Bobby Heenan

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Bobby Heenan
Bobby Heenan and Larry Zbyszko.jpg
Heenan (left) with Larry Zbyszko signing autographs
Ring name(s)Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
Billed height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[1]
Billed weight190 lb (86 kg)[1]
Born(1944-11-01) November 1, 1944 (age 69)[2]
Chicago, Illinois[2]
ResidesTampa, Florida[1]
Billed fromBeverly Hills, California[1]
Trained byHimself
Debut1960
Retired2000
 
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Bobby Heenan
Bobby Heenan and Larry Zbyszko.jpg
Heenan (left) with Larry Zbyszko signing autographs
Ring name(s)Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
Billed height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[1]
Billed weight190 lb (86 kg)[1]
Born(1944-11-01) November 1, 1944 (age 69)[2]
Chicago, Illinois[2]
ResidesTampa, Florida[1]
Billed fromBeverly Hills, California[1]
Trained byHimself
Debut1960
Retired2000

Raymond Louis "Ray" Heenan (born November 1, 1944), known as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, is a former American professional wrestling manager and color commentator, best known for his time with the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He was known for his skill in drawing heel heat for himself and his wrestlers, and for his on-screen repartee with Gorilla Monsoon as a color commentator. World Wrestling Entertainment described Heenan as "one of sports-entertainment's best loved legends".[3] Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 by Blackjack Lanza.

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Always a fan of wrestling growing up in Chicago and Indianapolis, Heenan started in the wrestling profession early on, carrying bags and jackets for the wrestlers, and selling refreshments at the events.[4] Dropping out of school in the eighth grade to support his mother and grandmother, Heenan's first break in the wrestling business was as a heel manager and wrestler in 1965 when he was known as "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan. His gimmick over the years has more or less remained the same, a tough talking big mouth who cowered in fear when being physically confronted.[1] At the time, heels were often given managers to speak for them in interviews, rile up the crowd during matches, and cheat on their behalf. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan went on to manage some of the most successful wrestlers in the world, creating "The Heenan Family", a stable that existed in several different incarnations and wrestling promotions for over 20 years. Heenan did not like the term "stable", stating that it should only refer to a place to keep horses.[citation needed]

American Wrestling Association[edit]

In 1969, Heenan joined the American Wrestling Association (AWA) as a manager and occasional tag team partner of The Blackjacks, eventually moving on to managing Nick Bockwinkel and Ray "The Crippler" Stevens, a duo which became several-time AWA World tag team champions under Heenan's leadership. The AWA was the starting point for Heenan's first Heenan Family, which consisted of Bockwinkel, Stevens, Bobby Duncum Sr., and Blackjack Lanza.[1] In 1975, with Heenan in his corner, Bockwinkel captured his first of several AWA World titles, ending the seven-year reign of perennial champion Verne Gagne. While Bockwinkel was AWA champion, in 1976, Lanza and Duncum captured the AWA World tag team title, making Heenan the first manager in history to simultaneously manage both a major promotion's singles and tag team World champions. While Bockwinkel and Stevens feuded with The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser, Dick the Bruiser famously called Heenan "Weasel"; this led to faces calling Heenan "Weasel" throughout the rest of his wrestling career.[5]

In early 1979, Heenan left the AWA to work in the National Wrestling Alliance's Georgia Championship Wrestling group (the kayfabe reason for his departure being given as a one-year suspension from the AWA).[1] He returned in late 1979 and resumed managing Nick Bockwinkel to renewed championship success, including against a young up-and-coming challenger named Hulk Hogan in 1983. Heenan also managed Ken Patera after Patera returned to the AWA in 1982, but Patera joined forces with Adnan Al-Kaissie after Heenan suffered a serious neck injury while wrestling in Japan in 1983 and had to take time off.

