James Manley, a.k.a. former WWE/WCW mainstay Jim Powers, is the first to admit that when he makes plans, they usually don’t happen.
“I’ll tell you ‘I’ll be here at 10 in the morning,’ and as soon as I tell you that, I can promise you one thing: Something will come up and I won’t be here,” he laughs. “It’s been like that as far back as I can remember.”
Even before taking decades of bumps in the ring. Manley was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in 1958, and was raised there by his aunt, uncle and grandmother. During those formative years, his uncle would take him to Madison Square Garden to see greats such as Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Stan “The Man” Stasiak and Ivan Koloff, and he became obsessed with the spectacle of pro wrestling.
But as he entered adolescence (by which point he was living in New Jersey, his on-and-off home ever since), Manley drifted toward bodybuilding and amateur wrestling – “I was more interested in girls,” he laughs. After a brief stint at community college, a succession of encounters led him back to the squared circle, this time as a performer. In short order, this street-tough kid, now christened Jim Powers, was flashing his widest grins and donning some seriously ’80s-riffic attire as one-half of buzzy WWF tag team the Young Stallions, alongside partner Paul Roma.
Alas, he and Roma proved incompatible for the long run. Soon after an impressive showing at 1987’s Survivor Series (during which they were among the last men standing in one of the event’s titular elimination matches) and a headlining bout at the inaugural Royal Rumble, the duo dissolved. Powers would spend the majority of his remaining years as enhancement talent, helping the likes of Ric Flair and Giant Gonzalez get over. While working for WCW in 1998, a neck injury cut short his time in the big leagues. After on-and-off indie appearances, Manley retired his alter ego in 2010, and now resides in East Rutherford, New Jersey with his wife, spending most of his time “trying to keep myself healthy.”
But let it be said that Jim Powers left an indelible impression on generations of viewers glued to wrestling broadcasts throughout the ’80s and ’90s. So with a tip of the hat to Vanity Fair‘s “In The Details” interview series, here’s a panoply of eccentric biographical data, re: this forever-Young Stallion.
HE TRIED attending community college, but “next thing you know,” he’s “down the road” with his old high school buddies “at the local saloon,” and “that was the end of community college for me.”
HE WAS working as a bouncer when a WWWF enhancement talent approached him about training to become a pro wrestler.
HE OWES much of his success to Big John Studd, who introduced Powers to WWF booker George Scott after they met through a mutual friend.
HE LEARNED “not to do drugs” after sharing locker rooms with the “goofy” Von Erich brothers while with World Class Championship Wrestling.
HE CLAIMS one of WWF’s road agents once took him “to a crowded bar in Toronto” and asked if he’d like to “make some extra money” by going to New York’s Grand Hyatt hotel “a couple, three times a week” and being willing to “lay on your back, watch porno movies and get your dick sucked.”
HE DECLINED that offer, alleging, “That was the end of my bookings for about two months,” until his friend Roddy Piper purportedly “Went to Vince and said, ‘What the fuck do you got going on here? The World Wrestling Faggots?’ and “got me my job back.”
HE BELIEVES the Young Stallions were formed because, “They took Roma, who looked like me, and me, who looked like him, and put us in the ring together,” adding, “They didn’t have meetings with guys like us. They told you what you were gonna do and that was it.”
HE LOOKED at the booking chalkboard for Survivor Series in 1987, “and I see that [the Young Stallions’] names and the Killer Bees’ names are the last to be eliminated, and I said, ‘Paul,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Did they reverse the chalkboard?'” He adds, “That’s when I realized they planned on doing something with us.”
HE RECALLS that the Young Stallions were originally slated to be managed by Mr. T.
HE GIVES Roma “credit” for being “more egotistical and business-oriented about it than I was,” saying, “I was just happy to be a part of this big thing called professional wrestling.”
HE LAMENTS that “a lot of money was lost” when the Stallions split up, due mainly to the fact that he Roma didn’t get along.
HE ADMITS his gym buddies still tease him about his match with the late Giant Gonzalez, to which he responds, “I don’t know. I just punched him in the stomach a few times and he choke-slammed me.”
HE CHARACTERIZES Vince McMahon as a “wonderful manipulator and mind-fucker and chess player.”
HE DOESN’T watch much wrestling now, explaining, “I like the more basic stuff” and that “as far as [today’s] matches go, the psychology’s been taken out of the business…I mean, how does somebody get hit by a chair and doesn’t lose a match because the referee saw?”
HE REFLECTS that, “The only thing [wrestling] took from me – other than my first wife and half my money – was the fact that it was not conducive to family life.”
HE PUTS in tapes of himself wrestling on occasion and thinks, “I still can’t believe that was me. I thank God I’m still here.”