see a trash can utilized in a match, nine times out of 10, I’m the one that went and got it. Any little details that need to get done, I take care of it.”
As WWE’s “concierge,” Lauer takes care of anything that may come up during the hectic production of multiple television shows and pay-per-view events. More often than not, he finds a way to get them done. The frenetic pace of the job is something he thrives on ( CURRENT PHOTOS).
“You never know what’s going to happen, that’s part of the excitement of my job,” Lauer said. “I like the challenge. I like when we’re in Phoenix in the middle of August and they want a snowsuit. I always manage to get it, I can’t say how. I might’ve just jinxed myself here and get a request that I can’t do, but I’ve always done my best to be the one that gets the impossible done. I’m proud and humbled about it.”
Because of his position, Bruno finds himself enjoying great relationships with the Superstars of today, who show a great deal of respect toward him and the veterans of the sport.
When he’s not on the road with WWE, Lauer heads back to northwest Mississippi, which he still calls home. He enjoys cutting his grass and keeping his property in order.
“I enjoy maintaining the things that Jerry Lawler and WWE have given me the opportunity to have in my life,” he said.
Lauer also penned his memoir, “Wrestling With the Truth,” detailing his journey from the territories to the global entity that is WWE. ( BUY BRUNO'S BOOK)
“I showed it to Mr. McMahon, he read it and said it was one of the best wrestling books he’d ever read,” Bruno told WWEClassics.com. “He gave me his blessing to get it published outside of WWE.”
From a carnival in Mississippi to The Grandest Stage of Them All, Bruno Lauer has accomplished more in 34 years in sports-entertainment than most do in a lifetime. It’s a unique career that he’s very grateful to have.
“I’d like to tell the WWE Universe thank you for helping us make a living,” he said.
You can purchase Bruno Lauer's autobiography, "Wrestling With the Truth" , at CrowbarPress.com.