I’ve started and stopped this article quite a few times over the last few days. You see for me, a kid who grew up on 80’s wrestling primarily from WWE but also WCW and Smoky Mountain, managers and straight heel commentators were a matter of fact. Wrestlers in that era did not have to be good talkers, they had managers for that. Sure, there were guys who could talk, they just didn’t have to. Most managers ran a stable of monster heels for the face, Hulk Hogan, to run down. On top of the managers doing the bulk of the talking, there were commentators to push the heels as well. The dynamic between good and evil was much more prevalent then and everyone played their role. And no one, no fucking one, played that role better than Bobby The Brain Heenan.
Beginning in the later 1960’s Heenan became a wrestler and manager for the World Wrestling Association. From then until 2000 he was a fixture in professional wrestling most notably during his runs in WWE and WCW. In WWE, he was the manager of the Heenan Family, a stable that consisted of some of the biggest heels in wrestling history. Under his wing, guys like Mr. Perfect, Ravishing Rick Rude, Andre the Giant, and numerous others became huge stars. What always made his guys special was the way Heenan would promote them on the weekly shows. He was devastatingly quick and ruthlessly funny, never afraid to make a joke at the expense of the face his man was going up against. It was through his managing and later his commentary with Gorilla Monsoon that careers were built. His feud with Hulk Hogan was so brilliant because it was many, many years long and never involved Heenan actually wrestling the Hulkster. And when Hulk eventually turned heel and joined the NWO, Heenan’s call was staggeringly perfect. From the first moment Hogan walks out, when Heenan asks, “whose side is he on?”, to when he is asking for validation for being right about what a piece of shit Hogan has always been, it’s beautiful. Check the clip here.
There are far too many highlights from Heenan’s career to list here. There are a few videos at the bottom that showcase some of the amazing moments over his time in the business. But what makes this such a kick in the gut is not that a childhood favorite has died. It’s that a man who made his living and left a mark, a big fucking mark, on the world with his voice, died from complication of throat and tongue cancer. Bobby Heenan, one of the greatest talkers of all time, lost that ability to cancer and jaw reconstruction surgery later in his life. Which is just fucked up. It isn’t fair. And I know, life isn’t fair but this, this was especially unfair. As we have said before and surely, unfortunately, will again in this series, fuck cancer. Fuck cancer right in it’s stupid face.
And so with that, we close another chapter on wrestling history. I have no idea what I’m going to talk about next week. It’s wrestling games time but I’m not sure if I can get it together by then. This one hurts. Follow me on twitter and instagram, @geekadedan, and let me know your favorite Heenan memories. Until then… (ham ‘n eggers)