James Mark "Jim" Cornette (September 17, 1961) is an American professional wrestling manager, commentator, promoter, and booker. As a manager, he has worked for Jim Crockett Promotions, World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation and from 1991 to 1995, was the owner of Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He has also worked as an on-screen character in an authoritative role; as "Commissioner" of Ring of Honor and "Management Director" (and off-screen road agent) for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Cornette currently acts as Executive Producer of Ring of Honor Wrestling on HDNet and the head booker of Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Cornette always loved wrestling, reportedly installing a ten-foot antenna on top of his house as a youth so he could watch as much regional wrestling as possible. He began working at wrestling events at the age of 14, serving as a photographer, ring announcer, magazine correspondent, and public relations correspondent. In 1982, promoter Jerry Jarrett made the 21-year old Cornette the manager of Sherri Martel and gave Cornette the gimmick of a rich kid turned inept manager whose clients kept firing him after one match. The most notable wrestlers in this angle were Dutch Mantell and Crusher Broomfield (who would later gain fame as The One Man Gang and Akeem, The African Dream).
In 1983 he managed a trio of wrestlers in Nashville consisting of Carl Fergie, Norman Fredrich Charles III, and the Angel, a trio that he called the "Cornette Dynasty". At the end of 1983 he would take on his best-known role becoming the frontman for the Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton, and later Stan Lane). With Cornette as manager, the team were 2-time National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Tag Team Champions and 2-time NWA United States Tag Team champions. As a manager, Cornette was known for both his loud mouth and for his ever-present tennis racket, which Cornette often used to ensure victory for his wrestlers, with the implication that the racket case was loaded. Cornette was at his best as a heel manager; fans loved to see the constantly-yelling Cornette and his equally annoying charges beaten and humiliated. He and the Midnights were so hated, in fact, that they had to be escorted by police to and from the ring at the house shows and have a police escort to the city limits for fear of being attacked by overzealous fans. Additionally, Cornette suffered serious injuries to his knee during a scaffold match between the Midnight Express and the Road Warriors at Starrcade '86; when dropping to the mat from the edge of the 20 ft. high scaffold, Cornette didn't allow his legs to buckle quickly enough because he hoped to have a waiting Big Bubba Rogers there to cushion his fall. Rogers was supposed to catch Cornette in mid-air, preventing any damage. But because Rogers was wearing sunglasses he misjudged his position in the ring. Cornette actually landed three feet away from the man who was supposed to catch him and ended up blowing out one of his knees when it folded inwards. Cornette, who is legitimately afraid of heights, later said that he knew he might get seriously hurt when he was told he'd have to fall off a scaffold, but that performing in front of such a large audience was more important than his own health. Cornette would later recall the incident in a shoot interview.
National Wrestling Alliance/World Championship Wrestling (1986–1990)
In 1986, Cornette became the color commentator for Jim Crockett Promotions' nationally-syndicated NWA television show, and later took over the same role on the Saturday night TBS broadcasts alongside play-by-play announcer Jim Ross.
In 1989, Cornette became a member of WCW's creative team, also known as a booker. As a booker for WCW, Cornette helped write storylines and shape the format of its television shows. Due to friction and animosity between himself and WCW head Jim Herd, Cornette quit the company after Halloween Havoc 1990.
Smoky Mountain Wrestling (1991–1995)
A firm believer in "old-school" territorial wrestling, Cornette began the Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW) promotion in 1991. SMW promoted shows in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas. By this point, however, the nature of wrestling in the United States had already changed irrevocably, leading Cornette to seek a working relationship with the WWF in 1993. This did not change the new national perception that regional promotions were "minor league." The move also did not help the federation's finances, and Cornette closed SMW's doors in November 1995. Cornette later said that he chose the wrong time to start a wrestling federation because the business as a whole was in a recession.
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (1993–2005)
Cornette went to the WWF in 1993 while serving as promoter of SMW. As he had in other promotions, Cornette held several positions in the WWF, including manager, color commentator, and booker. Cornette's most notable managerial role in the WWF was as the "American spokesperson" of WWF Champion Yokozuna.
Cornette joined the WWF full-time in 1996 after the demise of SMW, and had a major role in scouting and developing new talent. On screen, he led a top heel stable known as "Camp Cornette," which consisted of Vader, Owen Hart, and The British Bulldog. In 1997 he began phasing out his managerial duties and worked mostly behind the scenes, and doing color commentary. He also began doing a series of "worked shoots" where he would praise what he felt was right and condemn what he felt was wrong in Professional Wrestling. They were controversial as he had no problem giving out praise to WCW wrestlers he felt deserved it.
In 1998, Cornette led an NWA invasion with a stable including Jeff Jarrett, Barry Windham, and The Rock 'n' Roll Express, based on the old Crockett Promotions territory. Later that year, Cornette managed The New Midnight Express.
