An article by Mike Mooneyham
(Published in 1996)
He’s a self-admitted cross between rock singer David Lee Roth and actors Robert DeNiro and Dennis Hopper. He’s also the best manager today not working for a major wrestling promotion.
Columbia native Daryl Van Horn gained national exposure during the past year working for the Tennessee-based Smoky Mountain Wrestling and earned rave reviews as manager of an ill-fated character known as Prince Kharis. Although Van Horn made a name for himself as a manager, Prince Kharis’ Egyptian mummy gimmick was a bust and played a part in Van Horn’s premature departure at SMW.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]The 28-year-old Van Horn, meanwhile, is back in Columbia waiting for another break with a wrestling organization. Discouraged but not defeated, he views his Smoky Mountain stint as a valuable learning experience despite a less than amicable split with the company.
“Let’s just say that I learned a very valuable lesson,” says Van Horn. “I was going through what might be mildly termed as a personal crisis and wasn’t really thinking straight. Out of respect for those involved I can’t go into detail, but I said the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time. The last time I talked to the powers that be at SMW, I was told that things had cooled off and they were open to bringing me back in the future.”
Van Horn, who broke into the pro ranks in 1989 on the independent circuit, is also optimistic that he may have a future with Philadelphia-based Extreme Championship Wrestling – a promotion even more suited to Van Horn’s outspoken heel manager persona.
“Over the last year I’ve been told probably nine different times that ECW wanted me up there and that they were ready to go ahead and bring me in,” Van Horn says. “Obviously it has yet to happen. (ECW owner) Tod Gordon even discussed the possibility of bringing me in to take Paul E. Dangerously’s place as the lead manager in the event that Paul went back to work for Jim Crockett.
“Being as high-strung as I am, it’s extremely frustrating to have a carrot dangled in front of my nose every six weeks. Right now I can’t think of another promotion that my style would mesh better with. In wrestling as in my personal life, restraint doesn’t figure in very heavily. I think that propensity for pushing the envelope would make me fit right in.”
Born in New Jersey in 1966 and a South Carolina resident since 1974, Van Horn says he’s “always been something of a ham” and wrestling was a natural outlet.
“I was a singer for about eight years in various rock bands and that’s where I essentially honed my personality that you see on television,” Van Horn says. “I would get annoyed with playing all these redneck gin mills where people don’t pay attention to you. I refused to be ignored. I did what ever it took to get people to pay attention to me. I was a heel front man – a mixture of Daryl Van Horn and David Lee Roth.
“I was a wrestling fan as a kid. I was always sort of a third-rate singer and a world-class front man. At the beginning I was an atrocious singer, but I made people react. I incorporated a lot of wrestling things into my act. I was basically a heel in this redneck microcosm that we had to work in. I started bugging wrestling promoters and sending them piles of tapes.”
Van Horn, who has managed such men as Abdullah The Butcher, Paul Orndorff and The Iron Sheik, believes he could make an impact with a major company with the right wrestler in his corner.
“I would love to be able to manage an Arn Anderson-type wrestler – a technician and someone who could speak for himself. I’m still going to beat down the doors of WCW and the WWF – two promotions that annoy me, because without naming names, they have managers there who are not as talented as I am. A lot of what they do is stale. Guys like Harvey Whippleman bring nothing – no luster. But wrestling is very political. It’s being in the right place at the right time, and who you know.”
Van Horn says his only regret is not getting a spot with a major organization sooner. The smaller promotions provide a valuable training ground, he says, but the monetary rewards are small.
“I think that I got started about five years too late,” says Van Horn. “There’s really no place to go and make serious money except for WCW and the WWF. When we have an oligarchy like that I feel that politics and nepotism are as important as actual talent, if not more so. As you know, the independent scene in this area is dismal at best because of all the little fly-by-night outlaw promoters turning the fans off with a shoddy product. There are a few honest independent promoters and I work for them when I can.”
While Van Horn continues to fine-tune his managerial talents, Van Horn’s style has been compared to fellow managers Cornette and Dangerously, but he says he tries to give his character a unique quality.
“I’m compared to Cornette and Dangerously all the time and I really don’t see any similarities,” he says. “All three of us use a different approach. If I had to single out a common denominator, I would say that as far as managers go, the three of us do the most creative, well-structured inter views in the business. I’ve learned a lot about the subtleties of being a manager from both of those guys, but the last thing I would do is pattern myself after someone else.”
Cornette says he admires Van Horn be cause, according to Cornette, “he’s the only human I’ve ever seen even more depraved and crooked than I am.”
How close is the person fans see on TV to the one in private?
“I have an extreme duality to my nature so what you see on TV is a genuine facet of my personality,” Van Horn says. “If you asked 10 people who know me to describe what kind of guy I am, half would tell you that I am one of the most compassionate, sensitive, intelligent people they’ve ever known, and the other half would tell you that I’m the most spiteful, wretched, evil SOB in the world. At least I’m well- rounded.”
Van Horn says he won’t easily give up on his dream of making an impact in the wrestling profession, but he won’t languish in a business that offers no future.
“I want to get on with one of the two major promotions – just like everybody else does. I’ve sacrificed everything and every body that ever mattered to me in pursuit of a wrestling career and a nice, lucrative run would me to justify some of the reckless decisions I’ve made. Besides that I’m an egomaniac and I want to be rich and famous.
“One of the saddest things in the world is seeing these guys who never got over who are still working little shows and think they can make it. They’re married, have five children and are driving a dump truck somewhere. It’s never going to happen. You see all these guys who had big runs for six or seven years and made big money and drew huge houses, and now they’re living in a trailer and don’t have a dime. Those are pretty pathetic souls. A lot of these guys stuck it up their noses or acted like movie stars. You can’t do that. I’m used to living without much. It doesn’t take much to keep me happy -a little beer and a good book and a couch to sleep on, and I’m fine. I don’t think I’d run out and buy a Lexus and buy a three-story house and things of that nature. I would save my money so if there was a down period for a while, I’d go back to school and get some thing else under my belt.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel like hanging up my hat and walking away from it. But I’ve invested so much time and I’ve sacrificed so much to make it happen. If I walked away from it right now, I’d spend the rest of my life looking at pictures and myself in magazines, and saying I could have been a con tender. I would rather live in poverty chasing the rainbow than walk away from it.”