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Ernie Roth (June 7, 1929 – October 12, 1983), best known as The Grand Wizard of Wrestling, also well known as 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 camp (style) flamboyant outfit of sequined jackets, wraparound sunglasses, and a brightly-colored turban decorated with jewels and feathers.
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 sydnicated "Big Time Wrestling" with fellow announcer Bob Finnegan until 1969 when the hosting chores went to Lord Alfred Hayes. For some of the Ohio Markets, Les Edwards would do the ring announcing for non TV shows.
Sporting a turban, Farouk took great pains in trying to control his madman protege. 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, the Wizard managed Stan Stasiak to defeat 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 protege, 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 proteges 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. They were 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 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."
A example of his interview style prior to an upcoming bout between the Sheik and Haystacks Calhoun Abdullah Farouk 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
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 inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame by his longtime friend and roommate the original "Beautiful" Bobby Harmon.
- Tiger Jeet Singh
- The Sheik
- The Iron Sheik
- Magnificent Maurice
- Johnny Berend
- 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
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Wrestling Federation
Roth was revealed to be homosexual long after his death, although some were in the know at the time he was living. He was the godfather of protege Don Muraco's daughter. His parents were Evrum Roth and Rizel Stern.