Behind the scenes, he served as booker for several years before being removed from the creative team after frequently butting heads with head writer Vince Russo.
Cornette later became lead booker and part owner of OVW, WWE's Former lead developmental territory, run by "Nightmare" Danny Davis of Cornette's hometown of Louisville. As a talent developer, Cornette helped discover current and former WWE Superstars Kane, D'Lo Brown, Sunny, Al Snow—all of whom had previously worked in SMW—and others.
Cornette returned to WWF television for one night at the WrestleMania X-Seven pay-per-view in Houston, Texas, where he took part in the "gimmick battle royal". Cornette was suspended for several weeks in May 2005 as a result of a backstage altercation with OVW wrestler Anthony Carelli (who would later be called up to WWE as Santino Marella), and released by WWE in July 2005 due to another incident shortly after returning from suspension for slapping Carelli for breaking character and laughing at wrestler The Boogeyman. In the spring of 2008, Marella, on a Canadian radio program, publicly challenged Cornette to a match, despite Cornette working for WWE rival TNA. Cornette bluntly responded that at this stage of his career, Cornette didn't need to wrestle a career jobber with a drinking problem.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2006–2009)
In 2006, Cornette joined TNA Wrestling as the new face of TNA Management. He holds the title of "Management Director" according to the press releases following his premiere at the Slammiversary PPV event on June 18, 2006 in Orlando, Florida. After a brief speech, he departed, but returned at the end of the show in light of the "Orlando Screwjob," taking the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt after Jeff Jarrett, Larry Zbyszko and Earl Hebner successfully executed a screwjob on Christian Cage and Sting.
Cornette is seen by some as "bringing the NWA back to TNA"; although, this has never been officially stated. During Cornette's first TNA Impact! appearance, he got into a verbal confrontation with Jeff Jarrett. Remarkable comments from Cornette included "This is the NWA!" and "This is the NWA Title!" He also referred to Jeff Jarrett's family, discussing his father and grandmother. His shouts of the NWA could have been a simple mistake on his part as a common mistake made by many people is still regarding TNA as "NWA: TNA".
As the figurehead "Management Director" of TNA, Cornette did not usually take up more than ten minutes of the show, which can be attributed to both his quick tongue and TNA's lack of desire to create another Mr. McMahon. Matt Morgan had also become Cornette's on-screen bodyguard to prevent harm to his physical being, until leaving that post to become a full-time wrestler. Part of Cornette's gimmick was that when multiple situations build up at once, he often takes care of them all swiftly by getting all the TNA wrestlers to come out to the Impact! Zone for a "company meeting" to hear his decisions, or exasperatedly deals swiftly with people who barge into his office. The clear impact of this feature was made evident right from the start, as the first "company meeting" (which aired on the June 29, 2006 edition of TNA Impact!), where every wrestler was asked to come out and stand at either ramp, saw Cornette clear up several issues:
- Forcing The Latin American Xchange to start wrestling again under the threat of [termination.
- Booking Raven and Zbyszko in a hair vs. hair match against each other for Victory Road 2006.
- Disbanding Team Canada as a result of their overly cheating ways (he would later offer them a match which, if they won, would allow them to stay as a unit, with the winner to get a future shot at the championship of their choice. They would lose the match).
- Firing Earl Hebner for his role in the "Orlando Screwjob" at Slammiversary 2006. (Hebner had since been rehired, due to a lie detector test on Jeff Jarrett)
- Booking America's Most Wanted and Gail Kim in a match against Sirelda, A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels in an intergender six-person tag team matchup with Styles and Daniels' NWA World Tag Team Championship on the line.
- Booking a fatal four-way between Christian Cage, Sting, Scott Steiner, and Samoa Joe for Victory Road 2006.
- Finally declaring Jeff Jarrett the official NWA World Heavyweight Champion given that Jarrett defend his title against the winner of the fatal four-way at Victory Road.
With the return of Vince Russo to TNA, Cornette's run with the company would come into question. Cornette has been one of Russo's harshest critics and has blamed him for the "disintegration of the business". He's also stated that he wished to inflict bodily harm on Russo due to his involvement in a WCW angle with Ed Ferrara in which they mocked WWE commentator and good friend Jim Ross' Bell's Palsy condition. Since then, however, he managed to come to working terms with Russo and also become more involved in TNA.
Cornette has had numerous anger management problems throughout his career as a manager as well as in WWE and Ring of Honor and as the part-time owner of Ohio Valley Wrestling. This has also translated into his TNA character, who, while still a face, has shown some pessimism in his promos.