World Wrestling Federation[edit]

Manager[edit]

In 1984, Vince McMahon lured Heenan away from the AWA to manage Jesse "The Body" Ventura; however, after Ventura developed blood clots in his lungs due to Agent Orange exposure while Ventura fought in the Vietnam War, he was forced to end his active wrestling career. While most of the AWA talent left for the WWF in this time without giving proper notice (the AWA required departing talent to work a six-week notice for booking and syndication-based reasons, with most talent claiming that McMahon paid them extra not to work out their notices with the AWA), only Heenan worked out his notice in good faith to the Gagne family.[6]

With Ventura unable to wrestle, Heenan instead became Big John Studd's manager for his feud with André the Giant, and he soon reformed the Heenan Family.[1] Over Heenan's WWF career, the Heenan Family included Studd, Ken Patera, Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff, King Kong Bundy, André the Giant, High Chief Sivi Afi, The Brain Busters (former Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Harley Race, The Islanders (Haku and Tama), Hercules, The Barbarian, Mr Perfect, Terry Taylor, and The Brooklyn Brawler. As a manager, he was always one of the most hated men, often the most hated man, in the promotion. Heenan once had a famous feud with André the Giant while managing Big John Studd, and famously challenged André to a $15,000 bodyslam match against Studd at the first WrestleMania, where André had to retire from wrestling if he had lost the match.[7]

Heenan (left) managed many of the WWF's top stars, notably leading André the Giant (right) in a match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III.

Heenan and the Heenan Family had a monumental feud with wrestling icon Hulk Hogan in the '80s, and Heenan managed two WrestleMania challengers to Hogan's title, King Kong Bundy in 1986, and André the Giant in 1987. While neither Bundy nor André would win the title at that time, André later bested Hogan for the championship on The Main Event on February 5, 1988 in a controversial win after he aligned himself with "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. On an episode of Legends of Wrestling, Jim Ross claimed Heenan had received a six-figure payoff for his work in promoting the event - arguably the largest pay day in any managerial career. Heenan also had a famous feud with The Ultimate Warrior, who reintroduced Heenan to Weasel Suit matches, which Heenan had during his time in the AWA.[1]

After being derided by announcers for his first five years in the WWF (mostly by Gorilla Monsoon) for never managing a champion, WrestleMania V was promoted (mostly by Jesse Ventura and later Gorilla Monsoon) as Heenan's quest, and best chance since Wrestlemania III to manage a champion. Heenan finally managed his first champion in the WWF when "Ravishing" Rick Rude upset the Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental title. Shortly thereafter, he led the Brain Busters to the WWF World Tag Team championship giving Heenan not only the gratification of managing a champion, but managing two champions at the same time, equalling a feat achieved two years earlier by Jimmy Hart. A few months later after the Busters had lost the titles back to Demolition, he led the Colossal Connection (André and Haku) to the Tag Team Championship when they defeated Demolition. A few months after that, he led Mr Perfect to the first of two Intercontinental Championships. In a year and a half, Heenan went from having managed no champions to having managed two tag teams to two World Tag Team championships and two wrestlers to three Intercontinental championships.

Heenan also had a parody talk show known as The Bobby Heenan Show, which was broadcast in four segments during the second half of WWF's regular weekly program "Prime Time Wrestling". It was co-hosted by Jamison Winger and featured several very overweight women known as The Oinkettes.[8]

As neck injuries prevented him from taking bumps the way he used to, Heenan retired from managing in 1991 to become a full-time "broadcast journalist" (see below). Nonetheless, Heenan crossed the line to managing sporadically. When the WWF signed Ric Flair, Heenan spent several weeks talking him up as "The Real World's Heavyweight Champion" (then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion) due to Flair's no compete contract with WCW. He continued to act as an advisor to Flair during his first WWF run (and coined the phrase, "That's not fair to Flair" and "You got to be fair to Flair"). Though he nominally managed Flair, Heenan's former protégé Mr. Perfect, who temporarily retired due to injury, would regularly accompany Flair to ringside as his "Executive Consultant". At the 1993 Royal Rumble, he introduced Lex "Narcissist" Luger to the WWF to exact revenge on his former protégé, Mr. Perfect.[1]

Commentator[edit]

Heenan became a commentator while in the World Wrestling Federation, but continued to manage various wrestlers, such as The Brooklyn Brawler.

In 1986, Heenan became a color commentator in addition to his managing duties. He replaced Jesse Ventura on Prime Time Wrestling and All American Wrestling, aired on the USA Network, teaming up with Gorilla Monsoon. He also replaced Ventura to team up with Monsoon on the syndicated All-Star Wrestling, which was replaced in the fall of 1986 with Wrestling Challenge. Heenan and Monsoon's usually-unscripted banter was very entertaining, and inspired many classic moments. Heenan, calling himself a "broadcast journalist", openly rooted for the heels while they cheated or did something under-handed and referred to the fans of the face wrestlers as the humanoids, and babyface wrestlers, especially jobbers, as "ham-and-eggers."[1] Another classic moment between Heenan and Monsoon occurred repeatedly when Heenan went on a long rant supporting the heel wrestlers, until an exasperated Gorilla Monsoon would say either, "Will you stop?", "Give me a break!", or a sarcastic, "Please!".

Heenan, still suffering from the broken neck he received ten years earlier and unable to cope with the long working hours, decided to leave the WWF at the end of 1993. He was given an on-air farewell by Gorilla Monsoon on the December 6, 1993 edition[9] of Monday Night Raw, broadcast from the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York. Monsoon who, in kayfabe was fed up by Heenan's constant insults, literally threw him and his belongings out of the arena and onto the street. Heenan mentioned that the idea was his and Monsoon's. Afterwards, Heenan stated that he and Monsoon embraced each other and wept for over an hour in the hotel where they both were staying.[10] In an interview later Heenan recalls the incident saying he chose Monsoon to throw him out of the WWF seeing it as appropriate. He also poked fun at Monsoon saying he ate the bananas that Monsoon brought as a going away gift for Heenan.

Heenan's original plan was to retire, spend time with his family, and relax, but he was contacted by WCW soon after he left the WWF. He was unsure at first, but accepted their offer once he found out that WCW provided lighter work schedules and health insurance. Heenan also cited the short driving distance between WCW's home base of Atlanta and his daughter's school in Alabama.[11][12]

World Championship Wrestling[edit]

In 1994, Heenan joined WCW as a full-time commentator. He served as color commentator on WCW flagship shows Monday Nitro and Thunder, as well as the Clash of the Champions specials and many pay-per-views. Heenan acted as the heel of the broadcast team, cheering on the heel of the fight and making excuses for them when they cheated. Heenan said he was uninspired in WCW due to the negative work environment, which he later described as night and day compared to the WWF, and due to conflicts with Eric Bischoff and Tony Schiavone.[13] In 1995, Heenan had neck surgery.

In 1996, during a live broadcast of Nitro on April 1, Heenan made an announcement stating "tonight is going to be my last night on Nitro. I'm retiring from wrestling and I'm retiring from broadcasting". Before the show went off the air, Heenan shook hands with co-commentators Eric Bischoff and Steve "Mongo" McMichael and said his farewells, only to point out that it was just an April Fool. Later that year, Heenan made a one-off return to ringside at Slamboree, leading Ric Flair and Arn Anderson to victory over Steve McMichael and Kevin Greene and also conspiring with Anderson and Flair to bring McMichael into the fold. After Hulk Hogan's heel turn and the formation of the New World Order (nWo) in the summer of 1996, Heenan turned face for the first time ever in his career, as he never sympathized with the nWo and criticized Hogan's betrayal, while praising his opponents on commentary.[14]

Starting in late January 2000, WCW replaced Heenan on Monday Nitro and pay-per-view events with Mark Madden. Heenan continued to commentate on Thunder along with Mike Tenay until April 2000. The two were then joined by Tony Schiavone in April 2000. Heenan was then replaced by Stevie Ray beginning in August 2000 on Thunder. Heenan was then only seen with Scott Hudson on World Wide until he was released by WCW in November 2000.[15]

Brian Pillman incident[edit]

At one notable Clash of the Champions event broadcast live on TBS on January 23, 1996, Heenan screamed, "What the fuck are you doing?" when Brian Pillman grabbed him by his neck, which he had surgery on not too long before, during Pillman's "loose cannon" gimmick. Heenan returned to the air later and apologized for his audible cursing on air. According to Heenan, Pillman apologized to him for the incident backstage, citing he did not know of Heenan's history of neck problems beforehand, and more specifically that Heenan had been labeled "no-touch" by management because of his injuries.

Heenan, in later interviews, explained that the reason for his outburst was that he did not know it was Pillman who was grabbing him, as he was looking at Eddie Guerrero (Pillman's opponent) in the ring. Since Heenan was watching Guerrero on the ringside monitor (which displays the match as it is broadcast on television), he stated that he did not know that Pillman was behind him, and figured a fan had jumped the guard-rail and attacked him. The language was edited out of all WCW tapes, but can be heard in the 2006 DVD release on Pillman's career.[16]

Post-WWE career[edit]

Bobby Heenan provided commentary to the Gimmick Battle Royal match at WrestleMania X-Seven alongside long-time friend and colleague "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Heenan also lent his considerable talents and experience to smaller wrestling promotions.

In 2001, Heenan worked briefly as a "sports agent" in the X Wrestling Federation with Curt Hennig under his tutelage.

He has written two career memoirs, 2002's Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All, and 2004's Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life's Wrestling Matches which has an introduction by Ric Flair. Both books were co-written by Steve Anderson.

In 2004, Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame shortly before WrestleMania XX. In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute to his late broadcast partner and real-life close friend, tearfully saying "I wish Monsoon were here."[1]

Heenan made a brief appearance between matches at the actual WrestleMania XX broadcast; while Jonathan Coachman was "searching" the backstage area for The Undertaker, he investigated some noises to discover aged female wrestlers Mae Young and The Fabulous Moolah. Heenan and "Mean" Gene Okerlund appeared moments earlier in a disheveled state; Coachman implied that the four had been involved in a sex act of some sort.[15] Heenan also appeared in interviews for The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD in 2005.

Heenan is still involved in wrestling on a limited basis, giving interviews and making sporadic appearances. In February 2001, Heenan did color commentary for the Women of Wrestling Unleashed pay-per-view. In 2004 he returned to the spotlight, feuding with fellow managerial legend Jim Cornette in Ring of Honor.[17] Also in 2004 he joined former WCW commentators Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko in providing commentary for the video game Showdown: Legends of Wrestling.

On April 2, 2005, Heenan inducted his former protégé Paul Orndorff into the WWE Hall of Fame and on April 1, 2006 Heenan inducted Blackjack Mulligan and Blackjack Lanza and on March 31, 2007 Heenan inducted Nick Bockwinkel.[18]

Heenan appeared for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) towards the end of 2005 on TNA Impact! alongside Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and strength coach Dale Torborg when they presented TNA wrestlers A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin, and Sonjay Dutt with autographed gifts from the team. They were interrupted by The Diamonds in the Rough which led to a second appearance.[19]

On September 6, 2006, Heenan made another appearance in TNA on an episode of Impact! making a bid to manage "free agent" Robert Roode.[20]

Heenan's latest appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment occurred on the June 11, 2007 episode of Monday Night Raw (also billed as the WWE Draft 2007). Heenan was featured in a taped segment giving his thoughts on Mr. McMahon for "Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night".

Heenan was honored by the Pro Wrestling Report at the annual Blizzard Brawl event on December 5, 2009 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as he was given their Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to this, The mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, declared December 5, 2009 to be "Bobby Heenan Day".[21]

On April 17, 2010 Heenan appeared at TNA Lockdown fanfest.

WWE released a retrospective two disc DVD set of his career on December 28, 2010.

Personal life[edit]

Bobby has been married to Cynthia Jean (known as Cindy) since September 14, 1966. Together they have a daughter, Jessica Ida Heenan Solt (born 1978).[22] Heenan became a grandfather when his grandson Austin was born in 2008.

Although on-screen they were often at odds, Heenan was actually very close with his WWF broadcast partner Gorilla Monsoon. Heenan was working for WCW when Monsoon died on October 6, 1999 and Heenan reportedly insisted that WCW announce the death of his friend on the air despite Monsoon having never worked for WCW. On the October 11 episode of WCW Monday Nitro, Heenan and Schiavone announced Gorilla's death, with Heenan giving him a goodbye. Word has it that Schiavone was against any mention of Monsoon on the show and Heenan resented him for it. Later on in the show when Schiavone asked for Heenan's opinion on an upcoming tag team match Heenan responded, "I can't hear you from way down here", (because Schiavone wanted his seat higher than Heenan's.) Afterwards he mumbled some unintelligible words towards Tony, in tears, before the camera cut away. During his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech, Heenan stated that Monsoon's presence was the only thing missing from the occasion. Heenan is also good friends with Gene Okerlund.

He also, despite being at odds with him, even during his heel run, has been friends with Hulk Hogan for a long time. Heenan even wrote praises for Hogan in his autobiography, Bobby The Brain: Wrestling Bad Boy Tells All, while Hogan wrote the foreword for the book.

Battle with throat cancer[edit]

In January 2002, Heenan announced on his website that he was battling throat cancer:

I just want to let all the wonderful "humanoids" out there know how grateful I am for the good wishes...

Yes, I do have throat cancer, but I plan on beating this too.
If the late, great Gorilla Monsoon couldn't shut me up, cancer isn't going to either...[1]

Heenan has since largely recovered from throat cancer, but lost a great deal of weight, dramatically changing his appearance, and suffered a drastically changed voice: Heenan now speaks in a soft, high-pitched tone which contrasts noticeably with the strong, rugged tone fans were accustomed to hearing him use as a color commentator. Heenan went from being 246 pounds (112 kg) to being 190 pounds (86 kg) or even less.

In December 2007, Heenan had reconstructive surgery on his jaw, after the first surgery was unsuccessful. Heenan was placed in a medically induced coma and was slowly brought out.[23] In the second half of January 2008, Heenan had come out of his medically induced coma. Though not yet able to speak, he was communicating with his eyes. He has more surgeries to come, but they are plastic surgeries to reconstruct facial features. The reconstructing of his jaw is complete. In October 2008, it was reported that Heenan was then able to speak a few sentences before he gets tired. In February 2009, it was reported that while Heenan is still relearning how to speak clearly, he is now out of the hospital and plans on attending some Major League Baseball spring training sessions. Heenan accompanied Gene Okerlund to the WWE Hall of Fame the day before WrestleMania XXV.

On December 11, 2009, Bobby Heenan was hospitalized at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL after an examination of his rebuilt jaw found an infection that needed to be treated. As a result, Heenan missed his scheduled appearance at the K&S Wrestlefest event in New Jersey. By 2010, Heenan's jaw infection was completely eradicated. In 2011 he broke a hip and his pelvis in a fall and recovered within a few months.

According to Jim Ross in a recent interview in October 2013, Heenan is "hanging in there." However, he is continuing to have trouble speaking as a result of tongue cancer treatments.[24]

Books[edit]

• Bobby Heenan with Steve Anderson. Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All. Triumph Books. 2002. ISBN 1-57243-465-1

• Bobby Heenan with Steve Anderson. Chair Shots and Other Obstacles: Winning Life's Wrestling Matches. Sports Publishing. 2004. ISBN 1-58261-762-7

In wrestling[edit]

  • "The Chair" On Omaha Monday Night wrestling broadcast with a small studio audance on KETV, where Heenan was a wrestler
  • "The Weasel"[25]
  • "The Brain"[25]
  • "Pretty Boy"

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao "Bobby Heenan's OWW Profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b "Bobby Heenan's IMDB Profile". IMDB.com. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  3. ^ "The top 25 Superstars who talked the talk". #9. WWE. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  4. ^ "Bobby Heenan's 411Mania Profile". 411Mania.com. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  5. ^ Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 32. Triumph Books, 2002.
  6. ^ The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA DVD
  7. ^ "WrestleMania Results". WWE. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  8. ^ "It's time for the Bobby Heenan Show". ddtdigest.com. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  9. ^ WWE.com
  10. ^ Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 90. Triumph Books, 2002.
  11. ^ Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 94. Triumph Books, 2002.
  12. ^ "Bobby Heenan Interview". gerweck.net. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  13. ^ Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page 97. Triumph Books, 2002.
  14. ^ "Happy 17th Anniversary Hulk Hogan WCW Heel Turn". Blog Bomb Media, LLC. Retrieved 14 December 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "Bobby Heenan's SLAM! Profile". SLAM! Sports. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  16. ^ "Dark Pegasus Video Review: Brian Pillman: Loose Cannon.". 411Mania.com. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  17. ^ "Ring of Honor - All-Star Extravaganza II Results". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  18. ^ "No "Weasel-ing" out for Heenan". WWE. Archived from the original on 2007-05-28. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  19. ^ "TNA Prime Time Special Results 12/8/05". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  20. ^ "Official Results From Thursday's Impact! On SpikeTV". tnawrestling.com. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  21. ^ "BLIZZARD BRAWL CELEBRATES THE BRAIN". GLCW. Retrieved 2011-07-31. 
  22. ^ Heenan, B: "Bobby The Brain: Wrestling's Bad Boy Tells All.", page xi. Triumph Books, 2002.
  23. ^ WWE News: Royal Rumble Tickets, Bobby Heenan Health Update
  24. ^ http://www.sescoops.com/jim-ross-qa-bobby-heenan-update-taking-pay-cuts-wwe-brawl/
  25. ^ a b Ross, Jim (July 31, 2012). "Jim Ross on Bobby Heenan, Gorilla Monsoon". WWE.com. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 
  26. ^ Wrestling 93: Rulebreaker, Spring 1993 Issue, Article "Bobby Heenan and Lex Luger: The Total Package of Brain and Brawn!", Pages 48-51

External links[edit]