The Daily Star conducted an interview with Cornette, who had some harsh words for the WWE Chairman. "Have you seen the stock market? Vince is not a billionaire any more! He may not even be a millionaire by the time this thing's over! I will sacrifice every penny I've got and cut my neighbour's lawn to see Vince McMahon a broken man laying in the gutter!" Cornette worked in WWE for years and ran the old Ohio Valley developmental territory.
Jim Cornette was released from his TNA contract on September 15, 2009.
Jim Cornette appeared on the "Who's Slamming Who" podcast to give his side of the story regarding his departure from TNA. He said he was released because he was not 100 percent behind the creative team. He said there no severe reasons or incidents that led to his leaving the company, and noted that the news of his firing was online within two hours of TNA head of talent relations Terry Taylor informing him of the company's decision. This was also evident of fans uploading video opinions of the happening on YouTube sharing opinions and gossip of the departure of Cornette and former TNA superstar B.G James.
Cornette said the conversation with Dixie Carter, who said he would be welcomed back to the company if he could get 100 percent behind creative. He had stated that he was never informed that Ed Ferrara would be coming in, and claims he would have resigned from his position if he had known that he would be coming into the picture with the creative team. Cornette stated that he is open to returning to TNA in the future, but simply can't support the creative team of Russo and Ferrara.
Returning to Ring of Honor and Ohio Valley Wrestling (2009–2012)
Cornette made his surprise return to ROH at Glory by Honor VIII: The Final Countdown on September 26, announcing he was the new Executive Producer for the television show. Cornette made his first appearance on Ring of Honor Wrestling on the December 7th episode and immediately made waves by putting ROH champion Austin Aries into a 4-way title match later that night and created the Pick 6 contender series.
On September 8, 2010, Ohio Valley Wrestling announced that Cornette would resume his duties as the head booker of the promotion. Cornette left OVW in November 2011, when the promotion announced a working agreement with TNA. On the January 21 edition of Ring of Honor television, Cornette announced that chairshots to the head were banned and anyone that did so would be fined $5000. On the February 4 telecast, Cornette made another ban in which the piledriver—in any form—is banned.
On October 8, 2012, it was reported that ROH had replaced Cornette as the head booker with Hunter Johnston (Delirious). ROH wrote Cornette off television by having him suffer storyline injuries at the hands of Jay Lethal. As of November 2012, Cornette is reportedly "on sabbatical" from Ring of Honor and it is unknown when he will return to television. The reason for Cornette's absence allegedly stems from a public outburst he made at the November 3 ROH television taping. At the taping, ROH talent Steve Corino suffered an injury, and allegedly no ROH officials were able to pay for Corino's immediate medical attention or even arrange for an ambulance to be called, leaving Corino in pain for hours. Following his departure from Ring of Honor, Cornette decided to take an extended break from professional wrestling to focus on his health and work on personal projects.
Global Force Wrestling (2015)
Cornette and his longtime girlfriend Stacy Goff, who portrayed independent female wrestler Synn, were married in October 2007.
In September 2009, during a podcast interview on "Who's Slamming Who?" he voiced his support for President Barack Obama's Health Care Reform plans. He also condemned what he considered "fearmongering" from the Republican party, as well as calling former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin "a useless twat". He acknowledged having voted for Obama in the 2008 election, but does not consider himself a Democrat. His political statements have led to media attention, including an appearance on internet talk show The Young Turks.
- Wrestlers managed
- Sherri Martel
- Big Bubba Rogers
- Buddy Landel
- Adrian Street
- Christopher Daniels
- Crusher Broomfield
- Jeff Jarrett
- Salvatore Sincere
- The British Bulldog
- Owen Hart
- Dan Severn
- Matt Morgan
- Ron Powers
- Mark Henry
- Dutch Mantel
- Ken Wayne
- "Nightmare" Danny Davis
- Adam Pearce
- Carl Fergie
- Norman Frederick Charles III
- Hercules Hernandez
- Mr. Puerto Rico
- Bruiser Beldam
- Dick Murdoch
- Barry Windham
- Tag teams managed
- The Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey & Bobby Eaton, Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane)
- The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers)
- The Fabulous Ones
- The Dynamic Dudes (Johnny and Shane)
- The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson)
- The Heavenly Bodies (Stan Lane and Tom Prichard, Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray)
- Al Snow & Unabomb (Al Snow and Unabomb)
- The Headhunters (Headhunter A and Headhunter B)
- The New Midnight Express (Bombastic Bob and Bodacious Bart)
- The First Family (Memphis)
- Owen Hart and Yokozuna
- Crush and Yokozuna
- Owen Hart & The British Bulldog
- The Briscoe Brothers (Jay & Mark)
- Jeff Collette and Stan Lane
- The Harris Brothers (Don & Ron)
- Jeff Jarrett & Barry Windham
- "The Louisville Slugger" James E. Cornette
Championships and accomplishments
- Other honoree (1997)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards